Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Lisa Chavez and the UNM Non-Creative Writing Program

The beat goes on and on at the University of New Mexico re Lisa Chavez.  Or more precisely the beating up of Lisa Chavez continues unabated.This time the beat is orchestrated via an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the Lisa Chavez controversy and then by a cacophony of bloggers comments which demonstrated little or no factual and/or ethical understanding of the history of this controversy.  There have been exceptions, of course, and one glowing exception has been Amy Letter’s piece, “The Scarlet “SW” for Sex Worker” published on the Rumpus blog.

Amy Letter’s states-

…the crux of the matter is that afterwards, other faculty in the English department went on a witch hunt. And “witch hunt” is really the phrase for it, with more-than-average appropriateness: just as Medieval women who did not sufficiently conform to contemporary ideas of womanliness were pursued without reason, taunted, tortured, and deprived of their lives, some at the U of New Mexico want to pursue Chavez without reason, shame her, torment her, and deprive her of her job.”

Such is definitely the crux of the matter.  As the dankprofessor has previously commented, Chavez’s opponents are moral crusaders who will only be satiated when Chavez is exiled from their community of the righteous, or more appropriately stated their community of the self-righteous.  Rational argument has no place for them.  When their position was not affirmed they attempted to resort to coercion and intimidation via a myriad of lawsuits.  Chavez has remained essentially silent in terms of responding to the shrillness of the UNM English faculty crowd, but she herself caved into the lawsuit fever by filing her own lawsuit. In academic issues, coercion, legal or otherwise, should hardly ever displace the rigors of academic discourse.  The academic scene has all too often become the new legal turf where lawyers can freely run amok.

Letters goes on to set the scene in quasi Biblical terms-

It goes beyond “Biblical”: I mean, the Bible talks about forgiveness too. But those are the later parts. Bronze Age desert dwellers would certainly recognize what Harjo and Warner and the others want to do: they want to purge by fire what they perceive as an uncleanness in their community. They want to wash their hands in Chavez’s metaphorical blood.

Or putting it in Dankian terms, they want complete power over Chavez to work their will on a woman who insists upon willing for herself.  She refuses to be used as an agent of the power hungry faculty.  It is ironic that Warner, et. al, apparently embrace a real world s-m scenario, no fantasy here- punish her, degrade her, exile her.  No apologies forthcoming from these s-m practitioners.

Letters continues

…I believe, some in the U of New Mexico English department have lost their minds. They have ceased to see Chavez as a person — with whom you reason, from whom you accept apologies and make peace. They now see her as a beast: an unclean danger to the innocent who must be destroyed lest this imagined corruption spread. The basis for this view is sexism, but not the simple kind: it’s a complex built of the anti-woman attitudes that make some want to label and objectify and destroy a woman, just because they don’t like how she uses sex and her sexuality; attitudes that make them want to drag her before an assembly of disapproving peers to have them yell “shame,shame!” like the red-clad girls in The Handmaid’s Tale; attitudes that make them want to sew a scarlet “SW” for “sex worker” on the lapel of a woman who dared earn money dominating men on the phone.

I use the literary references for a reason. This is an English department we’re talking about. They study history and culture and society and psychology, they exercise empathy daily just to understand what they read, they live in the world of perspective and points of view. They should be able to see beyond their own. They should know better.

More precisely this is a creative writing program we are talking about; however, this is a creative writing program in which creativity appears to be absent. Harjo, Warner and their colleagues appear unable to to comprehend that what Chavez and some of their students engaged in involved fantasy and role playing or in other terms was a form of theater or performance art.

Yes, this was a form of theater which offended some of the creative writing faculty.  But so what?  Can one be a creative writer and worry if potential readers may be offended?  Such is antithetical to the creative mind.  Whatever the creative writing faculty may worship it is not creativity; their worship is the god of normal.

September 24, 2010 Posted by | higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Copy of the Sharon Warner vs UNM lawsuit

Click here to view an unedited copy of the Sharon Warner lawsuit against the University of New Mexico.  I provide this to the dankprofessor readership without comment.  All of you know where I stand, it is just more of the same old same old in different garb.

October 28, 2009 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, higher education, lisa chavez, litigation, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, Sharon Warner, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Sharon Warner targets the University of New Mexico

Albuquerque TV station KOB has reported on the lawsuit of Sharon Warner against the administration of the University of New Mexico.  To see segment and text of the report click here.

The KOB report has nothing really new to say.  The dankprofesor says that Warner’s lawsuit is simply about getting her own way.  UNM would not discipline Lisa Chavez and now Warner will attempt to discipline UNM.  Warner is a stern disciplinarian; she won’t take no for an answer.  I know the type; all too many of these people in the university world.  They won’t be satisfied until they obtain an academic position from which they can work their will.

As for Professor Chavez, she was thoroughly investigated by the UNM administration.  The investigation revealed that she had not violated UNM rules.  Now all she wants is to do her professorial work and to be left alone.

To read all my posts on Warner, Chavez and the University of New Mexico, click here.

October 20, 2009 Posted by | higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, Sharon Warner, university of pennsylvania | Leave a comment

Sharon Warner sues University of New Mexico

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Sharon Warner former director of the UNM Creative Writing program has filed a lawsuit against the University of New Mexico.  “Warner said she has suffered lost wages, lost promotional opportunity and emotional distress” caused in part by the decision of the UNM administration not to discipline her colleague Lisa Chavez for taking part in an off campus S-M phone venue.  Professor Warner had previously resigned as Director of the Creative Writing program as a protest against the UNM administration for not disciplining Chavez.

Professor Warner had argued previously that students had been harmed by Chavez’s actions, but she was unable to cite any student suffering from said harm.  Now Warner is arguing that she has been harmed by the administration doing nothing in reference to Professor Chavez, she finds such to be emotionally distressing.

The dankprofessor sees her bottom line as being that professors have a right not to be upset or offended by administrative actions.  If professors had such a right, professors throughout the country would be filing lawsuits on a daily basis against university administrations.  During my thirty plus years as a professor I was upset many times, too numerous to count, by actions of the university administration.  Some times I was very disturbed by these actions, some times I had trouble sleeping, but I viewed this as being all part of the game, as being a grownup, as being a professional.  My turning around and then suing the university for causing me to be distressed would have represented for me a giant copout, a comedy of the absurd.

Last year in a letter to the faculty of the English Department, UNM President David Schmidley wrote in regards to the Lisa Chavez controversy that “The university is, first and foremost, a place where students, faculty and administrators alike constantly engage in learning. It’s now time for all of us to learn anew the lessons of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

President Schmidley’s advice is still good advice. But rather than getting any attempt at reconciliation from Sharon Warner instead at some time in the future he will probably get a summons to appear in court.

October 11, 2009 Posted by | ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, litigation, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, Uncategorized, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Pulp Fiction at the University of New Mexico

Congratulations to Joy Harjo for being awarded a United States Artists $50,000 fellowship.  Such was announced by the USA on November 10 shortly thereafter followed by her melodramatic resignation from the University of New Mexico creative writing program in a so-called protest of UNM continuing to employ Lisa Chavez in the creative writing program.  Of course, Ms. Harjo has the right to engage in whatever melodrama she desires. It is too bad that her not so creative pulp fiction has to be in the form of an attack on a fellow UNM professor.

November 15, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

UNM prima donna professor resigns

In my last posting on the Lisa Chavez controversy at the University Of New Mexico and the resignation of the nationally recognized Native American poet Joy Harjo from the UNM as a protest against the UNM continued employment of Lisa Chavez as a professor in good standing, the dankprofessor believes he was not hard enough on Joy Harjo for her precipitous resignation.

Harjo said she could not continue to work in a program “that has been so deeply compromised” and that she didn’t “trust the University to uphold the rights of its students and faculty.”  But Harjo never spells out what are the rights of students and faculty that the UNM administration were not upholding.  If these rights violations were so serious as to lead Harjo to not provide her expertise and creativity to UNM students, then it certainly should behoove Harjo to spell out in detail the nature of these rights violations.

Harjo did state the following-

“The Chavez-and-students sex-site debacle was mishandled.  Because of this, the creative writing program lost face and credibility locally and nationally. Those of us – a majority of the creative writing program – who pushed for a proper ethics investigation based on policies already in place were retaliated against for speaking up. This whole situation could have been handled in a way that was respectful to all parties.  As it is, only the rights of one person was considered.”

If the UNM creative writing program “lost face and credibility nationally and locally”, such does not represent a violation of the rights of UNM students and faculty.  The academic status game never remains static; the rules of the status game are ambiguous and ever changing.  Today’s academic star may very well end up being tomorrow’s academic embarrassment.

For a department or academic program or academic to lose credibility, does not represent a violation of the so-called rights of the academic program or academic.  If Joy Harjo had a true commitment to the status and prestige of the UNM creative writing program she would have devoted more of her time and energy to said program.  She would have given paramount importance to continuing to teach the students of the UNM creative writing program.  Rather than having any devotion to these students, she bemoans that these students rights are somehow being violated and then she deserts these same students.  If one cares to look at this situation in a dispassionate manner, the dankprofessor believes one should conclude that Harjo resigned because she was primarily concerned with her own status and prestige needs.

Harjo’s statement that  “I have no plans at this time to join any other University. In the spirit of the teachings of the Mvskoke people, I will continue forward and carry with me only that which nourishes”, is further evidence of her own self-absorption.  No concern here about UNM students or colleagues; her own nourishment is the only thing that counts.  Such represents the orientation of an academic prima donna; prima donnas are not concerned with others or being team players or the prestige of the greater entity.  They are concerned about self, doing their own thing and going their own way.

But Harjo had more to add to her melodrama.   She also asserts that she and other professors who spoke up against the UNM position were “retaliated against for speaking up”.  But, of course, she does not outline the specifics of the alleged retaliations.  It is easy to say that retaliatory behavior should not be tolerated at UNM but it would be a whole lot more responsible to present the specifics of the retaliatory behavior; certainly such is more responsible than simply leaving the university and ones colleagues who have been subject to the alleged retaliatory behavior.

The fact is that the UNM administration has acted responsibly throughout this controversy.  They have acted in a responsible and conciliatory manner and they should be applauded by academics who believe in academic freedom and responsibility, even when it is “only” the rights of one person that are considered.

November 13, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | 2 Comments

University of New Mexico Pummeled by Lisa Chavez foes

There have been no new revelations about aspects of University of New Mexico Creative Writing Professor
Lisa Chavez’s involvement with a student in an S&M scenario which appeared on the internet.   It has been reported on this blog and elsewhere that an investigation by the UNM administration determined that Chavez had violated no university policy and she remains in good standing as a professor at UNM.

However, there does continue to be new distressing revelations concerning some of the creative writing colleagues of Professor Chavez.  It turns out that some significant percentage of faculty of the Creative Writing Program just can’t get over the fact that Chavez remains a professor in good standing given her admitted involvement in S&M activities  and even given that the activities were consensual and that no student or anyone else has charged Chavez with sexual harassment.  Chavez has violated no rule, no New Mexico statute and no Federal law. 

What she has done is engage in “sexual deviance” which has inspired some faculty at UNM to go on a moral crusade to get rid of Chavez or in the dankprofessor’s terms to bound and gag the bad professor.  During all of these shenanigans Chavez has continued to do her professorial work and not engage in any angry responses.

 In a recent letter to the faculty of the English Department, UNM President David Schmidley wrote:
“The university is, first and foremost, a place where students, faculty and administrators alike constantly engage in learning. It’s now time for all of us to learn anew the lessons of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

But the anti-Chavez crusaders refuse to engage in any form of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Rather they engage in various forms of symbolic protest which in the extreme represent a form of self-flagellation.  First, Sharon Warner, the head of the Creative Writing program, a person who had been well known for her devotion to the creative writing program resigns as Director of the program but retains her tenured position.  Warner’s resignation was not a creative act, not an act in support of students or faculty but rather an act of a person who is self possessed and simply is unable to handle things unless one gets their own way.

Of course, Warner’s resignation did not bring reconciliation and peace to the program.  The UNM administration replaced Warner with as new director Julie Shigekuni.  Upon assuming this position, Shigekuni emphasized that she was interested in the welfare of the department and not department politics.  She characterized the situation of the program in the following terms-

“I think that situations such as the one that we’re in are harmful.  They harm the program. I think that it’s an unfortunate situation, but I also think that the program is harmed by people who do not want to be
here and are still here.”

Well, Warner did not heed the advice of Shigekuni and conflict in the program remained.

And now as reported in the Daily Lobo of November 11,  “creative writing professor Joy Harjo has resigned amid rumors that strife between the department’s faculty and senior administrators cannot be resolved.”

Harjo who had previously spoken out publicly against the UNM retention of Lisa Chavez made it clear that this was the reason for her resignation.

Faculty colleagues affirmed that Harjo’s resignation was a major loss for the University of New Mexico.
Harjo was the university ‘s only Joseph Russo Endowed Professor.

Diane Thiel, associate professor in the English department, said Harjo’s resignation is an incalculable loss to the University.   She stated that “Faculty and students have resigned and left UNM over this and will likely continue to. The recent resignation of Joy Harjo, arguably the most well-known Native American poet in the world, highlights the seriousness of the situation, many details of which have yet to be reported to the media.”

Harjo said she could not continue to work in a program “that has been so deeply compromised” and that she didn’t trust the University to uphold the rights of its students and faculty.”

“The Chavez-and-students sex-site debacle was mishandled,” Harjo said. “Because of this, the creative writing program lost face and credibility locally and nationally. Those of us – a majority of the creative writing program – who pushed for a proper ethics investigation based on policies already in place were retaliated against for speaking up. This whole situation could have been handled in a way that was respectful to all parties.  As it is, only the rights of one person was considered.”

Sharon Warner said Harjo’s resignation will leave a huge dent in the already crumbling infrastructure of the department, no matter who is selected to take her place.

Harjo also stated:

“I have no plans at this time to join any other University. In the spirit of the teachings of the Mvskoke people, I will continue forward and carry with me only that which nourishes. I’m suffering a great loss from losing this job. I’m suffering several years of loss.  She also said “It was a hard decision to make when you look at economic times and the strain of being an artist. They didn’t give me anything extra. That was nothing extra. That was the year that I was paid for.”

UNM Vice President Holder said the University had no plans to terminate or reinvestigate Chavez.

“Lisa Chavez remains an employee of the University and a professor of the English department where she has tenure, and the University is not planning to contest her tenure in any way, and if that was a part of Joy Harjo’s reason for resigning, I think we regret that,” Holder said. “I think we would like to say that we very much regret her loss. She was a valuable member of our faculty.”

Harjo bemoaned the fact that “only the rights of one person was considered” as if the rights of one person do not count.  In the dankprofessor’s opinion, the rights of Lisa Chavez do count and that Joy Harjo also has a right to resign in protest even if that resignation hurts the program as a whole and even if her resignation may very well represent an act of self-flagellation on her part. 

The University of New Mexico administration is to be congratulated for standing up to the university’s academic bullies who wish to pummel Lisa Chavez and who are now attempting to apply their pummeling to the university as a whole.

November 11, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | 5 Comments

Bound and gagged at the University of New Mexico

So apparently the beat goes on and on and on at the University of New Mexico in regards to what the the Daily Lobo now refers to as creative writing professor Lisa Chavez posing in sexually suggestive photos with a student.  Prior descriptions have been Chavez engaging in an s&m oline performance with a student or students whose student status had expired at the time of the performance. 

No matter that the so-called student protested that the performance was consensual and that she was not a student at the time of the performance; no matter that the UNM administration concluded that the performance was irrelevant to the mission of the University of New Mexico, and that UNM would not intervene to punish, censure or do anything in reference to Lis Chavez.  No matter since English department chairman David Jones resigned Wednesday after battling turmoil within the department for nearly a year.

Convincing the English department faculty that Chavez’s out of class performances were of no relevance to her performance as a creative writing professor would be similar to convincing Republicans that Sarah Palin’s performance as a mother and specifically as a hockey mom was of no relevance to her being competent to be Vice President.

In the dankprofessor’s opinion, the UNM faculty reaction to Chavez and the Republican reaction to Palin represent the worst of the worst pulp fiction. But pulp fiction sells, and the English faculty just can’t get beyond their fictive and apparently salacious imagery of the Chavez performance.

So now that David Jones has resigned as Chair of the English Department, he has “refused to to discuss his resignation further, publicly or privately.”  Such appears to be a wise decision to the dankprofessor.  However,

“some faculty members expressed outrage after Jones sent an e-mail Tuesday that lists “ground rules” to abide by during the meetings.

The e-mail asks members of the department to maintain confidentiality, “not discussing specific comments/events in the department with the press or in a legal context.”

One tenured faculty member said she and other faculty find the confidentiality clause appalling.

“The ‘facilitated discussions’ are a facilitated muzzling or gagging,” she said.

She said the rule violates faculty members’ First Amendment rights.

So the English faculty does not want to be bound and gagged. But isn’t it the case that at least some of this faculty want Lisa Chavez to be bound and gagged?  Or to put it another way- they want UNM administrators to bound and gag Lisa Chavez, they want others do the dirty work for them.

If there was a a basic respect for freedom of expression amongst the English faculty at UNM, no turmoil would have occurred.  Of course, the irony is that in programs such as creative writing such respect should be axiomatic.  But as Lisa Chavez knows, as open minded and creative faculty know, as the dankprofessor knows, nothing is axiomatic in university life.

September 15, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, Sarah Palin, sex, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Attacks continue on Lisa Chavez at UNM

The UNM Daily Lobo reports in an article of September 9 that the new director of UNM’s Creative Writing Program Julie Shigekuni attempted to do the right thing when she brought together the Creative Writing Faculty in order to get faculty beyond the politics that has divided them relating to the controversy of English Professor Lisa Chavez engaging in an online S&M performance.

Shigekuni emphasized that she was interested in the welfare of the department and not department politics.  She called upon the department to focus on the needs of the students.  She characterized the present situation of the program in the following terms.
“I think that situations such as the one that we’re in are harmful,” she said. “They harm the program. I think that it’s an unfortunate situation, but I also think that the program is harmed by people who do not want to be
here and are still here.”

Shigekuni’s comments were consistent with the UNM administration which has supported no retribution or sanctions being imposed on Chavez and urged faculty to focus on the needs and welfare of the students.

But it is to be expected that politics will trump reconciliation.  The Daily Lobo went to refer to resigned Creative Writing Director Sharon Warner who continued in her diatribe against Chavez-

Warner said the investigation was not sufficient because Chavez’s actions  after the Web site was discovered were not examined.

Chavez put a student’s career in jeopardy in an effort to protect her own, Warner said.

Warner said Chavez suspected her assistant Carrie Cutler knew about the  pictures posted on the Web site and told faculty members about them.

Warner said Chavez blamed Cutler for the investigation into her extracurricular activities.

“The first thing that Lisa did was to drop her as her dissertation advisee so that Carrie didn’t have a director any more,” Warner said.

Cutler declined to comment.

Chavez said she could not comment because she is still pursuing legal action against the University in response to the discrimination she experienced during what she called “the serious mishandling” of the case.

Of course, Warner’s comments are all about Warner in her crusade to get Chavez.  Absolutely no comments from Cutler; Warner is apparently her self- designated representative.

The Daily Lobo then went on to quote students who are less than friendly toward Chavez.

Micaela Seidel, a creative writing graduate student, said she and other graduate students are astounded by the shortcomings of the University’s investigation.

Seidel said it is inappropriate for the University to allow Chavez to continue teaching.

“A lot of people feel that it’s a little sketchy to have her teaching undergraduates who are the most vulnerable of all, especially 101 and 102 students who are just entering the University,” she said. “That seems
extremely inappropriate, since it seems that Lisa apparently doesn’t have good boundaries.”

Lucy DuPertuis, a teaching assistant for the English department, said the University is setting a dangerous precedent by ignoring the problems in the
creative writing department.

“Sending students back to that same level – when they didn’t have recourse, when they didn’t have defense against professors doing things that were
harmful to them both emotionally, physically and sexually – is wrong,” she said.

Valerie Santillanes, a graduate student in the creative writing program, said students have suffered because of the controversy.

“I feel very neglected,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m getting the attention that I want and deserve and pay for in this program. I want the faculty to stop paying attention to Lisa Chavez and each other and start
paying attention to me – and maybe a few other students as well.”

Of course, Sharner Warner, et. al., have not presented one iota of evidence that any student has been harmed by Lisa Chavez.  If anyone knows of a person who has been harmed “both emotionally, physically and sexually” by Chavez said person should some forward and present their information to the UNM administration.

But no person wll come forward.  Since it has become quite apparent that if there has been hurt here it is in the context of Sharon Warner and some of her colleagues being offended.  And the dankprofessor sees the bottom line as being that professors have no right not be offended.

Warner, et. al., should get over it and get back to teaching.  The most irresponsible action in this whole scenario has been engaged in by Sharon Warner who resigned from her position as Creative Writing Director.  Such resignation was not a creative act, not an act in support of students but rather an act of a person who is self possessed and simply is unable to handle things unless one gets their own way.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | 1 Comment

Getting it right on the Chavez controversy

The recent Albuquerque Journal article as well as my recent post on the Lisa Chavez controversy didn’t quite get it  right. There was only one UNM student who posed with her in the s&m photos and she was not a student of Chavez at the time of the posing.  Said student has previously spoken out on the part she played in these photos; click here to get her words on this matter.  And to get the words of Professor Chavez which are consistent with the student’s words, click here.

August 26, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Call for censuring/censoring Chavez continues at UNM

The Albuquerque Journal reports (August 23) that the campaign against UNM S&M performing professor of English Lisa D Chavez continues unabated.  The campaign is conducted by some of her Creative Writing  and English Department colleagues who want the UNM administration to take some sort of sanctions against the professor for engaging in a S&M scenario on a website with UNM students.  However, the UNM administration will not buy into the professorial moral crusade against Chavez. 

In a recent letter to the faculty of the English Department, UNM President David Schmidley wrote:
“The university is, first and foremost, a place where students, faculty and administrators alike constantly engage in learning. It’s now time for all of us to learn anew the lessons of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

The UNM President has brought in an outside consulting firm in an attempt to resolve the situation, but such resolution has not occurred.  Some faculty have refused to engage in any form of mediation.  In fact, some of the faculty are threatening to leave if they don’t get their way-

“How can I stay? I don’t think I can stay,” said Joy Harjo, a full professor in the university’s creative writing program and a well regarded Native American poet who left the University of California Los Angeles for the chance to work for her alma mater. She said she’s bothered there were no consequences and that the university was dismissive of those who expressed concern.
    “Bottom line here is that there’s something of integrity being sacrificed, and that’s what is most disturbing to me,” she said.
    Sharon Warner, who resigned her post as director of the nationally recognized creative writing program in protest of the university’s handling of the Chávez situation, said several faculty members, including her, are looking for employment elsewhere.
    Warner said she attended Friday’s “facilitated discussion” and considered it unproductive.

(from Albuquerque Journal August 23)  

University Diaries blogger Margaret Soltan sympathizes with the offended faculty and refers to Chavez
as a “tenured perv”.   UD has also expressed a concern that the Chavez controversy may lead to the demise of the Creative Writing program which is a very small program.  In her latest blog posting, UD states:

“While UD thinks faculty should do more or less what they want on their own time, she agrees with Warner and Harjo that Lisa Chavez’s behavior was grotesque enough — and you don’t hear her apologizing for it, or saying she won’t do it again — that UNM should have been able to impose some sanctions. UD remains perplexed as to why it does not.”

The fact is that the UNM administration has indicated in no uncertain terms that they will take no action against Chavez since her S&M posing activities were unrelated to any formal university function.  In essence, their position is that Chavez’s off campus activities and the students who were involved in these activities did not represent any involvement of the University of New Mexico.  And the fact that there were no student complaints as to these activities impacting on their role as students at UNM is additional support for the correctness of the UNM position.

And the dankprofessor also holds that university professors do not have a right not to be offended by their colleagues off campus activities.  And this is what academic freedom is all about- the right to offend
even when such offending is off campus and even when such offensive conduct appears to be of a sexual nature.  The fact that UD judges Chavez to be a “tenured perv” is irrelevant; the fact that I find such a characterization offensive is also irrelevant.  It becomes relevant to the dankprofessor when such characterization is used as a means to terminate or sanction a professor.  If tenure has any meaning, it should mean that faculty should not attempt to sanction fellow faculty for what they consider to be offensive.

Critics of Chavez will point to an ad for the sm website which employed Chavez and which “characterizes Mistress Jade” as “a stern teacher ready to punish unruly students.” Of course, such is a  frequent s&m fantasy.  But as far as punishment goes, it is clear that several persons at UNM would like to punish Chavez in the real world for her acting out punishment scenarios in a fantasy world.

Sadistic conduct in the context of attempted coercion and degradation is certainly going on in the real world of UNM but such conduct is not being promulgated by Lisa Chavez; it is being promulgated by some faculty against Lisa Chavez.  Can’t a creative writing faculty tell the difference between fantasy and reality?  Can’t persons who are supposedly committed to creative thought and writing for themselves and their students, restrain their desire to censor and control?  Such represents a minimal expectation for those who are committed to the values of the life of the mind.

August 25, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, censorship, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Professor Lisa Chavez accused of illegal behavior by former University of New Mexico student

Angela Maria Williams, former Daily Lobo editor, a graduate of the UNM creative writing program and a former student of Lisa Chavez engaged in an emotional rant in today’s New Mexico DAILY LOBO.

Ms. Williams is particularly distressed about the resignation of Sharon Warner as Director of the UNM Creative Writing Program.  According to Sharon Warner, she resigned as a form of protest against the UNM administration decision not to
sanction Lisa Chavez for engaging with a student in a website sm performance. The Warner resignation was completely a voluntary one.  I gather it was an act of moral conscience at least as seen by Professor Warner.

Ms. Williams demeaned Warner’s resignation when she stated: “It alarms me even more that Warner was coerced into resigning for doing the right thing.”  And then went on to state: “I want to convey my heartfelt regret that Warner had to leave this way.”  

Williams does not present an iota of evidence that Warner was coerced to leave or had to leave.  Warner never stated that such was the case.  If she was coerced and the Warner resignation did not represent a form of voluntary protest, then Williams should come forward with evidence of this coercion of Sharon Warner.

In addition, Williams engages in a form of over dramatization when she characterizes Warner’s resignation as a “stunning blow” not just to the English Department but to the entire University since she was such a great teacher and did so much to create an excellent creative writing program.”  The fact is that Warner continues to teach at UNM, and did not give up her tenure at UNM.  And if, as Williams states, she was so successful in establishing such a strong creative writing program, there would be a number of excellent professors in the program who could and would step in as director of the program.  If the creative writing program is all about Sharon Warner and said program cannot survive without her, such is a very poor reflection on both Warner and the creative writing program she created.

Williams goes on to bash Lisa Chavez for in her terms engaging in a sexual act with a student and for Williams sexual acts also include “posing in sadomasochistic photos .” She goes on to strongly imply that Chavez had sexually harassed the SM posing student since she believes: “The power in any such situation belongs entirely to the professor, and this is the reason we have sexual harassment laws in the first place.”  She then asks: “Why was Chavez not properly punished for what amounts to repeated acts of sexual harassment?”

She was not punished since there was no sexual harassment. To have sexual harassment you need a complainant and Williams entirely ignores the fact that the student, Liz Derrington, has publicly stated in no uncertain terms that her participation was completely voluntary.  In fact in a blog interview, Derrington states that the major problem she has experienced is that few take her seriously.  Her interpretations of her own experience are simply dismissed by all too many persons.  And this is exactly what Williams does-she dismisses her as a person with no power, as essentially faceless and non-existent. What Williams purports that Chavez did to the student does not compare as to how badly Williams treats the student, how utterly disrespectfully she has treated Derrington in her essay.

Then Williams attempts to finish off Professor Chavez when she states: “What Chavez did was wrong, unethical and, above all, illegal.”  Above all, illegal!  This is the first time I have heard a charge of illegality lodged against Chavez.  Indeed, such is a very serious charge.  If Williams knows that some form of illegality has occurred, minimally she should tell us what it is exactly and going beyond the readers of her rant, she should go to the Albuquerque district’s attorney’s office with evidence of said illegality.  But she hasn’t, and I trust that she won’t since the illegality is probably a figment of her imagination.  If I am wrong, Williams can quickly prove the wrong beliefs of the dankprofessor, by going to the appropriate authorities in Albuquerque.

Williams states that she has “utmost respect for Warner. She has proven to me consistently over the years that she is one of the most dedicated and competent faculty members at UNM.”  The fact that Williams believes that Sharon Warner is one of the most dedicated faculty members at UNM is beside the point.  What is to the point is that Warner has been involved in a campaign to get rid of Chavez, and as part of that campaign she is willing to sacrifice her involvement in the UNM creative writing program.  Such is Warner’s right to protest and to resign.

What Williams misses is the utter lack of respect by her and Warner and others directed toward Chavez.  I do not know of Professor Chavez engaging in any disrespectful behavior.  And what is needed at the University of New Mexico is a lot more respect to be demonstrated by all the involved parties.

—–
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 2008

May 7, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual harassment, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | 2 Comments

University of New Mexico’s statement on Lisa Chavez

Sex In The Public Square is to be commended for posting the entirety of the position statement of UNM Deputy Provost Richard Holder on the fitness to teach of English Professor Lisa Chavez.  To view this statement, please click here. To view all of the dankprofessor’s prior postings on the Chavez controversy, click here.

Particularly note the following excerpt from the Holder statement.

First, I do understand the concerns and outright pain this situation has caused on behalf of almost all who have considered it carefully, and I regret the entire matter as much as any of you. However, we have to be guided by our carefully crafted policies and avoid at all costs trampling on the rights of any one of us, no matter the feelings any extramural activities may provoke.

Avoiding at all costs trampling on the rights of others is the key central point of this statement.  It merits applause from all academics who take the academic enterprise seriously.  The only question remaining is whether the Deputy Provost can talk the talk but also walk the walk.  And I have little doubt that the Deputy Provost will be tested given that following the sending of the statement, the Director of Creative Writing resigned in protest and a number of faculty who opposed the Provost’s decision continued with their protests.

Of course, the dankprofessor hopes that the parties opposed to Professor Chavez will accept the goodwill and good statement of the Deputy Provost.  However, given academic life as it is at most universities in the United States, goodwill and good statements are often not enough to bring an immediate resolution to matters such as this one.  Let us hope that this goodwill will lead to a civil welcoming back of Lisa Chavez by her English Department colleagues this coming Fall semester.

—–
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 2008

April 26, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Professor Lisa Chavez and higher hypocrisy education

The Albuquerque Journal reported today on the controversy surrounding University of New Mexico Professor of English Lisa Chavez.  On the whole, the Journal piece was primarily a rehashing of prior reports on the the controversy, but there was some unreported items and the major contribution of the Journal story was to provide their readers with additional insights into some of the leading players in this imbroglio.
 
As for a new item, the Journal reported that the identity of Professor Chavez online was Mistress Jade.  The fact that it took several months for any newsgathering source to discover this moniker provides further evidence to the dankprofessor that Chavez had made a concerted attempt to separate her professorial id from her sm performance id.  And an ad for the sm website “characterizes Mistress Jade as “a stern teacher ready to punish unruly students.”” Of course, such is a  frequent sm fantasy.  But as far as punishment goes, it is clear that several persons at UNM would like to punish Chavez in the real world for her acting out punishment scenarios in a fantasy world.
 
The prime would be real world punisher as previously reported is just resigned Creative Writing Director Sharon Warner.  For Warner the fact that UNM refuses to punish Chavez for “moolinghting as a phone sex worker” is beyond the pale.  She had expected UNM to take “swift action to protect the UNM learning environment”.  The only reason she could fathom for UNM not doing this, as is reported in the Journal, is that “UNM instead caved in to threats of litigation”.
 
As for the UNM administration response, they reject the idea that they had caved into anything; they simply see no evidence that that Chavez threatened the integrity of the learning process at UNM.
 
And Deputy Provost Richard Holder who has represented the UNM administration throughout the Chavez controversy is not exactly a laissez faire advocate when it comes to student professor relationships.
 
The one constant principle, Holder said, is that faculty shouldn’t be romantically involved with students enrolled in their classes. “And if such a relationship begins, we try to get the student out of the class and into another class if we know about it,” he said. He said the power inequity between faculty and their students creates too great a potential problem. 
 “If things are going well in the relationship, you could say that the faculty member is more likely to give a very good grade,” Holder said. “But the opposite occurs as often when people are breaking up. They might get an F in the class and not deserve it. It works both ways, and it’s just better not to have that sort of relationship.” 
Holder said in Chávez’s case, there was not a romantic relationship with the student. 
   
Of course Holder’s views are utter poppycock when it comes to student professor romantic relationships.  He cannot present a scintilla of evidence that professors grade the romantically involved in any way differently then they grade the non-romantically involved.  What he believes without any evidence for said belief should not be considered a justification for taking a student out of class and forcing her/his transfer to another class.  Such represents what Holder characterizes as a power inequity, but here it is the university administrator with the power over both student and professor.
 
Holder goes on to state that in the present Chavez case and the student who preformed with her, both the student and professor were adults and their behavior “didn’t seem to impinge on the classroom.”  Yes, Holder apparently got it right in this case, but he doesn’t seem to be aware that this rationale would be the same rationale for not intervening in student professor romantic relationships unless the evidence showed that said relationship impinged on the classroom.
Yes, act based on the evidence which was applied in the Chavez case but then do not turn around and act on what one believes to have happened, and hold as Holder holds in student professor romantic relationships that one can and should act without an investigation of the facts of the case.
 
But for Professor Warner it becomes irrelevant what Deputy Provost Holder’s investigation found since she believes that “faculty members must maintain their objectivity, whatever it takes.” No need for Deputy Holder to investigate since Warner knows that their could not be objectivity in Chavez’s class.
 
However, the Journal went on to report that many of the UNM English faculty who are critical of Professor Chavez do socialize with students. As reported by one faculty member, “colleagues invite graduate students to their homes for end-of-semester parties and other gatherings. “But the faculty member said “faculty members should respect appropriate boundaries””. 
 
Now in the dankprofessor’s opinion this ‘I socialize with students’ smacks of that now dreaded word “elitism”.  Yes, I will drink with students at the appropriate time and place; reminds me of Hillary guzzling beers at the appropriate time and place which supposedly functioned to shed her elitist performance face.
 
And then last but not least the Journal cites another Chavez colleague, Diane Thiel, who indicated what disturbed her the most “was that the student who posed with Chávez was enrolled in her pedagogy class at the time”.  “The point of the class is to cover such things as teaching ethics,” she said.
 
Bless the ethics teaching professors since they know in some ultimate sense what is ethical versus unethical.  And the student who does not internalize ethics from above has ethically strayed.  So much for independent critical thinking. So much for objectivity in the classroom; you believe in what I believe and you are a good student. Hypocrisy is existent throughout our society but it utterly knows no bounds in the land of higher hypocrisy education.
—–
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 2008
 
  

April 20, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sex workers, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, University of New Mexico | 1 Comment

The dankprofessor will not back down

Students as well as some administrators at Princeton University have taken a stand against internet website JuicyCampus. JuicyCampus primarily relies on anonymous postings, the majority of which specialize in character assassinations, mudslinging and unsupported rumors of every kind.

Inside Higher Ed reports on the Princeton protest-

The issues raised by anonymity – online, in bathroom graffiti and in more mundane contexts such as defaced or removed posters – aren’t unique to Princeton, whose section on JuicyCampus is relatively tame compared to those of other campuses. But the collective impact of expression that lacks accountability and even contributes to the decay of a campus culture, they believe, led some students to try a more constructive response than calling for banning the site or denouncing those who use it.

The petition declares a “stand against anonymous character assassination, a culture of gossip, and all other acts of ethical and intellectual cowardice.” It continues: “Anonymity may have its place in certain kinds of political speech, journalistic endeavors, and other arenas, but its overuse and abuse is not consistent with the standard of behavior we, as members of an academic community, wish to maintain.”

About 250 students arrived on campus both last Tuesday and Friday with T-shirts bearing the equation “anonymity = cowardice,” said Thomas Dunne, the associate dean of undergraduate students who worked with Diemand-Yauman on the campaign. The campaign has also produced posters with the message “You Can’t Take Me Down”: “Tearing down posters on campus because you don’t support the viewpoints expressed by the organizations involved or the content of the program is a type of vandalism and an act of censorship.”

In the dankprofessor’s opinion the Princeton students and their administrator supporters are doing the right thing.  Anonymous attacks accompanied by unsupported materials have no place in academic discourse or for that matter in any kind of discourse.

Such anonymous postings have no place on the dankprofessor blog.  I have refused to allow such postings, most recently as comments regarding the Lisa Chavez case.  If I published postings from unidentified posters whose posts contain unsupported scurrilous attacks, such would represent the trashing of this blog.  I have been attacked on another blog for not publishing these posts.  All of these posts may have originated from one or several posters.  I do not know.  I have informed them and I now inform my readership that these posts will not be published on my blog.  Sex in the public square which also has had a focus on the UNM Lisa Chavez case has also refused to publish these postings; to read their position statement, click here.

Unfortunately, there are some academic blogs which disagree with our stance.  Such is unfortunate.  Such also represents their right of publication.  I will continue to cover the UNM case as well as report on and comment on sexual politics on campuses while attempting to maintain the highest possible journalistic standards.  I hope that my readership continues to support my quest for truth and justice in academia. 

—–
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 2008

 

 

April 17, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, Princeton University, sadomasochism, secrecy, sex, sex work, sexual politics, speech, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Sexual crusade likely at the University of New Mexico

Once again Elizabeth Wood of sexinthepublicsquare.com has performed a great service in facilitating student Liz Derrington writing about her relationship with Professor Lisa Chavez.  

As Liz indicates in her essay, which is excerpted below and can be read in its entirely by clicking here, she never had any kind of sexual relationship with Professor Chavez; they had a  relationship first as co-workers and then as friends.  As for the pictures of herself and Lisa Chavez, Liz indicates that the

the pictures we took during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in were entirely staged. Professor Chávez and I were playing characters, essentially: we worked under pseudonyms, along with assumed personas. As Professor Chávez has said in the past, it’s not like our photos bore captions with our real names and explanations of our connection to UNM, so I think it’s a stretch to say our work for PEP could be construed as damaging to the reputation of UNM, the English department, or the Creative Writing division.

Whatever the relationship that Liz and Lisa had, it was not a sexual relationship, and that their relationship in no way impacted on Professor Chavez’s fitness to teach.  In what I consider to be a key passage in her essay, Liz states-

Again, many of those people are the ones claiming that their objection to Professor Chávez being called fit to teach comes from a concern for students, but none of them ever asked me what happened; they simply stopped speaking to me.

Such is key to understanding the utter hypocrisy of persons attacking Professor Chavez, particularly Creative Writing Director Sharon Warner. Warner, et. al., have cloaked themselves in a garb of being committed to protecting students.  But as we see here such a cloaking is quite transparent.  Professors of this genre simply use students to promulgate their agenda aimed at stigmatizing and punishing professors they consider to be deviant.  The reality is that the student becomes an invisible, non-person.  Students only become visible when they are robotic in the sense of affirming everything the sexually crusading professors have said.

Complicating matters in this case is that both Lisa Chavez and Liz Derrington have become for too many effectively sexually objectified.  No matter what they say or do, they will be interpreted in sexual terms.  Or to put it in other terms, people who are sex workers, people who are phone sex workers,  are seen by the man in the street or by unthinking professors as being totally defined by the sex in sex worker.  Professor Chavez’s status as a professor is trumped for them by her sex worker status.  She and student Liz are mediated thru sexually tinged lenses. They become “prisoners” of the labels put upon them. For persons adhering to this framework, the idea of a person being a professor and a sex worker is an impossibility.  For them, the fact that the UNM VP welcomes Lisa Chavez back to the university is simply intolerable.

Persons such as Professor Warner feel morally violated and they will deal with the pain of their violation by embarking on a sexual crusade.  And if enough people are recruited to becoming part of this campaign, no one will be safe, not VP Holder, not the Chair of the Department of English, not any faculty member who publicly supports Professor Chavez and certainly not Liz Derrington, unless she disavows her friendship with Professor Chavez.

I am not engaging in any hysterical thinking here; I am basing this on what I have seen occur on university campuses and beyond over and over again.  I can’t definitively say what will be the outcome at the University of New Mexico since I do not have enough familiarity with the political and “moral” climate at the university and its environs.  I will be surprised if we do not see in the near future New Mexico state legislators involved in this imbroglio with threats of financial retribution being directed toward the university. 

My advice to persons at UNM who are concerned with civil liberties and academic freedom at UNM is too hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  And don’t engage in pipedreams about good and decent academics who will not do nasty things; engage in knowing ones enemy and fighting for values that would be unthinkable to abandon, such abandonment could put university life in the hands of moral absolutists.  Most immediately publicly support the UNM administration.

As indicated, here are the excerpts from the Derrington essay-

I am the graduate student referred to in the Sex in the Public Square post from April 4, entitled “Lisa Chavez speaks out.” I wanted to take some time to do some speaking out myself, as I have not done so before now aside from during the official investigation.

I began working for PEP in February 2007. Lisa Chávez and I began taking calls at the same time, but that was entirely a coincidence. I was taking a class with her that semester; it was an elective for me that I opted to take partly because I thought I would learn a lot and it would look good on my CV, but also because I had a great deal of respect for Professor Chávez as a writer and had heard good things about her as a teacher. As was the case with many of my professors in graduate school, I was able to be friends with Professor Chávez outside the classroom while still respecting her authority in the classroom. We never discussed our phone sex work in class, nor did we discuss class during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in. As Elizabeth has pointed out, the pictures we took during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in were entirely staged. Professor Chávez and I were playing characters, essentially: we worked under pseudonyms, along with assumed personas. As Professor Chávez has said in the past, it’s not like our photos bore captions with our real names and explanations of our connection to UNM, so I think it’s a stretch to say our work for PEP could be construed as damaging to the reputation of UNM, the English department, or the Creative Writing division…

As Lisa said, though, in July an “anonymous” letter arrived in the English department, “outing” Professor Chávez as a PSO. My understanding — Professor Chávez is the only one who has both seen the letter and talked to me about it — is that the letter contained photos from the website, some of which included me. Or it might be that the letter referred to the website, and upon viewing the website, other professors recognized me as well as Professor Chávez. At any rate, it came out that the two of us, along with a student who’d graduated in May 2006, were working for this company. At first it seemed like UNM’s lawyers didn’t see anything wrong with Professor Chávez participating in PEP activities with an adult graduate student, but by the fall an official investigation was underway.

People were ostensibly concerned for me. They wanted to make sure I hadn’t been coerced into working for PEP, hadn’t been recruited via the University, that my grades hadn’t been contingent on my work for PEP, that I didn’t feel like I’d been harassed or made uncomfortable, etc. Honestly, though, at this point I have a hard time believing that they want Professor Chávez to be punished, or at least for further investigations or reviews to be made, because they’re concerned for students. One reason for my skepticism is that the official investigation was thorough. As the Daily Lobo article points out, the Deputy Provost found that “the graduate students involved ‘reported their activities were consensual, and all disclaimed any recruitment, solicitation or coercion.'” And yet the anti-Professor Chávez contingent continues to call for her head.

Another, more pointed (for me) reason for my skepticism is the fact that once word of my involvement with PEP (not to mention the photos) began to spread, many of the professors in the department began to shun me. Most notably, my dissertation advisor at the time refused to work with me anymore, meaning I had to switch advisors less than three months before my dissertation defense. That same professor also told more than one other person that she felt she ought to contact the university where I now work — I had the job lined up last semester — to tell them that I’m not morally fit to teach. I hadn’t intended to continue doing phone sex work once I started teaching anyway (largely because I found it mentally and emotionally draining), but I ended up having to quit several months sooner than I’d planned because I began to have panic attacks anytime the phone rang — I was afraid it was someone from the English department calling to check up on me, to accuse me further of engaging in immorality. My credit card balances still show the damage that quitting before I had another job available did to my finances. I sank into depression, not because of anything Professor Chávez did — indeed, she has never been anything but supportive of me, professionally and personally — but because I felt betrayed and abandoned by a number of other people in the department whom I had trusted and respected.

Again, many of those people are the ones claiming that their objection to Professor Chávez being called fit to teach comes from a concern for students, but none of them ever asked me what happened; they simply stopped speaking to me.

Furthermore, word reached me at one point that I was being blatantly slandered within the department, that people were being told that Professor Chávez and I were engaging in a sexual relationship, and that we were also engaging in prostitution. PEP does offer in-person domination sessions, and while I appreciate that such sessions tread a very fine legal line as they are sexual in nature without involving actual sex, the fact of the matter is that Professor Chávez and I never participated in such sessions; the work we did was strictly over the phone. I hired an attorney once the official investigation was underway, because I feared being slandered further, and I felt that the English department was doing a poor job of representing my interests. In the end, the only evidence I had of the slander was hearsay, and so I didn’t take legal action, but I felt a great deal of hostility directed at me within the department, particularly on the part of many of the same people who would like to see Professor Chávez punished further, if not fired…

I graduated in December, and am now working as an adjunct instructor. I want to focus now on my teaching and writing, on trying to establish my career, but this scandal continues to occupy my thoughts, and not just because I consider Professor Chávez a good friend and it upsets me to see her being treated the way she’s being treated. I still have concerns about my professional future: I know that there are a number of faculty members at the University of New Mexico who would give me a strong recommendation if asked. However, I also fear that there are faculty members who, if asked about me, would give me a negative evaluation based not on the work I actually did at UNM, but on their disapproval of my work as a phone sex operator. I dislike feeling like I have to keep looking over my shoulder, so to speak, every time I put UNM down as a former employer. I’m not foolish enough to put the professors who have clear objections to my behavior down as references, but my fear is that if another department were to take it upon themselves to do an exceptionally thorough background check on me, the aforementioned professors would be all too willing to bring up subjects that would be inappropriate in that context. My hope is that by speaking out, I will, if nothing else, be able to control the narrative being told about me, at least to a certain extent.

—–
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 2008

 

 

April 6, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sex workers, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | 3 Comments

Chavez student speaks out

Marisa Demarco, a student of Lisa Chavez, has spoken out in defense of Professor Chavez in part in the following terms-

“I’m a graduate of UNM’s English-creative writing department. This story in the Daily Lobo this morning hit me in the face like a bag of nails. Sharon Warner, the program’s director, is stepping down. Apparently, Lisa Chavez, an instructor, posed on an S&M website with some graduate students and didn’t get punished (enough?) for it. (There’s a punishment joke in here somewhere, but I’m not going for it.)

 I’m a huge Lisa Chavez fan. I had a couple of classes with her and thought she was brilliant. Her poetry is often breathtaking. It’s clear to me that I don’t have an unbiased view of this situation.”

Oh, and the drawing, it’s not by the dankprofessor; I am artistically challenged.

—–
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 2008

 

 

 

April 5, 2008 Posted by | higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, Uncategorized, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Comments from throughout the USA on Sharon Warner/Lisa Chavez story

How are people across the USA comprehending this story?  To find out, click here.

April 5, 2008 Posted by | higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

dankprofessor apologizes

The dankprofessor apologizes to Sharon Warner.  I referred to her as the Writing Director and not the Creative Writing Director.  Such was my failure.  In fact, maybe this whole Lisa Chavez story is a creative writing project.  Might this be a creative way of getting a publisher interested in this story as a book to be? 

April 5, 2008 Posted by | higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, University of New Mexico | | Leave a comment

UNM Prof Lisa Chavez speaks out

There have been major developments on the UNM Lisa Chavez story. The website sexinthepublicsquare has published an in-depth and definitely worth reading interview with Professor Chavez.  Professor Elizabeth Wood, the interviewer, is to be congratulated for her good work.  The dankprofessor urges blog readers to read the entirety of the interview. And sexinthepublicsquare is now on the dankprofessor’s very selective list of blogs that merit reading on a regular basis. 

In addition, TV station krqe had a news segment on the Chavez sitution in which Sharon Warner was interviewed and images of Professor Chavez partaking in a sm scene were shown.

In the interview, Professor Chavez makes it quite clear that this incident did not involved a sexual relationship with a student-

I was not in a relationship with the student in the photos–other than the relationship between co-workers at PEP and as friends.I do not think adult students need to be protected from faculty. Of course I believe sexual harassment and any coercion are wrong, but I don’t believe consensual relationships are wrong. In fact, there are cases of such relationships in my department, but they have always been heterosexual. There are also cases of true harassment, which have not been pursued. I believe I am being treated this way partially because the purported relationship was between two women, and also because they see a certain “luridness” in what some in my department called  the “sex trade.”

I do think students and faculty both can benefit from close relationships–not sexual relationships per se, but friendships–and this is especially true in my field of creative writing. I have become friends with a number of the students I’ve worked with (and, for the record, I have never had a sexual relationship with a student, though I do not mean to condemn all such relationships), and I believe that the friendship helps us work better together. Creating writing is often a sort of soul-baring, and I believe that to work well together, we need to build up a mutual trust, which is something that goes beyond a formal student/teacher distance.

Bravo to Professor Chavez for not engaging in a condemnation of student professor relationships and reciting the cant that differential power precludes consent.  But even given her non-sexual involvement with students, the campaign against her will in all likelihood continue unabated.

What has become most clear to the dankprofessor is that resigned UNM Writing Director Sharon Warner is the major protagonist.  One does not have to read between the lines to figure out that she has de facto communicated that she was the one who broke this “story”.  She appears to be the “third party informant”. There was no story until she came forward.  Prior to her coming forward, Professor Chavez as part of an sm scene or performance was not recognized as such on the internet; she was not identified personally on the website.

Professor Warner in essence wrote the story.  And she is the story, not Lisa Chavez.  She is the absolutist moral entrepreneur attempting to sell her story at the expense of Lisa Chavez.  In essence, Warner’s story is summed up in the following quote- “We think a message must be sent out not only to her but to other faculty members because: If this is not unethical, what is unethical?”

Nothing here about protecting students from harm; it’s primarily about sending out a message to other faculty members, a message reaffirming traditional sexual morality.   For her, Lisa Chavez is a sexual outsider.  I have no doubt that this woman will not rest until Lisa is exiled or excommunicated from UNM. 

Adding melodrama to the story is Professor Warner’s resignation as Writing Director.  She just couldn’t handle Lisa Chavez not being punished by the UNM administration and she could not handle her colleague returning from sabbatical still in good university standing.  So she resigns in protest. The dankprofessor’s reaction is “big deal”.  Such was a symbolic protest with no substance; she did not resign as a tenured English professor; hardly anything as an academic really changes for her.

Professor Warner has promised to continue to campaign for the university censuring of Professor Chavez; she indicates that she will take this to the desk of Governor Richardson if such becomes necessary.  Not boding well for Professor Chavez is none of her English faculty colleagues have publicly indicated any kind of support for her while 13 of her colleagues have signed a petition asking for further university evaluation of her actions.  The dankprofessor estimates that there are 43 tenured faculty, including faculty who may be untenured but are on a tenure track in the UNM English department. Even if the UNM administration maintains its position as to not punish Professor Chavez, Chavez could very well find upon her return a very hostile and non-welcoming English faculty.  The fact is that bullying of academics by fellow academics is rife in the academic world; in this context, do checkout the website bulliedacademics.blogspot.com

Academic bullying can range from outright shunning to verbal hostility to a myriad of false charges having nothing to do with the original charge to the assignment of particularly unattractive teaching schedules to never getting another sabbatical leave to never getting promoted.  Of course, the intent is to punish the bullied and to make life so difficult that the bullied “chooses” to resign.  I call this a definite example of power abuse!  Nothing consensual about this, my point being that Professor Chavez engaged in a consensual SM performance.  Those trying to get rid of Chavez or bullying of her in the future, if such be the case, do not give a damn about consent and are the ones engaging in power abuse.

To date the administration of the University of New Mexico has been exemplary as to how they have dealt with this situation.  They merit the support of academics who truly take academic freedom seriously.  Unquestionably their power is and will be continued to be challenged.  Let us hope that they do not capitulate.

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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 2008

April 5, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, nudity, pornography, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, Uncategorized, University of New Mexico | 7 Comments

Opposition coalesces against UNM for not punishing sadomasochistic posing professor

The University Of New Mexico’s student newspaper, the Daily Lobo, reported today that Sharon Warner “UNM’s director of creative writing said she will resign because her colleague has not been punished for posing in sexually explicit photos with students.” She submitted her letter of resignation on March 23 and is expected to vacate her position on April 15.

As previously reported by the dankprofessor, Professor of English Lisa Chavez had been investigated by the UNM administration for posing nude on a sadomasochism website, People Exchanging Power (PEP). She had posed nude with some of her students who had previously been involved with PEP. The investigation determined that Chavez had not exerted undue influence on these students, that the student involvement was consensual.

Two weeks ago Deputy Provost Richard Holder representing the UNM administration indicated that based on the investigation that Chavez was fit to teach and that she would not be subject to any university sanctions or penalties. The investigation also found that Chavez’s actions did not create a hostile environment and no university facilities were involved.

In her resignation letter Sharon Warner expressed dismay with the University’s position, and indicated that Chavez should be punished. The Daily Lobo reports that in the letter that

Warner said English department Chairman David Jones failed to report images of Chavez and a student enrolled in her spring 2007 class.

However, Jones said he received photos of Chavez posing for the Web site in July but did not receive the group photo until later.

“(Warner) has a very different recollection on matter than I do,” Jones said. “She believes she showed me the images several months before I actually saw them.”

Jones said he received an anonymous letter in July with photos of Chavez posing for the Web site. He said he immediately reported the incident to administration.

In an interview with the Daily Lobo, Warner stated:

“Mainly, what it amounts to is the chair, the dean and UNM legal counsel have all told me on multiple occasions that I was – and to quote them – ‘perilously close to being sued by Chavez’s attorney,’ and that I would have to pay for my own counsel,” she said in a phone interview. “I was told that they would take my house, and that I may be sued down to my grandchildren.”

English Chair Jones stated that Warner “has been immensely valuable to the program. She has built the program into what it is today,” he said. “However, it is also true that this is not a lifetime appointment. Other people have told me that it might be time for a change.”

However, a number of English department faculty also want change, but change of a different genre as indicated by the following-

English professor Gary Scharnhorst said he is not happy about Holder’s decision. Scharnhorst said he has signed two petitions to refer the issue to the ethics committee.

“I’ve written letters to a number of administrators at the University,” he said. “I believe that what happened was profoundly unprofessional conduct and should be sent to the ethics committee for review.”

Warner said both petitions were signed by 13 faculty members in the English department.

She said the latest petition has been sent to interim Provost Viola Florez.

“We’re continuing all the way up to the academic chain,” she said. “We’re prepared to take it all the way to the governor if we have to.”

So here we have academic politics in full operation. Jones has been attacked by Warner and the English faculty are organizing in opposition to their Chair and Chavez and VP Holder and organizing in support of Warner.

The dankprofessor had predicted in my prior posting that there would be concerted opposition to allowing Chavez to teach at UNM. And now the dankprofessor predicts that the English faculty will attempt to censure and possibly remove their Chair. And as for Warner’s April 15 resignation, such could also be a political ploy to get the UNM administration to reconsider their position.

The UNM administration did the right thing in the way they handled the case- they investigated the situation and had detailed findings that simply did not support the punishing of Professor Chavez. But now the UNM moral mafia situated in the English department are engaging in pressure politics to punish and/or get rid of Chavez.

And there is no way of telling where this political pressuring and posturing could lead. If, as Warner threatens, it ends up on the desk of Governor Richardson, it will also probably end up entering the national political primary arena.

 With Richardson having fully embraced Obama, and Richardson having been accused of being a Judas by key Clinton supporters, it becomes within the realm of the politically possible that the Clinton campaign would embrace the politics of Karl Rove if Richardson and then by association Obama do not affirm traditional values by demanding the termination of Professor Chavez.

The dankprofessor believes that more on this will be forthcoming soon with the the deadline day being the taxing day of April 15.

For an update on his story, click here.

—–
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

April 3, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, litigation, nudity, pornography, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | 2 Comments

Sadomasochistic posing professor found fit to teach

The Albuquerque Journal reported yesterday that University of New Mexico professor of English Lisa Chvez* was found fit to teach by the UNM Deputy Provost Richard Holder. Provost Holder reported to the English department faculty that he determined that the faculty member had posed on a sadomasochism website with at least one of her graduate students, and that Professor Chvez should not have to face a faculty ethics inquiry.

In a March 10 letter to English department faculty, Deputy Provost Richard Holder said he thinks associate professor Lisa Chvez used poor judgment in participating in the Web site’s activities with one of her students.
But, Holder goes on to say, “In my mind this participation did not rise to the level of calling into question her ‘unfitness for duty.’ ”

Holder’s decision isn’t sitting well with some English department faculty members, 13 of whom had signed a petition calling for the Faculty Senate Ethics and Advisory Committee to review Chvez’s conduct. The petition expressed “serious ethical questions” about Chvez posing with a graduate student who was enrolled in one of her classes at the time.

“It’s not a faculty rights issue, I don’t think. It’s not an academic freedom issue. It is a faculty conduct issue,” professor Gary Scharnhorst said. “I believe that she crossed the line having inappropriate relationships with graduate students.”

Scharnhorst said none of his colleagues are angry that she posed on the Web site.
“What everyone finds troublesome is the fact that she was involved with graduate students,” he said.

Another English faculty member, Anita Obermeier, stated that the issue had “pullled the department apart” and that the non-referral of the matter to the Ethics Committee “was a huge slap in the face.” (double entendre intended?)

The university had hired an attorney to investigate the professor’s behavior and the investigator determined-

Chvez had been moonlighting for People Exchanging Power, a group based in Albuquerque that advertises conversation for cash. The group specializes in fetish exploration…
The investigation determined that “no crimes were committed, that no faculty member engaged in undue influence over any students or created a hostile learning environment, and that there was apparently no use of University-owned computers or telephone equipment.”

“The investigation revealed that the PEP website involvement of two graduate students preceded the involvement of Professor Chvez, and that both she and a third graduate student learned of the PEP website from the graduate students whose involvement preceded their own,” Holder states.

“All four of these adult women reported that their activities were consensual, and all disclaimed any recruitment, solicitation, or coercion.”

Holder said faculty members are free to appeal his decision to the provost.

The dankprofessor finds the UNM decision to be at odds with the present campus trend that embraces a feminist orthodoxy that when it comes to student professor relationships in some way involving sex such means that differential power precludes consent no matter what the student or students might state. Rather than accepting carte blanche that these students could not consent, the University of New Mexico did the right thing by looking into the particulars of the situation. The university did not engage in any a priori assumptions. Findings of no undue influence, no hostile environment, no use of university facilities means in the dankprofessor’s opinion, that there is no case against the professor. Bravo to the University of New Mexico administration for doing the right thing.

However, the dankprofessor is not naïve. It is not over. Offended faculty are likely to appeal. The offended faculty will be spurred on by some offended alumni, and I am sure a myriad of others. And if the appeals are unsuccessful and the good professor returns, she will be faced with a very hostile environment, no collegiality for her and I am sure no preferred teaching schedule, and she will be held under a microscope by faculty attempting to find that she has violated some university rule. Such may sound terribly cynical to many of the dankprofessor’s blog readers. However, for those believing I am embracing cynicism, the dankprofessor’s response is that it is realism that I am embracing. No pipedreams from me when it comes to contemporary university life.

For updates on the Chavez story, click here and here.

*In the originating article, the professor’s name was incorrectly spelled as Lisa Chvez; the correct spelling is Lisa Chavez

—–
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. In addition, story leads will be most appreciated.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 17, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | 2 Comments

   

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