Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Investigation clears prof of sex charges

Naplenews.com reports that Florida Gulf Coast University Professor Patrick Davis has been cleared of charges that he had an inappropriate relationship with a student who he had impregnated and had plans to marry, and that he had inappropriately engaged in changing grades that he had assigned to the student.

After the university investigated all of these charges, the FGCU administration sent a letter to Professor Davis indicating all of the charges were unfounded.  However, in that same letter, the university administration chastised Professor Davis for engaging in what they termed “retaliation” against Professors Russell Sabella and Marilyn Isaacs, the colleagues of Professor Davis who had initiated the charges against him.   The university indicated that the retaliation took the form of sending an email to a reporter of a local TV station in which the identities of the charging professors were revealed.  In the letter to Davis, Provost Ronald Toll stated-“The University finds your behavior in this matter to be irresponsible, unprofessional, and retaliatory. The particularly malicious level of your accusations provided directly to the media reflects a disregard for FGCU regulations, policies and procedures that cannot and will not be condoned by the University.”

Davis was also chastised in the letter for not being responsive to his Dean’s questions regarding the charges lodged against him.

The naplenews.com also reported-

in his appeal letter, dated Nov. 14, Davis writes that the administration was aware he had not violated FGCU’s policies or procedures, as Associate Vice President Hudson Rogers conducted a previous investigation a year ago and found no improprieties.

“FGCU not only pursued this matter to its already predetermined conclusion (UNFOUNDED) by conducting yet another investigation (without any new supporting evidence), FGCU released knowingly false, albeit salacious accusations against me to the media in what appears as a deliberate, coordinated effort to defame my character and humiliate me,” he wrote. “The damage done to my reputation can not be undone.”

Provost Toll also found Professor Isaacs responsible for retaliation against Davis and she was given a written reprimand for her behavior.

Davis who has been suspended from classroom teaching will not be allowed to return to the classroom as a result of the investigation clearing him since another investigation of him has not been completed. This investigation relates to a complaint from a student “alleging unprofessional behavior in the classroom” by Davis.

The dankprofessor finds it to be quite clear that the FGCU administration does not honor in any way the presumption of innocence.  No matter that Davis has been cleared of rather serious charges, he has not been cleared in an ultimate sense since another charge is still pending. And once that charge is resolved in the favor of Davis another charge could be brought and Davis could remain in a state of “suspended animation” with no end in sight. 

The dankprofessor says enough is enough.  Let Professor Davis do his job.  But apparently too many key persons at FGCU just can’t handle reinstating a professor who had sex with a student, not only had sex but also fathered a child with the student and became engaged to the student and I assume married the student.

Of course, the Davis case was complicated by the fact that the charges also involved the charge that Davis had inappropriately changed a student grade.  However, the involved parties in this case very well know that if there was no sexual component there would have been very little attention given to Davis.  Prejudicial grading is widespread in just about all universities much more widespread than sex between a student and a professor.  If there were fewer of the sexually obsessed at our universities, there would be more attempts to engage major problems at universities, such as plagiarism, conflicts of interest that involve huge amounts of money and, of course, the tolerance of cavalier attitudes toward grading and the tolerance of  prejudicial grading. 

The hardcore bottom line at universities is that students care about grading and most professors do not; if most professors could have their way most of the time, grading would be left in the hands of inexperienced TAs.

 

December 20, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, Florida Gulf Coast University, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Sex, desire and the absurd at FGCU

In an August 13, 2009 article the naplesnews.com reported in some detail on the Florida Gulf Coast University administration’s investigation of Professor Patrick Davis’s alleged involvement and upcoming marriage to a former student.  This article is required reading for anyone who is seriously interested in how a consensual relationship between a student and a professor in which neither the professor nor the student is the complainant ends up being subjected to investigation.

 In the situation under consideration, third party informants were the source of the complaints. I have previously argued that third party informants play a crucial role in the revealing of consensual student professor relationships.  In the present case, allegations about capricious grading are brought up.  The allegations should of course be investigated irrespective of whether there was a related sexual component.  However, as to be expected, it appears that the sexual component is treated as the primary component.  As the dankprofessor has repeatedly pointed out, universities should concern themselves with fairness in grading not what they may consider to be fair or foul sexual relationships.

The naplesnews.com article in passing cites the university’s non-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, which states that a conflict exists “when an individual evaluates or supervises another individual with whom he or she has, or desires to have, an amorous or sexual relationship.”

 Now this is a new one for the dankprofessor- a supervising individual is in violation of a non-harassment policy if said individual simply has a desire to have an amorous or sexual relationship with the supervised. Not acting on the desire is not enough; simply having the desire is adequate for disciplinary action. 

 So what is a desiring professor to do.  The only ethical action in this absurd scenario is for the professor to recuse himself or God forbid herself from supervising the student. The conforming prof could simply screen out attractive students from his classes.  Or in other words, get rid of attractive students.

I guess Florida Gulf Coast University reputation as a university that has sexually run amok is merited.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | attractive students, consensual relationships, ethics, Florida Gulf Coast University, grading, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Sex and grading

Professor Charles Lindsey of the Florida Gulf Coast University has responded to my critical post in his recent commentary on the issue of the regulation of student professor sexual relationships and the regulation of sexual relationships between other members of the university community.  I appreciate his temperate response and I now respond to his critique.
 
Professor Lindsey disputes my assertion that restrictions on relationships between people when one exercises supervisory authority over another are automatically “power abuse”.  Of course, such may come down to the adage of beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Here is how I behold.  Consensual sexual relationships between adults should not be subject to the intervention by a higher authority just because said authority feels that some or most persons may be offended by said consensual relationships.  Such should not occur simply because their may be the appearance of impropriety.  Appearances should not trump the right of consenting adults to be left alone.  The Supreme Court in the Lawrence case affirmed that traditional antipathy toward consensual same sex sexual relationships is no grounds for the intervention of state authority into said relationships or the penalizing of the parties in said relationships.  The same is true in regards to interracial relationships. But unfortunately there has been a long history of interventions by universities into interracial, same sex and student professor relationships at various times in American history.  It all depended on which way the winds of sexual bigotry were or are blowing.
Professor Lindsey then states the following-
Your argument seems to be that since we cannot stamp out all forms of prejudicial grading, we should remain silent about this one. I don’t agree with that either (if I am misrepresenting your position, feel free to correct me). Faculty have an obligation to be fair and objective in grading students, <i>and to be perceived as fair and objective</i> as much as we can manage it. Having relationships with one’s current students is highly damaging to this perception–ask any of the other students in the class–and the university has a legitimate interest in preventing such damage, since it ultimately impacts the reputation of the entire institution.
 
Lindsey does not understand my argument or the basic issue which is involved here.  Of course, I agree that faculty have the obligation to be fair and objective in grading.  Faculty should not treat any student differentially based on a sexual relationship or any other form of relationship.  To argue that ones personal relationship with a person who is also a student automatically precludes fair and objective grading is absurd.  It may or may not impact on ones grading.  Such is an empirical question that may be addressed in regards to any specific situation.  As indicated previously the fact that some students some of the time may look askance at such relationships is simply not relevant if one takes a civil liberties perspective.  And, of course, for many and probably most student professor sexual relationships, other students and other professors may have no knowledge of a particular relationship.  Given the contemporary campus climate re this issue, most of these relationships are probably quite closeted.
 
The irony is that once a policy is established in this area then the involved student will be treated differentially, subject to possibly be taken out of the classroom and have ones privacy taken away if the professor follows the boilerplate procedure and informs ones supervisor that the professor is having an affair with so and so student.  I call this abuse.  Professor Lindsey appears more willing to save the reputation of the university than protecting the reputation and privacy of the student and the professor.
Even the assertion that the reputation of the university is based in whole or in part on suppressing student professor sexual relationships is problematic except for those who are sexually obsessed.
 
Professor Lindsey then concludes with the following-
If you know where I can get information about workshops on prejudicial grading, I would be interested in looking into it.” 
Of course, I know of no such workshops at any university.  I suggested that this is where the need is because universities give lip service to the importance of grading.  If grading was held in high value by universities faculties it would be abominable that teaching assistants would ever do the grading; too important of a function to leave to the inexperienced. In my 30 plus years as a university professor it was routine that professors expressed disdain for students that they were grading.  Professors routinely have their favorite and not so favorite students but such favoring seems to be quite acceptable and supposedly unrelated to grading fairness.  And then there is grade inflation which occurs when profs give students higher grades so that they can get higher student evaluations.
And then there are professors who quite openly state how much they hate grading.  Hating what one does particularly when what one does has import on the lives of others clearly indicates we have a problem here.
 
I could go on and on as to how profs are generally oblivious to matters relating to fairness in grading.  The need for workshops in this area is great.  But there won’t be any since profs don’t invest themselves in grades and grading.  Professors don’t get accolades from other professors about what great graders they are; students care about grading, not professors. Tell me Professor Lindsey do you know of instances when job applicants for teaching positions are ever questioned about grading issues.
 
So I tell Professor Lindsey the issue at his university is not about grading; its about sex. Take the sex away and hardly anyone gives a damn. Say it isn’t so Charles Lindsey.

September 8, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, Florida Gulf Coast University, grading, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | 2 Comments

FGCU faculty member speaks out

Charles Lindsey, FCGU faculty member and President of the Academic Senate, speaks out against the hysteria being generated at Florida Gulf Coast University regarding student professor sexual relationships. 

Well, in the dankprofessor’s terms he sort of speaks out condemning those who want to have blanket bans but not confronting the banning of student prof relationships where there is a supervisory component.  He fails to grasp that such consensual relationships should not be subject to the power abuse of the university administration and are not inrinsically “good” or “bad”.

The banning of student prof relationships because they supposedly lead to prejudicial grading functions as a smoke screen which functions to cover up widespread prejudicial grading at almost all universities.  The probability is overwhelming that at FGCU and at almost all universities there have never been workshops on prejudicial grading- how to avoid said grading and what to do about it.

The dankprofessor holds that the so-called problem of student prof sex is miniscule as compared to the problem of prejudicial grading.  Unfortunately, as usual, sex trumps just about everything else.

September 7, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, Florida Gulf Coast University, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Trashing student professor “trysts”

News articles abound on the student professor issue at Florida Gulf Coast University.  More precisely stupidity and bigotry abound as reflected in the following student comment on student prof sexual relationships-

Sophomore Zack Michniewicz, 20, an engineering major from Tampa, said no good can come out of a professor-student relationship. The student could be taking advantage of a teacher in hopes of earning a better grade, he said, while the teacher could be abusing his or her power for personal gain.

Of course, for this student persons such as myself and my wife do not exist.  Mr. Michniewicz sees the only the bad. 

Why do student prof relationships tend to bring out the worst in people?  Maybe its because in this instance it is OK to degrade and demean and damn. 

Is the dankprofessor the only professor who will speak out against such trash talk?

September 7, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, Florida Gulf Coast University, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Student professor sex attacked at Florida Gulf Coast U

 A professor at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) has launched an intemperate attack on fellow professors who have an amorous affair with a university student.  Professor Edward T. Wimberley, who teaches courses in philosophy, ethics and environmental public policy, labeled such professors as “unscrupulous, self-serving and narcissistic adults.”

 Unfortunately, Wimberley feels that it is OK to apply such degrading rhetoric to any professor who engages in such a relationship.  Surely Professor Wimberley must know of some professors and students who had an affair and ultimately settled into marital tranquility and ultimately parenthood.  In fact, it may be that some of the children of these relationships may even be in one of the professor’s classes and now find that their esteemed professor labels their father as simply an unscrupulous narcissistic adult.

Of course, Wemberley totally ignores the likelihood that these relationships are often initiated by female students.

In fact, the whole anti-student professor relationships movement either ignores the female student or treats female students as children.  The fact is that if female students were not attracted to some of their professors and did not consider these professors as eligible, there would be very few of these relationships.  Remove female professorial attraction and the so-called problem in essence is resolved.  But, of course, this will not occur since we do not live in an authoritarian therapeutic state.

 Professor Wimberley goes on to state-

Personally, I fervently hope that the very concept of permissible and acceptable consensual relationships between students and faculty will be rejected outright. As a parent and professor, I can see no situation where it is acceptable for an undergraduate student — particularly one younger than 21 years of age — to be engaged in a sexual relationship with someone significantly older who is legitimately expected to provide a wholesome role model to students. I suspect that a stronger case could be made for consensual relationships with older students — such as graduate students. However, given the poor self-restraint of so many of our FGCU faculty over the years, I would have to assume that the adoption of a consensual-relationship policy will implicitly sanction inappropriate relationships among university faculty and staff with students and will serve to perpetuate the idea that such relationships are acceptable as long as they don’t violate the letter of university guidelines.

 Clearly the professor regards students as children or childlike.  If such was not the case, why does he invoke his parental status?  Although he acknowledges the possibility of consensuality when the student is older, he still opts out for the draconian banning of all student prof intimacies at FGCU. Of course, the professor would have trouble confronting the fact that the average age of FGCU students in 2008 was 23 years old.  No matter the reality that most students are adults at FGCU, Wemberley still speaks as an authoritarian parent who wants the university to apply his authoritarian values to all of the FGCU student children or “kids”,a term often used to refer to students by authoritarian professors.

But there is much more to this story.  It turns out that the ongoing evaluation of student professor relationships has been speeded up by the “revelation” that there is an investigation of a specific student and professor at FGCU.

The naplesnews.com has reported-

Professors in the counseling department filed a complaint against Associate Professor Patrick Davis, accusing him of being engaged to be married to a graduate student who he has advised and taught. They also raised concerns that he has retroactively changed some grades issued to the student, whose name was redacted from reports.

 Note that the accusation as reported was that he was engaged to marry a student who he HAS advised and taught.  As for the serious charge that he has prejudicially changed a student grade, such can be dealt with without banning all student professor intimate relationships. Prejudicial grading and grade changing is wrong, no matter as to whether there was or was not a sexual component.  The fact that some apparently consider the student professor consensual sexual relationship issue as more important than the problem of prejudicial grading reflects the deterioration of academic ethics. 

The best thing that the FGCU administration could do is simply suspend the effort to regulate/control intimate relationships between students and professors; if not such will inevitability lead to abuse of too many students and professors and the violation of their privacy.  Of course, the FGCU administration should be vigorous in enforcing grading practices so that they will be uniformly non-prejudicial.

September 3, 2009 Posted by | attractive professors, consensual relationships, ethics, Florida Gulf Coast University, higher education, privacy, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Sexual trouble along the Florida Gulf Coast

Naplesnews.com of Naples, Florida reports that too many of the faculty of the Florida Gulf Coast University have in the past been too sexually involved with their students. Reporter Brad Kane found that FCGU fired two of its coaches over “suspicions of having improper affairs with students”. Interesting that suspicions, not findings of fact, are apparently enough for FGCU to fire faculty.

In the dankprofessor’s opinion it is pretty damning that any university would fire any faculty or administrator or staff persons because they had come under suspicion. If such be the case, maybe the university should screen out all suspicious persons during the hiring person. And, of course, they should be upfront about it in their employments ads- Suspicious persons need not apply. But maybe the problem is the dankprofessor’s. Maybe I am not suspicious enough, particularly not suspicious of the news media that all too often gets the story wrong, particularly when the story deals with sex. Maybe the naplesnews.com got it wrong when it is stated the suspicions relating to faculty having “improper affairs” with students. Of course, such implies that there also can be proper faculty student affairs. And, yes, it is the dankpofessor’s position that there are per se no improper student professor affairs; something more needs to have occurred to make them improper.

But upon further perusal of this article, I learn more about what might be considered to be improper as “…when two professors in 2001 were let go for the same reasons. One was even caught in the back of a van with a student.” Combining a student professor romance with auto erotica apparently goes beyond the moral sensibilities of many Floridians. Maybe it would have been a less serious offense if the affair was held in an indoor venue, such as an hotel or apartment or even in a condo.

However, I may be digressing from he main point of the article and that was to report that the FGCU administration is taking a dim view of student professor affairs. FGCU spokeswoman Susan Evans sets things straight when she stated-

“The issue is power and authority, whether it is professor/student or coach/student-athlete. All the students should be able to learn in an environment free of unwanted advances.”

Now the dankprofessor considers Ms. Evans thinking on this matter to be distorted, stereotypical and anti-female. What “offends” me is the part about all students being free of unwanted advances with the assumption being that students never make advances regarding faculty. Such is patently untrue. In any case, if these affairs are now regarded as improper by the administration, shouldn’t faculty also have the ability to teach in an environment free of unwanted advances?

In addition, the following is stated in the article-

FGCU employees are strictly forbidden from having amorous relationships with students directly under their authority whether it’s students in their classes, players on their teams or interns under their employment.

For students not directly under their authority, the issue gets slightly cloudier as affairs are frowned upon but not expressly against the rules.

“It is a serious offense that can and does include termination of an employee,” Evans said.

Even though the relationship may start between two consenting adults, it can descend into a sexual harassment situation, which undermines the learning process.

“Faculty should not have affairs with students even when the student is not in the faculty member’s class, because when the relationship goes sour – even if that relationship is based on mutual consent – that could be something that turns into harassment,” said Halcyon St. Hill, FGCU faculty senate president.

My God, both Ms. Evans and the faculty senate president share the same fears, a consensual relationship turning into a situation of sexual harassment. Maybe their fears might be lessened by their confronting the possibility that student professor relationships can end in friendship and love and marriage and even parenthood. Why trump student professor affairs because some have unhappy endings? Would they trump marriage since marriage often leads too divorce?

The reporter does allow a FGCU student to have the last word.

“It is pretty much the same stories you hear about in high schools all over, except, even now, we are all adult,” said Kimberly Freeman, a sophomore biotechnology major. “I don’t condone it, but everyone has their own moral standard.

“I’d never date a professor. That’s kind of wrong.”

Despite all FGCU’s rules and regulations, stopping student-professor affairs altogether might be impossible.

“It goes on everywhere,” Freeman said. “I’m sure there’s not one college out there where it hasn’t happened.”

As is the practice on the dankprofessor blog, the dankprofessor gets the last word. Of course, the student is right when she states it goes on everywhere. But in almost all of the everywheres there are the moral zealots eager to enforce their sexual agenda on unsuspecting others, unsuspecting others who believe in the right to privacy, the right of adults to have the freedom to choose with whom they have intimate associations. If the FGCU administration is to protect students and faculty from power abuse, the protection they need is from moral zealots who occupy positions of authority.

—–
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 dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 12, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, Florida Gulf Coast University, fraternization, higher education, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | Leave a comment

   

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