Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Universities need a Julian Assange

SEX MATTERS has a powerful post in part on how the holding of Assange in the UK is part of using sex and the protection of women as a convenient strategy to attempt to neutralize men such as Assange.  SEX MATTERS – puts it this way-

Who after all can object to steps being taken to “protect” women? Well, hopefully, women.

Because time and time again, when politicians talk about women in this way, the last thing on their mind is protection. Rather, it is in their interests to co-opt women to otherwise dubious causes and to shelter behind the excuse of “looking after” the “weaker” sex.

Its pretty revolting. But absolutely to be expected.

Yes, it is pretty revolting that the Swedes probably at the beckoning of the US are attempting to hold Assange in detention to protect Swedish women.  It is also sad that the UK goes along with this mythology by holding Assange under house arrest after holding him in prison for so-called Swedish justice for one week.   If the Swedes are intent on questioning Assange who has not been charged with any criminal offense, then let them come to London to question him.  Such should not be a problem.  Certainly less of a moral problem than forcing Assange to raise $300,000 so he could be put under house arrest.

Arguing that Assange should be under any form of arrest so that Swedish women could obtain justice is analogous to arguing that Bill Clinton was impeached by the Republican House so that justice for Lewinsky could be obtained, even if she really didn’t want justice.

This whole Swedish scenario is similar to what occurs on too many American university campuses.   After all, who could possibly object to protecting women college students from falling into consensual sexual relationships with professors.  Of course, said women could object.  But no matter for the powers that be, these women, no matter what their age, need to be protected from these so-called predatory professors.  And, of course, no matter that the student may have been the one who was “predatory.”

What would be good for justice at universities is for university police aka administrators to have their veils of secrecy discarded.  No more- that this is a confidential personnel matter.  University diplomacy needs to be fully exposed.

December 17, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, higher education, Julian Assange, secrecy, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, Sweden, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Billie Dziech unplugged

Billie Dziech is probably the most committed academic to obliterating student professor intimate relationships.  She began her campaign in the 1980s with the publication of her tome THE LECHEROUS PROFESSOR and she continues her crusade to the present day. In 1998 in the Chronicle of Higher education she published an essay entitled“The Abuse of Power in Intimate Relationships”.

This essay has not been systematically critiqued and continues to circulate on the web. The CHE essay provides the dankprofessor an opportunity to critique Dziech’s “thinking” on this issue.  So come along with me on this critical journey into the heart of Dziech; maybe we can find something of value.  I have highlighted quoted material from her essay

While the tangled puzzle of the relationship between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky may appear far removed from life on American campuses, that is not the case. The current scandal recalls recent campus debates about intimate relationships between people with differing degrees of power — usually faculty members and students — and whether those relationships can be genuinely consensual.

In addition, the Clinton-Lewinsky controversy has become a litmus test of Americans’ attitudes toward male-female relations, and a harbinger of future positions on gender issues. Students and educators should listen carefully to the debate.

It is obvious that educators contemplating intimate relationships with students need to look hard at the portrait the media have painted of Monica Lewinsky. Reports depict her as a child deeply scarred by her parents’ acrimonious divorce; as an overweight teenager who developed a crush on a popular high-school classmate and then carried on a lengthy affair with a former high-school teacher; and as a young woman who at some point may have idolized or pursued Bill Clinton.

There is a simple message in the details of this young life. Whether or not we admit its pathetic quality, we must all recognize that people such as Monica Lewinsky exist, and that they pose a significant threat to those who choose to become intimately involved with them. The younger the person, the more likely that individual is to engage in fantasy and in actions based on whim. The more wounded the individual is at the onset of a relationship, the more vulnerable and unstable that person is likely to be during and after the affair.

Explicit in her analysis of Lewinsky is that we are on safe grounds in basing a psychological evaluation of her on media reports.  And, of course, Monica Lewinsky posed no significant threat to Clinton or anyone else.  The significant threat came from Linda Tripp and Special Prosecutor Starr who used Tripp’s surreptitiously taped conversations with Monica.  Linda Tripp and Prosecutor Starr systematically invaded the privacy of Lewinsky in order to invade the privacy of Clinton.  But Dziech in her essay never mentions Tripp and mentions Starr only once in passing. And no where in this essay is there any mention of the role of third party informants and the ethical issues involved when universities use or employ third party informants in their attempt to expose student professor couples.

Hence academicians, like Presidents, are either naive or reckless when they engage in physical contact (or what Mr. Clinton has described as an “emotional relationship”) with impressionable, unpredictable students who are unlikely to comprehend the true parameters of such interactions. Professors and Presidents alike should be sophisticated enough to realize the dangers inherent in singling out a subordinate for special attention. Monica Lewinsky is a chilling reminder that even the gift of a book of poetry (especially one with erotic material, such as Leaves of Grass) can lead to disaster.

Again Monica did nothing chilling. It was the people who were out to get Clinton who engaged in chilling and dastardly behavior.

People in positions of authority cannot ignore the vulnerabilities of those in subordinate positions. Perhaps that is why Andy Bleiler, the former drama teacher with whom Monica Lewinsky was sexually involved, seems so disreputable. Contending that the 19-year-old Ms. Lewinsky was “obsessed with sex” and that she “stalked” and “trapped” him into a five-year affair, Mr. Bleiler claimed that the young woman had been “no victim.” But his assertion rang hollow, even with the omnipresent supportive wife standing at his side.

Of course, observers cannot ignore the vulnerabilities of those in the so-called superordinate positions.  Persons in power positions become targets of other who wish to bring them down; some times by false charges, sometimes by frivolous civil suits.  The fact is that when it comes to power figures everyone close to the so-called powerful is vulnerable.  And when it comes to love and sex, one cannot truly love without making oneself emotionally vulnerable.

There is more at stake in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal than just reputations, however. Educators should also note that countless Americans accept Mr. Bleiler’s portrait of the person Bill Clinton calls “that woman.” Those of us in academe who have fought for equality for women and the eradication of sexual harassment should be disturbed by polls such as one that found that men who had previously regarded the President as a “wimp” now were more inclined to support him — and to regard his wife positively because she once again “stood by her man.”

Of course, Clinton left office with high approval ratings.  In fact, until the arrival of Barak Obama, Clinton was and possibly still is the most popular American politician in the world at large.  His “affair” with Lewinsky did not hurt his stature, or that of his wife.

Already, the story of the President and the intern has revived old gender stereotypes that had seemed almost exhausted. The public appears to accept, without reservation, the image of Bill Clinton crafted by the Hollywood Houdini Harry Thomason and other supporters: He is struggling valiantly in adversity; he shoulders his burdens and carries on selflessly for family and country. Should it become necessary, those same supporters are undoubtedly prepared to portray Ms. Lewinsky as a delusional hysteric or a conniving predator who sullied an honest man’s virtue.

Well Billie Dziech must know that no politician is honest.  Given all the attacks on Clinton, he still has emerged unsullied.  No need for his supporters to sully Lewinsky since Dziech does a pretty good job of degrading and sullying her.

At present, though, the public doesn’t seem to need encouragement to view Ms. Lewinsky negatively. All it has to do is rely on stereotypes. Adhering perfectly to the old script on gender, a recent female caller to C-SPAN identified Ms. Lewinsky as “a wannabe.” The caller explained that she meant the kind of female found in every office or school, the kind who will do anything to be the boss’s or teacher’s “favorite.” One television commentator described Ms. Lewinsky as a “Valley girl,” another as “every woman’s nightmare.” Some enterprising citizen has been thoughtful enough to publish on the Internet either authentic or doctored nude pictures of Lewinsky. She has emerged as the pretty young thing who threatens hearth and home, because, presumably, even the strongest men are unable to resist a wily 21-year-old.

Dziech seems to be Lewinsky obsessed.  Yes, she was in the public scene, but she was involuntarily dragged into said scene.  Dziech needs to go beyond Lewinsky and focus on people who invade the privacy of others, such as Linda Tripp and Kenneth Starr.

That is surely a chilling portrait for those who have worked for laws and policies that encourage men to take responsibility for their sexual activities. Just when it appeared that Americans were beginning to “get” sexual harassment, just when the sexes seemed on the way to more mutual respect, along came the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal to demonstrate how overly optimistic that impression was. Nothing inappropriate may have happened between Lewinsky and Clinton, but, because of the allegations, society seems to have reverted, at least temporarily, to an escapist mentality of the past: “I don’t care what happened on campus, at work, or even in the Oval Office, so long as it doesn’t happen to me or my daughter.”

Oh, please, people are more caring than Dziech is willing to believe.  Most people came to see, except for Republicans in Washington, that the Lewinsky affair was consensual, and the matter should be dropped except that it was OK to read so-called non-fiction tell all books on the Clinton Lewinsky scenario.

The consensus of the polls conducted since January seems to be that Americans are not particularly disturbed by a 51-year-old authority figure’s having sex with an intern less than half his age. If one listens to radio and television call-in shows or reads the polls, it appears that the old, dark days are here again — that once more, it is acceptable to view students and working women as seductresses preying upon naive males.

Its not the old dark days, but rather the live and let live days, the days of non-acceptance of the government coercing adults involved in consensual relationships.  Dziech fails to understand and note that her so-called dark days were the same days that many Americans came to accept homosexuals at work, in government, as friends and as relatives.

An especially telling Newsweek survey reported that 45 per cent of the public believes that, if a sexual relationship did occur between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton, it was her fault for pursuing him. Only 17 per cent accepted a basic tenet of sexual-harassment law: that a person who is in a position of power misuses his authority if he — or she — engages in sexual activity with a subordinate.

Only 17% accepted the so-called basic tenet of sexual harassment law since they viewed the Clinton Lewinsky relationship as consensual. Take away the dehumanizing subordinate rhetoric and most people will admit and accept the fact that they have been in power differentiated relationships which they believe were consensual.  Dziech and others deny their perception of consensuality and wish to portray most Americans, particularly women, as victims.

It is little wonder that the public misunderstands that point. A month of exposure to the tortured logic of Administration officials and lawyers trying to minimize the scandal has demonstrated how easy it is to obscure the patently obvious point: It’s the sex that matters. In other words, if the alleged consensual relationship were legally, ethically, and socially acceptable, there would be no reason to discuss perjury, subornation of perjury, or obstruction of justice. If Mr. Clinton lied under oath and attempted to obscure the truth, it was because he understood what many, on campus and off, seem unwilling to admit publicly: Where an imbalance in authority exists, there can be no equality and thus no genuine consent.

Dziech is patently wrong here, out of touch with reality.  Generally people are sympathetic to Clinton lying because the lying dealt with his private sex life.  And people don’t want the government in their bedrooms.  Bottom line the problem that Dziech cannot understand is that many people if not most people would do the same thing as Clinton did- refuse to tell the absolute truth about their sex lives.

The law, assuming that human beings are more than animals enslaved to their passions, demands that those in positions of power behave responsibly and rationally, no matter how immoral, stupid, or lascivious their subordinates might be. That legal mandate seems lost on a public content to dismiss Monica Lewinsky as someone who “asked for it.”

Yes, people in power should behave rationally and responsibly and such is why it was wrong for a special prosecutor to engage in a sexual crusade and wrong for the House Republicans to impeach Clinton.

Before there was a name for sexual harassment and a recognition that, between individuals with disparate authority, even consensual sex is coercive sex, women who had affairs with teachers and employers were described as either seductive and dissolute or naive and vulnerable. However, when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 were enacted, they required businesses and educational institutions to construct policies and procedures to discourage harassment and to set up training programs to educate people about the law and about appropriate interactions between superiors and subordinates.

Said educational campaign has failed, abysmally failed.  Selling consensual sex as coercive sex is a patent absurdity, it won’t sell.

Monica Lewinsky’s life spans the quarter-century of American history that has devoted close attention to gender issues, so it may be understandable that the public is unsympathetic to her not only because of her alleged willingness to engage in the purported sexual activity, but also because she is considered likely to have known better. She had every opportunity to be better educated than women in past generations were about the dangers and damage inherent in inappropriate sexual relations — and yet she allegedly still chose to become involved.

There is nothing inherently dangerous about inappropriate sexual relationships, e.g. same sex relationships were historically considered inappropriate; the danger came not from something inherent in homosexuality relationships, but the danger came from other people, people like Dziech who meddle in other peoples sex lives. And if we had a populace that was committed to appropriate and only appropriate sexual relations, what a dull world we would have created, a world that only could approach fruition in a totalitarian society.

Her situation should send a wake-up call to her peers. Just as the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas debate made it impossible for people to deny awareness of sexual harassment, so those in the post-Lewinsky generation may find it increasingly difficult to declare innocence or victimization after engaging in sex with teachers or employers. The caveat that governed consensual sex on the campuses and in the workplace during most of Ms. Lewinsky’s mother’s life was a simple “Don’t — or you’ll pay a heavy price.” Over the past decade and a half, however, as case law has mounted, and as complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and grievances filed at colleges and universities have increased, educators and employers have become more supportive of those who report having sexual relations with superiors.

More supportive most likely because they are required and are paid to do so.  There is big money involved in the sexual harassment industry, not only for the university police but for lawyers and for persons such as Dziech who are hired by universities as consultants to engage in the impossible task of creating an environment in which power differentiated persons do not fraternize. Too bad for Dziech, such is an impossible dream.

But despite that institutional support, the public reaction to Monica Lewinsky may — and probably does — suggest that a generation more sophisticated about sex and more knowledgeable about the law will be expected to assume greater personal responsibility for recognizing, resisting, and reporting inappropriate behavior. (And whether they like it or not, schools and colleges will continue to be the most likely settings in which those three “R’s” can be taught.)

Dziech is wrong again about the universities. Yes, there will be those recognizing, resisting and reporting, but most of the three Rs will be practiced by those who take responsibility for their own sexual behavior; resist the unwelcome intrusion by academic busybodies, and report only to themselves and trusted friends.

The assumption that all young adults are more sophisticated about harassment than they were in the past is unfortunate, though. First, it does not take into account the psychology of true victims, whose particular circumstances and emotional frailties may make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to recognize and resist harassment — and may make reporting it inconceivable. Monica Lewinsky may be one such victim. One has only to read accounts of her background to realize that she is a very vulnerable young woman.

The other problem with imposing a higher standard on the post-Lewinsky generation than has been used in recent years is that it wrongly assumes that the stepped-up discussions of harassment by parents, educational institutions, and the public have adequately educated the young about the problems with consensual relationships. That is simply not the case. Public discussion of sexual harassment has been, at best, contentious. Add the romantic portrayals on television and in film of illicit sex between teachers and students, and the message about the dangers of consensual sex becomes highly convoluted.

Yes, these messages are highly convoluted but so are Dziech’s messages.  And as for the young, her messages are directed to all members of the university community, no matter their age, no matter if the student is 25 or 35 or 45; they all need to be coerced by Dziech, et. al, to do the right thing.

Most colleges and universities have done little of substance to clarify the issue. Many simply ignore the problem of consent in their sexual-harassment policies; some strongly warn against consensual relationships; but almost none have been courageous or practical enough to ban consensual relationships altogether. While many businesses unequivocally prohibit relationships between adult workers and supervisors, debates in academe have centered — as they often do — on faculty members’ rights. When discussion of consent in relationships between supervisors and students is discussed, it usually occurs in an emotionally charged atmosphere, which results in students’ seeing the problem in simplistic, hyperbolic terms.

No businesses have across the board effective bans. Said businesses talk the talk but hardly ever walk the walk. In other words, appearances do not reflect reality. With the workplace becoming in essence the home place for many employees, employees will and do fraternize; it’s a matter of propinquity and convenience.

If the post-Lewinsky generation is to be held to a higher standard of accountability in sexual relationships than in the past, campus advocates for women’s issues should be very concerned about the Lewinsky-Clinton scandal and should initiate discussions about the ramifications of consent. That may not happen, however, if Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, speaks for most advocates of women’s rights. She is reported to have said: “If the President had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, it was consensual. That’s a distinction I think people are trying to blur.”

Non-academic feminist Jill Ireland got it right.

Although Ms. Ireland may not “get” the dynamics of consent, we can hope that other women do, and that they will exercise reason and objectivity in the days ahead. It is no secret that academicians tend to be politically left of center and thus sympathetic to many of Mr. Clinton’s domestic and international policies. Should Monica Lewinsky disavow her previous affidavit or be found to have been sexually involved with the President, many academics will be trapped between Mr. Clinton’s verbal and political support for women’s issues and the misogyny and disregard for women that his private actions convey. If that happens, academics should muster the courage to divorce the man from his policies and reaffirm the truth they have fought hard to establish: However much superficial sophistication about sex or theoretical knowledge about sexual harassment students and workers might have, they are always at risk in relationships with professors or employers upon whom grades, recommendations, pay, or jobs depend.

But so are professors at risk, at risk of being charged with sexual harassment; at risk of a low graded student charging sexual harassment as part of a revenge scenario.  Everyone is at risk.  Certainly nothing that Dziech and her conferes have done have reduced the feelings of risk by both faculty and students.  Maybe what is needed is for all academics (including) students to take a vow of celibacy, maybe using the Catholic Church as their model!

No one in a public scandal about sex looks good. In this case, not Monica Lewinsky. Not Bill or Hillary Clinton. Not Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Not the press. And certainly not a nation that has told pollsters that it doesn’t much care how men and women treat one another, as long as the economy is sound.

Wow! Finally she mentions Kenneth Starr, but only in passing.  Shouldn’t Starr be Dziech’s star?

Some commentators have lauded this complacency about the alleged sexual activity as evidence of Americans’ increased “maturity,” “sophistication,” and “tolerance.” Those of us who write and speak about social issues and who teach college students need to reassess our roles in producing this “sophisticated” society. With the exception of their families, today’s youth are influenced most by their peers, the entertainment industry, and education. Since it is unlikely that friends and film stars can shed much light on the legal and ethical dimensions of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, educators must address the issue, both in casual conversations and in classroom discussions that deal with male-female issues, human development, social history, and the responsibilities of public leaders.

Yes, I agree that such should be addressed in classroom discussions and in informal conversations, but such is unlikely to occur in the context of coercion. People are unlikely to state the truth in public settings when said statements can lead to being disciplined and removed from the classroom. Of course, such persons can confidentially write to the dankprofessor, knowing that they, students and professors, have me as a resource person who will respect their confidentiality and their right to privacy

And we must realize that academe’s conception of sophistication and tolerance is directly tested in how it handles its own problems. When most campuses refuse to ban sexual relationships between students and professors, why should the public, when confronted by scandal, disapprove of the President’s cavorting with a young woman barely of legal age? Sophistication, tolerance, freedom, and individual rights are admirable concepts, but the genuinely enlightened recognize that there are always limits to freedom, that some behaviors deserve harsh judgment, and that, in some circumstances, tolerance allows pain and injustice to occur. Actions that denigrate and exploit women, particularly vulnerable subordinates, fit that category. We have an obligation to teach these principles to our students, by our words and by our own behavior.

Of course, given Dziech’s sophistication, she denies the reality that what she wants is a Big Brother or Big Sister university where students and professors must trust powerful others to not misuse their power in the sexual area. Does Billie Dziech really trust university administrators to wield such power in a fair and equitable manner, particularly when such power wielding is often done in secret?  Doesn’t Professor Dziech know that Kenneth Starr copy cats and varicolored sexual zealots populate the ranks of sexual police aka university administrators?  As is often the ultimate question, who is to protect us from our protectors, particularly when the protectors were once sophisticated professors who gave up their professorships for the “right” to wield big power and big money?

August 6, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, fraternization, higher education, privacy, secrecy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Campus sexual bigotry and degradation

From Taiwan to Ottawa, from Los Angeles to London, professors and students who are in sexual congress with each other have become fair game for those wishing to engage in unrestrained sexual bigotry.  By  sexual bigotry, I am not referring to those who assert that such relationships may or do represent some form of conflict of interest, but rather to those who who degrade and demean  and dehumanize both the involved professor and the involved student.  

The dankprofessor finds it difficult to accept that academics find it to be OK to refer to their colleagues who have dated students as scum and disgusting and to imply that they are rapists or statutory rapists.  But what I even consider to be more disturbing is that hardly any academics on the sidelines come forth and challenge the acceptability of using such degrading rhetoric.  When such challenging does occur, it is likely to be of the anonymous kind.

One anonymous professor commenter recently stated on the dankprofessor blog- “It’s pretty darned hard for me to look into the eyeballs of my older male colleagues and tell them that they AND their wives are scum.”  The commenter is referring to older professors who had married one of their students.  I would hope and expect that addressing or thinking about a colleague, senior or otherwise, as scum would not exactly be easy, particularly on a continuing basis.  It wouldn’t be easy since continuing personal contact would most likely function to humanize and normalize the targeted professor.  Having the targeted professor as a predatory alien existing outside of our everyday lives facilitates for some a commitment to the imagery of the professor as a sexual outsider.  The accompanying imagery of the female student is usually that of a non-person (she is often anonymous and socially invisible) or that of an exploited child who cannot fend for herself.  She is usually seen as not having the ability to consent even if she states that she has consented.

For a professor to come forward and risk the stigma being seen as a sexual outsider and also being terminated as a professor has pretty effectively put these professors in the campus closet.  And those who may come out and support the rights of professors and students to consent to a sexual relationship with each other will frequently lead to others as seeing the supportive professor as being one of those professors.  And such was the situation in the past for gay men and lesbians.  Gay men and lesbians existence depended on their ability to be out of sight and out of mind, to live closeted lives.  Of course, the irony is that as gays came out of the campus closet, said closet then came to be populated by professors who were or had been in sexual congress with a student or students.

The answer for gays was coming out of the closet.  If there is to be a ceasefire on professors in sexual congress with students, it will occur because these professors and others who support these professors will come out.  It will occur when these professors and their supporters will be able to effectively deal with their fears.  And it is both fear and loathing that has dominated the social sexual climate at all too many campuses.

A small step forward could occur if student professor relationships would become a part of campus sex education weeks.  Organizers of these events advocate openness in terms of sexuality but when it comes to campus sex of the genre referred to here, there is no openness, there is nothing.  Of course, nothing can be better than something when the something only includes rants against so-called offending professors.

Another small step forward would include recognition of how the anti student professor sex movement, has impacted on campus friendships
between students and professors, how such has led to increasingly impersonal campuses.   It should lead to the recognition that many professors and administrators have come to realize that anyone, irrespective of their behavior, can become labeled as a so-called sexual deviant.  Professor open door policies are no solution to the paranoia on campus, particularly when third party informants are encouraged to come forward.

Under the mantel of a so-called professionalism, sexual bigotry, sexual
policing, sexual paranoia has become a dominant reality in campus life.
And as in all authoritarian states, the persecution most often occurs in secret; secrecy is rationalized under the guise of this being a “personnel” matter.  Again, the closet carries the day.

And the dankprofessor asks these questions of the readers of this post.
Are you a professor or administrator or a student who might agree with the dankprofessor in whole or in part, but you feel you can’t speak out because of fear?  Might you attempt to overcome your fears by emailing the dankprofessor at dankprofessor@msn.com or posting a comment, albeit anonymously on this post?

April 29, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fear, higher education, privacy, secrecy, sex, sex offenders, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, the closet | | 25 Comments

University of Iowa avoidance and denial in faculty suicides

The University of Iowa is attempting to come up with some new ideas as to how to prevent faculty suicides which occur in the context of sexual harassment charges lodged against faculty members.

One idea that is being emphasized is the involvement of the UI Ombudsman Office.  The following was reported on the Ombuds Blog-

A UI professor accused of sexual harassment apparently committed suicide Wednesday afternoon, prompting university officials to reiterate the availability of resources to avoid such incidents. UI spokesperson Steve Parrott said faculty accused of misconduct can go to the Office of the Ombudsperson and have confidential conversations to determine how to protect their reputation and resolve the problem. Coincidentally, the UI Ombuds Office made a presentation to the Graduate Student Senate the same afternoon as the professor’s death.

The dankprofessor considers this proposal to be surreal and leads to avoidance and denial when it comes to basic and elementary steps that UI could have taken and can still take in cases such as that of Professor Mark Weiger.

Simply stated the UI can do the same things they do for professors that they already do for students and others who allege sexual harassment.  In the case of the accuser, the accuser’s identity is confidential and is shielded from public view.  If such was applied to the accused, the reputation of the accused is protected and the accused is not subject to a public stigmatization.  Such does not mean that the accused cannot be suspended with pay.  But what this does mean is that the university attempts to minimize punishment without trial and honor the presumption of innocence.

As a result of the Duke University lacrosse team fiasco, university administrations throughout the nation know of the possible dangerous consequences of  the rush to judgment.  By not rushing to judgment and protecting the confidentiality of the accused, universities such as the University of Iowa could save lives.  But universities such as UI are unlikely to implement these sorts of polices.  The dankprofessor asks why is this the case.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, rape, secrecy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

Feminist bell hooks on erotic student/faculty relationships

Following are key excerpts from an article by feminist author Bell Hooks, “Passionate Pedagogy; erotic student/faculty relationships,” Z MAGAZINE, March 1996, 45-51. This is one of the best articles written on this subject and I urge readers to savor and critically scrutinize this article.

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When I became a professor I was amazed at the extent to which students, male and female, approached me for romantic and/or sexual encounters. Like many unattached female professors in the academy, I was constantly the subject of student gossip. Often the students I loved the most did the most talking. When I complained to them about their obsession with my sex life, they simply responded by telling me to get a grip and accept that it goes with the turf. They wanted to understand female sexual agency. They wanted to know how women professors are coping with working in patriarchal institutions, and how we were juggling issues of sexual desirability, agency, and careerism. They saw us as charting the path they will follow. Many of these students were more than hip to the dangers of getting involved with someone older and more powerful.

Contemporary feminist movement has usefully interrogated the way men in power within patriarchal culture often use that power to abuse and sexually coerce females. That necessary critical intervention is undermined when it obscures recognition of the way in which desire can be acknowledged in relationships between individuals where there is unequal power without being abusive. It is undermined when any individual who is in a less powerful position is represented as being absolutely without choice, as having no agency to act on their own behalf. As long as young females are socialized to see themselves as incapable of choosing those situations of erotic engagement which would be most constructive for their lives, they will always be more vulnerable to victimization. This does not mean that they will not make mistakes, as countless female students did when they chose to have disappointing nonproductive romantic liaisons with professors. Everyone I interviewed for this piece had no regret about these liaisons. We all knew they did not have to be negative. The point is that we were not embracing a psychology of female victimization that would have been utterly disempowering. There is clearly a connection between submitting to abuse and the extent to which any of us already feel that we are destined to be victimized.

The vast majority of women who are heterosexual in this society are likely to be in intimate relations with men at some point in their lives who have greater status and power, however relative, given the nature of capitalism and patriarchy. Clearly, it is more important to learn ways to be “just” in situations where there is a power imbalance, rather than to
assume that exploitation and abuse are the “natural” outcome of all such encounters. Notice how such logic fixes those in power in ways that deny their accountability and choice by assuming that they act on behalf of their interests exclusively. And that their interests will always be antithetical to the interests of those who are less powerful.

Contemporary focus on victimization tends to leave very little cultural space for recognition of the erotic as a space of transgression that can undermine politics of domination. Rather than perceiving desire between faculty and students as always dangerous, negative and destructive, what does it mean for us to consider the positive uses of that desire, the way the erotic can serve to enhance self-actualization and growth. We hear much more about the way in which individuals have abused power in faculty/students relations where there is erotic engagement. We rarely hear anything about the ways erotic desire between teacher and student enhances individual growth. We do not hear about the affectionate bonds that spring from erotic encounters which challenge conventional notions of what is appropriate behavior.

Most professors, even the ones who are guilty, would acknowledge that it is highly problematic and usually unproductive to be romantically involved with students you are directly working with, either in the classroom or on a more individual basis. Yet, prohibitions, rules and regulations, will not keep these relationships from happening. The place of vigilance is not in forbidding such encounters but having a system that effectively prevents harassment and abuse. At every college campus in this country there are individual male professors who repeatedly harass and coerce students to engage in sexual relations. For the most part, even when there have been ongoing complaints, college administrators have not confronted these individuals or used the already institutionalized procedures governing harassment to compel them to stop abusive behavior. Even though everyone seems to be quite capable of recognizing the difference between those professors who abuse their power and those who may have a romantic relationship with a student that is consensual, by imposing rules and regulations that would effect all faculty and students they deny this difference. Some folks want to argue there is no difference that the student is always more vulnerable. It is true that relationships where there are serious power  imbalances  can be  a  breeding ground for victimization. They can begin with mutual consent yet this does not ensure that they may not become conflictual in ways that lead  the more powerful party to become coercive or abusive. This is true in all relationships in life.  Power must be negotiated.   Part  of maturing is learning how to cope with conflict. Many of the cases where students cite serious exploitation on the part of  professors involve graduate students and professors. It is difficult to believe that any graduate student is not fully aware of the risks when they become erotically involved with a professor who has some control over their career.  Concurrently,  sexism and misogyny have to be seen as factors at   work, when individual powerful male professors direct their attention at exceptionally smart female graduate students who  could easily become their competitors.  If campuses really want to effectively address the problems of abuse in faculty-student relations then we should be socializing undergraduates to be realistic about the problems that can arise in such encounters.

The Time magazine story on romantic relations between students and faculty begins with this confession: “During the three months in 1993 when she was sleeping with her English professor, Lisa Topol lost 18 pounds. She lost interest in her classes at the University of Pennsylvania, lost her reputation as an honor student and wondered if she was losing her mind. If she tried to break up, she thought, he could ruin her academic career. Then she made some phone calls and learned a bit more about the professor she had come to view as a predator.” If one took out the words academic and professor this would read like the troubled narrative of anyone involved with someone on the job who is their supervisor. The problem with this story is not that it does not tell the truth but rather that it tells a partial truth. We have no idea why Lisa Topol entered this relationship. We do not know if it was consensual. We do not know how or why the male involved became abusive. We do know that he did not become abusive simply because he was her professor. The problem here does not lie with faculty-student relations but with this individual male, and the large numbers of men like him who prey upon females.  The cultural context that condones this abuse is patriarchy and male domination. Yet most men and women in the academy, like society as a whole, are not engaged in activism that would target patriarchy. There are many faculty-student romances that end in friendship, some that lead to marriage and/or partnership. The professors in these relationships are able to conduct themselves in a way that is not exploitative despite the imbalance of power. There are many more male professors involved with students who are not abusive than those that are.

Realistically, our pedagogy is failing both inside and outside the classroom if students have no awareness of their agency when it comes to choosing a relationship of intimacy with a faculty member. Some folks oppose faculty/student erotic bonding because they say it creates a climate of favoritism that can be deeply disruptive. In actuality, any intimate bonding between a professor and a student is a potential context for favoritism, whether or not that intimacy is erotic. Favoritism often surfaces in the classroom and has nothing to do with desire. For example: Most professors are especially partial to students that do assigned work with rigor and intellectual enthusiasm. This is as much a context for favoritism but no one is seeking to either eliminate, question, or police it. Young females and males entering college are in the process of claiming and asserting adult status. Sexuality is as much a site where that evolution and maturation is registered as is the classroom.

A college environment should strengthen a student’s ability to make responsible mature decisions and choices. Those faculty members who become involved in romantic relationships with a student (whether they initiated it or responded to an overture by the student) who are not exploitative or dominating will nurture this maturation process. In my teaching career I have had a relationship with one student. Although he was a student in my class, I did not approach him during the time that he studied with me because I did not want to bring that dynamic into the classroom or into my evaluation of his work. He was not an exceptional student in my class. When the course ended, we became intimate. From the start we had conflicts about power. The relationship did not work yet we became friends. Recently, I shared with him that I was writing this piece. I wanted to know if he thought I had taken advantage of him. He reminded me of how shocked he was that I desired him because he primarily thought of me as this teacher that he admired and looked up to. He shared his perspective: “I did not feel in any way coerced. I found it intriguing that I would be able to talk to you one on one about issues raised in the class. I was happy to have a chance to get to know you better because I knew you were this smart and gifted professor. We all thought you were special. I was young and inexperienced and even though it was exciting that you desired me, it was also frightening.” Our romance failed. We had our share of miserable conflictual moments. Our friendship has deepened over the years and is grounded in respect and care.

Student devotion to a teacher can easily be a context where erotic longings emerge. Passionate pedagogy in any setting is likely to spark erotic energy. It cannot be policed or outlawed. This erotic energy can be used in constructive ways both in individual relationships and in the classroom setting. Just as it is important that we be vigilant in challenging abuses of power wherein the erotic becomes a terrain of exploitation, it is equally important to recognize that space where erotic interaction is enabling and positively transforming. Desire in the context of relations where hierarchy and unequal power separate individuals is always potentially disruptive and simultaneously potentially transformative. Desire can be a democratic equalizing force—the fierce reminder of the limitations of hierarchy and status—as much as it can be a context for abuse and exploitation. The erotic is always present, always with us. When we deny that erotic feelings will emerge between teachers and students, this denial precludes the recognition of accountability and responsibility. The implications of entering intimate relations where there is an imbalance of power cannot be understood, or those relations handled with care in a cultural context where desire that disrupts is seen as so taboo that it cannot be spoken, acknowledged, and addressed. Banning relations between faculty and students would create a climate of silence and taboo that would only intensify dynamics of coercion and exploitation. The moment power differences are articulated in a dialogue where erotic desire surfaces, a space is created where choice is possible, where accountability can be clearly assessed.

June 1, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, fraternization, higher education, passion, secrecy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized, victimization | 6 Comments

Sex and the university in the United Kingdom

The London Times Higher Education section of May 22 has an extensive and on the whole excellent article on student professor sexual relationships with the focus being on relationships in UK universities.  It is interesting to see the differences between American and British attitudes on the subject.  Following are presented key sections of the article with the dankprofessor’s comments in the text.  This article definitely merits reading in its entirety by anyone who is seriously interested in the subject; click here for the full text.  My comments are highlighted in blue.
 

When dramatist Stephen Lowe took up a post as visiting writer at Dartington College of Arts, he expected the job to boost his theatre career. What he hadn’t anticipated was that he would meet his life partner. Lowe, then 31, fell for his 21-year-old undergraduate student Tanya Myers. After 27 years, the pair still live and work together and are the parents of two children.

It may sound like the contrived plot of a campus novel, but Lowe’s story is not unique. Despite widespread concern about abuse of power and conflicts of interest, sexual relationships between tutor and student often flourish within academe.

“I have altogether too much experience of teachers engaging in sexual relations with students, both their own students and (those of) their colleagues,” remembers Alan Ryan, now warden of New College, Oxford. He looks back on his early career at Keele University with fond memories of the relationships that began between young academics and their students. “In my misspent youth, my ability to resist temptation was not great, and since I started teaching in the early 1960s, and new faculty were mostly only a couple of years older than the finalists, the discovery of sexual pleasure was a shared experience,” he says.

“Of the affairs I remember, an awful lot turned into highly successful marriages, though a good many were simple flings,” he says. “There were, of course, spectacular characters who weren’t like this at all. Freddie (A.J.) Ayer (the philosopher) fell into bed with everyone who was remotely willing, and an awful lot of young women were very happy to tick him off on the list of famous professors they had laid.”

Attitudes are beginning to harden, however. Like their US counterparts, which have historically been stricter on campus relationships, British universities are starting to crack down on such liaisons. Policies are being drafted to deal with relationships and the inevitable conflicts of interest that can follow – as one might put it, “an A for a lay”. Questions of morality and responsibility, sexuality and pedagogy are being raised.

But however an institution chooses to tackle the problem, it’s certainly not going to disappear. As Ryan points out: “The availability of partners is a geographical matter; if you are cooped up on a campus, who are you likely to fall into bed with?”

It is hard for the dankprofessor to imagine an American university administrator speaking so openly about this issue and ones prior involvements with students as Alan Ryan, warden of New College, Oxford.  Ryan’s final observation that it is a matter of geography is completely correct- eligible men and women “cooped up on a campus” cannot be prevented from fraternizing no matter how hard university moralists and administrators try to eliminate these relationships.  The only way to eliminate these relationships is to eliminate campus life as we know it and replace it with so-called online education.

In the UK, attitudes towards relationships in academe are changing rather more slowly. In 2005, figures revealed after a Freedom of Information Act request by Times Higher Education showed that 50 out of 102 institutions had no policy requiring staff to declare sexual or other relationships with students that might give rise to a conflict of interest. Of those that did, few appeared to apply them: just 17 universities had any current records on file.

In the same year, 18 per cent of respondents to a poll conducted by the Teacher Support Network said that they had had a sexual relationship with a student. Despite this, only 73 relationships were officially recorded and just five of these were defined as sexual or romantic. Many respondents, 62 per cent, said they did not know whether or not their university had a protocol on such matters.

Nevertheless, attitudes among academics have already shifted. “Many more of my colleagues now teach one to one with the room door open. I also know that there are people who avoid teaching certain topics,” says Mary Beard, professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge. “That can’t be a good thing.”

She remembers two personal stories of close but non-sexual relationships that flourished at the university. While an undergraduate, Beard regularly spent long weekends with her tutor, who was decades her senior. Although the relationship was purely pedagogical, she admits that his motives may have been rather different from hers. Similarly, as a tutor, Beard formed a friendship with a young male student who eventually helped teach her to drive, sitting as her passenger regularly while she practised and improved.

“In the Oxbridge of the Twenties and Thirties, students went on holiday with their tutors,” she says. “It wouldn’t happen now. It’s hard to know where the barrier lies between institutional rules and a change in the culture. I think it’s very hard to know which is which,” she adds.

“In some ways we have to accept that there is an erotic dimension to pedagogy. If you take a traditional Oxbridge-style tutorial system, that’s one thing that students love and it’s some of the most interesting teaching when you really get to know someone. That doesn’t mean it’s about feeling someone up, but it is passionate. The difficulty is that that’s a terribly sexy experience; two people sitting together really talking through how Latin love poetry works. How do you desexualise that?”

Of course, you can’t desexualize it.  But no matter the moralists on and off campus will do their damnest to repress it. The dankprofessor has often speculated that those who are so involved in sexual repression may very well find their repressive activities to be quite sexually gratifying.  

“I think it’s a tricky moral dilemma,” Beard says. “I think it’s undeniable that some students and staff have been hurt by these kinds of relationships. I think it’s also undeniable that there have been people who have gained from them.”

But for some, whatever the age of the two individuals, the power relationship inherent between tutor and student means that sexual contact is tantamount to abuse of that power.

A decade ago, Paul Norris, then a social sciences lecturer at Southampton Institute (now Southampton Solent University), caused controversy when he left his wife for a student. He had previously been disciplined by the institution in 1992 for having a sexual relationship with a student on a course he both taught and assessed. His wife, who vowed to set up a support group for other women in her position, claimed that lecturers “perceive sex with students as a perk of the job”. “It seems common to me, and universities seem very blase,” she stated.

 Yes, the Norris case was a notorious one in the UK.  It was made notorious in part by his wife who set up a support group of wives who were left by their professor husbands for a younger student. Of course, banning older married men from having sex with younger women may very well be a fantasy for women such as the wife of Paul Norris.  No question that in the competition between women for mates, younger women generally have a competitive edge. 

 One senior lecturer working in London says she has seen too many young people distressed by the break-up of such relationships. When she conducted a straw poll among a group of colleagues and students, only two people felt it was wrong for a tutor to have a relationship with a student – a figure she cannot understand. She says relationships are formed because tutors prey on the naivety of students or because knowing young men and women use a member of staff for their own ends.

Now this prior paragraph certainly represents the Americanized purity feminist approach on this subject

In their book The Lecherous Professor, Billie Wright Dziech and Linder Weiner comment: “Few students are ever, in the strictest sense, consenting adults. A student can never be the genuine equal of a professor insofar as his professional position gives him power over her … Whether the student consents to the involvement or whether the professor ever intends to use his power against her is not the point. The issue is that the power and the role disparity always exist.”

And here is the hardcore attitude.  Billie Dziech has done more than any academic to facilitate the banning of these relationships by arguing ad nauseum that few students can ever be consenting adults when it comes to relationships with professors.

Brian Martin, lecturer in the department of science and technology at Wollongong University, Australia, agrees. He has written on the issue on numerous occasions, citing his concerns at the lack of action being taken by universities on the matter.

“University teachers hold positions of trust. They are expected to design teaching programmes and carry out their teaching duties to help their students develop as mature thinkers … for impressionable young students, the boundaries between intellectual development and personal life may easily become blurred,” he says.

“Even if academic evaluations are kept completely independent of personal involvements, it is likely that there will be an appearance of bias in the eyes of other students. When a key academic, who should be a mentor, shows a keen interest in a student’s body, it often sends a signal that their intellect is of secondary importance. The impact on the student’s self-confidence can be devastating.”

He is also dismissive of the value of formal institutional policies. “I don’t think policies on their own make a lot of difference,” he says. “Many policies exist, but I’m not aware of any studies examining whether they are enforced.”

Yes, I also know of no studies relating to the enforcement of these sexual codes or the effectiveness of said enforcement. Such should not be surprising since enforcement is usually in secret and secret police aka administrators hardly ever want their practices evaluated.  Secrecy gives license to the the enforcers to do what they want to do.

The potential for abuse of power is certainly an important issue, and one that is well recognised and well understood. Nevertheless, most personal relationships entered into by people in all walks of life involve some basic balancing of power and control. One should perhaps not expect relationships that grow within academe to be immune or exempt from these concerns.

Universities UK says that it is up to individual institutions to decide what their policy is on such “sensitive” areas and to implement those. There are no broad guidelines available to UK universities to help them draft a policy, but nationally the Office of the Independent Adjudicator can pick up cases where, for example, sexual harassment is claimed and the university itself is unable to resolve the case.

“They will consider extenuating circumstances that a student claims affected their performance and the institution didn’t adequately respond to – this could include a relationship with an academic,” a UK spokesperson confirmed.

This kind of careful “monitoring” of relationships leaves many academics cold, but while threats of sexual harassment cases loom there seems little alternative for universities. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that most individuals would not choose to begin a sexual or romantic relationship in their workplace or with a person for whom they have direct managerial or pedagogical responsibility. As Lowe comments of his own experience: “It’s a difficult place to have a relationship. It’s embarrassing whatever you do.”

With that in mind, academics advocate a soft approach to the enforcement of the rules. “I think the institution has to look out for people and make sure everybody looks out for each other,” Beard states. “I think a kind of police state where everybody is sniffing out to see how close X is getting to Y is wrong.

“It’s a lot like smoking. You can’t get people to give up unless you recognise that sometimes it’s pleasurable.”

I love this bottom line by Mary Beard.  Of course, people are not going to give it up since to the dismay of the moralists it is all too often too pleasurable.  And yes, Beard appropriately uses the concept of “police state”.  Once we understand that all too many universities are heading in the direction of sexual police states, more persons will oppose these policies.  What Beard fails to mention is that these policies cannot be effective to any degree without secret informants, third party informants of the genre of Linda Tripp.

—–
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 24, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, passion, secrecy, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, United Kingdom | 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

Female student speaks of her relationship with a professor

Returning to the University of Southern Maine student newspaper story about student professor consensual sexual relationships, the story focused on the experiences of Rebecca, a student, who is in a four year relationship with a professor.

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“When I walked into class, it was like, ‘this guy is my teacher,’ and it’s different than outside,” she said. “He never gave me preference, and since I was very good at the subject anyway, I knew, and it was obvious to everyone else, that I earned my grades.”

Her relationship, which began four years ago, has gone unreported to anyone of supervisory power over the professor, because by the time their friendship had evolved into something bigger, the couple saw no need for the ‘mediation’ provided by the university’s policy-they had already established boundaries for themselves, and she was no longer his student.

While she says that the relationship is great, she still struggles, because she has been forced to lie about it for so long: “It sucks to connect something I’m so uncomfortable about to something that makes me happy.”

It has affected her friendships and family relationships, because she is never able to be fully open about her life – even her two best friends don’t know about it.

“My time with him and the rest of my life are completely separate realities,” she says, “When they cross, it’s really uncomfortable, and I get paranoid.” She has also come to realize the affect it has had on her college experience, removing her from the social situations that most students traditionally become a part of.

The secrets have been painful. Her friendships, old and potential, have suffered, and there’s a constant paranoia ­­– for his sake — that it will somehow come out.

“But at the same time,” she says, “I’ve had a blast! You think about it, he’s my boyfriend. I love him. And four years! That’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had.”

Rebecca puts a knuckle between her teeth and tugs at her collar with the other hand, looking at me with a sideways glance that is almost coy, “I was just sort of taken by him, his looks, and his intelligence – sometimes I think the bad outweighs the good, but, I’m still with him. I mean, he’s awesome, he’s the best!”

She pauses and smiles, straightening her neck. After a minute, she begins again, “The biggest thing is that I still have a lot of respect for professors – if anything, it has made me realize that really, they have the same issues everyone else has, they’re just people.”

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What the dankprofessor finds most disturbing about this relationship is the secrecy. Neither the professor nor the student feel they have the option of integrating this relationship into the rest of their lives. Possibly, they are misjudging the reactions of others. During my 35 year career as a professor I dated many students and former students, and I met many of these students’ parents and siblings. And never did I find that parents were not accepting of their daughter’s relationship with me. Such was the case even when there was a significant age differential. Not one parent objected to the fact that their daughter was dating a professor. In fact, the reaction was just the opposite to rejection, it was enthusiastic acceptance. The reality was that I often found myself dating a very interesting woman and befriending her very interesting parents. It was a plus plus situation.

But universities which have these problems are not interested in hearing about parental acceptance. Advocates of these relationships do not want them to exist and if they do, they want them to be in the closet.

At the University of Southern Maine, an administrative apparatus has been set up which investigates complaints relating to student professor dating. As reported in this article: “Any concerns about sexual harassment or preferential treatment stemming from student-faculty romance are taken to the Office of Campus Diversity and Equity, which investigates all discriminatory complaints at USM. For the past couple years, the office has not received any complaints of this nature. The 2004-05 school year saw three complaints, and in 2003-04 there was only one.”

Obviously the parties to these relationships do not report to the appropriate authorities since it is likely that both parties to these relationships do not feel they need administrative regulation and do not feel that the administration is their to help them navigate thru the terrain of university life.

However, USM administrator Daryl McIlwain disagrees with my analysis, according to him “probably most issues are not reported, for fear of the grade or because they don’t want to cause problems for the faculty member or draw embarrassing attention to themselves.”

However, the dankprofessor believes it is the fear of administrators such as Daryl McIlwain which leads couples not to report. And based on the input I have received from couples around the nation, I would advise couples never to report. Better to deny than to report to the campus authoritarians. I have heard too many stories of couples feeling utterly betrayed by the powers that be who end up violating the confidentiality of the relationship and often demean both the student and professor.

—–
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 | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, student-prof dating, Uncategorized, University of Southern Maine | 3 Comments

A passionate defense of student professor consensual sexual relationships

One of the very best and also the most passionate defenses of student professor sexual relationships has been by
Cristina Nehring, “The Higher Yearning; Bringing eros back to academe,” HARPER’S MAGAZINE, September 1, 2001.
Unfortunately, there is no full text copy available of this article online. It merits reading by all persons seriously interested
in issues relating to student professor fraternization. This is a lengthy article, and following is what I consider to be the
key excerpts from this article. Do get the full text copy of this article. And do savor the forthcoming excerpts. Do keep in mind that this writing is writing that the advocates of banning student professor sexual relationships do not want you to read. It is NEVER cited by these advocates. I will comment on aspects of this article in upcoming posts.Following are the article excerpts-

…Teacher-student chemistry is what sparks much of the best work that goes on at universities, today as always. It need not be reckless; it need not be realized. It need not even be articulated, or mutual. In most cases, in fact, it is none of these. In most cases, academic eros works from behind the scenes. It lingers behind the curtain and ensures that the production onstage is strong. It ensures that the work in the classroom is charged, ambitious, and vigorous. In most cases, it would be counterproductive for it to emerge, itself, into the limelight. That said, it occasionally does. And when it does, it must not be criminalized. For the university campus on which the erotic impulse between teachers and students is criminalized is the campus on which the pedagogical enterprise is deflated. It is the campus on which pedagogy is gutted and gored. This, unfortunately, is the scenario that confronts us today.

My own success would have been perfect had I elected in the last few years to sue my fiance, a professor at the university where I am completing a doctorate, for our relationship. In fact, the suit was very nearly made on my behalf, and against my will. When his superiors learned of our relationship, the wheels of justice and punishment began, immediately, to turn. No matter that I had never taken a class with him, or that I worked in a different department; no matter that we had met off-campus, or, most importantly, that I did not feel in any shape or form harassed by him. Nobody cared. My view of the matter was declared “irrelevant.” As a graduate student, I was presumably too “disempowered” to judge of my own abuse. Deans wrote letters; chairs made calls; hiring committees were warned of the “seriousness of the offense”; jobs were threatened–and I went unconsulted.

…In our enlightened contemporary university, men walk on eggshells and women run from shadows. Every gesture is suspect: if a colleague compliments you on your dress, it smacks of sexism; if a professor is friendly, he is readying you for future sexual abuse. There is no kindness so innocent that women educated in the “patterns” of harassment cannot recognize it as an instance of the newly identified activity experts refer to as “grooming” the victim for the kill. Academic encouragement, easy jesting, an affectionate epithet–all of what used to be the currency of good fellowship as well as teaching–have become cause for vigilance, fodder for complaint, the stuff of suits.

Were the rhetoric of the sexual-harassment authorities pursued with any consistency, it would deepen the rift between classes and between races just as fast as it has, in effect, restored the rift between the sexes. For what is the main trope of university harassment discourse? “Power differential.” Under no circumstances, we hear with metronomic regularity, may we countenance a “power differential” in intimate relationships. A teaching assistant not only should not but cannot give consent to a union with an assistant professor, suggests Billie Dziech, speaking for the consensus of harassment experts in the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy (1999)…

The crackdown on power differentials in student-professor (or senior colleague-junior colleague) relationships presupposes a power-balance in non-pedagogic relationships that is completely fictitious. Where, one might ask, are the symmetrical relationships? If a student falls in love with a lawyer, is that more symmetrical? Should we outlaw relationships between students and nonstudents too? What about between good students and bad students? Rich students and poor students? Were we honest about our disdain for power imbalance we would have to legislate as emphatically against discrepancies in cultural, economic, and racial clout (to give a few examples) as against those in professional clout. It would be well-nigh impossible because of the endless and conflicting ways in which power manifests itself once we relinquish a simplistic model. (If there is “power” in academic rank, for instance, there is power in youth too–in physical attractiveness, in energy. There is power, even, in yet-to-be-fulfilled promise–power in time.) To the extent that such legislation succeeded, it would be a disaster–a reactionary dystopia, a hierarchical hell to which the way had been paved with liberal intentions.

One of the astonishing strengths of love and sex is that it can make boundaries between people so easy to break. It can glide, smiling, around social, vocational, and linguistic roadblocks; it can disarm difference, banish history, slice through power divides. It can ease the passage into another culture, mind, generation, or world. As was discovered by Jane Gallop–who seduced her professors as a student and her students as a professor (for which she was accused of sexual harassment in 1992 with far more reason than most)–sex is a great “leveler.” As suspect as Gallop may be in her egotism and promiscuity, in this she is right. Sex is a great leveler, and not just in the bedroom. The most surprising thing you learn when you fall in love with a sage or a student, a prince or a pauper, is not that you can sleep with him but that you can talk with him. This is something understood–unexpectedly, perhaps–by Philip Roth. The highly cultured hero of his new campus novel, The Dying Animal, may have been “inaccessible to [his student lover] in every other arena” but the sexual when they first met–so he says, and, given his general misanthropy, this is probably true. But for all the ways in which their liaison is compromised, what the mannerly Cuban coed and the transgressive Jewish pundit discover is that they can actually talk to each other. The same is true of the cleaning woman in Roth’s previous novel, The Human Stain, who discovers that she can arouse the college dean mentally as much as physically. He can confide in her more than he ever could in his yuppie kids and bookish colleagues. She finds in the privileged, overeducated septuagenarian her first playmate, the first person she can tease and trust.

Legend has it that love is blind. And lust is blind. Just sometimes, though, they are clairvoyant. They take the glaze from our eyes. They prompt us to look through the odd, unfamiliar exterior of our neighbors and detect a familiar soul, a soul with which, to our surprise, we can communicate. Indifference and industry have made more men blind than eros. If Cupid wears a blindfold now and then, Mammon wears a hood.

One of the least disputed objections to classroom erotics is that they constitute, in the words of harassment author Leslie Pickering Francis, a “distraction from teaching, learning, and research.” Nothing could be further from the truth. To say that chemistry between a student and a teacher distracts from learning is like saying that color distracts from seeing. It does not distract; it enlivens, enhances, intensifies: it fixes the gaze. It gives teeth to the eyes, a digestive tract to the brain.

I will go out on a limb and admit that if crushes between students and teachers could have been prevented when I was in college, I would never have made it through. The fact that I graduated summa cum laude is testimony to the number of crushes that sustained me, that kept me edgy, and eager, and engaged. At the beginnings of quarters I shopped around for teachers to have a crush on, and it was a sad term, a long term, when I found none. I tried. I fanned the flame of minor lights–knowing full well that if I could not generate at least a little heat my mind would freeze.

I do not advocate making a habit of sleeping with professors, but then I would not advocate making a habit of sleeping with plumbers, or realtors, or artists either. I do advocate the exception. If a professor and student fall in love mutually–and let us admit that there are more occasions for this to occur than exist for a professor and a plumber–then there should not be a law or code or set of mores to stop them from giving that love an opportunity to succeed. It may not: as the new campus moralists observe, “the vast majority of students who enter into affairs with their lecturers … do not subsequently report that they were glad to have had the experience. Quite the contrary.” Most relationships don’t succeed–most non-faculty-student relationships don’t succeed, if by success we mean that they go on forever. And when people come out of them, they unfortunately do not often “report that they were glad to have had the experience” either–at least not right afterward. Divorce courts are full of people who say the opposite. We do not, therefore, outlaw marriage.

I learned about more than Renaissance literature from the man I loved as a freshman. Contrary to popular opinion, the relationship did not reinforce my student sense of inferiority; it eliminated it. As much as I admired my teacher, I also found I could talk with him; I had something to offer him that had nothing to do with the old cliches of youth and beauty. Or if it had to do with them, then long live mixed motives, for they certainly were not the most important or lasting cause of our understanding–an understanding that has grown over the last decade and sparked a vivid and voluble literary correspondence. The relationship enfranchised me intellectually; it gave me a voice, and faith in it. And it did this even though, at the outset, it also drew me into the goofiest excesses of adolescent adoration. It drew me to abandon my slot at a top university in order to trek across the country to an obscure one, at which my teaching assistant had just accepted his first professorship. It prompted me to fake an interest in that school’s religious affiliations while working a job as a live lingerie model in a shady local bar to pay my increased private-school dues. It also led me to flee the lightest coffee invitation from my idol. It was not until I returned home (my funds ran out; my talents as a model were limited) that our conversations really began. But even this–the experience of following my heart, however on the surface, vainly–was good for me. It made the love poems I was reading real, immediate, and practical. It was the laboratory component of the Amorous Theory I was assimilating.

All is fair in love and war; people must take their chances, and students are no exception. University students are not children, and women are not children, though to hear harassment officers talk one would think so. They are also not desireless deadwood; they do not drift about aimlessly until angled by a “Lecherous Professor.” They are perfectly capable of finding a professor themselves and seducing him–in fact, I would guess, on the basis of admittedly anecdotal evidence, that this happens far more frequently than the reverse.

Harassment specialists seem unable to believe that female students have the desire or enterprise of an Alcibiades. They do. And the position that they do not–albeit held, as it often is, by bedrock feminists–seems strangely sexist. Why should Greek men have initiative and eros, and American women none? Why should contemporary coeds emerge from a romantic encounter with a teacher–even, as a textbook on the subject tells us, “the most `consensual’ appearing”–with “devastation … real and intense” and “self-esteem” so shattered it demands “years of therapy and reconstructing,” when nobody thinks for one moment that young men like Alcibiades or Agathon sustain incurable wounds? It is only women’s experience that is assumed to be traumatic beyond comprehension or repair. It is only women who are taken to be as frail and faltering as they are devoid of lust and luster. Sexism can be paternalistic as well as aggressive (historically, it more often was), and this is sexism writ large, no matter who’s spreading it.

And it is bad for pedagogy. It’s one thing to disarm a certain type of old-school professor who thought that his students’ bodies (as well as their research and briefcase-toting services) were his birthright. It’s one thing to discourage gross sexist speech and to counsel caution in the initiation of student-teacher relationships. But it is another to stamp out playful and affectionate discourse just because it carries a sexual innuendo and may even, on occasion, make us “uncomfortable.” It is quite another, also, to try to ban professor-student relationships altogether. Knowledge is unremittingly personal: the best students fall in love with teachers; the most engaged teachers respond strongly–and variously–to students. The campus on which the chance of sexual harassment–of sexual “impropriety” between teachers and students–is eliminated is the campus on which pedagogy is eviscerated. It is the campus on which pedagogy is dead.

It is a part of our safety-obsessed culture that we try. In a country where we give children crash helmets with their tricycles (and kneepads with their strollers), perhaps it is no wonder that we give them The Lecherous Professor with their college admissions. Perhaps it is no surprise that we lament, with Leslie Pickering Francis, the possibility that they may not prove “rational consumers of romantic relationships in the way they might be rational consumers of products”; and that we consequently forbid them any romance with a teacher in which they are, to quote David Archard, another expert, “unlikely to be able to determine, for instance, how long it lasts”–as though one were ever able to “determine” how long a relationship lasts; as though lovers were supposed to be “rational consumers.” Love is not commerce; a relationship is not a safety-tested Tonka toy–and any attempt to make it such is bound to be catastrophic. It leads, among other things, to the bizarre situation of our contemporary American society, in which we are in principle forbidden to have relationships not merely with our students (if we are teachers) and our teachers (if we are students) but also with our doctors, lawyers, counselors, therapists, deans, co-workers, clients, employees, or employers–virtually anyone, in fact, with whom we might come into natural contact in the course of everyday life. The result? We find ourselves driven in numbers to dating services and singles clubs, where we spend large amounts of money to meet normal people in abnormal and usually highly stressful contexts. We join volunteer organizations that feel like meat markets, as a majority of members look out more vigilantly for the available bachelor than for the nominal cause of the day. Artificial contexts provoke artificial behavior: we make ill-informed and hasty choices–dating, after all, is such a chore this way–and end up in marriages from which we soon ache to escape. If this is an overstatement, it is less of one than those we hear regularly from the sexual-harassment police.

Should we have forbidden Camille Claudel and Rodin? Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger? Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud? Allan Bloom and his student lovers? Professor bell hooks and her student boyfriend? Heloise and Abelard? To be sure, not one of these relationships, each initially pedagogic, was perfect (which is?), but all were spectacularly productive, revelatory, heated, and formative for both parties–in several cases, formative for Western culture and philosophy. The most beautiful and authentic and complex love poems I know were written by a teacher to his student. They were written by John Donne, in the early seventeenth century, to his employer’s niece, with whom he eloped, and for whom he suffered loss of reputation, money, and career for the next quarter century. Not long after Donne penned these poems, John Milton–whose marriage sustained no similar power differential–drafted “The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.”

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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 16, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, fraternization, higher education, love, secrecy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 55 Comments

The official Ohio State University policy on student professor consensual sexual relationships

After a 1 1/2 years of  consideration, evaluation and debate the OSU issued its formal policy on consensual sexual relationships between students and professors on July 1, 2006; the policy can be viewed here.  And a myriad of OSU documents relating to the process leading to adoption can be viewed here.

What ended up in the final policy was essentially proposed in the Work Group Report.  And it appears that the Work Group report was not criticized by anyone or any entity associated with OSU.  The dankprofessor believes that it has been only on the dankprofessor blog that the work of the Work Group has ever been directly criticized.  The reality was that the work of the Work Group was accepted as the final word.  A lot of huffing and puffing occurred when the Task Force released its report to the OSU community, and the changes that did occur were not ultimately of a substantive nature.  And last but not least the consensual policy became a subpart of  the sexual harassment policy of  Ohio State University.  

So now in 2008, faculty and students entering OSU can internalize the OSU sexual norms in a bureaucratized and dehumanized framework. No romance; no passion; no love.  If there be passion, love and romance between a student and a professor, it must be a secret love.  And as I am sure we all know, love will survive and is surviving at OSU.  Such came to be at OSU and so many other universities by the usage of fear tactics, fear tactics that included  farcical beliefs that the permitting of student professor sexual relationships has in some way undermined the quality of academic life.  The quality of academic life was never undermined by allowing for student professor sexual relationships at OSU or any other university.  What has been  diminished is the quality of life since freedom and consent and choice have been diminished and authoritarian thinking has formally replaced independent thinking, and an authoritarian  institutional bureaucratic “ethic” has replaced a personal ethical engagement.

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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 9, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Ohio State University, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 2 Comments

The Final Chapter: The dissection of the Ohio State University Task Force Report

The Dankprofessor will continue to plow thru the OSU Task Force on Consensual Relationships; it is important for persons interested in determining how a university arrives at a point in time at which a formal prohibition on student professor consensual relationships is adopted.  For the prior post on OSU and relevant documents click hereFollowing is a section of the Task Force Report that merits our attention.
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“The Task Force was apprised of the variety of harms caused by sexual relationships between faculty and students. Apparently, a familiar pattern involves a faculty member who initiates a sexual relationship with a student, often a student in the same department with whom the faculty member frequently interacts. Initially, the student may be flattered by the attention and may give little thought to the power dynamics in the relationship. When the relationship ends or turns sour, however, the effect on the student changes sharply: the student then experiences hurt, guilt, shame and a lack of connection with her peers as a result of the relationship and worries about the effect of the relationship on her career, particularly if she feels that the faculty member is in a position to influence her future. The Task Force heard reports of faculty members who were known to have had multiple relationships with students, suggesting a propensity to misuse their power as professors.”
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     Note the overt dehumanizing rhetoric employed in this excerpt.  Now we have THE student and THE faculty member presented in completely homogenous terms.  Such is illustrative of the I-it I-thou framework put forth by Martin Buber.  Here, we only have the I-it.  In such a depersonalized world there is only THE student, The professor, THE homosexual, THE Jew.  Once one knows who is who then one
knows the script and therefore without any personal knowledge of any particular student or any particular professor, one already knows how THE student and THE professor will act; what will happen to them once they cross into the forbidden territory of sexuality.  In this fiction as presented by the Task Force, “the student then experiences hurt, guilt and shame…”; no ifs here; such is Her fate.  And what happens to the faculty member? What about “his” experiencing hurt, guilt and shame?  Nothing here; absolutely nothing.  Haven’t we all heard this sort of muckraking?  Didn’t we hear it as children from parents warning us about sex or homosexuality or dating interracially or …?  Do we not know what this sort of rhetoric is all about, that this is about fear and possibly hysteria and ultimately obedience?  In the dankprofessor’s opinion, persons who engage in such rhetoric would be likely candidates for speech writers in the Bush administration.  However, it is hard for me to accept that engaging in this rhetoric  is compatible with being an academic.  What a sorrowful state we are in!
   Unfortunately, there is more from the Task Force illustrating academia’s sorrowful state
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“The Task Force also discussed the third-party and reputational effects of faculty/student consensual relationships. We were told of a notorious case in which the fallout from a sexual relationship in the department caused the student in the relationship and other graduate students in the department to seek counseling and to consider transferring to other universities to complete their degrees. Persons in the department expressed their belief that the reputation of the department suffered as a result.”

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Is this what it boils down to, reputational effects?  Since something supposedly hurts the reputation of some persons or some entity then the liberty to fraternize is suspended.  Reputations of departments vary from department to department and in the same department over time.  Selecting out student and professors in a sexual relationship who generally just want to be left alone for responsibility for the “reputational” effects is just other worldly!  In any case, the extreme effects of the particular case highlighted by the Task Force may just be academic gossip.  And if the case was so notorious, why didn’t the Task Force specifically name names?

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 And the Task Force continues-

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Regardless of the scope of any new rule, Task Force members were strongly of the view that little would change if the new policy did not have “teeth” or if persons were unaware of the restrictions. To be effective, there must be a duty placed on the faculty member to disclose the existence of any sexual relationship with a student – current or in the past – and to cooperate in making alternative arrangements for the supervision, teaching, grading, advising, counseling or other responsibility relating to the student. Additionally, any supervisor notified of such a relationship or who becomes aware of such a relationship should have a duty to take immediate action to provide an acceptable alternative arrangement. The Task Force was mindful of the potential hazards with requiring disclosure, particularly in cases of same-sex relationships or other socially disapproved relationships. For this reason, the supervisor should take all feasible steps to maintain the confidentiality of such information. Finally, to insure against multiple offenders escaping notice, any action taken in response to a report of a consensual sexual relationship or alternative arrangements made as a result should be reported to Human Resources. The Task Force agreed that policy and procedure for regulating consensual sexual relationships should remain as part of the University’s policy against sexual harassment.”

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 So the Task Force wants to give this policy “teeth”.   And what better way to give it teeth than to bring third parties into the scenarios; informers in the genre of the Linda Tripps; informers who really care about the Monica Lewinskys of the world and have no agenda, emotional or otherwise, concerning presidents and professors of the world.  And in this world of third party informants, the good administrator (police) will take immediate action to correct the so-called problem, no need for for acting in a slow and cautious manner.  Here academic justice and sidewalk justice become one. 

And in a true Orwellian fashion the Task Force urges supervisors to maintain confidentiality of all information.  But if confidentiality mattered, if the privacy of the couple mattered, if one granted even minimal rights to those in the closet, then there would no third party informants.  The truth is as the Task Force apparently does not know that once the couple is compromised there is no confidentiality; confidentiality is history.  The Task Force is engaging in delusional thinking unless what they meant by confidentiality is secrecy and therefore the ability of the so- called supervisors to act knowing that their acts will not be in public view.  So the administrators are given their secrecy and the involved students and professors are stripped of their secrecy.  No sexcrecy(my word); no secret love.  Fortunately there were some OSU professors who saw thru this game at an OSU forum on the Task Force report.  The campus newspaper, The Lantern, reported-

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“Faculty at the meeting voiced concerns on the notification clause in the policy change. Originally, the revised policy required that human resources be notified if a faculty member entered into any consensual relationship with a student, even in cases where the faculty member was not in a supervisory position. Some faculty were concerned with this central reporting mechanism and with the creation of records of the relationships within human resources. In response to these concerns, human resources has revised the policy to require faculty to report the relationships only to their department chairs. No notification of human resources is required and no central records will be kept.With the adoption of the anonymous reporting line on March 1, T.K. Daniels, chair of the faculty council of the University Senate, expressed concerns that third-party reporting would be encouraged in instances of consensual relationships between faculty and students.”It’s a romantic police state,” Daniels said. “It’s even more so a police state because it can be reported anonymously.”Lewellen said the policy needs to be revised to discourage third-party reporting and that he believes this is a matter of professional ethics.”

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 We shall see whether  third party reporting was modified when we look at the policy as adopted.   But suffice to state at this point that Professor Daniels understands what it takes to create an effective police state, it takes informers and more informers, and it takes the true believing ideologues to help the informers rationalize that they are doing the right thing.

  Of course, the Task Force recommended that there be a prohibition on faculty student professor relationships.  We will terminate this post with their summary of their recommendations.

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“In summary, the Task Force recommends:

(1) That the OSU policy be revised to prohibit consensual sexual relationships between faculty and students or between university employees and students, whenever the faculty member or employee has supervisory, teaching, evaluation, advisory, coaching or counseling responsibilities for the student or would otherwise be likely to be asked to take on such a role in the future.

(a) That OSU implement the consensual relationship policy to impose a duty on faculty and staff to report and disclose any sexual relationship with a student encompassed within (1) above, either to their supervisor or to Human Resources and to cooperate in making acceptable alternative arrangements. The policy should also impose a duty on supervisors to notify Human Resources of any such relationships reported to them or that come to their knowledge and to take immediate steps to provide acceptable alternative arrangements.

(b) That the OSU consensual relationship policy contain a clear statement that disciplinary action will be taken against faculty or staff who violate the policy, either by entering into or engaging in a sexual relationship with a student encompassed with (1) above, or by failing to report such relationship or cooperate in making alternative arrangements.”

—–
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

 

January 5, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Ohio State University, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Some notes on power and secrecy

The notion that differential power precludes consent has been a core concept in the movement to ban student professor consensual relationships.  In essence, differential power precludes consent has framed the issue.  Such a framing communicates that the banning movement is about decreasing power over others so that people can freely consent to whatever.  Or, in other terms, equality replaces differential power and obtaining the goal of equality is a worthy goal.  The problem is that the banning movement does not abolish or minimize power; the movement does not replace differential power with equality.  Differential power is in effect affirmed by providing institutional power to university administrators to regulate the private sexual lives of both students and professors.  So-called consensual policies are about the legitimization of  the power exerted by administrators to coerce professors and students to follow a mandated sexual script.  And it generally disempowers students more than professors since these policies often mandate that the professor report oneself and the involved student to university authorities.  Note that the student has no part to play in this scenario.  The enforcing administrators do not give any option to a student to report or not to report; consent in this context is considered to be irrelevant.
   Unfortunately, nothing is new here.  Power is taken away and given to powerful others so they can work their will on others.  No one gains any power except those at the top of the hierarchy.  If the power game is successful, then enforcement becomes a police function.  Such is true for the current Bush administration that in the name of protection and security trashes just about all constitutional protections, and attempts to conduct its police function in secret.  The Bush people have learned from the prior Nixon administration not to leave around any damning tapes.  The challenge is always the same for those seeking the truth and this is the piercing of the veil of secrecy.  And secrecy in the university world under the guise of “personnel matters” is extremely difficult to pierce.  In this area of student professor
consensual relationships policy and its enforcement, such will continue to prevail as long as secrecy prevails. Just as  was the case for gays in the the U.S., no significant change occurred until the closet was broken down, and in time with many gays out of the closet, the dominant society gave little deference to those who argued that they were offended by those who “flaunted” their gayness, and argued that such acceptance represented the end of Western civilization.  Such arguments no longer flourish unhindered  but in the university world they are applied to student professor relationships and flourish unhindered.
  The love that dare not speaks its name will remain ensconced in university land until…
 —–
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

January 1, 2008 Posted by | coercing women, consensual relationships, fraternization, higher education, homosexual, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, the closet | Leave a comment

Being above suspicion

It seems that an annual ritual associated with the arrival of the new year is the making of lists, particularly of the genre of top ten lists. So I have been mulling over what sort of list I could come up with that is relevant to this wonderful blog and would be helpful to those blog readers who wish to safely navigate the university terrain during 2008. And I thought that I would create a list for those professors and lecturers and teaching assistants who have absolutely no interest in dating any student, irrespective as to the student being enrolled in ones class or never enrolled and who wish never to be suspected of dating or of ever dating a student. It’s the being above suspicion that concerns me since profs who are not dating students are in terms of their public behavior and persona often quite similar or identical to the public behavior and persona of professors who are dating a student.

So following is the dankprofessor’s New Year’s list for non-dating male profs who wish to remain above suspicion as to dating a female student. 

1. Never be seen off campus in any context with a female student in a one to one situation. Particularly avoid dining, having coffee, etc., with a female student in a public setting.

2. Although being off campus with a female student in a group context is less risky, there are still risks. If you are the only faculty member in a student group, others (both other students and professors) are likely to view you as having gone “native” and often impute sexual motivations. In such group settings, minimize you interaction with any particular female student to avoid being perceived as part of a couple.

3. Never have social gatherings of any kind in your home in which female students are present. The dynamic of having parties and inviting some students, but not others, often leads to feelings of unfair favoritism and resentment by the uninvited students. The most benign form of interaction with female students may lead to perceptions of intimacy by a select few; remember, it only takes one person to file a complaint. Also, being married is obviously no guarantee that you will not be prone to such perceptions.

4. On campus, never walk with a female student side by side. If you are seen repeatedly walking with one female student, some persons will impute couplehood. If while walking across campus, you run into a female student, stop and talk to her, but do not talk to her while walking. Of course, never dine, have coffee with a female student on campus without other persons present, preferably other faculty.

5. It is very important that you maintain social distance from former students who are still on campus. If you are perceived to have a close relationship with a former student, some will impute a sexual component, a sexual component that they may now believe may have been present when she was in your own class. And, if you should become engaged to or marry a former student, others may now believe that there was a sexual component when she was under your supervision.

6. Unfortunately, male faculty mentoring female students become particularly at risk. Since there is a great deal of one to one interaction, mentoring relationships often become close relationships and therefore outsiders are prone to impute a sexual component. Also, some non-mentored students are prone to resent the mentored and also prone to impute favoritism. So mentoring female students is out. 

7. Leaving ones office door open or closed while conferring with a student does not really significantly effect perceptions. It is the female student who is frequently seen waiting for you in the hallway that may lead to sexual imputations. Given this situation, the concerned professor should generally discourage student office visitations. The safest form of student conferral is by computer email with ALL messages NEVER deleted.

8. In terms of involvement in university activities it is difficult to limit oneself to participating in activities in which there are no female students in attendance. So to avoid being seen as a social isolate, do attend some university events, but only those events that have a clear feminist underpinning such as Take Back the Night events.

9. In term of in-class behavior, never address students in an informal manner, using first names is definitely a no-no.  And, of course, always have students address you in formal terms Dr. or Professor. And clearly communicate to students you don’t care whether they think you are a good teacher; communicate that you don’t care about student evaluations and you don’t care about students. Being an unpopular professor as far as students are concerned is one of the very best ways to avoid suspicion. So if anyone implied that you might have an inappropriate sexual affiliation, the typical reaction would be utter disbelief.

10.  Don’t get involved in any sort of civil liberties activities. Never give any kind of lip service to the rights of consenting adults unless it is in a feminist framework, wrap yourself in a breastplate of righteousness exuding your contempt for sexual deviance and deviates and communicating nostalgia for the good old days when everybody knew their place.

So that’s it, follow these guidelines and you will be above suspicion.

If I missed an important item that you think the dankprofessor should have included, do let me know. I am an open person, always open to others, and have no problem not being above suspicion. 

And have a Happy New Year.

—–
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 31, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, fobidden love, fraternization, higher education, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sexual policing and sexual abuse

No matter what ones position may be on the prohibition of consensual relationships between students and professors, I would hope that any person who takes the teaching learning enterprise seriously would be offended by the the University of Iowa’s presentation of its rationale of said policy.  I do not think it is an overstatement to characterize that presentation as drivel.  It does not reflect any serious engagement of the issue.  The idea that relationships between human beings are complex, that sexual relationships between human beings are complex and multidimensional is given no recognition in the University of Iowa statement. In spite of the fact that I have read many similar statements of other universities, I still find it mind boggling that any institution of higher education would publicly embrace such verbiage.  I would expect that any student or professor would be embarrassed to be associated with this statement.  My impression is that the statement is the sort that is directed to children with the hope that it would scare children to be good. It is certainly not the kind of statement that would facilitate independent and critical thinking.

Ultimately the persons who write such statements do not want independent and critical thinking.  They want what all authoritarians want and that is obedience.  No matter that such is occurring at a university, the game remains the same with the game winners getting obedience of their professor subjects and of their student subjects.  This authoritarian framework is consistent with the notion of treating adults as children who cannot decide for themselves, think for themselves, consent for themselves.  Of course, in the present case, it is female students who are held to be unable to think or consent for themselves, and are in an incapacitated state as a result of predator professors.  Of course, it is the administrator powers that be which wishes to assume the power position over the power incapacitated and childlike female student.

The power dynamic is never publicly recognized by these administrators even as they take control of others and force them to do what they want them to do.  Maybe the power dynamic would have a greater chance of recognition if we stopped referring to them in bureaucratic terms and addressed them for what they are- sexual police, for sexual policing is what these policies and their promulgators are all about. 

We know that what police in general do not want in relation to performing their jobs, and that is to be hamstrung by the alleged civil liberties and civil rights of those subject to their enforcement.  No wonder that in the statements of the genre of the University of Iowa statement that no mention, no allusion,no credence, no recognition is given to issues concerning civil liberties and civil rights.  Such concerns are simply of no import to the promulgators and enforcers of these sexual codes.  Of course, when it comes to sexual regulation and sexual oppression, history has shown that the sexual police wish to pursue the  sexual perverts and purveyors unrestrained by the niceties of polite society. 

In the university, the problem has been not only the capitulation to the sexual police as is presently  happening at Middlebury College, but also in the polite rhetoric embraced by those opposing the sexual policing.  In this area the dankprofessor believes it is time to call a spade a spade, to accurately refer to persons who enforce these codes as sexual police who engage in sexual policing are violators of basic civil liberties and rights and who in their authoritarian pursuits force persons to attend indoctrination sessions in which if successful they are brainwashed to believe and to obey. 

And last but not least, it must also be pointed out that these sexual police like all sexual abusers prefer to operate in secret, out of the public purview, with said secrecy justified in doublethink terms- “these are confidential personnel matters”.

—–
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

  

November 28, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Fear and loathing at the University of Iowa

I am going to present the University of Iowa student professor consensual dating policy.   And engage in a critique of said policy. University policies in the area of sexual regulation once established are very seldom critiqued.  I speculate that why such is the case is that people fear that if they criticize they will become suspect. Such is regrettable since universities are often held to be the environments where critical analysis of social policies should flourish.  In any case, I will present the policy and within the text of the policy I will present my comments. The text of the policy will be highlighted.

 5.1 RATIONALE.

The integrity of the University’s educational mission is promoted by professionalism that derives from mutual trust and respect in faculty-student relationships. Similarly, the University is committed to the principle of protecting the integrity and objectivity of its staff members in the performance of their University duties. It is therefore fundamental to the University’s overall mission that the professional responsibilities of its faculty and staff be carried out in an atmosphere that is free of conflicts of interest that compromise these principles.

This opening statement is on the whole laudatory and vague.  Who could possibly be opposed to mutual trust and respect in faculty student relationships or for that matter any set of relationships?  I would trust that all of the present Democrats and Republicans campaigning for the presidential nomination in Iowa would absolutely agree.  I would also agree with the last part of the opening paragraph that faculty student and staff relationships “be carried out in an atmosphere that is free of conflicts of interest that compromise these principles.” Of course, such would apply to the entire university, even to the President and to the UIOWA’S Board of Trustees.  In any case this would be an OK introduction for an across the board conflict of interest policy.

Romantic and/or sexual relationships where one member of the University community has supervisory or other evaluative responsibility for the other create conflicts of interest and perceptions of undue advantage. 

OK, the prior paragraph was not an intro to a general conflict of interest policy.  If conflicts of interest are inevitably created in such relationships, why would not a conflict of interest policy be sufficient to deal with such conflicts?  And why is it assumed that such relationships inevitably create perceptions of undue advantage?  Are all relationships the same?  Once you see one relationship, you have seen them all!  Are not some relationships conducted in a more private manner than other relationships?  If they so desire, is it not quite possible that the parties of such relationships can simply closet themselves and avoid being perceived as being involved in a relationship?  Of course, passing has a long history in the sexual arena, homosexuals passing as straight, even engaging in heterosexual marriage in order to have the appropriate front for the dominant society.  However, there is another element here, and that is some professors who are not sexually engaged in a romance with a student but have close relationships with students may be perceived as being too close to any particular student, and along with this perception there may also be an imputation of sexual involvement.  In any case, I would hold that in almost all universities, including Iowa, that perceptions of undue advantage by some students regarding other students run rampant, and having this policy will not make one iota of difference as to perceptions of undue advantage.

There are also special risks in any sexual or romantic relationship between individuals in inherently unequal positions of power (such as teacher and student, supervisor and employee). Such relationships may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided, and the trust inherent particularly in the student-faculty relationship. They may, moreover, be less consensual than the individual whose position confers power believes. The relationship is likely to be perceived in different ways by each of the parties to it, especially in retrospect.

Yes, the relationship may be perceived in different ways by the parties of the relationships.  But so what. Is this not the case in almost all relationships?  Are husband and wives ever in complete agreement as to how the marital relationship is perceived?  In fact, I would argue that hardly ever do faculty completely agree with each other about anything.  Are faculty of one mind?  Are students of one mind? 

And, as far as the part about their being so-called special risks  faced by individuals in differential power positions, such risks are not all that special.  In all relationships romantic there are always risks that uniquely apply to each relationship. For example, the risk of venereal disease, the risk of experiencing hurt. etc. etc  How would it be possible for anyone to argue that there are no risks that particularly relate to love and marriage?  Of course the statement implies that power differentiated relationships (asymmetric relationships) are more risky than non-power differentiated relationships (symmetric relationships).  Of course stating such is the case does not make it so.  The Iowa policy does not present any evidence that asymmetric relationships are more risky than symmetric ones.  And what the policy fails to note is that one component of heterosexual attraction is a power component.  To a degree, part of the dynamic fueling these bans is an anti-heterosexuality perspective which comes to symbolize for academic feminists male power over women, and such symbolism becomes more potent for them when you have the older male prof and young female student.  This is the asymmetry that so offends so many academics.  Of course, the question is whether feeling of offense should be a basis for regulating sexual behavior.

Then the policy goes on to state such relationships “may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided, and the trust inherent particularly in the student-faculty relationship.”  On the other hand, such relationships may not undermine said integrity; it may simply have no effect in regards to trust.  And it could be that said relationships could even have a positive effect.  The burden is on the shoulders of the University to demonstrate empirically that such undermining is likely to occur.  What is of course ignored in the prior paragraph and ignored throughout the policy is that there can be positive effects for the student and professor couple.  One of the positive effects may be the love and caring.  To fail to recognize the importance of love between two persons is irresponsible.  To ignore the possible positive effects is absurd.  To ignore that such relationships can continue in love and merge into marriage and even parenthood should be beyond the pale of any educated and not so educated person.  And I would expect that persons who profess to be so knowledgeable about these relationships know that at times what binds these couples together is a love of knowledge which leads to a knowledge of love.  For example, can such advocates simply discard the relationship between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger as being without value?

Moreover, such relationships may harm or injure others in the academic or work environment. Relationships in which one party is in a position to review the work or influence the career of the other may provide grounds for complaint when that relationship gives, or creates the appearance of, undue access or advantage to the person involved in the relationship, or when it restricts opportunities or creates a hostile environment for others.

Again as to harming or injuring others, such relationships may not harm others.  The writers of this policy simply cannot comprehend the possibility that there may not be any harm.  I suppose that the writers were lawyers who view the world in terms of harm and injury and lawsuits.  For them, love does not make the world go around, it makes them want to stop the world by offing love.

Such relationships also have the potential for other adverse consequences, including the filing of charges of sexual harassment and/or retaliation under the University’s Policy on Sexual Harassment (II-4) if, for example, one party to the relationship wishes to terminate the relationship to the other party’s objection. In those circumstances when sexual harassment is alleged as the result of a romantic and/or sexual relationship, the existence of the relationship is not a per se violation of the Policy on Sexual Harassment. However, the apparent consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect due to the fundamental asymmetry of power in the relationship and it thus may be difficult to establish consent as a defense to such a charge. Even when both parties consented at the outset to a romantic involvement, this past consent does not remove grounds for or preclude a charge or subsequent finding of sexual harassment based upon subsequent unwelcome conduct.

As noted and agreed upon such relationships can have adverse consequences.  However, the writers of this prohibition fail to note that such relationships may have positive consequences, not only on the parties to the relationships, but to parents, relatives, friends and fellow students who share in the joy of love.  The writers of these policies see no joy.  It may be that they project their joylessness, their feelings of being unloved and of hurt and of being victimized on to others, and end up attempting to do to innocent others what had been done unto to them before they lost their innocence.

This policy applies to consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between individuals of the same sex or of the opposite sex.
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5.2 PROHIBITED RELATIONSHIPS — POLICY STATEMENT.

For the foregoing reasons, all romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty and students in the instructional context are prohibited at The University of Iowa. [Note: This policy applies only to relationships involving students. However, romantic and/or sexual relationships in other contexts -- between faculty members, between faculty and staff, or between staff members, where one person supervises the other -- also may be problematic, and are governed by III-8 Conflict of Interest in Employment.]

If these are all the foregoing justifying reasons, the university has not built a case.  And in building their non-case, they avoid dealing with tough issues such as freedom of association, the right to sexual privacy, etc., etc.  For them rights are irrelevant; they feel they can write whatever they want to do in their quest to right wrongs.  They follow in the “tradition” of Bush/Cheney in the righting of wrongs. 

No faculty member shall have a romantic and/or sexual relationship, consensual or otherwise, with a student who is enrolled in a course being taught by the faculty member or whose academic work is being supervised, directly or indirectly, by the faculty member.

For definitions of “faculty” and “instructional context,” please refer to II-5.5 below.
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5.3 DISCOURAGED RELATIONSHIPS REQUIRING DISCLOSURE AND MANAGEMENT.

In light of the potential for apparent and actual conflicts of interest, the following relationships are strongly discouraged at The University of Iowa; where such relationships arise, however, they are required to be disclosed and managed as indicated below:

  •  
      (1) Outside of the instructional context, a faculty member (including graduate students with teaching responsibilities) who engages in a romantic or sexual relationship with a student must promptly disclose the existence of the relationship to his or her immediate supervisor if there exists a reasonable possibility that a conflict of interest may arise. When a conflict of interest exists or is likely to arise, such relationships appear to others to be exploitative of or create apparent advantage for the student, and may later develop into conflicts of interest prohibited by II-5.2 above in situations that cannot be anticipated fully.
      (2) A potential conflict of interest exists when the student is a graduate student in the same department or academic program as the faculty member, or is an undergraduate student and is majoring or minoring in the same department as the faculty member. A conflict of interest also may arise if the student is studying in a department separate from the faculty member. When a potential conflict of interest exists or is reasonably likely to arise, the faculty member must promptly disclose the relationship to his or her supervisor. (3) Once the relationship is disclosed, the immediate supervisor will evaluate the situation to determine whether an actual conflict of interest exists or is likely to arise and will develop a management plan to address the potential conflict of interest. The faculty member has the professional and ethical responsibility to remove himself or herself from any decisions that may reward or penalize the student involved and otherwise adhere to the management plan. Of course, this disclosure policy is a flagrant violation of the student’s right to privacy.  Such a disclosure policy to be an ethical one must adhere to what is apparently an alien notion to these policymakers that students have rights and that students have a right not to consent.  Said disclosure policy reveals these policies to be a sham, a sham in that they do not protect students, a sham in that institutional power is used to force professors to reveal their sexual and heretofore private lives to administrators.  b. Between staff members and students. Romantic and/or sexual relationships between staff members and students employed under their supervision are governed by the University of Iowa Policy on Conflict of Interest in Employment (III-8). It may sometimes be difficult to determine whether the staff-student relationship exists in an employment or in an instructional context. Where such an ambiguity exists, the context will be assumed to be instructional and the relationship subject to the prohibition set forth in II-5.2 above.
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  • a. Between faculty and students.

5.4 EXAMPLES OF PROHIBITED AND DISCOURAGED RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN FACULTY AND STUDENTS.

  •  
      (1) Student B is in a class taught by Professor A. The Consensual Relationships Policy prohibits a romantic or sexual relationship between these two parties in the instructional context. When the class has concluded and Professor A has submitted the final grades, this policy may continue to prohibit Professor A from engaging in a romantic or sexual relationship with Student B, or may discourage such a relationship, depending upon the academic affiliation of Student B and the likelihood that a conflict of interest may arise. (2) Professor A and Student B, a graduate student in Professor A’s department, are involved in a romantic relationship. This policy prohibits Professor A from teaching and supervising Student B, and mandates disclosure and management of any potential conflict of interest. (3) The partner of Professor A enrolls in an academic program at the University offered by the same college in which Professor A’s department is located. If the partner enrolls in the same academic program or department as Professor A, this policy requires Professor A to disclose the relationship and that any potential conflict of interest be managed to ensure that Professor A does not teach or supervise the partner, or involve himself or herself in any decision that may reward or penalize the partner. If the partner’s academic program operates independently of Professor A’s department, Professor A would not be required to disclose the relationship unless the potential for a conflict of interest might arise. (4) Graduate Student C and Graduate Student D are married and enrolled in the same academic program. This policy prohibits D from enrolling in a class taught by C (as instructor, teaching assistant, or grader) and vice-versa. If C (or D) were to complete his or her graduate program and acquire the status of faculty member (such as adjunct professor, visiting professor, or assistant professor) in the same department, this policy would apply as in paragraph (2) above. Former Graduate Student C would be required to disclose the relationship to the DEO and remove himself or herself from any decisions that may reward or penalize Graduate Student D.
  • a. The following examples are provided for illustrative purposes only. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of situations in which this policy applies. b. These examples illustrate the application of this policy which applies only to relationships involving students. However, romantic and/or sexual relationships in other contexts may also be problematic, and are governed by III-8 Conflict of Interest in Employment.
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    What these examples reveal is the totalizing nature of this policy.  The havoc that administrators can wreak under this policy is limitless.  And the havoc will occur in the context of these administrators who are now functioning as the sexual police will be put forth in secrecy under the mantel of privacy and confidentiality.  “I am sorry, but I cannot comment on this confidential personnel matter.”  And I am sorry for all those professors and students at the University of Iowa who just don’t get it, who just don’t get that these policies do not empower them but only empower administrators who are free to do whatever they essentially want to do as the sexual police of University of Iowa.  And I believe that one of the things they want to do is to simply cast off, dismiss any critique of their work, of their policies. One can test this notion if they dare.  At the next consensual relationship (sexual harassment) workshop you are forced to attend, raise the sort of criticisms raised here and see what happens. And feel free to report back to the dankprofessor.  And if you want to do this but are unable to do so, it is because you feel the fear, and your silence affirms the victory of the fear mongers…
    —–
    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

November 24, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, secrecy, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, University of Iowa | 2 Comments

The love that dare not speak its name

In my prior post on the LA Times being bamboozled by the UC administration as to the number of professors dismissed for violating the UC student professor dating code, such bamboozling can be quite effective.  Such is likely to be effective since the whole process is usually shrouded in secrecy.  Charges for violation are confidential and the outcome of such cases are confidential.  The name of the alleged victim is confidential as well as the one who is so charged.  Of course, it is much more likely that more persons know the name of the alleged offender than the alleged victim.  Many times there may be no complaining victims.  In the UCLA case, a third party functioned as an informant; whether this informant violated the privacy of of the student and professor was simply of no concern to the UCLA chancellor.  The fact that the UCLA chancellor spoke out on this case is what is so exceptional.  Obviously the chancellor felt that he had to speak out to make it clear to all concerned that UCLA had a no tolerance policy for professors who violated  the consensual dating code and it was of no import to him that the professor had a very strong record of service to the UCLA community; it was also of no concern to him that many students rallied in support of the professor and essentially begged the UCLA administration to not dismiss the professor.  Shortly after these public pronouncements  the professor was no longer seen on campus.

But here is where this situation takes a bizarre turn.  Two years later as far as the UC administration is concerned, this dismissal never occurred.  The UC administration is being quite serious when they state there has never been a faculty dismissal under this code.  What happened to this professor is shrouded in secrecy.  What I speculate happened is that the professor resigned and retired in the context of signing a confidentiality agreement which meant he simply disappeared from campus.  I have no idea how many more professors may have disappeared from UCLA or from any of the other University of California campuses.  I challenge any student or professor to come up with names and numbers in this area.  I doubt that few will take up this challenge since any student or professor seeking such information will probably be held to be under suspicion, and may be subject to various violations of privacy.  The fact is that one professor from a mid-western university who published an article on student professor dating a few years ago in a sociology journal ended up being charged with sexual harassment; the professor so charged is a woman; the outcome of her case I believe is pending. 

The Dankprofessor holds that SECRECY is a key component in attempting to understand the contemporary context of student professor relationships.  A major, if not the most major, function of these codes has been to drive student professor relationships into the closet, the creation of a new campus underground.  Fewer and fewer professors are willing to engage in scholarly writing on the subject.  For those who do and even hint that these bans are problematic one can be pretty sure that the most hideous labels will be applied to them.  When Professor Abramson received his initial public attention in the Chronicle of Higher Education, commentaries published in the Chronicle focused on the good professor’s physical appearance indicating that his look was the look of a lecherous professor.  In the 1990s when I was one of the few male professors speaking out against these bans, I was subject to myriad character assassinations; such did not deter me, but I do feel that these attacks did deter others from speaking out.  Today I can’t find paper presentations in any of the major social science associations meetings, whether it be the ASA, APA, regional sociological and psychological associations.  There are many many papers on homosexuality and gays, the subject is now thoroughly out of the closet, and thoroughly in the closet when it comes to student professor relationships.  Academics play it safe, both students and professors, both tenured and untenured in adhering to appropriate norms regarding the love that dare not speak its name.  Of course, I am one of the few exceptions, I only wrote about gay life when the preponderance of gays were still the closet.  In 1971, I published an article entitled “Coming Out in the Gay World” which foresaw the upcoming positive changes in the creation of a “public” gay world and a world where homosexuality would no longer be the love that dare not speak its name.  Then and now advocates of the closet argue that going public would offend too many good upstanding citizens. So many of the attempts to repress speech and association in contemporary academic life relate to offending sensitive others.  How sad! How utterly sad that more and more academics are committed to not offending others.  How sad that as of this date not a single professor at the University of Connecticut Law School has come forward in defense of their colleague, Robert Birmingham!

It was back in 1994 in the journal Radical Teacher that sociologist Toni H. Oliviero wrote about the dangerous consequences relating to secrecy that would result from banning student professor relationships.  Quoting from this article-

“I am thinking of two things here. First the ways that prohibitions construct the silence of concealment. The establishment of anti-sex rules would create the need to lie (just when gays and lesbians are daring not to in significant numbers). Axiomatic is, There will be sex. There will be consensual relations between all sorts of people. Some of those relations will be only ostensibly consensual, in your view or mine. But sex will happen. Do we want to drive it underground and cause a sexual relationship between two adults to take its shape, even in part, from the narrow and twisted constraints that secrecy imposes? When you prohibit something, you cannot then talk about how to do it as well as possible, or as harmlessly. This constraint on our ability to learn is not in keeping with any notion I can imagine of ourselves as teachers or as citizens.”

Yes, another apt title for this post would be ACADEMICS IN CONSTRAINTS, CONSTRAINTS MADE AND IMPOSED BY ACADEMICS.

—————————————————————
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

November 2, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, fraternization, higher education, homosexual, political correctness, secrecy, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, the closet, UC, UCLA | Leave a comment

   

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