Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

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 Tate’s sister calls for Polanski release

Debra Tate, the younger sister of Sharon Tates has called for the release of Polanski from a Swiss jail.  Watch her on MSNBC by clicking here.  The interview with Debra comes at the end of the segment, and it is definitely worth waiting for.  You will also find the text of the interview.

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Debra Tate, litigation, rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics, Sharon Tate | 5 Comments

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

Student professor intimate relationship attacked, pt. 3

Mark Bourrie’s response to my blogging merits a reply.  His response follows-
 
 No, Dank, I want professors to act professionally, in the context of the power inequity that exists, the disruptive aspects of these affairs to the rest of the students, the possibility of litigation, the real and perceived conflicts re: marks, scholarships, internships, references, etc. You need not put words in my mouth. I have made myself very clear. The legal profession views clients as adults, and it bans sexual relationships between lawyers and clients because of the power imbalance and the coercive power that comes from the lawyer/client relationship. I believe this is the same type of power imbalance that exists between profs and students.

Of course, I agree with Dr. Bourrie that we should all be concerned about the disruptive aspects of these affairs if there be any.  Of course, if affairs of any kind are introduced into the classroom and such is disruptive of the class agenda, remedial action should be taken.  Remedial action should be taken in terms of any kind of disruptive behavior, such as students talking to others during lecture, or persistently interrupting others, being rude to to others, etc.  However, I expect that we would agree that students do not have a right not to be offended in the classroom. If we systematically avoid dealing with subjects that we fear would be offensive to some students, then education would be reduced to a form of pablum.

As for the possibility of litigation in regards to consensual student professor intimate relationships, the dankprofessor knows of no successful litigation that has been taken in this area.  At least I know of none that has taken place in the United States.  Maybe the situation is different in Canada.  Maybe, Dr. Bourrie can give me some examples of successful litigation in regards to consensual student professor intimate relationships.  And, of course, I am not referring to sexual harassment lawsuits in which there might have previously been a consensual relationship.  I will not defend persons who are a party to sexually harassing another.  I will hold that the behavior of persons who engage in mutual consent in the present situation under consideration should not and do not fall within the purview of litigation; such should be considered basic and elementary.

As for real and perceived conflicts of interests in regards to grading, etc., if I could wave a magic wand and remove all sexual interaction between students and professors, perceived conflicts of interests would remain rife in the university.  It is par for the course for students to believe and often state that another student received a higher grade than oneself because the professor liked him or her or the professor does not like me as much as him or her.  Students usually use this technique or psychological ploy to avoid attending/dealing with their own work; it is often a way of refusing to accept criticism and it is widespread in academia. Of course, any prof who feels he/she cannot objectively evaluate any student should recuse him or herself from evaluating that student.  Unfortunately, such is unlikely  to occur; said recusing prof would probably be stigmatized or even terminated.  

Problems relating to prejudicial grading should be at the forefront of university concern, e.g, how to avoid prejudicial grading when the professor finds the student exceptionally physically attractive, reminds one of ones ex-girlfriend, etc., or is repelled by the appearance of the student.  Nothing on this in the university.  These sorts of grading issues usually only come up by those who suffer from a “keen” interest in the sexual behavior of others, whether it be of a professional or non-professional nature.  If so-called professionalism rationalizes or justifies such an interest, such is most unfortunate.  In my opinion, in general terms, terms like professionalism often function to cover up the real underlying interests.  Such is my non-professional but professorial opinion.  The dankprofessor also has an opinion as to why charges of prejudicial grading are never lodged against womens studies professors who  hold that they should bond with their female students or who have overtly expressed hateful comments about men.  But I will withhold my opinion on this. Maybe Bourrie can help us out on this one.

As for the university adopting policies similar to those adopted by the legal profession or the lawyering class being held out as a model for the professor class, God help us.  Yes, there are many ethical problems and other problems in the university world, particularly plagiarism by both students and professors and administrators, but such I believe dwells into insignificance as to the the ethical problems of the lawyering class.  Putting ethics and lawyers together is often considered to be an oxymoron.  In any case, the lawyer client relationship is simply not analogous to the student professor relationship.

April 8, 2009 Posted by | attractive students, Canada, Concordia University, consensual relationships, ethics, grading, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Writing out University of Iowa buffoonery

In terms of the recent faculty sexual harassment cases and faculty suicides at the University of Iowa, the dankprofessor believes it would be fair to state that things are not going well at UI.  But such is not the view of the UI administration.

UI officials are now touting progress in their fight against faculty sexual harassment and suicide. UI Provost Wallace Loh says that “extraordinary progress'” is occurring at UI since the university has put 4,800 faculty and staff and teaching assistants thru their sexual harassment education program.  Note that the program is now called education and not training.  So in one foul swoop the UI administration is now playing both a numbers game and a name game.  Their stated goal is for 17,800 faculty, staff and TAs to become educated in the ins and outs of sexual harassment.

To argue that so-called educational progress is reflected in these numbers is ludicrous.  Such would be similar to arguing that police training in “cultural sensitivity” means that more police are more sensitive on the beat.  Outcomes and program numbers are not one in the same, whether it be on the beat or in the classroom.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of faculty and staff and TAs who have gone thru said education or training or indoctrination believe that such does not reflect so-called progress but are more likely to believe it is simply an attempt to avoid the University of Iowa becoming involved in legal entanglements.

The dankprofessor  believes that UI communications studies professor Steve Duck who recently completed the UI program got it right when

he said the program is an ineffective public relations move and …many faculty members want to know what (President) Mason will do if another accusation arises.

“Sally Mason’s requirement that all faculty take a mandatory course, which I passed at a level that won me a badge and a free plastic cup, was an ineffective response that does little more than attract bad publicity,” Duck said.

“In fact most faculty, TAs and students have a greater deal of common sense than she recognizes, and her required course doesn’t solve the problem either,” he said.

Handing out a badge and a cup to those who complete this so-called education is downright insulting and patronizing.   Such “gestures” show how little regard, show how little respect the UI administrators have for faculty and students.

What a simple world it would be if we could solve harassment and suicide problems through some pseudo education and the awarding of a badge and a cup.  Or to put it in more blunt terms- the aforementioned represents a form of pablum designed for the simple-minded.

Obviously, the major problem at UI is that the UI President Sally Mason and her administrator underlings do not take these problems seriously.  If they took the problems seriously they would stop treating their faculty as children who they order around while playing mindless word games. 

THE problem at UI and at many other universities is essentially one of authoritarianism. Authoritarians love to give out rewards to those who obey them; obedience is always their game.   However, when the authoritarians also embrace buffoonery over and over again, one ends up with a bad comedy with no one taking anything seriously.  Obviously, the University of Iowa needs some new script writers who will write out these clowns and replace them with persons engaging each other on the serious problems of the day.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Southern Illinois University and sexual harassment

The FreeU Blog reports that the Faculty Senate of Southern Illinois University has recommended changes to a new SIU sexual harassment code that embraces the fundamentals of due process of law. The proposed faculty amendments are as follows-

1. Due process rights shall be afforded to all parties.
2. A Sexual Harassment Review Board shall be formed to work with the compliance officer.
3. A person shall be banned only if he or she poses an immediate threat.
4. Judicial Review board members may be appointed to the Sexual Harassment Panel for cases
involving faculty.
5. The accused shall be notified about the complaint within five working days.
6. The accused and complainant shall have access to a redacted version of the preliminary
investigative report.
7. The accused and complainant shall have the right to appeal and present their own cases.
8. The Sexual Harassment Panel shall submit a report to the chancellor.
9. Records of cases shall be kept under strict confidentiality.
10. The definition of sexual harassment shall be consistent with the Illinois Human Rights Act.

The dankprofessor enthusiastically endorses these recommended amendments, but with full knowledge that the university administration may choose to reject some or all of these recommendations.

The FreeU blog notes:

This is progress but the Faculty Senate only went halfway. The overly broad definition of “sexual” harassment still includes everything but the kitchen sink, and still intrudes on the classroom.

The new code expands the definition of “sexual” harassment and adds to the laundry list of possible infractions. This is precisely the kind of “chilling” approach that the Office for Civil Rights (U.S. Department of Education) rebuked several years ago. The code’s definition allows accusers to claim “hostile environment” in the face of innocent quips, humor, gestures, and “sexually-explicit” material that is “inappropriate.” It extends the code to on and off-campus activities. I went over this ground in my “Open Letter.”

What SIU needs to do as well as most other universities is to seek out the counsel of the FreeU blog on sexual harassment policy.  The FreeU blog has the dankprofessor’s seal of approval.

November 26, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, Southern Illinois University | 1 Comment

Rooting out the problem at the University of Iowa

I greatly appreciated the UI professor’s willingness to have his/her comments published anonymously
in the dankprofessor post- Shame and suicide at the University of Iowa.

The professor noted that the Weiger sexual harassment suit may have represented a situation of hostile environment sexual harassment.  The Inside Higher Ed article presented this case in the following manner-

A former student and teaching assistant’s lawsuit, filed in federal court against Weiger and the university, charged that he had a romantic relationship with another student, engaged in repeated classroom banter and touching of an inappropriate nature, and created a sexually hostile environment

The dankprofessor speculates that the suit against Mark Weiger evolved out of a consensual student professor relationship that ended up being framed as sexual harassment and most likely as hostile environment sexual harassment.   Such may have occurred in the context of sexual jealousy and rivalry as experienced by a spurned student.  Such escalation and conflation is more likely to occur in a culture where reputation is of paramount importance.  And according to the UI professor this represented the dominant culture at the University of Iowa.

Approximately one year ago on November 24, 2007 I published a post entitled  “Fear and Loathing at the University of Iowa” which was on the consensual relationships policy at UI.  A review of this policy demonstrates that UI did not simply ban these relationships, but viewed them in totally demeaning and dehumanizing terms.  A professor who was very sensitive concerning his public status and reputation could very well have been psychologically traumatized by having himself publicly presented as a sexual predator/harasser.

And if one takes the policy statements of UI seriously, ultimately there is little differentiation in terms of the seriousness of the charge of sexual harassment versus the seriousness of being charged with violation of the consensual relationship policy; in both instances the professor so charged de facto becomes a sexual predator.

UI President Sally Mason in a recent communication to students and faculty stated that now is not the time to speculate as to the causes of the recent campus suicides.  The dankprofessor holds that this is an example of the UI President engaging in avoidance and denial.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, shame, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Suicide and sexual harassment at the University of Iowa

Inside Higher Education reports that University of Iowa music professor Mark Weiger has killed himself one week after he was accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit.

A former student and teaching assistant’s lawsuit, filed in federal court against Weiger and the university, charged that he had a romantic relationship with another student, engaged in repeated classroom banter and touching of an inappropriate nature, and created a sexually hostile environment. According to the suit, the university conducted its own investigation of the situation last year, found Weiger had violated policies against sexual harassment, and then resolved the issue “informally.” He was found in his car, dead from carbon monoxide poisoning, with the garage door at his home closed. Authorities said he left a note.

This was not the first suicide by a UI professor who had been accused of sexual harassment.  “This past August UI professor Arthur H. Miller “was arrested on bribery charges and accused of telling female students that he would give them higher grades if they let him fondle their breasts. In one case, he is alleged to have grabbed and sucked on a student’s breast and then sent her an e-mail telling her that she had earned an A+. He then shot himself in a local park”.

Michael W. O’Hara, president of the Faculty Senate at Iowa and a professor of psychology, called the two deaths “a horrible coincidence.” He added that “sometimes in the great big wide world, events converge that are totally coincidental yet you begin to wonder if there is a pattern, and my view is that this is like having our 500-year flood. It seems inexplicable but it happened.”

When Miller was arrested in August the university announced that all faculty members would undergo sexual harassment training.  Such appeared to be a rather draconian move by the university targeting all professors in the context of only one professor being involved in the Miller sexual harassment case.

What concerned and perplexed the dankprofessor occurred when the University of Iowa did not order mandatory suicide prevention training for all of the UI faculty after Miller’s suicide.  Now that another professor has committed suicide in the context of a sexual harassment charges, the University of Iowa administration remains silent as to the need of suicide prevention training for its faculty.

If the UI administration is truly concerned about the well being of its faculty and believes that sexual harassment training will diminish that problem for its faculty, I think it is fair to ask why the administration does not order suicide prevention training for its faculty which ideally would function to diminish a problem that is a much more lethal problem than sexual harassment

However the university did do something as a consequence of the Weiger suicide when “Sally Mason, president of the university, on Thursday issued a statement expressing condolences to Weiger’s family and friends, and letting people know of the availability of counseling services. She also urged people “to refrain from speculation about this event, but to support all who need assistance.”

But the dankprofessor must ask why would President Mason assume that faculty have the ability to determine which faculty are in need of assistance?  Advocates of mandatory sexual harassment training argue that those trained become skilled in determining when sexual harassment has occurred or is likely to occur and therefore the trained are more likely to report to the appropriate campus authorities the existence of sexual harassers and potential sexual harassers.

Obviously, there is a double standard here, and it is the dankprofessor’s opinion that the double standard is related to the fact that sexual harassment involves sex and and American universities are well known for being sexphobic and then, of course, there is the money issue.  Faculty mandated sexual harassment training functions to diminish the probability of sexual harassment lawsuits being successfully promulgated against universities, at least such is the belief of many university administrators.  

And, of course, such does not mean that sexual harassment training is effective in diminishing sexual harassment on campus.  The dankprofessor believes that almost all faculty and university administrators know this.  And almost all academics know this and go along with the myth that sexual harassment training functions to prevent or diminish sexual harassment on campus.  And when a faculty member refuses to go along with this charade, and attempts to undermine the notion that sexual harassment training is effective, he or she is threatened with sanctions, as in the case of UCI professor Alexander McPherson.

Unfortunately, most universities have become money making playgrounds for those associated with the sexual harassment industry, including sexual harassment chasing lawyers.  

For most universities in both good and bad economic times, universities are predominantly interested in saving money rather than in spending money to save faculty lives.

So the end result in most American universities is that faculty problems relating to matters such as suicide receive only incidental attention, e.g., condolences are sent to the family of the suicide victim.  And as far as sexual harassment is concerned, the response of sexual harassment training is a money draining charade.  The dankprofessor is suggesting that this is not simply his opinion, but is the opinion of 99.9% of those who are knowledgeable about said training.  Such of course excludes those people and organizations that profit from the sexual harassment industry.

November 14, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, UC Irvine, University of Iowa | 1 Comment

Lethbridge professor to be reinstated

Congratulations to Psych Prof Gregory Bird for winning his legal challenge against Lethbridge College.  A Canadian court judge has ordered that Bird to be reinstated as a psych prof at Lethbridge.  Lethbridge had suspended Bird on the grounds that he had sex with three female students.  No harassment charges had been filed against Bird, and Lethbridge College had no policy banning student prof sexual relationships.   Based on my knowledge of the situation, the relationships were consensual and two of the relationships were established prior to the women becoming students at Lethbridge.   Prior to the Court decision, an arbitration board had ruled that Lethbridge must reinstate Bird.  The Court ruling in effect affirmed the arbitration board’s decision.
 
Rick Buis, vice-president of corporate and international services for the college, stated “We’re disappointed it didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but obviously we have to comply with the justice’s decision.”
 
However, the court’s and the arbitration board’s decisions put constraints on Bird’s affairs.  His return is conditional on him not having sex with any student of the college.
 
But Lethbridge is apparently committed to implementing the court decision while at the same time undermining it since the college does not see his reinstatement as necessarily including a teaching component. According to Buis, “Our requirement is to assign a workload that is appropriate for a faculty member, that can include teaching, research, curriculum development and distance education.”

So Lethbridge is apparently going to implement their version of sexual morality by barring him from  classroom teaching.  So they are reinstating a teacher but at the same time may not allow him to teach.  If Lethbridge bars Bird from teaching, it becomes incumbent upon Lethbridge to indicate that the reason for barring him from teaching is based on something more than the application of their sexual moral judgments.

In the Canadian press story, the writer goes beyond Lethbridge to understand the basis of barring him from the classroom by interviewing a sexual harassment adviser for the University of Calgary, Voyna Wilson.  Choosing to interview Wilson seems to the dankprofessor to be a poor choice since Wilson’s area is sexual harassment, not consensual relationships.  My speculation is that they interviewed Wilson since she gives the same old puritanical feminist cant as she told the press that the imbalance of power between student and professor entering a relationship can lead to disastrous results. Of course, such relationships may also lead to good results.  In the Lethbridge case, there were no disastrous results for students but the results were disastrous for the anti-sexual zealots at Lethbridge.

Voyna Wilson then went on to state that faculty members are also risking permanent damage to their reputation by such behavior.

I suggest to Ms. Wilson that she not worry about the the reputation of faculty members such as Bird.   Wilson apparently sees herself as a sort of mother figure, albeit an authoritarian mother figure, who should warn faculty about the reputational effects of their behavior. Then Voyna Wilson warned all faculty to steer clear of sexual relations with students.

Clearly Voyna Wilson unabashedly embraces an authoritarian agenda as she attempts to put her faculty (children) in their place.  But there are still some faculty who believe that as adults they have autonomy, specifically sexual autonomy, and that they will resist authoritarian policies which attempt to recreate them as children.

In addition, when you have university administrators warning faculty about their sexual behavior, obviously, in Wilson’s terms, this also represents an imbalance of power.  But she is not concerned with this imbalance since she is the one on top with the power to engage in institutionally legitimatized abuse.  It is persons of the genre of Voyna Wilson that faculty should be warned about and to speak out against their abuses of power.

 —–
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

 

June 13, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, Lethbridge College, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, University of Calgary | Leave a comment

Gregory Bird and Lethbridge College

In a previous posting, I reported that Gregory Bird, a psychology professor at Lethbridge College who had been fired by Lethbridge for having consensual relationships with three Lethbridge students had been ordered to be reinstated by a Lethbridge arbitration board.

Although the term arbitration implies a final judgment, such is not necessarily the case.  Many universities and corporations involved in an arbitration proceeding and facing a judgment they do not like, appeal to the civil courts arguing that the arbitrator violated the rules of the arbitration.  And this is exactly what the Lethbridge administration did- they appealed.

As reported by the Lethbridge Herald,

A judge’s decision was reserved Monday, more than 26 months after a Lethbridge College instructor was fired for having sex with his students.

Justice C.S. Phillips gave no indication of when her decision would be handed down, after hearing arguments from two Calgary lawyers over the college’s termination of psychology teacher Greg Bird. Earlier this year an arbitration board ordered him reinstated by May 1, but college officials went to Court of Queen’s Bench to appeal that ruling.

While Bird admitted to his actions, the instructors’ lawyer told the judge, the college’s response was too severe. College officials maintain their action was proper because he’d violated a professional code of ethics.  Lawyer Bill Armstrong, acting for the college, said the provincially appointed arbitration panel’s decision was inconsistent with the facts it cited in reaching a verdict. He also held the college’s lack of a specific policy on personal conduct between students and teachers should not be sufficient to warrant reinstatement.

…William Johnson, representing the college faculty association, cited cases from other colleges and universities across Canada to show firing was too strong a punishment. A hot-tub party involving students and a faculty member at an Okanagan Valley college provides the most recent case law, he said.

In the college’s collective agreement with its faculty, he said it’s stated disciplinary actions would be “reasonable” under the circumstances. When he was hired more than a decade ago, Johnson said the dean of student services advised Bird and other new faculty there was no policy but they should “be discrete” about their interactions with students.

After two years and two months away from the classroom, he held, Bird has faced enough punishment.
Both lawyers submitted extensive written arguments as well.
“There’s a lot to go through here,” the Calgary judge said, reserving her decision. Court officials say issues like this, heard in Calgary chambers, could be resolved in less than a month or take as long as one year.

Of course, the Lethbridge administration may be hoping that the judge takes one year or more to reach a decision.  Such may represent a strategy to simply wear down Bird so that he would voluntarily withdraw from the university in the context of a minimal financial settlement.

It is the dankprofessor’s hope that Bird cannot be forced out.  I agree with Bird’s lawyer that firing is an excessive punishment for engaging in consensual relationships with students.  I would also agree in the context of this case that Bird’s punishment has already been excessive.  And, of course, based on the dankprofessor’s personal perspective, Bird should not have been punished at all.  Any punishment in this case is too much punishment.  Consensual relationships are simply not the business of persons other than the persons involved in the relationships.

In response to my prior posting on this case, I received personal communications from students of Bird praising him as a great teacher and lamenting the actions taken against him by   Lethbridge College.  If Gregory Bird should read this post, I encourage him to contact me; I would value the opportunity to personally communciate with him.

—–
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 3, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Lethbridge College, litigation, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | 2 Comments

Rape charges dropped against Penn State football star Austin Scott

All rape and sexual assault charges have been dropped against Penn State football star Austin Scott. The charges were dropped by the Centre County district attorney.  The District Attorney’s office filed the charges in early October 2007 one week after Scott had been suspended from the Penn State football team.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno said Saturday that he wants to help former player Austin Scott get to the NFL but does not regret his decision to suspend Scott from the team last fall.  Scott’s attorney, John P. Karoly characterized the prosecution of Karoly as being “overzealous”.

The rape charge, and the suspension put Scott in a state of psychological and career limbo.  The forfeiting of his senior football year and the stigma of the rape charge created severe doubt as whether Scott could ever play in the NFL.

In withdrawing the charges, the Centre County district attorney’s office issued a statement saying its case was handicapped by a ruling to allow the defense to cross-examine the accuser about rape allegations she made in 2003 against a Moravian College student who was later acquitted.

In a written decision, Centre County Judge Thomas King Kistler cited as reasons to allow the cross-examination, 19 similarities between the two cases, including assertions that the woman never cried for help and that she kissed both men goodbye after intercourse.

Karoly, who has won multimillion-dollar settlements in brutality and misconduct suits against the Bethlehem and Easton police departments, said he is still hoping for an apology from Paterno or the university or both.

Before Saturday’s Blue-White spring football game at Beaver Stadium, Paterno said Scott — a running back who led Parkland High School to a state championship in 2002 — was suspended for the remainder of the season because he was out late two nights before a football game.

”My problem with Austin, irrespective of [the charges], was the fact that he was out until 3-4 o’clock in the morning during the season — period,” Paterno said. ”He knows that.”

He also said he would like to help Scott, 23, pursue a future in the NFL.

With the District Attorney’s office knowing of the prior rape charge and the 19 similarities of the two cases, in the dankprofessor’s opinion this case should have never gone forward.  The decision to go forward functioned to punish Scott without trial.  Even though the ruling judge effectively undid the prosecution’s case, the District Attorney’s office needlessly allowed this charge to stand for some seven months until they were forced to admit that they had no case against Scott.

In a press conference held by Scott’s lawyer and by Scott, they implied that a lawsuit would be forthcoming.  By clicking here, one can click on and see the entirety of the press conference video.  I urge my blog readers to do so.  The video allows viewers to experience the plight of Austin Scott in a more up close and personal manner.  In the video it was also stated that a lawsuit against Penn State University was not being ruled out.  Scott is hoping to receive an apology from the university.

As for his coach Joe Paterno, he sated the following- ”Austin and I talked last week on the phone, and I said as soon as we get through this thing, you should come up and we can talk about your future a little. I told him, if I can help him get a better opportunity with a pro team after this thing is over with, I’d do that.”

As for the university’s handling of the case, such appears quite similar to how Duke University handled the rape charge against the members of their lacrosse team.  Assume guilt and offer no refuge to the presumed guilty.  Such is the world view of too many university administrators, particularly when charges of some sort of illicit sex are involved. The Duke University administrators who facilitated Duke moving against the lacrosse players still remain at Duke in good stead. Let us hope that Penn State takes a more proactive stand in attempting to right their wrongs against Austin Scott

And the Morning Call which has reported on this case and which I cite as my source in this posting has not righted their wrongs.  In the Morning call article, the Morning Call did not use the name of the woman; the Call stated that the woman’s name is being withheld “because it does not identify alleged rape victims”.  But the Call just doesn’t get it.  The woman is no longer an alleged rape victim.  The victim has been shown to be Austin Scott who was was the subject of a false rape report. 

It appears self-evident to the dankprofessor that a charge against the woman for filing a false complaint should be forthcoming.   Will the Call then reveal the woman’s identity?  And even if a charge which should be charged is not filed, the Call should still reveal the woman’s identity.  If her identity is not revealed, it will be demonstrated to like minded others that one can make false rape charges with minimal public opprobrium.

—–
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 22, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, litigation, rape, sex, sexual politics, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

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.

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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
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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

Israeli court bans consensual sex in the workplace

In what the dankprofessor considers a bizarre ruling, the Israeli National Labor Court found that a sexual relationship between an employer and employee can never be considered consensual even if the employee was the initiator and seducer. And if the relationship was purely sexually focused, the employer has engaged in sexual harassment.

The court stated- “in cases of a relationship that is in essence opportunistic sexual relations in the workplace, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the superior, even if it proven that the subordinate seduced him.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, women activists and experts in work relations have welcomed the court decision even though the relationship was voluntary and mutual and may have been initiated by the subordinate.

Attorney for the plaintiff, Sigal Pa’il stated “there must be a clear and unequivocal message regarding the norms of conduct in hierarchical relations at the workplace to turn it as much as possible into a sterile place free of intimate relations between employer and employee. The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law imposes extra responsibility on the employer to prevent sexual harassment, especially inside the workplace.”

A panel of five judges awarded damages to a 43-year-old woman who maintained a sexual relationship with the chief engineer of the company.  As reported by the Jerusalem Post-

The chief engineer was head of several departments, including the one in which the plaintiff worked. The relationship was entirely sexual and took place in the office, in the car on the way to or from work and at the beach. Each was married when they met.

The district court accepted the man’s claim that the woman had flirted with and tried to seduce him. It also ruled that the plaintiff was obliged to provide stronger proof to back her charges than she would in ordinary civil suit.

Nonetheless, National Labor Court Judge Varda Wirth Livne wrote that “I place the main burden of responsibility on the person who had the authority and attribute less responsibility to the employee who worked under him.

“This is the precedent which I would like to bring to my decision. When we are talking about a relationship that entails nothing more than occasional sex in the security room of the work place, and when, even according to the superior’s version, the relationship did not include anything more than sex, all the responsibility falls on the superior and there is no relevance to the fact that the employee tried to seduce him by wearing provocative clothes or acting in a certain way.” Wirth Livne added that “the aim of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law is to convey a message to employers and superiors that sexual-intimate relations between a superior and an employee which includes no more than sexual acts in the work place should be perceived as inappropriate behavior which should be regarded as sexual harassment while exploiting one’s authority.”

So if one is to take Judge Varda Livne seriously, then a relationship in the workplace between an employer and employee involving both love and sex would be “acceptable”. Some how I doubt that love would be allowed to trump sex.

 The dankprofessor also doubts the Jerusalem Post’s characterization that “women activists and experts in work relations have welcomed the court decision”. Have women activists in Israel really reached a level where they would eagerly embrace such a convoluted decision?

The attorney for the plaintiff did get it right when he stated that this decision will help to turn the workplace as much as possible into a sterile place free of intimate relations. And the consequences of this decision and similar court decisions do lead to sterile workplaces and when applicable to sterile university places. The tragedy and the absurdity is that too many people welcome such sterility although the welcoming may very well be for other people and not for themselves.

ADDENDUM- Some how the dankprofessor missed, but what should have been obvious, is that the court embraced the campus feminist cant that differential power precludes consent.  Unfortunately, this genre of American feminism has found a home in Israeli courts.

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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
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 29, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, ethics, feminism, Israel, litigation, love, office romance, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics | 1 Comment

University of Texas Houston sued for alleged retaliation against porn investigator

It was reported in today’s Austin-American Statesman that Cynthia Davis continues to pursue litigation relating to her firing as University of Texas-Houston technology auditor who had investigated the pornography usage of university computers by faculty and other employees of the UT Health Science Center at Houston.

Based on her 2003 investigative findings, “officials of the health center fired one employee and placed a written reprimand in the personnel files of nine others. The officials never ordered a thorough investigation of as many as 300 other employees whose computer records suggested that they also had spent time viewing X-rated Web sites on the job. What’s more, officials acknowledged that the true number of employees viewing pornography could have been far greater.” As a result of her efforts, Davis claimed that she was fired.

The Austin-American Statesman reviewed the details from court records in a lawsuit that Davis “filed in federal court in 2005 against two prominent higher education officials whom she accuses of largely brushing aside the problem and retaliating against her for raising concerns in 2003.”

Excerpts from the Austin-American Statesman report follows-

A federal appeals court ruled last month that Davis can proceed with her suit against Mike McKinney, who left his position as senior executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Houston center in 2006 to become chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, and Charles Chaffin, the UT System’s director of audits. McKinney, a physician and former state representative, has also served as Gov. Rick Perry’s chief of staff, vice chancellor for health affairs at the UT System and commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Davis filed the suit against McKinney and Chaffin, the Houston health science center, the UT System and the UT Board of Regents. A district judge dismissed the case against all but McKinney and Chaffin, who declined through representatives to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

Davis contends that she was pressured to quit her job in late 2003 in the wake of her investigation into the viewing of pornography by faculty members, staff members and students. She is seeking reinstatement, back pay and other damages.

Davis said the lax response by UT officials shocked her. “I thought, people are going to be outraged when they see this,” said Davis, now a computer and accounting consultant in Houston. She said McKinney “handled it the worst of all of them” by narrowing the scope of any investigation from the start.

McKinney said in a deposition supplied by Davis’ lawyer that when he was told how many people were possibly viewing porn, “My immediate reaction was I can’t fire 300 people.”

Davis said McKinney told her, “Bring me the top 10 abusers.”

Davis said she discovered that one pediatric dentist regularly viewed X-rated Web sites in the early morning before seeing patients. She said another employee posted to the Internet pornographic material he had videotaped in his own office.

Davis said officials refused to meet with her to discuss her concerns, even after she wrote a memorandum to James Willerson, president of the Houston center, and sent a copy to Mark Yudof, chancellor of the UT System.

Yudof is expected to be named president of the University of California System next week. A spokesman for Yudof said the chancellor was not available for comment Friday, and Willerson did not respond to a request for comment submitted to a spokesman.

No child pornography, the presence of which would constitute a violation of federal law, was found in the examination of the Houston center computers by UT System police. After being contacted by Davis, the FBI concluded in 2004 that none of the content on the computers constituted child porn.

It’s not clear whether employees who viewed pornographic material broke any state laws. No law specifically bars computer users from visiting pornographic Web sites, said Thomas Johnson, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Information Resources.

However, the Texas Administrative Code, which has the force of law, says information resources “shall be used only for intended purposes as defined by the state agency and consistent with applicable laws.”

…in the deposition, McKinney defended the decision to reprimand all but one of the employees. And he acknowledged that he did not order investigators to examine the computers of as many as 300 other employees to determine the extent of the problem.

Instead, he said, he notified all center employees that viewing pornography was prohibited, on the assumption that the problem was even wider.

“I can tell you that we took an approach that would address the issue for all 4,500 employees, not just those 10, not just the hundred that – they came up with 300, whatever the number was,” McKinney said.

In his deposition, Chaffin testified that Yudof never contacted him about the Houston pornography investigation. Yudof said in an affidavit that Willerson responded to Davis’ memo because this was “an institutional matter.”

Chaffin also said he expressed concern about Davis’ ethics to her supervisor, Sharon Corum, but did not tell Corum to fire Davis. That contrasts with Davis’ and Corum’s views of the matter. In a 2006 deposition, Corum testified that no one directly told her that Davis should be terminated. But, Corum said, Chaffin asked her “on several occasions” whether Davis had been fired.

“I felt under pressure because he repeatedly kept asking me what the status was, and I knew that Charlie did not like it that I had not yet terminated her,” Corum said.

When asked by Shellist, Davis’ lawyer, whether Chaffin’s high-ranking position in the UT System caused her to feel pressure to fire Davis, Corum answered, “Yes, yes.”

“Because I believe he had the authority to impact my career and whether or not I had my job,” Corum testified.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most of a January 2007 ruling by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore of Houston that said Davis could pursue a wide range of free speech claims. The appellate ruling turned on whether Davis’ complaints were made as an employee or as a citizen who was raising issues of public concern. Davis’ claims could proceed only if she made them as a citizen, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit ruled.

The appeals court rejected two of Davis’ claims – both based on her concern about officials’ inadequate response to the disclosure of pornography viewing – and allowed four others to be heard in the trial court. Gilmore has scheduled a September trial.

The claims that were allowed to proceed were made either to outside entities or ones that didn’t relate directly to her job duties. They include complaints about excessive pay for UT-Houston officials, racial discrimination in hiring and firing, and concerns about the presence of pornography on health science center computers.

Davis filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about discriminatory hiring practices at the Houston center, but the agency didn’t issue any finding, Shellist said.

In the dankprofessor’s opinion, this case provides further evidence that pornography has become an everyday part of American life, including Americans’ working life. It would be fair to state that pornography has become normalized or, if you will, significantly de-stigmatized. Attempts to combat pornography has its limits.

Attempts to penalize or fire employees who have viewed pornography on the university’s or health center’s computers becomes a threat in itself, such could very well disrupt the functioning of the organization. Apparently, such even occurs at institutions that are committed to the health and well being of its citizen-patients. And what is ironic in the current investigation is that many of those who are anti-pornography invoke a health medical framework in articulating their opposition to pornography. Invoking a health rhetoric becomes increasingly difficult when as this case reveals that many health professionals are viewing porn at work, so many that efforts to limit pornography at work must be limited.

So when it comes to limiting porn availability, one can talk the talk, but if one really tries to walk the walk, one can end up walking the plank. This case reaffirms for the dankprofessor that the war on pornography is over. Advocates against porn are on the defensive since there is no defense; so-called filtering is obviously a stopgap measure, the effectiveness of which is severely limited. How to limit access to porn by children still remains a hard issue to resolve, but attempts to limit the access to porn by willing adults is a non-starter. And this is as it should be- adults having the freedom to choose what they view and read and where they view it as long as they do not force it upon the unwilling.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008
 

March 22, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, litigation, pornography, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of Texas Houston, workplace | Leave a comment

Contracted for love

And the dankprofessor does not have in mind anything to do with the Spitzer case. Love contracts in the workplace have become increasing used in the context of the efforts to bans consensual relationship being a dismal failure. A summary of the key aspects of love contracts as presented by attorney Joseph W. Gagnon follows and then I will have some comments as to the applicability of these love contracts to the university.

The essential elements. Although the precise language will vary, an effective love contract should contain the following disclosures: 1. The relationship is consensual and is not based on intimidation, threat, coercion or harassment; 2. The employees have received, read, understood and agree to abide by the company’s policy against harassment and discrimination; 3. The employees agree to act appropriately in the workplace and avoid any behavior that is offensive to others; 4. The employees agree not to let their relationship affect their work or the work of their co-employees; 5. Neither employee will bestow upon the other any favoritism or preferential treatment; 6. Either employee may end the relationship at any time and no retaliation of any kind will result; 7. The human resources department will include its contact information in case either employee feels the relationship is affecting his or her work; and 8. The employees have had sufficient time to read the document and ask questions before executing it of his or her own free will.

. Unenforceability as a contract is a nonissue. Whether the document is an enforceable contract almost doesn’t matter, because the real strength of a love contract lies in the nature of the acknowledgements made. It shows that the employer took affirmative steps to maintain a workplace free from sexual harassment and retaliation, and it serves as powerful evidence that, at least at the time of execution, the relationship was consensual. Finally, it reaffirms that both employees are aware of the existence of a policy prohibiting sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation and their obligation to abide by it.

. A love contract will not prevent all litigation, but it will assist an employer’s defense. Like any other step an employer takes, a love contract can be a strong deterrent to employee claims, but it will not prevent all future litigation arising out of a workplace relationship. Nevertheless, a love contract will, if nothing else, lay the groundwork for a solid defense should litigation ensue. For example, an aggrieved employee can still claim he or she suffered retaliation after a breakup, but a love contract confirming that the relationship began consensually should support a defense that the perceived post-relationship retaliation was based on personal animosity rather than gender-based discrimination.

. Considerations before utilizing love contracts. Although not a concern in Texas, a GC should confirm whether privacy laws of the jurisdiction where the business operates prohibit or limit employer monitoring of workplace relationships. Also consider how to present the idea of a love contract to a couple; unless a relationship is brought to the employer’s attention, the employer must exercise sound judgment in deciding when to address what a manager’s own observations may lead him or her to suspect is a budding relationship. Decide in advance what to do if one of the participants denies the relationship or refuses to sign the document. Finally, since there is no one way of developing an effective love contract, a GC should retain experienced labor and employment counsel to draft the appropriate language that meets the particular needs and objectives of the GC’s company.

Properly implemented and appropriately drafted, love contracts will reduce the likelihood of litigation arising from workplace relationships. In the event of litigation, an effective love contract will bolster an employer’s defenses and increase the prospect for prevailing on summary judgment or at trial.

For the dankprofessor, love contracts as described by Joseph Gagnon definitely appear to be applicable to the university. However, I have not been able to find a single university which has employed a love contract or seriously considered a love contract to deal with student professor consensual sexual relationships. I can only speculate why such is the case. And my speculations are governed by the reasons given by the prohibitors of student professor relationships.

Most likely a reason that would be given to oppose these contracts is that it is impossible to stop prejudicial grading by the professor. When I have been challenged about my own past practices as a professor and I indicate that my grading of the loved one was not impacted by our relationship, many people state that they just do not believe me; they indicate it is an impossibility. Another reason might be that the underlying framework for these bans is that differential power precludes consent and therefore as a result of this situation the student is in a state of diminished capacity and could not consent to a sexual relationship with the professor and would not be able to engage in consent as part of a love contract.

Such are the hypotheticals. What I believe is the major reason for no consideration in the university place is simply that the banning agenda is anti-sexual, and the application of a love contract would function to legitimize these sexual relationships. In the workplace, concern about sexual relationships is generally of a pragmatic kind- avoid litigation. Of course, those companies which have an anti-sexual agenda would not embrace a love contract.

And one additional observation by the dankprofessor, love contracts would seem to me to be a misnomer at least as applied to the university. Universities are not attempting to ban love; their attempt is to ban sex, and I cannot recall a single university policy where love is mentioned. The professor who falls in love with a student and the loves remains a secret love has really no place to turn in the context of attempting to engage in non-prejudicial grading. Can one seriously entertain a professor being excused to grade a student because he or she is in love with the student? Of course, those most vociferously advocating these bans, committed campus purity feminists, have dehumanized male professors to such a degree that they do not consider them to be capable of love. They see them in terms of being lechers, predators, seducers, harassers, abusers, rapists, but as lovers, I have my doubts.

I hope to have more posts on love contracts.  Input from blog readers on love contracts will be greatly appreciated!

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 21, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, ethics, fraternization, higher education, litigation, love, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

1.5 million spanking verdict overturned

A California Appeals Court has overturned a 1.5 million award to a female employee who as part of her employment as a sales person for a residential alarm company was subjected to “team building” spankings. Spankings were employed for both male and female employees “as a form of penance for not meeting sales quotas” .Employees were paddled with rival companies’ yard signs as part of a contest that pitted sales teams against one another. The winners poked fun at the losers, throwing pies at them, feeding them baby food, making them wear diapers and swatting their buttocks.

The appeals court overturned the claimant’s appeal in part “‘because of sex element’ is alive and well and must be satisfied in order for plaintiff to prevail on a sexual harassment cause of action. The jury should have been instructed that it could find for [the employee] on the sexual harassment cause of action only if it found that [the employee] was subjected to the harassing conduct because she was female,” the court said.”

The dankprofessor finds this practice to be somewhat alarming since sexual harassment law in California has been interpreted to find workplace spanking to be OK and not subject to litigation if both female and male employees are spanked.

I am sure that the complexity of this case is greater than has been presented. For example, is spanking OK if the spanker is in a higher power position than the female and male employees who are spanked? Does differential power preclude spanking? Certainly, employers should now consider hiring specially certified spanking trainers.

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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 dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 14, 2008 Posted by | litigation, sexual harassment, workplace | Leave a comment

Arbitration Board Reinstates Bird

The Canadian Press reported today that an arbitration board has ordered the reinstatement of Gregory Bird, a psychology teacher and general studies program leader at Lethbridge College in the province of Alberta.

Mr. Bird admitted to having sex with three female students and an internal investigation held by the college found him guilty of “inappropriate relationships with students” and dismissed him from the college. The arbitration board consisted of an arbitrator, two college representatives and a faculty association representative; they ordered that Bird be reinstated by May 1.

The Canadian Press also reported that all three students were consenting adults, none of the students claimed to have received preferential treatment from the professor. The professor testified that two of the women he had known prior to their becoming Lethbridge students and two of the women took classes from him while he was dating them. Investigation of the professor was initiated by a complaint from a former student. It was unclear whether the complaining student was one of the three involved students. The complaint led to an investigation and Bird’s firing.

Mr. Bird argued that he could not be fired because the college did not have a rule banning student professor intimacies.  The Board ruled that “Employees should not lose their jobs for breaking unwritten rules in areas where the line between right and wrong can be ambiguous. ” The college argued that Bird’s actions were a violation of the college’s sexual harassment policy. As for the college lacking a policy on consensual dating, Lethbridge College Vice President stated:
“Why would you write a policy that presupposes faculty might sleep with students?”

The college has yet to make a determination as to whether to appeal the arbitrator’s decision. Arbitrator’s decisions can be appealed on the grounds that the arbitrator violated the terms of the arbitration. Appealing the arbitration even if ultimately unsuccessful can significantly delay the return of the professor to the classroom.

The Canadian Press reported: “If Mr. Bird does return in May, he will do so without back pay and will be subject to conditions set out by the arbitrator. They include not being allowed to date or have sex with any student at the college and having to inform his supervisor if he dates a former student who has been out of the college for less than a year. He must also notify the college if one of his future students is someone with whom he has had a close relationship.”

Presently, Lethbridge College is developing a policy on student professor relationships.

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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 dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

January 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Lethbridge College, litigation, sexual policing, sexual rights, student professor dating | 2 Comments

The litigation con

 It has been brought to the dankprofessor’s attention that the dankprofessor has not dealt with the prevention of litigation as a reason or possibly major reason why so many universities have adopted policies banning student professor consensual sexual relationships.  The argument can be made that universities simply want to save money, want to decrease the potentiality of successful lawsuits so consensual bans come into being.  Paul Abramson puts forth this argument in his recent book ROMANCE IN THE IVORY TOWER when he states the following, “The real reason for these prohibitions…is that universities want to further reduce their liability in civil lawsuits- no sex and no romance means no negligence.”  Do note the Abramson is not stating the universities should adopt such bans, but rather this is the reason that the bans are adopted.The problem with the assertion that fear of litigation is a reason or major reason for adopting these policies is that there is absolutely no evidence that such is the case.  I have reviewed numerous campaigns to ban student professor relationships and hardly ever is avoidance of litigation mentioned. Presently I am reviewing the two year campaign to adopt these policies at Ohio State University, and there is a huge amount of material documenting this campaign in detail, and so far I have not found any evidence that litigation issues were mentioned by any advocate at OSU. In the near future, I will present info and analyses concerning the OSU campaign. 

And, in addition, Abramson states in his book that there is no evidence that once these policies are adopted that either the incidence or costs of sexual harassment lawsuits are decreased on university campuses. And I am not aware of any successful lawsuit regarding a campus consensual relationship either before a campus adopted a consensual ban or after the campus adopted the ban.  If there was such a case that led to a large monetary settlement, I can’t find it.  No matter the amount of a monetary settlement, there is simply nothing on the record that I could find that there has ever been such a case. In fact, I challenge my readers to provide some relevant cases in this area.  I may have missed such a case.  So the dankprofessor does request blog reader assistance in finding such a case that is university related.I would also speculate that the adoption of bans have probably added some additional costs for universities. One would relate to the adoption of a bureaucracy to enforce such a policy.  And then there is the expense of hiring sexual harassment trainers to run workshops and seminars in this area.  And then there is the money expended to make faculty aware of any new polices. 

I am also quite aware of the argument that consensual relationships can end in acrimony and such can lead to a successful sexual harassment lawsuit. No doubt about it that some relationships can end in acrimony as well as some ending in a cordial manner, but whatever the ending may be, there is still no evidence of a university case in which the consensuality or prior consensuality was an important component in a sexual harassment lawsuit involving a university. 

But there is an additional component that should not be left out, and that is if there is a ban on consensual relationships, then the defendant to a sexual harassment civil suit cannot argue in his defense that the relationship was not harassment since it was consensual.  And the lack of a consensual defense by the defendant could facilitate the success of sexual harassment lawsuits and would simply be irrelevant as to providing increased protection to the university. 

So I do not think that the dankprofessor should be viewed as delinquent for not previously dealing with the litigation scenario.  The litigation scenario used as a justification for banning student professors relationships is just another academic con game, and, in this case, the accomplished academic con artist  is unlikely to use this con.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2007

December 10, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, litigation, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

   

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