Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Response to Boston Globe op ed on Polanski

The Boston Globe published an op ed piece on Roman Polanski.  Following is my response which was published as a comment-

Graff concludes her essay with a “bring him home”. The ‘him’ of course being Roman Polanski.http://dankprofessor.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/on-roman-polanski/

But if she knew anything about Polanski she would know that Polanski did not and does not have a home except for one period of time. That time being when he was married to Sharon Tate. Whatever home he had then was terminated
when the so-called Manson family killed Sharon Tate, killed Sharon and Roman’s baby to be and killed two dear friends of Roman who he had asked to stay with Sharon while he was in London. So his respite with a domestic life ended. Before that he lived in France and before that in Poland where he witnessed the mass murders of the Holocaust and lost his mother to the Nazi murderers.

Nothing to do with his 1977 illegal sex with a child of 13 you say. Please, welcome to never never land. Terror hurts and is long lasting, nine years is nothing. But all too many want to know nothing about Polanski; they don’t want to know about him so they can engage in a guilt free stoning. Maybe after the stoning if they say oh my God what have I done, maybe then they might feel guilt. But now before the stoning, before justice occurs maybe they might learn a little bit about survival guilt. Yes, this is the sort of guilt that Polanski suffered from-
tortuous guilt, if only I had not gone to London, I should have been able to do something,
I should have been with them. I should have died. To find out about Polanski rent the last film he made prior to the 1977 rape; the film is THE TENANT, made in 76, directed by Polanski,
and starring Polanski, starring him because the film was about surivior guilt and madness; it was about him. See my post on this if you care to understand-

And no I am not a celebrity and not a part of any elite and I am not an apologist for Polanski. All I ask is that people do not embrace revenge under the guise of justice, and that they open their eyes- wide open. Maybe once they hav e done this, they will understand how truly devastating the consequences were of the Manson murders.

Home, Polanski’s only home or escape if you will has been thru his movies which, of course, have been horror movies most of the time and that is what we are dealing with people- horror.

October 17, 2009 Posted by | rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics, suicide, The Tenant | 3 Comments

Daily Iowan gets it right

The dankprofessor is in awe re the Daily Iowan’s editorial of February 26 on the response of the UI administration to the UI sexual harassment problem.  Following are the two key paragraphs from said editorial

But the nature of this particular resource (sexual harassmnt training) is foundationally suspect. It lends itself more to calming the ripples of an upset image and hand-hidden gossip caused by the accusations, and subsequent suicides, of Arthur Miller and Mark Weiger, and not the more latent problem of harassment itself. As a reaction to general publicity of sexual harassment, the university is setting up this “training” program, which changes neither the effectiveness nor application of existing policy but merely draws attention to the problem and some of its potential solutions. The program is disingenuous because all it manages to accomplish is a heightened atmosphere of what could be called paranoia, in the sense that the main thrust of the university is to scrub away the blemishes left by the “scandals” themselves and not the root causes: ignorance and disrespect.

Students need ready options for this kind of education, but the tactic of pure “brochure-ism” is not working. A forum of discussion and support could provide the groundwork for a solid system for counteracting harassment, involving all tiers of academic society. In fact, this might resolve into a culture of safety instead of one of apparent vanity. Reiterating and drawing attention to policy will not affect its success. We need a more efficient method of creating a safe, educational environment, not merely reactive measures of highlighting previously existing programs while ignoring their faults.


February 26, 2009 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Writing out University of Iowa buffoonery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saving lives at the University of Iowa

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a major story today on the suicides of two University of Iowa professors who were charged with sexual harassment and then committed suicide.  The two cases were unrelated to each other.  Both professors committed suicide days after the sexual harassment charges became public.  Professor Mark Weiger committed suicide three months after the suicide of Professor Arthur Miller.

The CHE reported that after Professor Miller was banished from his classroom by the University that UI President, Sally Mason

“issued a statement saying she would not tolerate the kind of conduct Mr. Miller had been accused of. She also said the case had prompted her to make sexual-harassment -awareness training mandatory for all professors. And while she said that “every person is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” she then went on to “applaud the courage of the student victims in coming forward” to charge Mr. Miller.

President Mason declined to answer questions about her statement, but Ms. (Dean) Maxson defends it, saying the president had to take a tough stand because Mr. Miller had been “accused of a very serious infraction of behavioral and legal rules.” To the professor, his wife, and some of his colleagues, however, it felt like the president was pronouncing him guilty before he had even had a chance to defend himself.

Of course, in the dankprofessor’s opinion, President Sally Mason was pronouncing Professor Miller guilty. She not only suspended him from the classroom, but ordered that all faculty go thru sexual harassment training as well as applauding the courage of student victims coming forward.

Maybe Mason should have drawn on some of her own courage to publicly call for the adherence of to the principle of the presumption of innocence.  But such was not the case.  And three months later when Professor Weiger’s situation became public, Weiger knew what to expect and obviously could not deal with this kind of public degradation.

What boggles the mind of the dankprofessor is that President Mason instead of calling for mandating suicide prevention training after these two suicides, she mandates sexual harassment training.  Certainly this gives insight into the values of the President.   Sexual harassment trumps suicide in her hierarchy of values.  The lethality of suicide simply is not as weighty as the effects of being sexually harassed.

In the CHE article, the UI administration stated that UI stays neutral in these sorts of cases.  I guess neutrality means giving short shrift to having any sort of reaching out to the charged professors that would help them psychologically get thru these travails.  I guess this would be considered to be coddling the sexual predator professor.  Of course, one does not coddle the guilty, only the innocent.  And it is obvious that the UI administration did not honor the presumption of innocence.

Helping those who are held to be victimized is expected.  The UI is not neutral in such matters, they  attempt to psychologically help the student victim but not the professor who they de facto treat as an offender.

For example, in December the Daily Iowan reported on the programs that were being implemented at the UI to help student victims of sexual misconduct-

To establish one point of contact for victims, the UI hired Monique DiCarlo from the Women’s Resource Action Center to act as the school’s coordinator for sexual-misconduct response.

Each school would also establish new victim-advocate positions. DiCarlo will assign a victim-advocate to each sexual-assault report.

“Having an advocate on hand at all times is crucial for any victim,” said Cathlene Argento, a Women’s Resource and Action Center volunteer. “It’s great that victims can form a relationship with someone to help them through that event in their lives.”

The mother of the alleged UI sexual-assault victim complained in a letter to UI President Sally Mason that she felt there were too few UI officials looking out for her daughter.

Parrott said the UI will now strongly encourage victims to take their sexual-assault allegations to the police as well as the UI.

Employing the rhetoric of Cathlene Agento, the Women’s Resources and Action Center volunteer, wouldn’t it be great if faculty and others so charged be able to “…form a relationship with someone to help them through that event in their lives.”  And if such a policy had been applied to the charged faculty at UI during the past year, maybe, just maybe, two faculty lives could have been saved.

February 16, 2009 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sex offenders, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

Shame on the University of Iowa

The Daily Iowan, the student newspaper of the University of Iowa, reported on Monday that new policy recommendations relating to sexual assault and sexual harassment have been unveiled by all three University of Iowa campuses and have been forwarded to the Board of Regents for their consideration at tomorrow’s meeting of the Board.

UI representative Steve Parrott said there are key elements to the UI’s new policy that will change the way officials handle all cases.

The elements that peaked the dankprofessor’s attention follow.

To establish one point of contact for victims, the UI hired Monique DiCarlo from the Women’s Resource Action Center to act as the school’s coordinator for sexual-misconduct response.

Each school would also establish new victim-advocate positions. DiCarlo will assign a victim-advocate to each sexual-assault report.

“Having an advocate on hand at all times is crucial for any victim,” said Cathlene Argento, a Women’s Resource and Action Center volunteer. “It’s great that victims can form a relationship with someone to help them through that event in their lives.”

The mother of the alleged UI sexual-assault victim complained in a letter to UI President Sally Mason that she felt there were too few UI officials looking out for her daughter.

Parrott said the UI will now strongly encourage victims to take their sexual-assault allegations to the police as well as the UI.

Now the dankprofessor is not adverse to universities developing resources for alleged victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.  But given that there have been two recent suicides at the University of Iowa by faculty members charged with sexual harassment, one would hope that there would be some consideration given to the well being and rights of those charged with sexual offenses on campus.

Employing the rhetoric of Cathlene Agento, the Women’s Resources and Action Center volunteer, wouldn’t it be great that faculty and others so charged be able to “…form a relationship with someone to help them through that event in their lives.”  And if such a policy had been applied to charged faculty at UI during the past year, maybe, just maybe, two faculty lives could have been saved.

The fact that the UI ignored these recent events in the promulgation of these policies is indicative of an utter callousness of the UI administration.  Maybe the callousness is part and parcel of an avoidance and denial syndrome by the UI administration. Or might it represent a revenge mentality that has been prevalent among too many campus feminists in the area of sexual harassment. 

Of course, in the larger society and criminal justice system, it is the desire for revenge particularly at in the context of a police state mentality that has led to the implementation of due process which puts restraints on police and civilians seeking quick “justice”.  Due process protections are not put forth to facilitate efficient police work; due process reflects barriers which police should have to handle with care.

At the University of Iowa, and I expect many others Americans universities, the response to due process concerns reflects a feeling that universities may end up coddling male sex offenders, and rather the coddling should be directed toward their student victims (always the victims not the alleged victims).  But in the dankprofessor’s opinion these policies may help to save the lives of accused faculty.  If  this is considered to be coddling, the dankprofessor believes that such is a necessary coddling.

Shame on the University of Iowa administration for its callousness and avoidance and denial.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sex offenders, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, shame, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

Faculty sexual harassment training trumps suicide prevention training at UI

Presented below is a copy of an email from the University of Iowa Crisis Center which was distributed on campus on December 1 announcing that suicide prevention training is being offered to interested UI students.  The dankprofessor notes that no suicide prevention training is being offered to UI faculty.

And it becomes particularly noteworthy that after the suicide of Professor Arthur Miller last August the university mandated sexual harassment training for all faculty.  No suicide prevention training for faculty then or now. Such represents the priorities of the administration of the University of Iowa.  Shame on the University of Iowa administration for viewing sexual harassment by faculty as meriting more intervention than for faculty killing themselves!
________________________________________
From: Crisis Center [sarah-benson@uiowa.edu]
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2008 1:40 PM
Subject: [NonAcadStudorg] Suicide Prevention Training on Campus

The Crisis Center is providing free training on suicide prevention to interested students. The trainings cover four basic aspects of suicide prevention:

1. Recognizing the warning signs of suicide
2. Asking someone if they are suicidal
3. Persuading someone who is suicidal to get help
4. Referring a suicidal person to appropriate resources

There are two upcoming training dates:
Thursday, December 4, 6:00-8:00pm in 104 EPB
Tuesday, December 9, 6:00-8:00pm in 104 EPB

SPACE IS LIMITED, SO REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. To register, email Sarah Benson Witry at sarah-benson@uiowa.edu with the session you want to attend.

This training is meant for people who have no prior education in this topic, although anyone is welcome. The training will not make attendees “experts” on suicide, but will help them intervene in situations where someone may be considering suicide. The trainer is certified in suicide prevention training, but is not a licensed professional.

If you are thinking about suicide, please seek help. The following is a short list of possible resources:
University Counseling Service (for students): 335-7294
Faculty & Staff Services (for staff/faculty): 335-2085
Crisis Center Crisis Line (24-hours): 351-0140

/***********
Distribution of this message was approved by the VP for Student Services. Neither your name nor e-mail address was released to the sender. The policy and guidelines for the UI Mass Mail service, including information on how to filter messages, are available at:
http://cs.its.uiowa.edu/email/massmail.
***********/

December 1, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Suicide and its aftermath

After the suicide  this past August of  University of Iowa  political science professor Arthur Miller, the President of UI mandated sexual harassment training for all faculty.  In a sexually obsessed culture, such is to be expected.  What President Sally Mason should have considered is the mandating of suicide prevention training and the creation of campus suicide prevention hotlines.  If the University of Iowa had such a program in place, maybe the recent suicide of Professor Mark Weiger could have been prevented.

Of course, we will never know what could have been, but what we do know is that the University of Iowa administration valued suicide prevention training as having lesser value than sexual harassment training.
As reported by The Daily Iowan of November 19:

While more than 50 universities have received a federal grant to set up suicide-prevention training, the University of Iowa likely won’t apply for the funding because of a lack of time and resources.

The UI considered the grant in past years but hasn’t applied because of the extensive time commitment in the proposal process, said Sam Cochran, the director of University Counseling Service.

“We struggle to fulfill student demand for appointments on a daily basis,” he said. “That grant-proposal process would require a part-time or full-time position to [handle], which just can’t happen right now. Our priority is serving the students lining up at our door.”

Such is the case of the University of Iowa even though “…suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students in the United States. Ten percent of college students report having seriously considered killing themselves, according to the American College Health Association.”

No data or attention is given to the prevention of suicide by suicide prevention programs for university faculty.

The fact that the UI administration response to a faculty suicide was to order faculty sexual harassment training is surreal.  Someone at the UI needs to try to get the University of Iowa beyond its present sexual myopia.  In the dankprofessor’s opinion, a good starting point would be the resignation of UI President Sally Mason.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Rooting out the problem at the University of Iowa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solving the sexual harassment problem via video

The following comment in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on the University of Iowa recent sexual harassment problems caught the dankprofessor’s attention. 

guyinic1 wrote:
It’s a sad day when faculty need to have any interactions with students videotaped but if that is what it takes, then so be it. And maybe departments should provide a conference room adjacent to the department offices so that everyone can see the interaction of the student and teacher. Again, this is so sad that a student can’t just stop by a teacher’s room and chat!
I also think that the policy needs to be very explicit not only with faculty but also students, telling them that if any sort of accusation is made, it will be investigated publically and since it is a public investigation, they will be named and will also be subject to laws regarding slander and liable if their allegations are false. College students who make allegations are not children, they are adults and I’m tired of them hiding behind the excuse of being intimidated by a person in authority. Too much is at stake here for both the accusors and the accused!

The dankprofessor admits that he has never given consideration to the possibility of having video cameras in  faculty offices and even in classrooms since classrooms are often the scene of hostile environment harassment. 

Such may represent an effective way of controlling/preventing sexual harassment events from occurring.  Of course, videotaping will not eliminate sexual harassment, but would likely lead to a decrease of these suits. 

No matter that there will no longer be privacy regarding student prof interactions.  Privacy rights and other rights become irrelevant if institutions are to have effective
control of students and professors.  And control becomes key as universities are gradually transformed into quasi police states.  If control mechanisms are not implemented we could end up with a complete abolition of university campuses which would be replaced, of course, by online education.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | higher education, privacy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Shame and suicide at the University of Iowa

I have had communications from some UI faculty as to the situation of the recent faculty suicides in the context of sexual harassment charges.  I present below one of those communications and I do so without any name attached which is at the request of the writer.

I think that it can’t be dumb coincidence that the UI should have an epidemic of suicidal professors within a single semester. It defies plausibility. And on the rule that if one person asks a question, ten people have the same question, then presumably there are a lot more people in the same situation we simply don’t know about. So what about the University of Iowa in particular makes it epidemically miserable, when virtually all universities have comparable anti- harassment and anti-fraternization policies?

 

I have an hypothesis to which I think I can lend a certain amount of evidence and plausibility. It’s a perception that the UI (being an Upper Midwestern institution heavily servicing angst-ridden Germanic populations) is more of a shame culture than a guilt culture, although of course we have formal “guilt culture” institutional mechanisms of social control such as policies, procedures, investigations, and sanctions. People here will be influenced much more by self-policing (shame, fear of social stigma, etc.) long before they will be influenced by fear of formal reprisals, and will tend to police their actions to a greater extent than any policy actually stipulates – for instance, if it’s wrong to harass, then we will interpret it as wrong to talk about sex at all; or, if it is wrong to go out on a date, we will ban conversations in coffee shops; etc. and so forth. The result will be a culture in which almost any informal interaction (even of the innocent sort) between students and faculty will be so massively stigmatized that it is unlikely that any such interactions can occur without all parties (both concerned and unconcerned) believing they are inappropriate, and pro-actively signaling avoidance and/or disapproval.

 

I think I can lend plausibility to this. If you look at the first comment on the “Inside Higher Ed” article, you will see that it came from a student of the University of Iowa probably circa the 80s (it references a certain Professor Forell, who was head of the department of religious studies). It shows that a certain complex of attitudes about fraternization – a sense of its obvious impropriety combined with smug self-satisfaction about this prudery – was an element of the culture long predating the institution of formal mechanisms of social control. (And is it a coincidence that the UI has the first formal mechanism of this kind ever imposed in US higher education? No – what you appear to have is a perfect storm of Upper Midwestern shame culture/repression of sexuality combined with the elements you have everywhere else too, like fear of sexual harassment lawsuits and the usual neo-feminist academic Puritanism). The difference is that we have the usual academic Puritanism, but in the context of a shame culture. When do the people involved kill themselves? When they are outed – exposed to massive social shame – before any institutional finding of wrong-doing has actually been made. No one is afraid of what the institution may do to them formally, at least not to the extent of suicide. They are afraid of social stigma.

 

And the Weiger situation is doubly bad. If you look at the Inside Higher Ed article’s summary of the lawsuit, apparently a major part of the aggrieved student’s strategy to show hostile environment sexual harassment is that some sexual banter happened and that there was a consensual relationship between Weiger (who was single) and a student. It is not clear that the student is claiming actual, personal harassment, as opposed to having to endure an environment where fraternization could occur. Surely these aren’t the same thing.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, shame, suicide, Uncategorized, University of Iowa | 1 Comment

University of Iowa avoidance and denial in faculty suicides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victims and victimization at the University of Iowa

The University of Iowa student newspaper the Daily Iowan reported on the campus reaction on the suicide of Professor Weiger.  One of the more bizarre and insensitive reactions was by Karla Miller, director of the Rape-Victim Advocacy Program.

Karla Miller…declined to comment specifically about Weiger, but she said after such apparent suicides, it could emotionally affect the victim who reported the harassment.

“It would be only natural to wonder why an individual would do this,” she said. “Unfortunately, what can happen is the response that some people make is to blame the victims, and that’s inappropriate.

“The victims are never to blame.”

A right-on response to this comment was by the False Rape Society blog; their letter to the editor of the Daily Iowan follows-

In your story, “Accused U. Iowa music professor victim of apparent suicide” (Nov. 13), you report on the tragic death of Professor Mark Weiger from an apparent suicide following an accusation of sexual harassment. One of the persons you interviewed properly noted that “sexual-harassment lawsuits frequently result from false accusations.”

However, you also quote Karla Miller, the director of the Rape-Victim Advocacy Program, who refused to speak about Prof. Weiger specifically but used the occasion of his tragic death to implicitly assume the guilt of every person accused of sexual harassment. Specifically, she said that the suicide of a person so accused “could emotionally affect the victim who reported the harassment.” She makes sure to add that after such a suicide, “some people . . . blame the victims, and that’s inappropriate. The victims are never to blame.”

Did you get that? Before a single scrap of evidence is admitted at trial, the person who reported the sex offense is declared the “victim” who is “never” to blame for a tragedy such as Prof. Weiger’s suicide — the facts, the evidence, and due process itself be damned. While Ms. Miller’s comments were not directed specifically at Prof. Weiger, it is difficult to see how he could not be included in her rush to judgment that improperly assumes the guilt of every person accused of a sex offense.

The dankprofessor gets it.  The dankprofessor also gets the fact that the sexual harassment training ordered by UI in response to these so-called harassment suicide cases probably does not communicate anything about due process and presumption of innocence.  And if such material is included in their training, it apparently has had no effect on Karla Miller.  Unquestionably Miller is in need of some training, and it is in the areas of sensitivity and legal due process training.

November 14, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, rape, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

Suicide and sexual harassment at the University of Iowa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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