Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

The love that dare not speak its name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

© Copyright 2007

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

UC Bamboozled the LA Times

In the LA Times article of October 22 relating to consensual student/professor dating bans, a UC spokesperson was interviewed by the reporter as to the frequency of violations of the UC code on consensual relationships.  The LA Times reported on the UC response in the following terms-

“Since 2003, a handful of cases of possible faculty violations of the policy have been formally reviewed, according to UC spokesman Brad Hayward. No professor has been dismissed, although a few were disciplined with warning letters that are considered confidential personnel matters, he said.”

Such is simply not the case.  Maybe Brad Hayward was misinformed by the UC upper echelon or he was engaging in a terminological manipulation to avoid telling the truth.

UCLA administrator/professor Adolfo Bermeo was dismissed in 2005 for violating the UC consensual relationship policy. The case was reported in detail by the UCLA Daily Bruin on March 22, 2005.  There were student protests in support of Adolfo Bermeo. Bermeo admitted to a consensual relationship with an enrolled student and the relationship came to the attention of the UCLA administration.  Even though it was asserted that the relationship came to the attention of the UCLA administration by the invasion of Bermeo’s privacy, UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale felt that it did not matter how the relationship was discovered, disciplinary action would be taken against Bermeo.  In defending his actions, “the chancellor pointed to the age difference and “extraordinary” power gap between the director and student and said what Bermeo did doesn’t miss statutory rape by that much.”

Although it was not reported by the Daily Bruin that Bermeo was dismissed for a consensual relationship, as of April 2005 Bermeo could not be found at UCLA.  He has since resurfaced in Washington DC as a retired UCLA professor employed by a non-profit organization focusing on helping minority students obtain their educational goals.

 So Adolfo Bermeo continues with the good work he did at UCLA.  He would still be at UCLA if UCLA respected faculty members rights to privacy and association and if UCLA did not have a zero tolerance policy for consensual relationships code violators.

Of course, the UCLA and UC administrations do not admit that such cases are hidden under the informal policy of allowing the alleged offenders to resign and retire.

As for the LA Times reporter, Larry Gordon, the dankprofessor believes he naively accepted the UC’s Brad Hayward’s  statement at face value and ended up being bamboozled by the California higher education establishment.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

© Copyright 2007

October 28, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, student professor dating, UC, UCLA | 1 Comment

Putting UC Santa Barbara professor “on notice”

In the LA Times article on Professor Abramson, Professor Gayle Binion, UC Santa Barbara professor who was the muscle behind the UC professor student dating ban, demonstrates her utter disdain for her UC faculty colleagues, and I expect she was only referring to her male colleagues, when she stated “it is only the student who is going to suffer” when a relationship ends.

What an utterly gross and demeaning stereotype of male professors.  Does she not believe that even male professors have emotions?  Is she incapable of seeing her male colleagues as full human beings who can experience the hurt associated with the ending of a relationship?  Does she not know that Roy Orbison’s “Love Hurts” was and is applicable to both men and women?

Her apparent inability to see her male faculty colleagues as being emotionally vulnerable human beings demonstrates that she has some sort of mental or emotional deficiency.  If such be the case, the cold blooded Gayle Binion may be masking her own feeling of being unloved, and wrapping herself in a feminist and sometimes bureaucratic rhetoric that  justifies her demeaning of her male colleagues.

Professor Binion continues her rant when she stated that the banning rule “…not only makes parents more secure when they send their kids to  UC, it puts the faculty on notice”.  Can the good professor believe that parents at times, even frequently, welcome their daughter’s choice of a professor as her partner or mate?  I can testify that as an eligible male professor who dated students I never encountered any parents who objected to their daughter being in a relationship with me.  With some parents I developed long lasting and valued friendships.  Never once was I ever treated rudely or with disdain by any parent of a student at any time, either during or after the time I was their daughter’s professor.  Personally, I cannot imagine real parents in the real world going thru university codes of conduct re consensual dating policies to determine their choice of a university for their son or daughter.  If such parents are existent, I think it would be fair to characterize them as controlling parents, parents who in all probability would find themselves to be quite at home with Professor Binion  being an agent for them controlling and patrolling their children while they attend UC.

In any case, the bottom line is control.  As Binion states, she wants to put faculty “on notice”  and keep the “kids” under control with herself as being a kind of surrogate authoritarian mother.  Of course, it is the same old story, the dilemma of how to protect oneself from ones protector.

My advice to the professor who has consented to the non-consensual policies advocated by Gayle Binion,  et. al., is to respect yourself and your colleagues, and to put Gayle Binion and her confreres on notice that UC faculty will join their UCLA colleague Paul Abramson in speaking out in advocacy for the basic freedoms of freedom of choice and association which are freedoms still worth preserving and fighting for in our contemporary universities.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

© Copyright 2007

October 28, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, ivory tower romance, sexual politics, student professor dating, UC, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA | Leave a comment

UCLA Prof advocates “abolition” of student-prof dating bans

In an LA Times article of October 22, UCLA  psychology prof, Paul Abramson strongly comes out against bans on student-professor relationships. The LA Times interview and article occurred in the context of the publication of a new book by Abramson on student-prof dating.  One of the first dankprofessor postings was on an interview with Abramson which appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. However, it is in this LA Times article that Abramson directly and forcefully takes on the higher ed establishment for “eliminating civil liberties” on campus in  the context of passing these bans.  Abramson also does not fall into the stereotype of equating student-prof relationships as composed of an older male and younger childlike female.  He recognizes that many of these relationships represent partners who are similar in age.  Of course, none of Abramson’s writings will affect the hardcore banners such as Gayle Binion who is quoted in the article and who was the prime mover of the UC ban on consensual relationships.  However, it may be that the middle mass of faculty who go in whatever direction the wind may be blowing may start to question and reconsider such policies.  However the road to change will probably be a very long one.  Only when Abramson and persons such as myself receive invitations to air our views on campus and when professors who share our abolitionist views openly embrace said abolitionism will I be more hopeful.  Personally, I became tired of listening to fellow faculty who would tell me privately that they agreed with my views, but at the same time could not air them publicly.  Academic freedom did not mean for them that they could speak out on these issues.  On the other hand, maybe they knew what I find hard to accept on a gut level- that academic freedom is an ideal that in the real world of academia is all too often not applied when it comes to a professor who is too controversial, too outspoken.

Following are excepts from the LA Times article-

In the volatile mix of academia and sex, UCLA psychology professor Paul R. Abramson says he is trying to light a torch for liberty.

Abramson is sharply criticizing his own employer and colleges nationwide that have adopted restrictions — and, in a few cases, outright bans — on romances between faculty and students.

Of course, sexual harassment should not be allowed and no one should supervise or give grades to a romantic partner, says Abramson, who has taught at UCLA for 31 years. But those concerns should not restrict the right of consenting adults to have a non-exploitative relationship, he argues in a new book.

….

Salon.com, in a blurb that set off a blistering online debate about the classroom and the bedroom, suggested that Abramson might be “a campus Casanova in his own right.”

To that, Abramson reacted wryly during an interview at his campus office. “I’m 57 and have three kids and two grandkids. If I’m the campus Casanova, then the campus has a lot of problems,” said the professor, who has longish graying hair, a goatee and an earring.

Abramson concedes that his personal life was complicated in his 20s but says he has been a staid suburban soccer dad for the last two decades. Thrice divorced, he is married to a 51-year-old neonatal nurse who has never been affiliated with UCLA.

He points out that he has not had a romance with anyone at UCLA for 20 years, although he said he had serious relationships with two former undergraduate students nearly 30 years ago. One was 13 years his senior, and the other, whom he eventually married, was five years his junior. He met them in his classes but did not date them until later, he said.

Too many people have an unrealistic stereotype of campus love, he said. “The picture of it is the older professor and Suzie Coed. I’m sure such things happen, but the greater likelihood are people of similar ages, with similar interests, going for the same music and movies,” like a 27-year-old assistant professor and a 24-year-old graduate student who later get married, he said.

Abramson’s book began as a reaction to regulations adopted by the UC regents in 2003; they didn’t ban such hookups but declared that professors should avoid romantic or sexual relationships with students for whom they have “or should reasonably expect” to have teaching or supervisory responsibility. That includes students interested in a subject within the professor’s expertise — a definition that Abramson finds overly broad. Sanctions range from written censure to dismissal.

The rules were adopted, amid some debate, partly in reaction to a sexual harassment allegation at UC Berkeley. Its law school dean, John P. Dwyer, resigned in 2002 after a student charged that he fondled her when she passed out from heavy drinking. The dean said the encounter was consensual.

The fact that the Dwyer case was cited to support the rules shows that campus leaders were more concerned about lawsuits than anything else, Abramson alleges.

“Eliminating civil liberties to punish a small number of transgressors is hardly the answer,” he writes.

To allay legal fears, he suggests an alternative: All faculty and students would read and sign a release (a “love contract”) that would warn about the power differences and favoritism that can arise from faculty-student dating. They then would promise, as in a medical release, not to hold the school responsible if the romance goes sour.

UC Santa Barbara political science professor Gayle Binion, who helped draft the 2003 UC policy when she headed the systemwide Academic Senate, said it was partly intended to shield UC from liability.

But more important, she said, most of the faculty thought it was “good policy” since students may consent to an affair but not grasp the potential consequences even if they sign a release. “If the relationship goes awry, it is the student who is going to suffer,” Binion said, citing instances of graduate students who then drop out.

Such relationships are “not terribly uncommon at the graduate student level,” but probably less frequent and more “under the radar” now than during the free-wheeling ’70s and early ’80s, she said. Still, the rule “not only makes parents more secure when they send their kids to UC, it puts the faculty on notice,” Binion said.

Abramson overstates his case about restrictions on freedom, according to Binion. Limits on dating are common in many workplaces, she said, and academia “is kind of late coming to it.”

Since 2003, a handful of cases of possible faculty violations of the policy have been formally reviewed, according to UC spokesman Brad Hayward. No professor has been dismissed, although a few were disciplined with warning letters that are considered confidential personnel matters, he said.

So what do students think? Reaction is mixed.

Dianne Tanjuaquio, a vice president of UCLA’s undergraduate students association, said she agrees with Abramson that the rules are too harsh in keeping entire departments off-limits. “We are adults at an elite university. Something as broad as that is very restrictive on our personal freedoms,” she said.

But Oiyan Poon, president of UC’s systemwide student association, supports the regulations, explaining that a teacher in the same department could harm a student’s career even if they never shared a class. Without the rules, “those issues could get extremely sticky when a student is trying to earn a degree in a timely fashion,” she said.

In 1995, the American Assn. of University Professors adopted a statement that calls sexual relations between students and faculty who supervise them “fraught with the potential for exploitation.” Anita Levy, its associate secretary for academic freedom and tenure issues, said Abramson’s arguments might find some support on campuses, but she doubted any rule changes nationwide would occur.

Abramson said he is often asked how he would react if his middle daughter, who is preparing for college, dated a professor in the future. “It’s within the realm of possibility, but it’s much more likely she would meet a 22-year-old teaching assistant,” he said. “If that’s who she wants to be involved with, that’s who she gets involved with.”

larry.gordon@latimes.com

October 24, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, ivory tower romance, student professor dating, UCLA | 7 Comments

   

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