Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Student professor intimate relationship attacked, pt. 2

Mark Bourrie on his Ottawa Watch Blog responds to my critique on his wanting to ban student prof intimacies at Concordia University.  He states-

An American university professor/blogger doesn’t get it. He says I want to “coerce” people. Actually, no. I want them to act professionally. I don’t want them to come on to, date and/or sleep with someone, then grade their work, decide on their scholarships, etc.

Of course, Dr. Bourrie is playing words games.  He wants to coerce them if  they act in a manner that he finds unprofessional.  If they act like he wants them to act, if they act like him, no problem.  Nothing new here, particularly in the area of sexuality.  Follow my sexual standards or else!  Nothing new here in reference to authoritarianism, just follow the ethic handed down from above, and all will be OK.

And then there is Bourrie’s naivete or is it verbal manipulation?  Note his statement-  “I don’t want them to come on to, date and/or sleep with someone, then grade their work, decide on their scholarships, etc.” This is sexism to the nth degree!  Male active, female passive.  A female student coming on to a male prof is nothing unusual, such has never been unusual and will never be unusual.  Maybe the case is that female students do not find Bourrie attractive but such does not mean that they do not find other male profs attractive.  I know this to be a fact based on my 35 years of experience as a professor as well as based on the experiences of many other professors and the many female students who have contacted me in regards to their love of their professor.  And if Bourrie is unaware of male profs and female students marrying, such is other worldly. If female students were not attracted to male profs then the issue of consensual relationships would not be an issue.

Then Bourrie states-
“If sex between profs and students is so right, why do the profs involved keep it a secret? I figure anything that can’t take public scrutiny tends to be illegal, immoral or fattening. U of T gets that aspect, too, and it’s a good start.”

I ask Bourrie and his confreres, if in the past homosexuals believed their homosexuality right, then why did homosexuals keep their homosexuality secret?  Why were homosexuals so closeted?  Any person with some degree of common sense knows the answer to these questions.  Being in the closet, keeping such things secret, does not mean that the secreted believe they are wrong, but often means that they do not want to be harassed, stigmatized and fired.   As persons without power, they do not want to be subject to the power abuse of bureaucrats, police and various agents of moral zealots; moral zealots who act self-righteously  in the name of their morality , their professionalism, etc.

And in more general terms about Bourrie’s feeling that “anything can’t take public scrutiny tends to be illegal, immoral or fattening.”  Very funny if one does not believe in the right to privacy, in this case the right to privacy by consenting adults.  I assumed that even so-called professionals believe sexual relationships between adults in private was OK.  If the Concordia prof and student came out publicly, I guess Bourrie would feel OK about this rather than feeling that they were flaunting their relationship. I believe most people who are opposed to student professor relationships want them to be in the closet, not out in public for all to see, not engaging in marriage ceremonies, etc.

Bourrie then cites the University of Toronto policy in he following terms-

Here’s U of T’s policy. At least they recognize the conflict and say the affair must be disclosed, but look at the weasel word “should” in the first paragraph. I would prefer “must”:

University policy does not prohibit sexual relations between consenting adults. However, if you form any kind of intimate personal relationship with someone who teaches you or otherwise makes academic decisions affecting you, that teacher has a conflict of interest. She or he should disclose the conflict of interest to their academic supervisor – usually the Chair of the department or the Dean of the faculty – and should ensure that your work is graded by a colleague.

If your teacher does not disclose the conflict of interest, s/he is not simply in breach of University policy: s/he is showing a negligent disregard for your academic interests, and placing the legitimacy of your academic accomplishments in question.

Has Dr. Bourrie really thought thru the implications and possible consequences of policies of this sort? If not, I suggest that the good professor put himself in the position of the involved student and the professor who is committed to following university rules.  One day, you as the student are removed from the classroom and theoretically put in another class for your own good.  (Sometimes the student may not be physically removed from the class, but graded by another prof, no matter whether she stays or goes, the problems remain essentially the same.)  And, in addition, you know that the university administrators who are “helping” you, know of your sexual activity that led to your removal.  And then you will have to deal with the reality that it is your special professor who informed on you and has helped to remove you from his class.  What kind of professor would do this?  What kind of professor would do this to a woman who he supposedly loved?  And for the involved professor his life goes on, no serious disruption since the disclose dispose policy, as some call it, has been implemented.  I ask Dr. Bourrie, who professes to be a person who believes in this policy, have you ever given one iota of thought to the exiled student?  Or was she simply a non-person who was disposed of?   And this policy is implemented by some to correct a power imbalance; this is power imbalance at its worst.

But, of course, there is more, much more which is damning about this sort of policy.  Supposedly the student is removed from class so that differential non-prejudicial grading can take place.  But once the student is removed one can be assured that differential grading will take place since all the students but one will have the same grader.  For the professor who is committed to fair and objective grading, the professor grades all the students using the same standard irrespective of whether the prof likes or dislikes the student. 

However, dealing with the possible reality of the student being removed from class, who will be the grader and will the grader be able to grade this student as the regular prof grades all of the other students?  How can it be assured that a colleague of the “special” professor will grade the student objectively, that his or her feeling about the special prof or the student, will not interfere with the grading? Will the grader be told that the student is the lover of the prof?  And what if the grade is based on an in class project, on class participation, how will this be dealt with?  And what if the student is taken out of an art or music or theatre arts or sports class?  How can the prof deal with this?  Shouldn’t the grading prof be forced to sit thru the entire class and then grade the student?

It is amazing that so many people, so many academics, are taken in by a policy that after a bit of thought one cannot help but label said policy as a sham.  Academics often have knee jerk responses to these policies. Why? Because most academics give little thought to the intricacies, complexities and ethics of grading. Grading is at the bottom of the academic totem pole.  Tell me about one professor at Concordia or UT who was hired in part because of their grading practices.  Tell me about any university that has workshops for new or old faculty on grading practices.  Of course, many faculty don’t grade, they ship out grading to teaching assistants. So much for the importance of grading. 

Bottom line is that the policies that Bourrie, et. al., advocate are not based on a commitment to good grading but are rather based on rooting out those who they see as sexual deviants.  In the dankprofessor’s opinion the irony regarding Bourrie and his concern for his daughter at the hands of a so-called predator professor is that his daughter would probably be at much greater risk if she becomes involved in the hookup and drinking culture associated with all too many colleges than if she became involved with her English or Theatre Arts professor.  As the dankprofessor has indicated previously-
the love of knowledge can lead to the knowledge of love.  Such passions simply cannot be destroyed or regulated by campus bureaucrats or professionals of any kind.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | Canada, coercing women, Concordia University, consensual relationships, ethics, grading, higher education, hooking-up, love, outing students, passion, privacy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, the closet, University of Toronto | 1 Comment

   

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