Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Duke University and Moral Repugnance

I recently blogged on the new Duke University policy which regulates in detail Duke University students sexual behavior.  The major rationale given for such intrusion into the private lives of Duke students is that the policy attempts to insure that all sexual interaction between students is ‘absolutely’ consensual.

What the dankprofessor finds bemusing is that Duke does not apply this policy to faculty, staff or administrators.  Shouldn’t Duke be concerned that all the sexual behavior engaged in by their employees is absolutely consensual?  The dankprofessor thought it would be of interest to see how Duke handles student professor relationships and if said policy is consistent with their coercively administered sexual code.

Their 2002 policy begins with the following statement-

Duke University is committed to maintaining learning and work environments as free as possible from conflicts of interest, exploitation, and favoritism.

Where a party uses a position of authority to induce another person to enter into a non-consensual relationship, the harm both to that person and to the institution is clear.

Note that the person inducing is the person in authority; the person not in authority cannot induce.  We shall see that the rest of their policy is consistent with this since students are hardly ever seen as being agents of their own behavior.

The policy continues-

Even where the relationship is consensual, there is significant potential for harm when there is an institutional power difference between the parties involved, as is the case, for example, between supervisor and employee, faculty and student, or academic advisor and advisee.

But even when there is no power differential there is risk of harm.  On the other hand, there is also the potentiality of good- romance, love and marriage and children.  But the Duke administration can never entertain that sexual behavior is good.  They embrace the notion that sexuality is intrinsically bad EXCEPT when there is regulation from above.  Only the powers that be can protect Duke students from such evil consequences; such is why Duke passed the draconian policy regulating sexual behavior of students.

The policy continues-

…the student–teacher relationship represents a special case, because the integrity of this relationship is of such fundamental importance to the central mission of the university. Students look to their professors for guidance and depend upon them for assessment, advancement, and advice. Faculty–student consensual relationships create obvious dangers for abuse of authority and conflict of interest actual, potential, and apparent. Especially problematic is such a relationship between a faculty member and a graduate student who is particularly dependent upon him or her for access to research opportunities, supervision of thesis or dissertation work, and assistance in pursuing job opportunities.

Interesting is their assertion that relationships between grad students and faculty are “especially problematic”.  Interesting since Yale in its newly revised policy only applied blanket bans to undergraduates.  Graduate students were given more leeway since they were seen as more mature.

Duke University has adopted a consensual relationship policy for the following reasons: to avoid the types of problems outlined above, to protect people from the kind of injury that either a subordinate or superior party to such a relationship can suffer, and to provide information and guidance to members of the Duke community. Most of all, this policy seeks to help ensure that each member of the Duke community is treated with dignity and without regard to any factors that are not relevant to that person’s work.

The last sentence brings us into the land of the absurd- policy insures each member of the Duke community is treated with dignity.  Is attempting to control the sexual decision making of others dignified?  Can outright coercion of others insure the dignity of others?  This policy as formulated may help the policy enforcers to feel more dignified, and facilitate their work of attempting to take dignity away form others.

The policy continues-

No faculty member should enter into a consensual relationship with a student actually under that faculty member’s authority. Situations of authority include, but are not limited to, teaching, formal mentoring, supervision of research, and employment of a student as a research or teaching assistant; and exercising substantial responsibility for grades, honors, or degrees; and considering disciplinary action involving the student.

No faculty member should accept authority over a student with whom he or she has or has had a consensual relationship without agreement with the appropriate dean. Specifically, the faculty member should not, absent such agreement, allow the student to enroll for credit in a course which the faculty member is teaching or supervising; direct the student’s independent study, thesis, or dissertation; employ the student as a teaching or research assistant; participate in decisions pertaining to a student’s grades, honors, degrees; or consider disciplinary action involving the student.

Students and faculty alike should be aware that entering into a consensual relationship will limit the faculty member’s ability to teach and mentor, direct work, employ, and promote the career of a student involved with him or her in a consensual relationship, and that the relationship should be disclosed in any letter of recommendation the faculty member may write on the student’s behalf. Furthermore, should the faculty member be the only supervisor available in a particular area of study or research, the student may be compelled to avoid or change the special area of his or her study or research.

If nevertheless a consensual relationship exists or develops between a faculty member and a student involving any situation of authority, that situation of authority must be terminated. Termination includes, but is not limited to, the student withdrawing from a course taught by the faculty member; transfer of the student to another course or section, or assumption of the position of authority by a qualified alternative faculty member or teaching assistant; the student selecting or being assigned to another academic advisor and/or thesis or dissertation advisor; and changing the supervision of the student’s teaching or research assistantship. In order for these changes to be made and ratified appropriately, the faculty must disclose the consensual relationship to his or her superior, normally the chair, division head, or dean, and reach an agreement for remediation. In case of failure to reach agreement, the supervisor shall terminate the situation of authority.

What the dankprofessor finds to be most degrading in regards to students is that the faculty member must disclose the consensual relationship to his or her superior.  What about the consent of the student re disclosure?  What about the student’s right to privacy?  And as for a faculty member unilaterally disclosing this relationship to a so-called superior, such behavior is damning.  The faculty member who ends up as being an informant should have grownup and had the ability to say no to arbitrary authority who refer to themselves as “superiors”.

Of course, there are ethical issues involved here.  But ethics are too important to be left to an authority which imposes its will on non-consenting others.  Ethical engagement should always be at the core of university life.  But the Duke student policy and student professor sexual relationships policy do not promote ethics.  The ethic they promote is one of force; is one of authoritarianism.  Consenting sexuality of adults is too important, too private to be controlled by university administrators, no matter how superior they consider themselves to be.  The dankprofessor feels that university administrators who end up being part of a sexual police are utterly morally repugnant.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, Duke University, ethics, higher education, privacy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student-prof dating, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Duke students to become unwitting rapists

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education(FIRE) in a news release, April 7, 2010, charges that Duke University in a recently implemented sexual misconduct policy has rendered students as unwitting rapists and removed protections for students accused of sexual misconduct.  The entirety of the FIRE news release appears at the end of this post and by clicking here one can read the entirety of the Duke sexual misconduct policy.

The dankprofessor views this new sexual misconduct policy as both draconian and authoritarian.  The policy attempts to regulate the most intimate aspects of student lives.  The major rationale given for such intrusion into the private lives of Duke students is that the policy attempts to insure that all sexual interaction between students is ‘absolutely’ consensual.  The irony is that the policy has been applied to Duke students without their consent. There was no vote taken by Duke students authorizing this policy.  The policy is being imposed on Duke students by the powers that be at Duke.  In essence, Duke administrators and their confreres come off as authoritarian adults disciplining their children.

The utter hypocrisy of the creators of this policy is apparent.  They argue that this policy in essence functions to upgrade the principle of consent and to sexually protect Duke students.  If such be the case, then why do the creators and implementors of this policy exempt themselves?  Why aren’t all Duke administrators, staff members, and faculty also beneficiaries of this policy?  Aren’t they deserving of the same protections granted to Duke students?   Aren’t these policies applied to Duke students with the hope that students will apply these approved practices throughout their lives?

The dankprofessor feels that he knows why these policies are not applied to Duke constituencies beyond students.  Such non-application occurs because administrators, faculty and others would not tolerate being treated like children, would not tolerate having their sex lives governed by self-serving authoritarians.  In the area of sexual civil liberties Duke students deserve the same basic rights as their so-called superiors.

The dankprofessor hopes that Duke faculty and administrators stand up for the rights of their students.   Too much abuse has gone at Duke.  Too many authoritarians have already hurt too many innocent Duke students in their zealous quest for so-called justice.

FIRE statement-

DURHAM, N.C., April 7, 2010—Duke University has instituted a new “sexual misconduct” policy that can render a student guilty of non-consensual sex simply because he or she is considered “powerful” on campus. The policy claims that “perceived power differentials may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.” Duke’s new policy transforms students of both sexes into unwitting rapists simply because of the “atmosphere” or because one or more students are “intoxicated,” no matter the degree. The policy also establishes unfair rules for judging sexual misconduct accusations. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is challenging the policy.

“Duke’s new sexual misconduct policy could have been written by Mike Nifong,” said FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley. “Members of the men’s basketball team could be punished for consensual sexual activity simply because they are ‘perceived’ as more powerful than other students after winning the national championship. Students who engage in sexual behavior after a few beers could be found guilty of sexual misconduct towards each other. This is not just illogical and impractical, but insane. Given its experience during the lacrosse team rape hoax, Duke, of all schools, should know better than to institute such unjust rules about sexual misconduct.”

The new policy was introduced at the beginning of the school year with fanfare from the Duke Women’s Center—the same center that apologized for excluding pro-life students from event space in a case FIRE won last month. Women’s Center Director Ada Gregory was quoted in Duke’s student newspaper The Chronicle justifying the new policy, saying, “The higher [the] IQ, the more manipulative they are, the more cunning they are … imagine the sex offenders we have here at Duke—cream of the crop.” (In a follow-up letter to The Chronicle, Gregory claimed that the quote was inaccurate and did not reflect her views, but stood by her analysis that campuses like Duke are likely to harbor smarter sex offenders who are better able to outwit investigators.)

Duke’s vastly overbroad definition of non-consensual sex puts nearly every student at risk of being found guilty of sexual misconduct. Students are said to be able to unintentionally coerce others into sexual activity through “perceived power differentials,” which could include otherwise unremarkable and consensual liaisons between a varsity athlete and an average student, a senior and a freshman, or a student government member and a non-member.

Further, students are said to be unable to consent to sexual behavior when “intoxicated,” regardless of their level of intoxication. Duke has turned mutually consensual sexual conduct, which might merely be poorly considered, into a punishable act. Adding to the confusion, if both parties are intoxicated at all, both are guilty of sexual misconduct, since neither can officially give consent. North Carolina law does not support this definition of consent.

“Of course, there is no way that everyone who was intoxicated during sexual activity, let alone ‘perceived’ as more powerful, is going to be charged with sexual misconduct,” said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “Add to that the provision about an unintentional atmosphere of coercion, and anyone can see that Duke’s policy is impossible to rationalize or to fairly and equitably enforce. As a result, this policy effectively trivializes real sexual misconduct, which is a gravely serious crime.”

The new policy even makes reporting of so-called sexual misconduct mandatory for any Duke employee who becomes aware of it, regardless of the wishes of the alleged victim.

Furthermore, Duke has made fair enforcement of the sexual misconduct policy even more difficult by establishing different procedures and even a different “jury” to judge sexual misconduct complaints. For instance, sexual misconduct charges are judged by two faculty or staff members and only one student, but all other offenses are judged by a panel of three students and two faculty or staff members. Duke fails to explain why a jury with a majority of one’s peers is necessary for charges like assault or theft but not sexual misconduct.

Other problems in the sexual misconduct policy, detailed in FIRE’s letter to Duke President Richard Brodhead of March 4, include giving the complainant more rights than the accused, requiring the results of a hearing to be kept secret in perpetuity even if one is found not guilty or is falsely accused, and allowing anonymous and third-party reporting so that the student may never be able to face his or her accuser.

FIRE wrote, “As a private university, Duke is not obliged to agree with the authors of the Bill of Rights about the value of the right to face one’s accuser. Nevertheless, Duke ignores their wisdom at the peril of its own students and reputation.” Duke has declined to respond to FIRE’s letter in writing.

“More than any other school in the nation,” Shibley said, “Duke should be aware that its students deserve the best possible rules and procedures for ensuring that rape and sexual misconduct charges are judged fairly. Sexual misconduct is a serious offense. Duke students deserve a policy under which true offenders will be punished but the innocent have nothing to fear.”

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.

Tell Duke University to give its students the protections they deserve. Write to President Brodhead here.


CONTACT:

Richard H. Brodhead, President, Duke University: 919-684-2424 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              919-684-2424      end_of_the_skype_highlighting;
president@duke.edu

April 7, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, dating, Duke University, higher education, privacy, rape, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights | 2 Comments

Hofstra student rape accuser becomes the accused

The Hofstra student who charged that she was the victim of a group rape on campus is now reported to have completely recanted her story.  Hofstra has apparently suspended her as a student and she faces criminal charges.  Those she charged as rapists have been released from jail.

The dankprofessor takes note of this in the context of an East Georgia College prof who was suspended after he protested that his university had no section in their university’s sexual harassment policy regarding false sexual  harassment charges.

The dankprofessor had hoped that after the Duke university false rape charges against the lacrosse team members that more university faculty and students and administrators would be less prone to jump to conclusions and really embrace notion of the presumption of innocence in relation  to alleged criminals, including those accused of rape. 

I guess that such hopes unfortunately represent a form of pipe dreaming.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, Duke University, East Georgia College, false rape charges, fear, higher education, Hofstra University, rape, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Framing Duke University

A Science Blog article, “Framing Technique Can Be Used as a Public Relations Strategy in Cases of Sexual Assault” reports on a new study published in the journal Communication, Culture & Critique.  Researcher Barbara Barnett of Kansas University reports on her qualitative textual analysis of public relations materials published by Duke from March 24, 2006 through June 18, 2007 relating to the three white Duke University lacrosse players who were charged with rape.  Professor Barnett found that “Duke University officials framed the crisis in terms of institutional reputation rather than the rape issue at hand.”

The Science Blog reported the following

Allowing for the examination of emphasis and meaning, Barnett’s analysis revealed that the University carefully crafted its response to allegations of rape, presenting itself as a voice of reason in an emotionally charged atmosphere, and as a victim of a rogue prosecutor, whose case relied on rumor rather than solid evidence. In a case that involved allegations of rape, there was surprisingly little discussion on the issue of rape itself.
Duke University proved adept at speaking about its own image and integrity, but failed to address the larger issues in the case, including sexual objectification of women, the risks of sexual violence on college campuses, and the perceptions of privilege in U.S. college athletics.

“In the end, the charges against the Duke athletes turned out not to be true, but for nearly nine months, Duke lived with allegations that three student athletes might have raped a student at a nearby university. Duke focused on its own reputation but missed an opportunity to talk about the larger issue of rape” Barnett notes. “Sexual violence is a serious matter, and organizations that find themselves confronting such charges, even charges they suspect may not be true, need to speak clearly and strongly to the issue of rape.

The dankprofessor finds Professor Barnett’s conclusions to be surreal.  The fact of the matter is that ultimately the Duke lacrosse imbroglio did not deal with rape but with false charges of rape.  What Duke proved adept at was never considering such a possibility but employed a frame which presumed the lacrosse players to be guilty.  Such a framing functioned to encompass the suspension of the players from class, the termination of the lacrosse coach, the termination of the lacrosse playing season, the acceptance of faculty and student stigmatizing of the players and a refusal to confront the flagrant racial objectification of the Duke lacrosse players.

Clearly a due process frame was an alien frame to the Duke University administration.  Ultimately Duke in some way could have employed what happened as a means of educating about the importance of the presumption of innocence, the personal devastation that can result from false charges, and the importance of holding those responsibility who directly and indirectly promulgate such charges.

And now we have Kansas University professor Barnett who avoids dealing with the irresponsible “framing” employed by Duke University.  Such represents another academic engaging in avoidance and denial.

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Duke University, ethics, higher education, political correctness, rape, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, victimization, violence | Leave a comment

Until proven innocent

Duke again.

October 17, 2007 Posted by | Duke University, ethics, higher education, political correctness | Leave a comment

Duke University and prejudicial faculty

Michael Nelson in the October 5 issue of The Chronicle Review has an excellent essay on the Duke U lacrosse fiasco entitled STEREOTYPE, THEN AND NOW.  And one of the constituencies that on the whole embraced stereotypes and groups labels in determining guilt or innocence was the Duke faculty.

As Nelson notes-

“As for Duke’s faculty members, they either rushed to condemn the students (speaking as the so-called Group of 88) or stood by silently for months while their colleagues did. On April 6, 2006, shortly after some protesters banged pots and hoisted banners (the largest read “CASTRATE!!”) outside the lacrosse captains’ house and others hung “Wanted!” posters around the campus with photos of team members, the Group of 88 ran a full-page ad in the student newspaper. The ad thanked “the protesters making collective noise … for not waiting and making yourselves heard.” So much for critical thinking based on weighing evidence.

A week after the Group of 88’s ad appeared, one of its authors, the literature professor Wahneema Lubiano, wrote an essay describing the students on the lacrosse team as “almost perfect offenders” because they are “the exemplars of the upper end of the class hierarchy, the politically dominant race and ethnicity, the dominant gender, the dominant sexuality, and the dominant social group on campus.” Her colleague Houston Baker had already weighed in on March 29 with an open letter to Duke’s provost, Peter Lange. Baker demanded that Duke order the “immediate dismissal” of the students and coaches of the lacrosse team because they embodied “abhorrent sexual assault, verbal racial violence, and drunken, white male privilege loosed amongst us.”

Of course, Duke professors routinely evaluate students in terms of course grading.  So theoretically they are experienced professionals when it comes to evaluating students, evaluating students in an objective and dispassionate manner.  If such be the case, when it comes to evaluating students and others concerning more weighty matters, matters than can lead to freedom or imprisonment, one could expect/hope that said professors would be even more objective and dispassionate in their evaluation of the accused students.  But we know such was not the case at least in general terms.  We also know that the President of Duke remained in office after functioning as a cheerleader for faculty and others in his condemnation of the accused students and the lacrosse team.  President Brodhead did not resign just as none of the faculty who engaged in muckraking behavior resigned, and to my knowledge none of these faculty have recanted or have recused themselves from grading members of groups they have openly condemned.

Of course, professorial voluntary recusal is unheard of in the academic world.  If faculty, such as the Duke faculty, were ordered to recuse themselves, they would be up in arms and undoubtedly would have great support throughout the academic world.  Forced recusal in the academic world is not politically correct except for the exceptions, eg, professor dating a student in ones class.  Then recusal is OK because prejudicial grading cannot be tolerated.  What utter hypocrisy!  Prejudicial grading is widely tolerated in the academic world and faculty hardly ever recuse themselves because given the hierarchy of professorial values, grading is not in the upper echelon. 

I wish to make it clear that I believe recusal should be a viable option for the ethical professor but recusal from above, forced recusal does not represent engaging in an option.  I wish that more professors would seriously confront the possibility that they are at risk of prejudicial grading.  On the other hand, it has been argued that “The only way to ensure impartial grading is never to learn yours students names.”  I doubt that any of us academics would want to embrace the impersonality of nameless students which in such a highly impersonal environment would also probably mean that the faculty remain nameless as well. Nameless faculty evaluated by other nameless faculty who were hired to educate and grade nameless students.  No romance here.  No love.  Anonymity would be the norm although some of the nameless might embrace such an environment in their search for anonymous  sex.

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If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.
© Copyright 2007

October 5, 2007 Posted by | Duke University, ethics, grading, higher education, recusal, sexual politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Duke case and beyond

OK, I am not leaving until tomorrow so I can’t resist sending out this post.

Mike Nifong was found guilty in the Duke U. so called rape case and is now serving 1 day in jail.  In their op ed piece, Guilty in the Duke Case, Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson scour former district attorney Nifong, but also in general terms scour the press which bought into Nyfong’s rape mythology. Also scoured are Duke President Richard Brodhead and Duke faculty which in almost universal terms supported  said mythology.  As the columnists state: “This shameful conduct was rooted in a broader trend toward subordination of facts and evidence to faith-based ideological posturing.  Worse, the ascendant ideology, especially in academia, is an obsession with the fantasy that oppression of minorities and women by ‘privileged’ white men remains rampant in America.  Its crude stereotyping of white men, , especially athletes, resembles old fashion racism and sexism.”

In other words, at Duke and most other American Universities the presumption is one of guilt when the person charged is a white male and the alleged victim is a female.  Do note that the Duke president Richard Brodhead took many punitive actions against members of the Lacrosse team.  Given that Brodhead did not violate any academic norms regarding his unbecoming conduct, he remains in good standing.  Such is consistent  with my prior assertions that professors charged with sexual harassment are de facto presumed guilty and treated as  such.  Such is also very consistent with what has become axiomatic among too many academics that consensual student-prof relationships are never consensual and always involve a predatory professor and a female victim even when the so-called victim protests that she is not a victim.  If she be a victim, said victimhood has been perpetrated by the campus powers that be  who have taken away her right to consent.

Also, let us not forget that the prime mover other than Nifong was the alleged victim.  She has not been charged with making a false accusation or charged with any other charge.  It would appear to me that the civil authorities are following the academic model here which is when  a charge made by a female student is dropped  because it is found to have no merit, it is generally simply forgotten by campus authorities, held to be too trivial to initiate  any formal proceedings.  However, if the charged male prof had spoken out criticizing the one who had charged him, said prof would face the probability of being charged with sexual harassment for speaking out. So much for academic freedom, for academic justice.

And for a review of the new book on the Duke case by Taylor and Johnson, see Abigail Thernstrom’s review on the wsj opinion blog.

I know at least one reader of this blog who might regard me as being a hypocrite since I have de facto assumed Larry Craig’s guilt.  I am not going to review the whole Craig scenario except to state that it was Craig who facilitated a presumption of guilt when he pled guilty to a lesser charge.  His attempt to  have that guilty plea vetoed will not change the fact that he cannot undo the power of his original plea. The 13th juror will continue to hold him guilty as charged.

September 8, 2007 Posted by | Duke University, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

   

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