Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Univ of Iowa prof raises havoc in response to Republicans “coming out”

When we speak of people coming out, I think such generally implies that one is coming out of some sort of “closet”.  One has been closeted since one fears that being known would lead to one being hurt in some sense.

Apparently Republicans at the University of University of Iowa have been living in fear and have been closeted.  So some UI Republicans have called for a coming out on campus at specific times and places via sending a coming out announcement to all university personnel.

Such has raised quite a ruckus at the University of Iowa.  Even a UI Women’s Studies professor engaged in some very foul language regarding the coming out announcement.  Even the President of UI has issued a statement on the issue.

Following is a detailed report as to the situation at UI and Iowa City.

A University of Iowa professor who studies same-sex relationships was so upset by a mass email from a campus Republican group promoting “Conservative Coming Out Week” that she fired off a vulgarity aimed at all Republicans.

Ellen Lewin, a professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, responded to the email by writing, “F*** YOU, REPUBLICANS” from her official University of Iowa email account.

Lewin’s message prompted a flurry of e-mails in response, all of which were published on The Iowa Republican, a GOP news website.

UI student and Chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans Natalie Ginty demanded an apology from Lewin’s supervisors.

“We understand that as a faculty member she has the right to express her political opinion, but by leaving her credentials at the bottom of the email she was representing the University of Iowa, not herself alone,” Ginty wrote to James Enloe, the head of the Department of Anthropology.

“Vile responses like Ellen’s need to end. Demonizing the other party through name-calling only further entrenches feelings of disdain for the other side. I am sure you understand that nothing is ever accomplished by aimless screams of attack,” Ginty wrote.

Lewin later wrote back to explain, “This is a time when political passions are inflamed, and when I received your unsolicited email, I had just finished reading some newspaper accounts of fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government. I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities. I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times.”

In a later email to the group, Lewin wrote the following:

“I should note that several things in the original message were extremely offensive, nearly rising to the level of obscenity. Despite the Republicans’ general disdain for LGBT rights you called your upcoming event ‘conservative coming out day,’ appropriating the language of the LGBT right movement. Your reference to the Wisconsin protests suggested that they were frivolous attempts to avoid work. And the ‘Animal Rights BBQ’ is extremely insensitive to those who consider animal rights an important cause. Then, in the email that Ms. Ginty sent complaining about my language, she referred to me as Ellen, not Professor Lewin, which is the correct way for a student to address a faculty member, or indeed, for anyone to refer to an adult with whom they are not acquainted. I do apologize for my intemperate language, but the message you all sent out was extremely disturbing and offensive.”

UI President Sally Mason responded in an email to the university community:

“Dear Members of the University Community:

The University of Iowa encourages freedom of expression, opposing viewpoints, and civil debate about those opposing viewpoints. This is clearly articulated in our core values of Diversity and Respect. Because diversity, broadly defined, advances its mission of teaching, research, and service, the University is dedicated to an inclusive community in which people of different cultural, national, individual, and academic backgrounds encounter one another in a spirit of cooperation, openness, and shared appreciation.

The University also strongly encourages student engagement in such discussions and supports students acting on their viewpoints. Student organizations are sometimes formed along political lines and act on their political beliefs. Even if we personally disagree with those viewpoints, we must be respectful of those viewpoints in every way. Intolerant and disrespectful discord is not acceptable behavior.

Sally Mason
President”

The original e-mail from the College Republicans was sent out under the university’s mass email policy, in which campus groups can e-mail all or parts of campus so long as the message is approved by UI Student Services:

From: UI College Republicans

Subject: [NonAcadStudorg] Conservative Coming Out Week

Conservatives in Iowa City it is now time to come out of the closet!

I know at times it feels like you are the only person that disagrees with this liberal town, but you are not alone! We are asking all Republicans, Independents leaning right, or just anyone slightly frustrated with the current one party controlling every level of Johnson County, and some levels of Iowa and U.S. government to STAND UP!

Conservative Coming Out Week will be April 18th – April 22nd. Here is the schedule of events that will be going on throughout the week:

Monday: Whose Conservative Anyway? Guess which athletes, movie stars, and performing artists are Republican. 11-1 on Kautz Plaza off of the T. Anne Cleary Walkway.

Tuesday: Red vs. Blue Blood Drive from 2 to 6pm at the Carnival Room in Burge. Competition between the Republicans and Democrats for a good cause!

-College Republican meeting that night at 8pm in 71 Schaeffer Hall with showing of “Journey’s with George” in honor of President George W. Bush.

Wednesday: Come pick up your Doctors’ Notice to miss class for “sick of being stress”, just like the Wisconsin public employees during the union protests from 11 to 1 on the Pentacrest.

Thursday: Red vs Blue games! Beat the UDems in kickball and flag football from 4-6 in Hubbard Park. Wear your respective political parties color!

Stick around for a Animal Rights BBQ at 6 p.m.

Friday: Wear RED Day! Come out of the closet and show your true colors!

Should be a great week! Lets come out!

April 21, 2011 Posted by | feminism, higher education, sexual politics, Uncategorized, University of Iowa | 1 Comment

Sexual Obsessives and Yale

The Daily Telegraph engages in shoddy journalism when it stated the following about the Yale embroglio-

As the Ivy League alma mater of five U.S. presidents, 18 Nobel laureates and countless captains of industry, Yale has one of the loftiest names in education.

But the $40,000-a-year university has found its reputation being dragged through the mud by a sex scandal that threatens to leave a stain on 300 years of academic excellence.

Oh, please, a stain on 300 years of academic excellence. The antics of some fraternity chaps at Yale has nothing to do with academic excellence. Academic excellence and fraternity mischiefs both have long histories at Yale and I expect at all so-called Ivy League colleges.  They co-exist in their own separate realities.

And as for the Daily Telegraph assertion that there is a sex scandal at Yale, the dankprofessor asks “What sex scandal?”  Filing complaints about frat boy pranks does not make a sex scandal unless one is a sexual obsessive.

April 9, 2011 Posted by | higher education, sexual harassment, sexual politics, United Kingdom, Yale University | 1 Comment

The Yale Ballyhoo

Sexual harassment, so-called hostile environment sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape continue to be conflated as indicated by a the complaint of 16 Yale students to the Dept. Of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (the OCR) and the public responses to said complaint.

As dissident feminist Wendy Kaminer points out the group’s complaint

“reportedly includes testimony about sexual assaults, but the hostile-environment charge against the university rests as well on a litany of complaints about offensive exercises of First Amendment freedoms. A December 2010 draft complaint letter, obtained by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), focuses on these “incidents”: In 2006, a group of frat boys chant “No means yes, yes means anal” outside the Yale Women’s Center. In 2010, a group of fraternity pledges repeat this obnoxious chant outside a first-year women’s dorm. In 2008, pledges surround the Women’s Center holding signs saying, “We love Yale sluts.” In 2009, Yale students publish a report listing the names and addresses of first-year women and estimating the number of beers “it would take to have sex with them.”

It is these public incidents that have engaged the public’s attention and brought forth a condemnation of sexual harassment/assault by Vice President Biden.  But what some call sexual harassment boils down in the dankprofessor terms as obnoxious and offensive behavior.  And the terms used are of import since offensive and obnoxious behavior are constitutionally protected and university sexual harassment codes, particularly of the hostile environment genre, may impinge on constitutionally protected speech.

For example, take the “Yale Sluts” sign which was held up by a group of Zeta Psi Fraternity members in front of the Yale Women’s Center and then the circulation of this imagery in the wider campus community.  In response to this incident the Women’s Center called for “an overhaul of the University’s sexual-harassment and assault education policies, increased regulation of fraternities, disciplinary actions against Zeta Psi members…”  The Center’s board indicated they will continue in their ongoing quest to end the “fraternity-sponsored or enabled sexual harassment, assault and rape” they had observed on campus.

So putting it in rather blunt terms condemning the Zeta Psi actions as offensive is not enough; the problem according to the Women’s Center is that the Zeta Psi members are rape enablers.  And the dankprofessor surmises that those who assert that the actions of the Zeta Psi members are constitutionally protected, they too are at risk of being labeled as rape enablers.

What was and is needed at Yale is some form of conflict resolution between fraternities and women’s organizations.  But based on my information in the three years since the 2008 incident, there has been no communication at Yale between Zeta Psi and organizations such as the Women’s Center.

Name-calling whether it be sluts or rape enablers is puerile.  The basic problem at Yale is one of civility.  The problem of civility will not be ameliorated by taking this situation into an adversarial legal system, and using the media as a means of demonizing  the “other side”.

April 9, 2011 Posted by | civility, feminism, fraternities, higher education, rape, sexual harassment, sexual politics, Uncategorized, Yale University | 3 Comments

Iowa State and student prof sexual relationships

The Smith Report has a pretty good post on student professor sexual relationships with a focus on Iowa State. The article gets the dankprofessor’s seal of approval and this is the first  news from Iowa I have had on this subject which was not University of Iowa based; so there is life in Iowa beyond Iowa City.

April 1, 2011 Posted by | higher education, Iowa State University, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

BYU Violates Honor Code Violator

The only thing Elizabeth Esther gets right in her article, “BYU, It’s Not About Sex It’s About Honor“, occurs when she states “I’m just not a fan of prolonged punishment and public humiliation”.

BYU basketball player Brandon Davies goes to the BYU authorities and tells them in private of his violation of the honor code. Then BYU morally violates him by putting him thru a public degradation ceremony. Such also impacts on his teammates ability to function as a cohesive winning unit.

Why couldn’t BYU wait until the end of the semester to punish Davies? Why did they need to go public? What is not stated in the article is that not only was Davies immediately suspended as a basketball player, but also suspended as a student. The BYU mentality reflects a mob rule mentality. It reflects a mentality of immediate gratification.

BYU acted in a dishonorable manner in the way they treated Brandon Davies who as a student has now learned how a so-called religion treats young adherents who may have strayed from their moral code.

What BYU did to Davies has nothing to do with religious values but rather the values associated with authoritarianism.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Brigham Young University, ethics, higher education, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Hugh Hefner, William Buckley and Roger Ebert

“Hugh Hefner has been good for us’” is the title of a recent article by Roger Ebert on Hugh Hefner.  Obviously, Ebert likes Hefner; he considers Hefner’s Playboy Philosophy to be a major contributing force to sexual liberation in the 60s.  Anchoring Ebert’s analysis is a series of videos on which Hefner is interviewed.  Unquestionably, the most valuable of these videos is from William Buckley’s FIRING LINE  in which Buckley interrogates Hefner on just about all aspects of Hefner’s philosophy.  The kind of interchanges dealing with sexuality between Buckley and Hefner has been a rarity on American television.  Buckley does his best to defend the traditional view that pre-marital sexuality is immoral and unacceptable and that Hefner is in essence perverting/undermining the dominant and only acceptable sexual ethos in America.

From the dankprofessor’s perspective the series of  the five video segments of the Buckley/Hefner interchange provides the viewer with the anti-sexuality background of  our contemporary ethos.  Of course, in the 60s the acceptability of student prof sexual relationships was nil; they were effectively closeted in the context of their being no discussion of the matter and no bureaucratic apparatus designed to repress such relationships and to persecute those who were party to these relationships.  Now that has all changed.  The very survival of universities has been held to be at risk if such relationships flourish; such was similar to the fear that homosexuality if not criminalized would function to destroy society.  Such was also similar to the dynamic of fear that led to the passage of the Mann Act in the United States and the hysteria to save our young women from pre-marital sex and being seduced into prostitution.

Ebert puts the contribution of  Hefner and Playboy in therse terms:

Hefner and Playboy have been around so long that not everyone remembers what America used to be like. It was sexually repressed and socially restrictive. College students were expelled for having sex out of wedlock. Homosexuality and miscegenation were illegal. Freedom of choice was denied. McCarthyism still cast a pall over the freedom of speech. Many people joined in the fight against that unhealthy society. Hefner was one of them, and a case can can be made that Playboy had a greater influence on our society in its first half-century than any other magazine.

Take the time and view the the Buckley/Hefner interchange.  The dankprofessor guarantees you won’t regret doing so.

November 2, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, Hugh Hefner, Roger Ebert, sex, sexual politics, William Buckley | 2 Comments

Lawyers/clients and students/profs similarities?

The focus of the dankprofessor blog is on consensual sexual relationships between students and professors.  Occasionally I look beyond the university to see how consensual relationships are handled in other contexts.  What is presently happening in Texas as regards the client lawyer relationship definitely is of interest.

Attorneys working on behalf of the Texas Supreme Court and State Bar of Texas have proposed the state’s first rule prohibiting lawyers from engaging in sexual relationships with clients.

• Lawyers won’t condition representation on having a client engage in sexual relations.

• Lawyers won’t solicit sex as payment of fees.

• Lawyers won’t have sex with someone the lawyer is personally representing unless the sexual relationship is consensual and began before the attorney-client relationship began or if the attorney and client are married.

Now this looks quite reasonable to the dankprofessor and could possibly represent a viable compromise that could be applied to the student professor situation.  However, I do have a major caveat regarding this proposed policy and that regards the automatic exemption from regulation if the attorney and client are married.  Problem is that marriage in Texas is not open to same sex couples so the policy appears to end up discriminating against gay couples.  I say appears since the policy exempts from regulation couples who had an ongoing relationship prior to the client/attorney relationship.  So the marriage reference could be dropped without reference to marriage.

Even with the aforementioned change, there is a whole array of problems that could come into play.  How does one prove that a sexual relationship occurred prior to the attorney/client relationship?  Might such proof function as an invasion of privacy of the client? Who can initiate said investigation, etc?  I trust that these procedural matters will be discussed as the policy consideration proceeds.

It also should be pointed out that the lawyer/client relationship is more like the psychotherapist/patient relationship than the student professor relationship.  In both of the aforementioned relationships the relationship generally occurs on a one to one basis in a private setting, a setting in which it is of paramount importance that the client be able to be completely open with the lawyer.  Both the patient and the client usually enter the relationship in a situation of high anxiety; both are in a situation of dis-ease. Such is not ordinarily the situation of students taking a class in a public setting in which revelation of personal intimate information is generally not required.

In addition, the client does not become a part of the legal community. The student does become a part of the university community.  And the student is not paired with a particular professor in which the pair is in an adversarial relationship with another professor.

Although there are things we can learn from the Texas proposal, in no way do I want the university campus to become similar to a court room and more similar to the legal profession.  If anything, too many university campuses have become torn asunder under the tutelege of dueling lawyers.


October 4, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | 2 Comments

Schwyzer/Dank interchange

Hugo Schwyzer and myself  have had an interesting interchange on his last posting.   I want to share with my readers one of our last interchanges(I expect there will be more) since this interchange really gets down to some basic issues.   I also would like to note that Professor Schwyzer is one of the very few academics who engages this issue in an open and dispassionate manner.   Bravo to him!

SCHWYZER writes-

As my regular readers know, Barry, I’ve written a bit about student attraction to professors. (I have an archive called student crushes, and I stand by that term, though I know your problems with it.) Many of the women with whom I had unethical, albeit “consensual” professor-student relationships made their attraction very clear to me. I took advantage of that attraction, but that doesn’t render me any less culpable. Lots of folks get mad crushes on their therapists, but we know what that is, and have a good term for it: transference. And you know what, Barry? I haven’t been at this gig as long as you, but I have been teaching for nearly twenty years and have taught well over 10,000 studnets — and I am convinced to my core that most of the attraction to me was basic transference. It wasn’t about me, it was about where that young student was in her process. What got me voted America’s hottest professor in 2008 was less about my looks (I’m not hideous, but I’m no model) but a teaching style that struck a chord with certain students. That some of them sexualized or romanticized that chord was a normal part of their developmental process. It was not an invitation to fuck them.

As I wrote a long time ago:

we don’t just get crushes on people whom we want, we get crushes on people whom we want to be like! Students don’t get crushes on me because they want to go to bed with me or be my girlfriend or boyfriend; they get crushes on me because I’ve got a quality that they want to bring out in themselves. They’re externalizing all of their hopes for themselves. And rather than encourage the crush to feed my ego, my job is to turn the focus back on to the student, encouraging him or her to take their new-found curiosity or enthusiasm or passion and use it, run with it, indulge it, let it take them places!

DANK responds-

I have no reason to doubt the honesty of your analysis of the transference process as to how it applied to some of your students and how it may have facilitated a sexual relationship with some of your students. Of course, as you point out apparently all of your students were young and such should not be surprising since you teach at a two year college which predominantly attracts young students. However, the problem becomes applying this to students and professors in general. You very well know that the genre of policies you advocate apply to middle age graduate students as well as to young professors. I am sure you know that “your” policies apply to student teaching assistants who may end up dating students where there is hardly any age difference. And, in my case, my wife who I met when she was a student has always been two years older than myself. I resent the implication that we should have been barred from dating because of some transference process or because someone may feel offended by such a relationships. Your insistence of using the term “crush” strongly implies that you do not take any of these relationships seriously. Can’t you accept the fact some student prof couples experience “authentic” love, not just a passing crush? Can’t you accept the possibility that some marry and have children and some of these children may end up in your classes as you lecture on how the student was a product of a crush, etc. etc. Do you ever give consideration to said possibility? Have you ever considered the possibility that I myself MAY have been the offspring of a student professor couple.

If your analysis has relevance to some student and professor couples and I believe it does, it also has relevance to non-student and non-professor relationships, to many people from various walks of life.
The social psychological dynamics leading to coupled relationships are a varicolored thing, but whatever the dynamic such does not justify the banning of psychologically “unacceptable” relationships.
At least it does not justify it in a free society, in a totalitarian society, yes; in a Big Brother society yes, but not here. Unfortunately, many of our values relating to freedom and civil liberties have historically been thrown out of the window in regards to sex because our society has been saturated with anti-sexual perspectives. It is hard to get beyond said perspectives. Supporting anti-sexual values has been the ability to control and coerce others who may give sexual offense. My problem with you, Hugo, is not your willingness to engage people on vital educational and sexual issues, but your willingness to coerce others who deviate from your or societal sexual norms. Sexually consenting adult couples should never be coerced or persecuted or prosecuted

October 1, 2010 Posted by | sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Hugo Schwyzer and the sin of coercion

OK, I will begin my reply post to Hugo Schwyzer’s response to me by picking a bone with him as to how he presents me. He indicates that at Cal State Long Beach I had built a name for myself “as a consistent (some would say relentless) advocate for legitimizing sexual relationships between teachers and students”.  If the good professor had done his homework on me, he would have known that I built a name for myself in the area of legitimizing sexual relationships starting in the late 1960s when I relentlessly opposed discrimination against gays, wrote “Coming Out in the Gay World” which came to be regarded as a classic article in the sociology of homosexuality, created the first officially recognized undergraduate course on homosexuality in 1969, and worked to help create the first officially recognized GSU in California at CSULB and last but not least I wrote an article against Anita Bryant and her campaign against homosexuality which was reprinted throughout the United States and helped to defeat the Briggs initiative in 1977, and led to numerous threats against my life, see that article by clicking here.  Post my involvement in the gay rights campaign, I became involved in issues regarding interracial dating and marriage and helped to found the Interrace Association at CSULB.

So prior to my getting involved in the student professor issue I had an extensive background regarding transcending sexual boundaries, standing up for sexual freedom and consent.  In this area I was relentless and remain relentless.  Such relentlessness was not stifled by the small mindedness of too many of my opponents and their attempts to objectify and demonize me. For example, Schwyzer states that I celebrate student professor sexual relationships.  I do not celebrate any form of consensual sexuality.  What I celebrate is the right of consenting adults to engage in sexual fraternization no matter how offensive such fraternization is held to be by others.  What offends me are those who engage in coercion of consenting others who happen to violate their sexual “ethic”.

And as for Schwyzer not being able to see the similarities in the dynamics of those opposing interracial relationships and those opposing student professor relationships, I suggest that he is suffering from a form of cultural blindness.  I suggest that he read Lillian Smith’s book KILLERS OF THE DREAM and then he may understand the southern “ethic” that embraced the notion that a white woman/black man relationship can never be consensual, such always precluded consent, that such always represented rape, and that white men were protective of “their” white women who could not consent for themselves and were in essence children or childlike. Of course, any dissident black man faced a sentence of death via hanging and/or burning for the sin of loving the wrong person.  Of course, today’s sexual dissidents who engage in academia’s love that dare not speak its name do not face being physically killed but rather being socially and psychologically exiled from academia since they have violated the sacred principle of “differential power precludes consent”.  Safer for them to remain in the closet which has historically been the home of the sexually persecuted or those in support of the sexually persecuted.

In response to me, Schwyzer states-

I’m not incapable of drawing distinctions between behavior which is criminal and behavior which is merely unethical. But I also think that folks like Dank fail to recognize three things:

1. College students in their late teens and early twenties are still developing intellectually and emotionally, as this New York Times Magazine article made clear recently. Many young people are in a space between, as the old saying goes, “the Already and the Not Yet.” They are already legal adults and are in many ways fully responsible, but in other key ways continue to need more time to develop the complete capacity for impulse control and moral reasoning. As the Times article put it, the only ones who “got it right” about how long it takes young people to grow up are the car-rental companies, who often refuse to rent their vehicles to drivers under the age of twenty-five. While nineteen year-olds may be ready for sexual relationships with their peers, they are vulnerable to exploitation (whatever protestations may be made to the contrary) by those who are substantially older.

Schwyzer continues to focus on students as young people, apparently teens or just post teenager.  Such reflects Schwyzer’s hangups or possibly his complete immersion in the world of PCC.  To assume that university students are young and immature is absurd.

To assume that being young reflects immaturity is absurd.  To assume that being old reflects maturity is absurd.  To assume nothing and treat and respect the individuality of the other is not absurd. Such reflects in Buberian terms the willingness to employ an I-thou framework.  Schwyzer employs an I-it framework which makes coercing others so much easier.

Then comes his point 2-

2. The power imbalance between a professor and a student, regardless of the latter’s age, makes it impossible for the student to give consent as long as the professor is in a position to evaluate (or recommend) him or her. You can’t trust a “yes” unless the person who says the “yes” also feels free to say “no” in the confidence that there will be no deleterious consequences. And as long as a student is in any position to be evaluated professionally by their professor/lover, they can’t have that knowledge that a “no” will be safe. That’s not infantilizing; that’s common sense.

Here he states it really is not about age, but about power imbalance in general. He holds it axiomatic that students cannot give consent (such assumes of course that the student is not the initiator and the professor is the one consenting).  Such represents the end point of his argument- students cannot consent so we will not allow the student to be in such a position. What he fails to note is that now he and his chosen colleagues are now in the power position and they have taken away the ability to consent of both students and professors. Both students and professors must consent to the will of the all powerful bureaucrat.  Schwyzer and his confereres end up calling for what all authoritarians call for- OBEDIENCE, obedience to them.  And as for his comments about possible deleterious consequences, freedom always represents the possibility of deleterious consequences; lack of freedom always represents the reality of deleterious consequences.

And now to his third point-

3. The damage that professor-student sexual relationships do to the broader academic community is enormous. I’ve written that some of the students with whom I had sexual relationships remembered what we shared fondly; otherssuffered lasting negative consequences for which I take full responsibility and a profound sense of guilt. But leaving aside the essential question of the impact of these relationships on young women’s lives, I can say with certainty that these affairs are impossible to keep secret. Campus gossip made them widely known. Not only was I labeled a lecher, but the legitimacy of the entire college was in some sense compromised. I’ll never know how many young people grew a bit more cynical, a bit less trustful of the system, a bit more suspicious of older men as a result of my sadly well-deserved reputation in the mid-to-late 1990s on this campus.

Is Schwyzer referring to PCC here being damaged in some way by his relationships with young women?  I speculate that he is projecting his own sense of damage and guilt on to the wider academic community.  He is seeing his campus world thru his guilt tinged lenses.  He ends up dealing with his guilt by coercing others to be “better” than he was; he ends up being an authoritarian do-gooder.  And as for campus gossip, my advice to him is to just get beyond the rumor mongers; do what you consider to be right and don’t focus on the opinions of others.  And, of course, it will often be the case that no matter what one does, one can end up becoming rumor subject matter.

As for recommended pieces regarding this issue, he neglects the most powerful published essay written by then graduate student Cristina Nehring. You can find it on my blog, of course.  I can’t reprint the whole article, but I have reprinted enough to capture the essence of her argument, and do read the recent student comments on this posting.  Of course, you can read a couple of my pieces by clicking here and here as well as reading SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND CONSENT which I co-edited. Daphne Patai’s book although somewhat tangential gives a pretty good portrait of how campuses are becoming less free. And, of course, anything written by Dick Skeen, material based on his doctoral dissertation, should be required reading.

And I bemoan the loss of community on too many campuses.  The implementation of these fraternization rules make informal interaction between students and professors problematic.  Fear too often now structures student professor interaction; fear that there may be a sexual imputation.  Schwyzer never mentions this; never mentions that many campus regulations prohibit both sexual OR amorous relationships.  On a personal note, I became a professor already a part of academic life since I had married a professor’s daughter and took for granted the camaraderie, the informality that was a part of the community of learners, no matter what the age.  It’s basically gone now; replaced by an impersonal bureaucracy, paid bureaucrats making sure things are under control which de facto means keeping things in the closet.

I also want to make clear that I do not condemn or disrespect Schwyzer for his attempt to come to terms with his past sexuality.  His guilt feelings I do not doubt are real; his need for redemption is real. What I question that in his need for redemption or expiation he ends up advocating the coercing of others for engaging in consensual sex he disapproves of.  In the dankprofessor’s framework he commits the sin of coercion which represents his own unacknowledged arrogance.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, Daphne Patai, ethics, fear, fraternization, gay rights, higher education, Pasadena City College, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 25 Comments

Crushing student crushes

Hugo Schwyzer, a Pasadena City College professor, blogs on educational issues and at times on matters relating to student prof consenting sexual relationships.  He strongly disapproves of these relationships, and has expressed his strong disapproval of my writings on the subject.  He indicates in his last post and in his other posts on this subject that in the 1990s when he was single he engaged in a number of sexual relationships with students.  But now such relationships are in the past since presently he is married.  To a cynical  outsider, it may appear that Schwyzer engages in an ethic of convenience- when single it was OK for him to find partners who were students, but now that he is married he disapproves of such relationships.  Of course, such a cynical view also reflects a basic sociological tenet- ones attitudes change as a function of changes in ones social positions.

Schwyzer’s change in his attitudes and behavior in regards to student prof sex would have been of no importance to me except for the fact that he uses his past experience in part as a rationale for coercing students and professors in matters relating to their sexual behavior.  Schwyzer admits to having done the wrong thing when he slept with some of his students.

He feels guilt about the errors of his past ways.  Given his past wrongdoings, he wants to redeem himself.  He states:

“Part of my own redemptive work was to chair a committee to write a policy for Pasadena City College on consensual relationships, a policy that was not in place during the years in which I was conducting a series of these affairs.”

So in order for him to feel good about himself, he is willing to take away the rights of others to engage in mutual date/mate selection where the dyadic relationship is student/professor.

Or to make this matter more personal for me, he would have supported policies that would have barred my dating/mating with my wife to be in the 1990s.  Why? To relieve his sense of guilt.  To stop students from acting on their crushes for particular profs.  Crushes are his words.  Its always student crushes, never professor crushes; he sees profs as falling in love. Profs don’t have crushes since profs are not children.  For Schwyzer, students have crushes since students are de facto children.  They are not yet grownups who can experience a mature love.  Or translated- they have not yet graduated; once they graduate then they are adults. Reminds me of the old idea that a girl cannot become a woman, remains a girl or a child until she married.

Schwyzer states-

If we’re doing our job right, we have the power to change the way a student thinks about himself or herself. At our best, those of us who love to teach are practiced seducers, Casanovas of the classroom. But my agenda isn’t about sexual conquest, it’s about creating an interest and a passion where none previously existed. It’s about getting students to want something they didn’t know they wanted! Though some students may sexualize their crushes, what they really want is to continue to feel the way you make them feel: excited, energized, provoked, challenged.

The key is to remember that old mantra of youth workers everywhere: “affirm, and re-direct.” Though it is surely almost always best for a faculty member not to name out loud his or her responses to a student, it is the job of teachers to say to themselves: “These feelings I have are normal, and quite understandable, and not bad at all. But desire is not an irresistible predicate to action, and while I affirm that there may be ’something here’, I’m going to take the responsibility to re-direct all of that intoxicatiing intellectual/sexual energy on to the work itself.”

When a student has a crush on a teacher or mentor, it’s the job of that prof to “affirm and re-direct.” The affirmation doesn’t have to be as obvious as calling the student out on the crush, unless the student has already confessed it. The key is avoiding three “wrong” responses: shaming or belittling the student, withdrawing from one’s mentoring role, or engaging in amorous relations. Each of these responses represents a different sort of betrayal, and a sensible teacher ought to avoid them all…

Advise and redirect reminds me of the “advice” of the elders of bygone days- to go take a cold shower, to deal with your needs in a solitary manner.  Or going back a 100 years or so, children were coerced via having their hands forcibly tied at night.  Crushes were obliterated by crushing children and others who had sexual desires.  Oppression and repression were the traditional ways of dealing with those who deviated from sexual norms in an anti-sexual society.

And being anti-sexual is what Schwyer is ultimately “all about”.  He often dresses up his rhetoric in a garb of maturity, responsibility and self-control.  But his bottom line is the same as all the others who are at the core anti-sexual- coercion.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | corporate dating bans, ethics, higher education, Pasadena City College, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 3 Comments

Lisa Chavez and the UNM Non-Creative Writing Program

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

Amy Letter’s states-

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

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

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

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

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

Letters continues

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

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

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

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

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

The God Of Normal and the university

Ken Mondschein in his blog posting, Queer in the Academy; how the tenure process stifles difference, gets it right as to the stultifying nature of contemporary academic life.

He states-

Academia embodies a paradox: We’re allegedly open to all sorts of new ideas, tolerant of differences, rabid about social justice, have made the embrace diversity all but mandatory, and are willing to discuss any sort of crazy theory. At the same time, we’re buttoned-up personalities in button-down shirts who are afraid to push the bounds of politically correct groupthink and who enforce bureaucratic school policies and an unwritten code of “professionalism” with tongues well-versed in euphemism. Both of these are, of course, stereotypes, but they’re stereotypes with roots in reality.

They are well rooted in reality; it is the reality I experienced for most of my 35 years as a prof.  I was fortunate to get tenure in 1976 before the conformity mindset had taken root.  No matter that I was a dissident professor before I received tenure said dissidence was of no relevance to my tenuring.  But by the 1990s all this had change, deviations of any sort, particularly of a sexual nature, were no longer tolerated.  The faculty mantra was to get Dank, to shut him up, but it was too late.  It didn’t matter that I was disliked by a number of my colleagues, I took academic freedom seriously and being liked or disliked was simply not germane to my academic life.

Mondschein continues-

Nowhere is this cognitive dissonance more manifest than in academics’ personal lives. We can study the rebels of history, but God forbid we try to épater le bourgeois ourselves. Those who wish to snatch the golden ring of tenure must self-censor every e-mail, hide behind pseudonyms on discussion boards, and make sure no incriminating photos of Happy Hour get posted on Facebook. This has only grown worse in recent years: In a tight job market and with the increasing insistence of running the Academy like a business, the pressure to be a perfect employee and to have no life outside of one’s research and teaching (save, perhaps, for some safe and non-threatening form of exercise such as jogging or swimming) is all-consuming.

In short, our lifestyles have become so self-regulated, difference has become so closeted, that our actual code of conduct embodies the exact opposite of what it professes. Tolerance is nonexistent: To be “queer” in academia is to be as damned as it was in pre-Stonewall days. The thing is, queerness is, as always, a moving target.

How tragic the closet remains a refuge for those deviate from the sexual norm.  The God of Normal must be obeyed and worshipped.

So who is queer these days? For starters, women with children. In researching this piece, I received a few e-mails from people who had to hide their gay BDSM lifestyles from their colleagues. However, it was pointed out to me that the real sexual nonconformists in academia are those considered some of the most normal in the real world: reproductive females. I was pointed to one study of art historians that revealed that, even with a field that is overwhelmingly (70%) female, men—especially married men with children—were granted tenure faster and more consistently, and at more prestigious institutions. For a woman to achieve on the level of a man, she needs to be, effectively, a female eunuch. This reflects both that two-career couples are likely to de-prioritize the woman’s career—and that home and childcare are more likely to fall to the woman, to the detriment of their careers. Even in the purportedly feminist academy, it seems de facto gender roles are alive and well.

How does this work? To get Foucaultian, the tenure carrot is used to discipline the academic body. “In my experience, thus far, the body and the person and the disciplines of both are opened up for commentary by senior faculty under the rubric of ‘tenure’,” an assistant professor in a Midwestern university posted on the H-HISTSEX discussion network. “If you want tenure you should think about such-and-such; you should be careful about so-and-so if you want tenure.”

No, the ones who are consciously or unconsciously holding up the married, heterosexual, tweed-jacketed male as the gold standard are our senior department members—those who make the hiring and promotion decisions—and the rest of our colleagues in our fields of study. (And how did the generation that first marched for equality get so conservative?) The mold of “the way an academic should be” is nothing more than something in their heads—a self-perpetuating myth that forces us into untenable hypocrisy. Rather than perpetuating it, we must do what scholars have done throughout the ages: Examine our deeply held and unquestioned beliefs, and discard those that are badly founded.

While it is true that we, as a society, are growing more alienated from any ideology of authenticity, authenticity in the existential sense is an integral part of the academic mission to search for truth. It is no easy thing to adjust one’s gaze so that a woman is given the luxury of not having to choose between her child and her career, and so that being one’s authentic self (within the limits of professionalism and ethical conduct) is not an object of shame. However, it is a moral imperative.

Oh, yes authenticity is the bottom line here. The inauthentic are rewarded and the authentic are exiled. Authenticity between professors and even moreso between professors and students has no place in the academy. Love has no place in the academy.  Of course, the love of learning is given lip service by the powers that be.  But what is given no lip service is authentic love between a professor and a student.  Such can be given no lip service since these relationships are officially held to be non-authentic, are viewed as being unacceptably asymmetric and regarded as a form of abuse.  Condemnation is not simply reserved for those who may engage in such relationships but also for those who write of professor student relationships in a non-condemning manner.

The one failing of Mondschein’s posting is his failure to recognize that student professor intimate relationships are now the love dare not speaks its name in all North American universities.  They have been effectively put in the closet as evidenced by Mondschien’s inability to see them, to write about them; they are simply beyond the fringe, an utter affront to the God of Normality.

August 26, 2010 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, gender, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, tenure | 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

College sexual code enforcer charged with distributing child pornography

At times the dankprofessor has speculated about the mentality of campus administrators who apply campus policies which ban student professor consensual sexual relationships.  Might such persons be conflicted about their  invasion of the private lives of consenting adults?  Or do these persons tend to be moral zealots who gain some sort of gratification by abusing less powerful others? Whatever the dynamic may be, no one, other than myself, seems to be interested in the enforcers of the university sexual codes.

But there may now be a change as a result of developments at a Canadian college, Lethbridge College.  I have previously blogged on Lethbridge concerning the situation of psychology professor Gregory Bird who was suspended by Lethbridge for engaging in consensual sexual relationships with students.  Professor Bird successfully fought the suspension and was reinstated after he successfully argued that Lethbridge did not have any rules which bar student prof fraternization.  Of course, the Lethbridge administration did not like this arbitration imposed reinstatement.

Rick Buis, the college’s vice-president of corporate and international relations, said on Thursday the arbitrators were correct in finding the college had no specific policy prohibiting student/teacher relationships.

But he said psychology instructor Greg Bird should have known better.

“We don’t have policies stating ‘Thou shalt not steal’ or ‘Thou shalt not fight with fellow employees in the cafeteria,’ ” Buis said. “We think, ‘Thou shalt not sleep with students’ is equally obvious.”

But what Buis does not state as being obvious is that Lethbridge administrators shalt not distribute child pornography.  Now here is the news story about Lethridge’s sexual code enforcer.

A former vice-president of Lethbridge College is accused of possessing and sharing sexually explicit online movies involving pre-teen children while he was employed by the college. Richard Buis, 64, turned himself in to Lethbridge regional police Thursday morning before making a brief appearance in provincial court to answer to charges of possessing, accessing and distributing child pornography. He was charged this week following a three-month investigation by the province’s Integrated Child Exploitation (ICE) unit and Lethbridge regional police.
Police were tipped off this spring by a person “very close” to the accused who came across evidence and put themselves in some personal danger to report it to police, said Staff Sgt. Scott Chadsey, head of the regional police major crimes section.

Buis resigned April 9 from his position as the college’s vice-president of corporate and international services, citing personal reasons at the time. He had been working under contract since formally retiring from the college two years earlier after a 20-year career with the institution. His contract term was scheduled to end June 30.

Buis also resigned this past spring as president of the Lethbridge Exhibition board with about eight months remaining in his two-year term.
Police allege that between 2008-2010, the accused man downloaded and accessed video files at his home depicting children between the ages of seven and 12 engaged in sexual acts and that he made the files available to others.
“There were three laptops seized, all belonging to the accused,” said Const. Keon Woronuk, a local officer assigned to the province’s southern ICE unit.
“They were owned by the college, but they were seized from his home,” he said, adding police found no evidence any of the alleged offences took place on the college campus.
Forensic examination of the computers, he said, revealed evidence of online file sharing by downloading or making material available to others via the Internet.
Looking tired and haggard, Buis appeared in Lethbridge provincial court Thursday and stood briefly in the prisoner’s dock while Crown prosecutor Vaughan Hartigan outlined conditions of his release.
Buis was told he is not allowed use a computer or any electronic device capable of accessing the Internet, and he can’t visit any business, such as a cyber cafe, which provides customers with Internet access. The accused is also prohibited from having any contact with anyone under the age of 18 unless accompanied by an adult who knows of the charges, and he cannot go to swimming pools, playgrounds, parks or anywhere children under the age of 16 may congregate.
The release order also limits his options for employment. Buis can’t work anywhere or volunteer in any capacity in which he would be entrusted with a child under the age of 16. He must also submit to police searches without the necessity of a search warrant, report to local police as directed, keep the peace, and attend court as required.
In another matter, Buis was in court last month on a single charge of assault, but it was withdrawn after he agreed to comply with a peace bond, under which he must keep the peace, report regularly to a peace officer, and attend counselling for issues of domestic violence.
Buis’ next court appearance on the child pornography charges is scheduled for Aug. 12.
College President Tracy Edwards is away in Eastern Canada and wasn’t available for comment, but in an email sent to college faculty and staff Thursday morning, she described news of the charges against Buis as “disturbing and regrettable.”

Disturbing and regrettable, to say the least.  Unfortunately President Edwards was not disturbed at all when Prof Bird was suspended for consensual relationships with adult students. VP Buis was his primary agent for enforcing his moral sexual codes.  Of course, it comes down to the same old question- who will protect us from our so-called protectors?  And the bottom line at universities and beyond should be that consenting adults should not be subjected to any protectors of any kind; those who put themselves in the postion of their protectors are always engaging in a form of abuse.

July 12, 2010 Posted by | child pornography, consensual relationships, Lethbridge College, pornography, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating | 1 Comment

Can a student and a professor fall in love?

Vancouver Island University has come up with a new twist on policies in regards to student professor sexual relationships.  As part of their statement on consensual relationships between students and profs, they have a sort of FAQ and they address the question- “Can’t a student and faculty member fall in love?”

Now it is addressing  the process of falling in love that the dankprofessor finds to be exceptional in this context.  Understandably,  bureaucrats, university or otherwise, would seem the least likely to be concerned with falling in love or being swept away or love at first sight. Of course, the bureaucratization of love would seem to me to be the ultimate oxymoron.

So following is the VIU response to “Can’t a student and faculty member fall in love?”  The VIU statement is highlighted and it interspersed with comments from the dankprofessor.

Yes, of course, that can occur. Many of our students are of similar age and experience to our faculty and, except for the circumstance of the employee/student relationship, could be considered very appropriate matches

Hold on for a moment; the question was can they fall in love, not whether such falling is appropriate.  In any case, for VIU, falling in love can appropriately occur if people are of the same age and experience.

Such is a rather narrow definition, is it not?  In fact, VIU tells me that my parents could not have appropriately fell in love since my father was 20 years older than my mother.  For VIU when does an age difference become too much of an age difference.  Now their similar experience thing opens up a Pandora’s box.  I guess that people of dissimilar national, ethnic and racial experiences are just not eligible for falling in love with each other.  And I expect that the highly educated and the not so highly educated are also ineligible for falling in love with each other, and so on and so on, no fraternizing with people from the wrong side of the tracks.  Just stick to your own kind!  And, of course, it would be unthinkable, unmentionable, for an administrator to fall in love with a student!

Often students and employees will share the same interests and the learning environment can encourage close collaboration and interpersonal support. However, the faculty member must remember that it is their responsibility to maintain appropriate boundaries with a student. There is no way to check out whether an attraction is mutual without crossing that professional boundary with a student.

OK, I get it, it appears OK for the faculty member to develop a crush on a student, have feelings of love toward a particular student.  But checking this out with the student in terms of finding out if it is mutual would not facilitate the maintenance of appropriate boundaries.  So confessions or professions of love to the student are simply out of line. But, I guess it would be OK to direct ones feelings of love into other creative enterprises such as writing love poems and songs of love as long as any particular student is not known as the subject of such artistry.  Of course, the VIU statement does not preclude the student from professing love for the prof.  If such becomes the case, I guess VIU would expect the professor to tell him or her that you are violating my boundaries and to please stop!

It is recommended that any employee who wishes to initiate a sexual relationship with a student wait until the institutional relationship has ended before taking any steps.

OK, now VIU has dropped the love thing and deals with not initiating a sexual relationship.  Wait to the institutional relationship has ended they state.  But for some of those adhering to VIU waiting rules, the long wait could very well lead to the waiting prof having a mental breakdown and end up being institutionalized.  Or just when the prof thinks it is now safe to approach ones love object, the prof now finds that he is two months too late and the student has accepted the hand of another, and the other being another professor.  Or after a four year wait and love now just around the corner, the prof finds out that the student has re-enrolled for another degree program. But there is more from VIU on this.

Making a practice of initiating sexual relationships with former students, however, would also be problematic. It could be understandable that a faculty member “falls in love” with a student once. It is not understandable or acceptable for a faculty member to “fall in love” with students and to initiate relationships with former students, on a routine basis. In those circumstances, a decision-maker would question whether the faculty member was exploiting their professional role to enhance their personal and social life.

So after the four year wait and now the student is a former student, the prof in VIU terms is still not on safe ground as to dating students since VIU finds dating former students to be “problematic”.  Given VIU standards, it is acceptable for them to “fall in love” with a student once, but not more than once.  If love with the student goes astray or leads to love and then divorce, then the professor should have learned his or her lesson and just give up on falling in love with students. As VIU states, such is simply not understandable.

Well, the dankprofessor will help out the VIU administration just a little bit.  Just because a prof asks out a student does not mean that the prof is in love with the student or the student with the prof.  Most dates end up being just another date.  One generally does not instantly meet the right one.  And if the pool of nearby eligibles for dating happens to be mainly former students, it is the most “natural” thing in the world to end up dating and possibly mating with a former student.  And the VIU administration engages in gross stereotyping when they refer to only the profs initiating. Are they not aware that students, and more specifically female students are quite capable of initiating and do initiate?

And finally in their last sentence it becomes quite revealing of who are these VIU people- “In those circumstances, a decision-maker would question whether the faculty member was exploiting their professional role to enhance their personal and social life”.  The revelation is that the VIU administrators are the decision-makers, not the professors and certainly not the students.  In the VIU world view, the administrators are the adults who make decisions as to what is best for their children- their profs and their students. This is authoritarianism and arrogance at its worse.  Or to put it in still other terms, VIU administrators are the VIPS who must control the behavior of the peasantry.

Now as for faculty members using their professional role to enhance their personal and social life.  Is not such the norm in social life,  that people use their professional role to enhance their personal and social life?  Even university administrators do this, even presidents, priests, parents, prophets and politicians do this, even Lithuanians and Latvians do it. We all do it!

Shame on VIU for lending their so called good name to this dribble. Such has no place in university life.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | 3 Comments

Marquette goes homophobic on dean hiring.

Following my commentary is an ABC NEWS report on Marquette University’s rescinding of a job offer as dean of their College of Arts and Sciences to Jodi O’Brien who had been Chair of the Seattle University’s sociology department.  Both Seattle and Marquette are Jesuit universities.  Their similarity in being Jesuit colleges apparently is in name only since Marquette’s reneging on O’Brien as Dean lacks any ethical underpinning.

The underpinning of their reneging relates to the fact the O’Brien is lesbian, and she is a lesbian who is not in the closet. Her sexual preference was known to Marquette from the getgo.  And O’Brien was not being hired as a lesbian; she was being hired as an outstanding scholar and an outstanding academic leader.   I know that such is the case for Jodi since I have been a long term admirer of her scholarship and her leadership as President of the Pacific Sociological Association.  And I also know that she helped to create a damn fine sociology department at Seattle.

Marquette denys firing O’Brien because she is gay-

“Officials at Marquette have said they withdrew the offer not because O’Brien was openly gay, but because of the nature of her published vignettes on lesbian sex and same-sex marriage”.

But apparently Marquette has not revealed which passages of her work they found lacking and why such was found to be lacking.   Professional etiquette would have been to bring up said work while Professor O’Brien was at Marquette and going thru their evaluating/vetting process.  Given that such did not occur and given that they now had some reservations about her published work, they could have had her return to campus and in person shared their concerns with her and given her a chance to respond, but such was not the case, no professional courtesies extended in the context of their unprofessional treatment of her.

The dankprofessor has no doubt that Maquette’s backtracking on the hiring of Professor O’Brien as based on her being lesbian.  They did a hatchet job on her.   If they so choose, members of hiring committees and academic administrators can find something or other in any applicant’s writing that they find to be questionable, and use as a basis to justify for not hiring while at the same time attempting to keep in the closet the real reasons for their decision.

I say to the Marquette administration- Shame on you for this outrageous decision.   I say to Seattle U, bravo for the support shown to Jodi O’Brien during this very difficult time for her.  And I say to Jodi that I hope this ultimately works out best for her, and that Seattle trumps Milwaukee as a place to live on just about every possible criterion.

Here’s the ABC News article-

A lesbian sociologist with sterling credentials and countless scholarly works is at the center of a social justice struggle that is playing out at two Catholic universities — one from the liberal Northwest and the other anchored in the conservative heartland.

Jodi O’Brien, a highly respected and openly gay professor at Seattle University, was appointed dean of the college of arts and sciences at Milwaukee’s Marquette University in April, but then on May 2, the offer was rescinded, in part, because of some of her academic writings were at odds with the church.

“I was stunned,” O’Brien, 50, said at the time in the Seattle University Spectator. “I had no idea this was in the works.”

The controversy has brought into sharp relief two Jesuit schools, 2000 miles apart, one where gay students and faculty feel accepted and the other where despite efforts, some students and faculty say anti-gay attitudes still prevail.

Monday, dozens of faculty from both Jesuit universities took out a full page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, protesting Marquette’s decision to withdraw O’Brien’s appointment based on her sexual orientation.

They called on administrators to offer her the job again with an apology and condemned the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and “other outside influences” in the decision.

The reversal “puts academic freedom at risk at Marquette University,” said the ad. “We reject an intellectual ‘litmus test’ for our faculty, staff, and leaders in the administration.”

“We believe this action has caused significant harm to the reputation of Marquette University,” the statement said. “It threatens our credibility and integrity as a university. It has caused suffering among students, alumni, staff, and faculty, and it will cost Marquette considerably in terms of community relationships, research, and recruiting and retaining students and faculty.”

Officials at Marquette have said they withdrew the offer not because O’Brien was openly gay, but because of the nature of her published vignettes on lesbian sex and same-sex marriage.

O’Brien, who just ended her tenure as chair of Seattle’s sociology department and is not a Catholic, told ABCNews.com that she is no longer granting interviews.

“I have not yet had an official conversation with Seattle University about returning, but colleagues and administrators there have been very gracious and supportive during this time,” she said.

Kathleen La Voy, who worked with O’Brien for 15 years and who wrote her recommendation for the Marquette job, said she was “amazed” at the appointment reversal.

“Jodi has always embraced Catholic values,” said La Voy, chairman of the psychology department and associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at Seattle. “She has upheld the values of the church on a personal level and is able to honor what a Catholic believes.”

“She is great working with people, a great advocate for students and a fair-handed and outstanding administrator,” said La Voy, who signed the protest ad.

Earlier this month, about 100 students protested the action, carrying signs demanding an official four-pronged apology: to O’Brien, to the search committee, and to the Marquette and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] communities.

“We just had a meeting with the president and there’s no apology yet,” said Desiree Valentine, 22, who graduated on Sunday and was part of the protest.

Marquette Not so Welcoming for LGBT Students

“I wouldn’t say this is a comfortable place on the whole for LGBT students,” said Valentine, a gender studies major who was told she could not bring a transgender speaker to campus.

“I feel like the people on campus are very supportive,” she said, “but it gets more difficult on an institutional level.”

“Marquette was moving in the right direction in the area of diversity, especially LGBT issues, but when this broke, it was a huge set back,” said Valentine. “I appreciate my Jesuit education, but my great love comes with great disappointment.”

O’Brien was hired by Seattle in 1995 to teach sociology, anthropology and women’s studies. Since 2002, she has been chair of its sociology department.

According to an interview with The Advocate, O’Brien said Marquette had recruited her in 2008 and after she made the short list, she withdrew her name. Again in 2009, she was a finalist and accepted the post in mid-April.

The Rev. Robert A. Wild said the school changed its mind about O’Brien after reading a sociological study of lesbian sex she wrote.

“We found some strongly negative statements about marriage and family,” he told The New York Times.

Julie Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said Archbishop Jerome Listecki had been “very vocal” and “transparent” in discussions with Wild, but does not interfere with hiring at Marquette, which is under the Jesuit Order.

His objections “had nothing to do with her sexuality,” said Wolf. “It was some of her writings.”

Marquette spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfiel referred press to a prepared statement that said the university “remains steadfast in its opposition to any and all forms of discrimination, as reflected in our Statement on Human Dignity and Diversity. In rescinding the employment offer to a recent candidate, the university was aware that there would be those who opposed the decision, and Marquette President Robert A. Wild, S.J., has acknowledged that the search process requires review.

“This was a substantive decision, even if a difficult one, that Father Wild made based on what he believes to be in the best interests of Marquette University and its mission of excellence, faith, leadership and service. It was certainly not a decision based on fear, outside pressure or, as has unfortunately been alleged, on discrimination because of sexual orientation. Nor does this decision challenge a faculty member’s right to academic freedom.”

Some community members had suggested that there may have been interference from other conservative decision makers at the school.

“We hear opinions and viewpoints from multiple people and from various constituencies,” said Pfiel, who said although the university was autonomous when it comes to hiring faculty, O’Brien was a “leadership hire.”

Marquette has also pledged to have an “ongoing dialogue next year with students, faculty and staff about academic freedom, our Catholic identity and the needs of the LGBT community.”

Pfiel said the university was a “welcoming community,” but some faculty and students said that was not the case.

“It’s OK,” said Nancy Snow, 51, who is a professor of psychology and one of about five gay faculty members on campus. She was asked to show O’Brien and her partner around the campus in mid-April before the offer was rescinded.

Snow called the university’s reversal, “a public disgrace and an embarrassment.” She said Marquette officials were “absolutely” aware that O’Brien was gay.

“[O'Brien] was very distinguished, a full professor with an 11-page CV and 17 edited books,” said Snow. “She is an amazing scholar and highly qualified.”

Anti-Gay Remarks at Marquette

“I think the [atmosphere] here is still kind of uncomfortable,” said Snow, though she said attitudes toward gays had improved in her 20 years at the university.

“There is a gay-straight alliance, but there are still problems with students being disrespectful and making offensive comments like, ‘That’s so gay,’ which is so hurtful,” she said. “There are some right-wing Catholics here who think being gay or a lesbian is sinful and satanic.

“The university is not vocally supportive of them,” she said. “The students are really the leaders here with the moral conscience.”

Rachel Stoll, a 22-year-old gender studies and anthropology double major who was proud of her eight years of Jesuit education in high school and in college, said many students have bonded over the O’Brien incident.

“The reason a lot of us took offense in terms of our Jesuit identity,” said Stoll, who graduated this week. “We were raised to believe in social justice and working toward equality for all people and for human dignity. We saw this as an affront to our core Jesuit values.”

Stoll, though she is not gay, said she has faced “gender-based” bias as a woman on campus.

“Every year, we try to do the ‘Vagina Monologues’ to raise money for charity, but they never let us do it on campus,” she said. The administration often gives “vague answers or don’t answer the question asked,” she said.

But Paul Milakovich, Marquette’s associate vice president for university advancement and an openly gay man, said the university has been a “very comfortable place to work.”

“I am completely out and they knew when they hired me,” he said. “My partner attends basketball games with me and everyone is very accepting.”

Milakovich sees no contradiction between Catholic teachings and his own sexuality.

“I would be offended by the idea of discriminating against [O'Brien],” he said.

As for the differences between Jesuit universities like Seattle and Marquette, he said, “Schools take on their own culture and how the teachings of the Catholic Church are understood.”

Seattle University, on the other hand, has rehired O’Brien after she resigned in anticipation of the dean’s post at Marquette.

“We welcomed her back, of course,” said Seattle spokeswoman Laura Paskin.

There, the university has recently embraced Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” an annual feminist tradition at many American colleges.

“I certainly don’t know about Marquette, I have never worked there, but the environment at Seattle has always been very open and accepting for everyone, whether it’s race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation,” said O’Brien’s colleague La Voy.

“I’ve taught human sexuality in psychology department panels, about gay pride and the transgendered, on and on, and it always been open and accepting,” she said. “Our gay-straight alliance is a strong group and not some people hiding in a corner somewhere in the university.

“Jesuits have always been very open,” La Voy said. “Really, social justice is the bottom line around here and they live it.”

May 28, 2010 Posted by | ethics, higher education, homosexual, lesbian, Marquette University, Seattle university, sexual politics | Leave a comment

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Consensual Relationships Policy

The sexual regulations beat goes on in university land; it is everywhere  and nowhere.  Seldom commented on and tacitly accepted.
So the dankprofessor now goes to Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences.  Here is their policy along with my comments.
CONSENSUAL SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS POLICY
Rationale
The University’s educational mission is promoted by professionalism in faculty-student relationships. Professionalism is fostered by an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.
Now the dankprofessor can relate to this- professionalism fostered by mutual trust and respect. Only if such were the case.  Mutual trust and respect is an oxymoron as to what now follows.
Actions of faculty members and students that harm this atmosphere undermine professionalism and hinder fulfillment of the University’s educational mission. Trust and respect are diminished when those in positions of authority abuse, or appear to abuse, their power. Those who abuse, or appear to abuse, their power in such a context violate their duty to the University community.
Of course abusers do violate their duty to the university community.  The problem is that the people who create and promulgate these policies are abusers since they systematically violate the autonomy and privacy of students, professors and staff.
Faculty members exercise power over students, whether in giving them praise or criticism, evaluating them, making recommendations for further studies or their future employment, or conferring any other benefits on them. Amorous relationships between faculty members and students are wrong when the faculty member has professional responsibility for the student. Such situations greatly increase the chances that the faculty member will abuse his or her power and sexually exploit the student. Voluntary consent by the student in such a relationship is suspect, given the fundamentally asymmetric nature of the relationship.
Axiomatic here, ignore what students say; they can’t consent so their input is of no value re consent.
Moreover, other students and faculty may be affected by such unprofessional behavior because it places the faculty member in a position to favor or advance one student’s interest at the expense of others and implicitly makes obtaining benefits contingent on amorous or sexual favors.
Implicitly is the keyword here.  But nothing elaborated on about implicitly.  What I think it means is when an administrator or whomever believes such is the case, it is the case.  No need to prove anything; this is what a person(s) believes.  Now if the student and the prof make it explicit
that there were no illicit benefits; such does not count; can’t take the student seriously.  Now, is this mutual trust and respect?
Therefore, the University will view it as unethical if faculty members engage in amorous relations with students enrolled in their classes or subject to their supervision, even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship.

Again, no iota of mutual trust or respect.  Everyone, almost everyone, is suspect, except of course the administrators enforcing the policy.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student-prof dating | 1 Comment

Case Western Reserve policy on consensual relationships

Case Western Reserve has developed a rather detailed consensual relationships policy for students, faculty and staff.  It is essentially of the boilerplate genre, but it does include a couple of patently “absurd” statements; examples follow and then the dankprofessor comments.
Faculty, staff, and students may not use, in a sexual
harassment proceeding, a defense based upon
consent when the facts establish that a real and/or
implied supervisory power differential existed within
the relationship.
Wow! Consent is impossible in power differentiated relationships.  Case has
bought into the hardcore feminist position that differential power precludes consent, no exceptions. Ideologues rule here.
Compliance
It is expected that all members of the university
community comply with the Consensual Relationship
Policy. When relationships covered by this policy develop,
responsibility for reporting the relationship falls to the
person with greater supervisory authority. Relationships
covered by this policy that go unreported will be
investigated by the Faculty Diversity Office, Employee
Relations, and/or the Office of Student Affairs.
Now this one beyond the fringe, so to speak.  How can relationships that go unreported be investigated?   Will the university have undercover persons on campus who will forward secretly info on suspected couples, but such will not be reported?  The dankprofessor confesses to be totally baffled by this one.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student-prof dating | 1 Comment

Lynch mobs love Polanski

It took Gloria Allred, the queen of muckraking lawyers, to effectively bring the media and legal lynch mobs together in Los Angeles.  It occurred in the context of  her hosting former actress Charlotte Lewis at a Hollywood news conference so that Lewis could announce that she had been sexually assaulted by Roman Polanski in France in the 1980s.  Why such was announced at  this time was not made clear?  And Gloria Allred would not allow her to entertain any questions so clarity could not be pursued.  Of course, why Allred would not allow her to take questions was also not clear?  And even why Allred was there representing Lewis was also not clear?  And why Lewis ended up in Los Angeles and not in Paris to make her announcement was also not clear?  If she was interested in pursuing justice in terms of what Polanski supposedly did to her, shouldn’t she be in Paris talking to the relevant French authorities.  But instead she ends up talking to LA District attorney Steve Cooley who is spending much of his time attempting to prosecute and persecute Roman Polanski while running for the Attorney General of California.

But Allred and Lewis and possibly Cooley apparently accomplished their goal of having the media in tens of thousands of news sources repeat Lewis’s unsupported assertions over and over again that Polanski is a recividistic sexual predator.   As for Cooley’s goals, such a media circus might help to persuade the Swiss authorities to send Polanski back to Hollywood with a Hollywood ending orchestrated by Cooley.

Even though Lewis’s staged performance in LA is now over and Lewis’s drama coach Allred is temporarily on the sidelines, there is little doubt that  their beat will go on; the court of public opinion continues to be open for the unrestrained trashing of Polanski.  However, if one looks carefully enough one can find voices of temperance and sanity in this deluge, check out an article in the Guardian by Robert Harris and a blog post by Novalis Lore.  They are not of the Allred genre but they are of the genre that will not contribute to the feeding frenzies and public degradation ceremonies that are so predominant in today’s mediated world.

May 19, 2010 Posted by | celebrities, rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics, Uncategorized | 1,027 Comments

Duke University and Moral Repugnance

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

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

Their 2002 policy begins with the following statement-

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

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

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

The policy continues-

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

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

The policy continues-

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

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

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

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

The policy continues-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivy Love

Politicsdaily has just published what the dankprofessor calls a diatribe by Lizzie Kurnich against student professor relationships.  She writes about this subject based on stereotypes and an imagination run amok.  All of this came about as a result of Yale passing a non-fraternization policy between Yale profs and student undergraduates.  The policy includes the amorous clause which I have commented on previously.  My response to Ms. Kurnich follows.

Lizzie Kurnich is pompous and presumptuous in terms of how she views both students and professors who engage in sexual intimacy.  She writes off such relationships as crushes, makes short shrift of the love engaged professor as simply wanting the approval of someone too young or wishes to engage in a the long vacation in land of youth. And then portrays female students as dumbfounded, such students would be incapable of carrying on a conversation based on her vision of the erudite professor.

Ms. Kurnich apparently is incapable of transcending her fictive constructions and imagining the possibility that there are professors and students who share a love of knowledge can also share a knowledge of love. These two loves are not antithetical but can represent the ideal of  the romantically and intellectually inclined.

And as for her dinner experience with a male student, such was positively fine for her. Such could also be fine for a male prof who is involved with a specific female student.  Ms. Kurnich seems to impute that such a professor is sexually obsessed with ALL of his female students.  She finds it easy to sexually objectify such male profs.  She views them thru her sexually tinged lenses. Now if these professors were in her terms sexually conventional she would not see them as being sexually obsessed and immature.  The sin of these profs is that they do not worship the God of Normal as Ms. Kurnich apparently worships.

But I think it is quite easy to get beyond what is normal, what is immature, what is a crush and to view university environments as representing a geography in which there is a high concentration of persons who are eligible, who are looking for dates and mates.  The principle of propinquity really does explain the tendency of some students and professors to date.  They are part of the same geographic and often the same intellectual and social communities.

Oh, and let me add this note, not all students and professor pairings represent a huge age discrepancy.  My wife is two years older than myself and she was two years older than myself when I met her when I was a prof and she was a student.  And yes, I expect that Ms. Kurnich and others who share her view would argue that we are exceptions, not the people they have in mind.  But in the university sexual codes they defend we are trashed just like all the other student prof couples.  And, at the risk of repetition, such represents the core of the problem since our detractors simply cannot comprehend that the student professor labels can be transcended, boundaries can be crossed and the individuality of the other can be transcended, appreciated and loved. In Buberian terms its about going from an I-it to an I-thou relationship.


April 8, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, fraternization, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, Yale University | 1 Comment

Duke students to become unwitting rapists

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

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

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

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

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

FIRE statement-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CONTACT:

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

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

The banning of student prof sex at Colorado College

Cypher Magazine reports on the adoption of a faculty student consensual relationships policy by Colorado College. Following are the key parts of the text of this article as well as my comments.  As you shall see, parts of this policy differ from those colleges which have attempted to ban “sexual or amorous” relationships between students and professors.  This policy and the rationale for said policy merit a detailed critical review.

The policy was created in part to ensure that no sexual relationship between a faculty member and student would “detract from the main goals of the institution,” as the policy outlines. The dynamic of a professor-student relationship could create an uncomfortable atmosphere for other students in a class, and could influence a professor’s capacity for fair evaluation. Regardless of whether or not the faculty member supervises the student, the relationship is inevitably characterized by an unequal distribution of power. Feminist and gender studies professor Eileen Bresnahan confirms that, “One of the problems that the college has had is professors sleeping with undergraduate students where there is a big age difference.”

Interesting, does Bresnahan believe there is no big problem when students and profs are of a similar age?  If so, then why doesn’t she and others advocate a ban for age differentiated relationships?  I guess they are inhibited from reducing students to a “kids” or “children” status.  In any case, universities do not formally invoke an age ban, but as I have argued previously many academic women embrace the banning movement because they feel threatened by younger women taking “their” men.  Unquestionably, if there was a proposal in the wider society to ban older men/younger women relationships, a number of “older” women would embrace this idea.  But such will not come about; it will come about in the universities under a different guise.

While the issues of evaluation and equity between parties are problematic, some faculty members insist that the policy should not prevent the possibility for close student-faculty relationships. The question arose as to where the line should be drawn between friendly and inappropriate relationships between students and faculty members. Faculty members displayed concern for this issue at the third block meeting as they became engrossed in a debate over the meaning of the word “amorous,” and eventually voted not to include this word in the policy. Along with several of his colleagues (both male and female), English professor George Butte rose to the microphone to argue against the use of the word amorous because of its possible implication of friendship. Other faculty members defended their freedom to distinguish students on the basis of academic merit and talent and, in some cases, to meet with them outside of class. Some professors wished to maintain the right to meet privately with students struggling with class work.

Professor Butte understands the dynamic here.  Banning amorous relationships goes way beyond the sexual area. As I have indicated previously, student professor bans have become an outright attack on love between students and professors.  And an unfortunate byproduct of this is that non sexual close relationships between students and professors become increasingly suspect and consequently impersonal.

But the word “amorous” seems to suggest romantic attachment, something distinct from student-faculty friendship. Sociology professor C.J. Pascoe explains, “There was some back-and-forth among faculty members [as to whether the policy] should be just about sexual topics or sexual and romantic topics.” Pascoe says that a number of faculty members wanted the policy to prohibit romantic interactions. But by voting to remove the word “amorous” from the policy, the faculty chose to condemn only relationships in which students have physical relations with professors. The word “amorous” would have allowed the policy to address romantic relationships between students and faculty members whether or not evidence of sex was present.  Ultimately, faculty voted to abolish this word from the policy. There are multiple reasons behind the decision, but, according to Pascoe, “There are some faculty who would prefer not to see emotional entanglements legislated.” By voting not to include the word “amorous” in the Consensual Relations policy, the faculty is consenting to romantic relationships as long as they are not sexual.

Yes, such is the nature of the consent, but they are also consenting to the idea that close relationships between students and professors are not antithetical to the ethos of liberal arts colleges; such is consistent with the idea that students and profs are part of a teaching/learning COMMUNITY.

But the dankprofessor also wants to be completely open here in the acknowledgement that dropping amorous from the code also functions to protect those professors and students who are in a sexual relationship.  The reality is that in student professor sexual relationship cases which come to the attention of university authorities such does not occur as a result of observing a prof having sex with a student; sexuality is inferred from the observations of behavior reflecting closeness and intimacy.  When amorous is dropped from the code, then the assertion that the student and professor were in sexual congress can simply be denied.

In the case of Colorado College, the college drops the whole appearances argument which is that the appearance of intimacy was sufficient to bring charges; all one had to prove was that the appearance had occurred and not the reality of sex.  Many universities have consistently argued that the appearance of so-called inappropriate relationships is just as damaging as actually relationships.  Of course, what they had in mind is that it is damaging to the reputation of the college. Whether such is really damaging to the reputation or prestige of a college or university is problematic, and more importantly reputation or prestige issues should not be ground for suspending persons basic civil liberties.

Another component relating to the elimination of the amorous clause may be the most important one which is that these rules supposedly come into being to avoid conflict of interests and to insure fair and impartial grading.  Implicit and sometimes explicit is the notion that close relationships supposedly threaten impartial grading.  Colorado College rejects this notion by prohibiting sexual relationships but not amorous or close relationships. The dankprofessor has argued that these bans are fueled by an anti-sexual component; remove the anti-sexual component and the fervor to pass these rules diminish.  The usage of conflict of interest simply is a smokescreen used to further said anti-sexuality.  And CC has removed said smokescreen and presented their policy as a policy to eliminate student prof sexual relationships.

While other small liberal arts colleges passed policies regarding student-faculty relations years ago, CC faculty long struggled to accept such regulations. Ragan confirms that “we are the last of the top twenty-five liberal arts colleges” to pass such a policy regarding student-faculty relations. Williams and Carleton approved sexual conduct policies regarding faculty/student relationships in 1990 and 1992, respectively. Both schools have revised them since. When Pascoe arrived at CC a year and a half ago, she said that she was “horrified” to find that the college had no policy regarding faculty/student relationships. Bresnahan confirms that CC was not oblivious to the problem and has been working to engineer a policy since she joined the faculty eleven years ago. The policy simply has failed to pass until now.

Now why would Pascoe who is an accomplished sociologist be horrified by the lack of a student professor policy banning sex?  I would love Professor Pascoe to elaborate on the nature of her being horrified.  As for the policy not passing muster until now, the dankprofessor view is that such an invasive and ill advised policy should never pass muster.

There are several reasons behind the CC administration’s delay in acknowledging problems surrounding sexual relations between students and faculty. Ragan explains that the “liberal spirit of individualism at this school” may be partially responsible for the delay in formalizing a policy.  This value may follow the Enlightenment belief that all adults are equal and should have the freedom to rationally pursue their interests. Following the block three meeting, one male faculty member complained to me that the administration should not police student/faculty relations because both parties are adults. This contention aligns with the attitude that CC students and faculty alike are mature adults. Accordingly, they should maintain the freedom to pursue relationships with whomever they choose.

Yes, yes and yes again in reference to the prior paragraph. Enlightenment values, the right of adults to choose their dates and mates should not be subject to infringement by the powers that be.

Pascoe, who teaches the class “Sociology of Sexuality,” finds the assumption that professors and students stand on equal ground in pursuing and maintaining sexual relationships with one another to be flawed. She contends that, across the nation, “Historically, we have seen male professors abuse their power with female students.” This is not to say that the policy does not apply to female professors. But it exists primarily to confront a problem in a society in which, according to Pascoe, “men hold more power than women.”

Assuming Pascoe is correct that persons in the higher position are prone to abuse persons in the lower power position, what Pascoe advocates in no way changes the power dynamic. Such is the case since now we have administrators who become sexual police in the exertion of their power over students and professors in the most intimate and private aspects of their lives.  Pascoe must know that to effectively enforce sexual codes of the sort under consideration here, such can only occur in totalitarian police states.  Or maybe she is in a state of denial, denying that setting up a bureaucratic process  to take away the right of students and professors to have a sexual relationship has nothing to do with taking away the power of both students and professor.

Bresnahan provides an additional explanation as to why CC has hesitated to pass a consensual relations policy. She points to the fact that “a lot of faculty are married to people who used to be students.” According to Bresnahan, these relationships typically form between a male faculty member and a former female student. “The place is run by an old boys’ network,” she argues. “I think women have a hard time being heard here in terms of women’s concerns. If women speak the right language they can be included, but not if they speak as women.”

But Bresnahan does not hear the women who as students married a faculty member.  In fact, she overtly insults them as being pawns in an old boys network.  I guess their children end up being pawns as well.  I suggest that Bresnahan  needs a little consciousness raising.  Such may lead her to consider the possibility that in her own classes she may have a student who was a child of a former student and professor and now she is taught that her dad was a part of an old boys network and such is her reason for being.

This suggests that there exists a larger problem regarding equality among faculty members at CC. Bresnahan says, “The fact that these documents have not been passed until now is indicative of the chilly climate towards women at CC. Women faculty are not empowered at CC. If they [speak as women], they are shot down, marginalized, and ostracized.”

Bresnahan has spoken and is a woman and she seems to be quite alive and well.

It is clear that a variety of issues lie behind CC’s slow passage of the Consensual Relations policy. The issues of individual choice and gender inequality probably both played a role, and it is difficult to pinpoint just one event to which the college is reacting. The passage of this policy may be, in part, a response to the fear of litigation.

While CC passed this policy in the wake of other similar schools, it opted to completely prohibit sexual relationships between any enrolled student and faculty member—even if the student is not under the evaluative auspices of the faculty member. Williams passed a similar policy in 1990, but chose to only prohibit faculty from engaging in a sexual relationship with a student they had supervisory or evaluative authority over. Williams did not exclude the possibility for consensual relations between a student and faculty member. The Williams College Employee handbook from 2006 states, “Anyone in a position of institutional authority over other persons should be sensitive to the potential for coercion in sexual relationships that also involve professional relationships” [emphasis added]. Unlike CC’s policy, Williams’ specifies the need for sensitivity and good judgment on the part of the faculty, rather than mandating complete prohibition. This difference in approach raises the issue of whether or not CC is reacting too stringently to the pressure for a consensual relations policy.

Bravo to Williams College.  And, yes CC is reacting too stringently.  But I guess it is a matter of perspective.  Such stringent codes will most likely mellow out Professor Pascoe who as previously indicated is horrified by the lack of such codes.

The policy suggests that the College will not force the termination of a relationship, only that it demands the faculty member involved to report “the consensual relationship” and not to serve as a supervisor of that student. This clause reflects an inconsistency in CC’s Consensual Relations policy. While the policy claims to “prohibit” any sexual relationship between a student and a faculty member, it qualifies this claim by stating that the faculty member must report the relationship in order to avoid punishment.

By approving a consensual relations policy, CC remains consistent with standards of other liberal arts colleges.  In passing this regulation, CC is demonstrating its commitment to an academic experience where neither faculty nor students are distracted by sexual dynamics. But as one female student who wishes to remain anonymous explains, “Putting a limit on the potential development of student-faculty relationships conflicts with the possibilities for intellectual exploration. Sexuality is not a barrier to the academic experience, but an expression of it.”

Oh, my God, does the writer really believe that the adoption of this code will lead to professors and students not being distracted by sexual dynamics?  In the classroom and outside of the classroom, men and women will be attracted and distracted to each other, this includes men being attracted to men and women being attracted to women.  No matter what Colorado College does or does not do, the distraction of attraction will continue there unabated.

And the student who stated the following at the end of the article is right on- “Sexuality is not a barrier to the academic experience, but an expression of it.”

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Colorado College, consensual relationships, fraternization, higher education, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student-prof dating | 1 Comment

Shutting out the campus sexual zealots

Tony Judt has a sort of memoir blog at the New York Review of Books.  I find all of his posts to be delightful and insightful.  His latest posting is on student professor relationships then and now, mostly then.  I encourage my readership to read the entire posting.  Following are a couple of excerpts from the post and then my comments.

In 1992 I was chairman of the History Department at New York University—where I was also the only unmarried straight male under sixty. A combustible blend: prominently displayed on the board outside my office was the location and phone number of the university’s Sexual Harassment Center. History was a fast-feminizing profession, with a graduate community primed for signs of discrimination—or worse. Physical contact constituted a presumption of malevolent intention; a closed door was proof positive.

Shortly after I took office, a second-year graduate student came by. A former professional ballerina interested in Eastern Europe, she had been encouraged to work with me. I was not teaching that semester, so could have advised her to return another time. Instead, I invited her in. After a closed-door discussion of Hungarian economic reforms, I suggested a course of independent study—beginning the following evening at a local restaurant. A few sessions later, in a fit of bravado, I invited her to the premiere of Oleanna—David Mamet’s lame dramatization of sexual harassment on a college campus.

How to explain such self-destructive behavior? What delusional universe was mine, to suppose that I alone could pass untouched by the punitive prudery of the hour—that the bell of sexual correctness would not toll for me? I knew my Foucault as well as anyone and was familiar with Firestone, Millett, Brownmiller, Faludi, e tutte quante. To say that the girl had irresistible eyes and that my intentions were…unclear would avail me nothing. My excuse? Please Sir, I’m from the ’60s…

Why should I not close my office door or take a student to a play? If I hesitate, have I not internalized the worst sort of communitarian self-censorship—anticipating my own guilt long before I am accused and setting a pusillanimous example for others? Yes: and if only for these reasons I see nothing wrong in my behavior. But were it not for the mandarin self-assurance of my Oxbridge years, I too might lack the courage of my convictions—though I readily concede that the volatile mix of intellectual arrogance and generational exceptionalism can ignite delusions of invulnerability.

Indeed, it is just such a sense of boundless entitlement—taken to extremes—that helps explain Bill Clinton’s self-destructive transgressions or Tony Blair’s insistence that he was right to lie his way into a war whose necessity he alone could assess. But note that for all their brazen philandering and posturing, Clinton and Blair—no less than Bush, Gore, Brown, and so many others of my generation—are still married to their first serious date. I cannot claim as much—I was divorced in 1977 and again in 1986—but in other respects the curious ’60s blend of radical attitudes and domestic convention ensnared me too. So how did I elude the harassment police, who surely were on my tail as I surreptitiously dated my bright-eyed ballerina?

Reader: I married her.

Projecting Judt’s situation into the contemporary academic scene, marriage to ones fantasy girl is no excuse.  All that is needed is one third party informant of the Linda Tripp genre.  And, of course, almost all universities codes ban “sexual OR amorous” behavior.  So any protestation that you waited until marriage for sexual congress to occur is beside the point.  Marriage would de facto indicate that there were amorous shenanigans going on.

In any case, I say “bravo” to Tony Judt.  He didn’t capitulate to the campus sexual zealots.  He shut the sexual regulators out and maintained his sexual autonomy.  Too bad that there are hardly any Tony Judt’s into today’s academe.  The men and women of the university world let the sexual control freaks have their way with them.  If they violate the will of the sexual zealots, they almost always do so deep within the campus closet.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, love, NYU, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

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