Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

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

Freedom fighters for Polanski

What a great week with the announcement on July 12 that the Swiss would not allow Roman Polanski to be extradited to the USA.

Once it was announced in September that Roman was being held for extradition to the US, I became committed to arguing/advocating for his release. One of the unexpected great benefits of doing so was my getting to know so many wonderful people from around the world who shared this same commitment. I thank all of them for their friendship and commitment to freeing Polanski. I particularly wanted to thank Jean-Yves Chalangeas of Paris, Dave Phillips of London, Marion Demoy of London, Soledad Pertier of Miami, Florida, Agnieszka Jackl of Warsaw,  Dorota Sienievitch of Paris, Domi Marchewka of Warsaw, Valarie Bau of Toulouse France, Lea Krausz of Switzerland, Liz Marinaccio of New York, and Isabelle Ruh of France. And do note that none of the aformentioned, including myself, were members of any Hollywood elite. We were members of an elite who understood that the continued persecution of Roman Polanski was unjust and outrageous.

July 17, 2010 Posted by | Roman Polanski | 7 Comments

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

Fellatio and bats at Irish university.

The president of the University of College Cork has becomes uncorked re a sexual harassment charge relating to fellatio and bats.  Read the story as presented below.  Absurdity knows no limits when it comes to how universities handle sexual matters.

London, May 18 (ANI): An academic at the University College Cork in Ireland found himself at the centre of a sexual harassment scandal after he discussed a scientific paper, titled ‘Fellatio in fruit bats prolongs copulation time’ with a female colleague.

Dylan Evans, a psychologist at the university’s school of medicine, has been saddled with a two-year period of intensive monitoring and counselling after discussing the paper with a colleague.

And now his university is coming under international pressure to lift the punishment meted out to Dylan.

As part of what he says was an ongoing discussion on human uniqueness, Evans showed a copy of the fellatio paper to a female colleague in the school of medicine.

“There was not a shred of a sign of offence taken at the time. She asked for a copy of the article,” New Scientist quoted Evans as saying.

A week later he got a letter informing him that he was being accused of sexual harassment.

Evans said that the whole case is “utterly bizarre”.

The complainant’s side of the argument is that she was “hurt and disgusted”, and asked Evans to leave a copy of the paper with her as way of cutting short the meeting.

Apparently, there was more to the grievance between Evans and the complainant than the fellatio paper incident, but an independent investigation found that Evans was not guilty of sexual harassment.

The investigation stated that it was reasonable for the colleague to have been offended and that showing the paper was a joke with a sexual innuendo, but that it was not Evans’ intention to cause offence.

Nevertheless, the university’s president, Michael Murphy, imposed a censure, which Evans says has prevented him getting tenure.

An online petition calling on the university authorities to back down has been set up and has been signed by high-profile academics including philosopher Daniel Dennett of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and Steven Pinker of Harvard University.

Dennett called the punishment “an outrageous violation of academic freedom” and Pinker says the “absurd and shameful” judgment “runs contrary to the principle of intellectual freedom and freedom of speech, to say nothing of common sense”.

The paper, which was carried out by many popular journals, had a certain prurient interest, which was only heightened by an explicit video that went with itMovie Camera.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers has written to Murphy asking him to rescind the two-year period of monitoring. (ANI)

May 18, 2010 Posted by | higher education, sex, sexual harassment, Uncategorized | 2 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

Sex at Yale

So Yale University has now formally banned sexual relationships between professors and ALL undergraduate students. Previously the ban applied only when the faculty member was in a supervisory relationship with a student.

It is this supervisory aspect that supposedly was the basic rationale for prohibiting student prof sexual relationships.  Such supposedly disabled profs from engaging in non-prejudicial grading and even if there was no grading problem such gave the appearance of a conflict of interest.  And those who were appearance obsessed argued that ultimately the integrity of the university was some how undermined.

The dankprofessor never bought into this as the real rationale. Academics were not and are not hung up on the importance of grading; in fact, grading occupies the low end of the academic totem pole.  It’s generally considered to be dirty work that can be farmed out to inexperienced teaching assistants.  What too many academics are hung up on is sex, particularly academics who see themselves as feminists, feminists who when they think about sex dread the existence of power differentials which are viewed as being omnipresent in heterosexual relationships.

So student professor relationships became the quintessential dreaded power differentiated relationships with the female student always being the helpless and victimized other in need of protection.  Or to put it in other terms, the new Yale ban is patently, openly anti-sexual; the anti-sexual brigades have taken over at Yale and in the dankprofessor’s opinion this is just the opening shot.

Just listen to Yale’s Deputy Provost Charles Long who has advocated student prof dating bans for many a year-  “I think we have a responsibility to protect students from behavior that is damaging to them and to the objectives for their being here.”  Obviously, people who think that sex is damaging are anti-sexual and would prefer to ban sex when such is possible.  And do note that Long makes no exceptions- he knows all that he needs to know- sex with professors damages undergraduates, end of story, no need to be concerned about students who do not want his protection.  No concern here about issues relating to consent or dissent.  Long has the power at Yale and he engages in power abuse par excellence in the area of sexuality.

The Yale undergraduate as child has no right to dissent when it comes to authoritarian Yale administrators. No matter that Yale students are considered cream of the crop, are widely held to be part of an intellectual elite.  These Yale students do not become full adults until they are Yale graduates.  The Yale mantra becomes wait until you graduate which effectively replaces the old traditional mantra of wait until you are married.

And no place in the new Yale policy is there any “grandfathering” clause.  A student and professor who are in an ongoing relationship which was consonant with the old policy now are in violation under the new policy. Breaking up may be hard to do but it is the only thing to do if one wants to stay in good graces at Yale.  OK, the student can drop out or the prof can resign.

And then there are those who say none of these dreaded things will come to be since the effect of the Yale policy will be to simply drive these people into the closet and in the closet they will be left alone.  Such represents the thinking of pipe dreamers.  The realists know that there is no shortage of Linda Tripps at Yale.  And they are waiting patiently for their right Yale professor and the right Yale student.  The “good” that these diligent informants can do is monumental; and all can be done in secret.  And I expect that Deputy Provost Long is prepared for the informants and the false chargers.  Or will he spare himself  by taking a flight into retirement?

April 10, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, feminism, grading, higher education, sex, sexual rights, student professor dating, Yale University | 1 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

Mourning and Remembrance at UNM

March 10 at 4:05 AM
by Christine

Thank you for the kind words. Thank you for keeping this article about Hector and Stefania. My uncle was a brilliant and tender man. My hope is that when people remember him the memories will be of his fabulous smile, his willingness to listen, and his absolutely brilliant mind.

This is such a loss to anyone that has ever or who might have crossed his path.

March 10 at 5:34 AM
by cathy

This is a wonderful description of a wonderful man I was lucky enough to call my uncle. Our hearts are broken, but it helps to hear how much he was loved.

March 10 at 6:40 AM
by Nathalie

‘No hay mal que por bien no venga’, this was the note in Spanish Hector sent to his/her friend.
But frankly, it’s difficult to see any good or the light out of this dark tunnel of pain and sorrow.
All our love, thoughts and memories to Hector’s and Stefanía’s families from Europe.
I owe Hector a lot, and we all miss him very, very much.
I didn’t have the chance to know Estefanía, but from here, Andalusia, the subject of her thesis, we will honor her memory.

March 10 at 6:53 AM
by C

This is such a tragedy. Stefania was a smart and kind woman. A wonderful person to have known. My heart goes out to her colleagues and family. I am grateful to have had her as a classmate.

March 10 at 7:32 AM
by Mick from Omaha

I feel that the “Reader” should be more concerned about what happened to two of the university’s “family” members verses the photography for the story. Mr. Torres was my son’s adviser and friend. My thoughts and prayers go out to both families and the university for this terrible tragedy.

March 10 at 7:38 AM
by Martin Engman

I knew Hector when I was a grad student and, subsequently, part-time instructor of mathematics from 86-96. At the time he was working on Linguistics and he and I would discuss the mathematical/logical structure of languages over coffee at the SUB or outside the Humanities building. This illustrates how broad-minded and multi-talented this great man was. He embraced knowledge of all kinds, in any scholarly area, and sought (always in a positive, fun, and extremely enthusiastic way) the connections between apparently distinct philosophies. This is a horrific and unbearable loss.
Vaya con dios, Hector.

March 10 at 8:17 AM
by Don Reese

Hector was a terrific friend who always treated me as a colleague when I was a graduate student at UNM. How terribly sad for such a kind and thoughtful man to die this way.

March 10 at 9:03 AM
by Bernardo Gallegos

I will miss Hector! He was one of my closest freinds. It is not often that one comes accross a person with the combination of intellectual passion, great sense of humor, and worldliness that he possessed. I will treasure all of the moments, arguments, good times, and overall commeraderie that we shared. I am fortunate to have a voicemail that Hector left me a few days ago talking about our freindship. He was so incredibally happy with the new relationship he had developed with Stefania, and I was going to meet her soon. I am in total disbelief about these seemingly surreal turn of events!

March 10 at 9:08 AM
by Kathy McCully

These two deaths come as a double blow for me, who knew them both in passing as a long time student at UNM. I helped Hector with some of his research on his last book, “Conversations with Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Writers” as a student employee at the library and he was always grateful for my help. Whenever I came over to Hector’s office, he always like to talk about his research and other ideas he had for the future.
I knew Stefania through an undergraduate program here at UNM when we went to present our research at North Texas University in Denton, TX. She was very worried over her daughters and concerned for their welfare. I hope that we, the UNM community and greater Albuquerque community, can honor their names with the suggested scholarship in honor of both of their memories and help others live better lives. Hector, Stefania, you will be missed.

March 10 at 9:23 AM
by Kathy mcCully

Is there something we can do to change the laws here in New Mexico about stalking someone? Ralph Montoya was a serial stalker and needed to be stopped way before it led to this tragedy. Unfortunately, the only thing that Stefania could do was to file a restraining order, which obviously did not work. I also know of several other women right now, who are students at UNM who are being stalked and I have known of other tragedies in the past that have occurred here in New Mexico because of poor laws protecting the victim.
This horrible attitude of stalking in New Mexico needs to stop right now!

March 10 at 10:47 AM
by Santhosh

It is really sad that Hector and Stephania are not with us anymore. Hector was a nice man with a brilliant mind. I will miss him. Hector and Stephania, RIP.

March 10 at 12:44 PM
by Rosalie

I personally never knew Professor Torres but my boyfriend took several courses from him at UNM. He would always come home after school and talk about what a brilliant and insightful professor he was. Professor Torres had even asked my boyfriend if he could attend his graduation this May. When I heard the news I was shocked and I immediately called my boyfriend to tell him about the tragedy. Words can never express the sadness and overwhelming emotions when two intelligent people are taken away from this world by an unstable erratic person. My heart and prayers goes out to both Hector and Stephania.

March 10 at 1:38 PM
by Sonya

I will miss my uncle tremendously – our wonderful conversations about so many books we’ve read and enjoyed, thinking about works that were on our “To Read” (or “To re-read” lists, ideas that were floating around in our minds on our mental “To Write” lists, story ideas I was thinking of writing, his thoughtful suggestions of books I should read . . . laughing about funny things that happened to us through the years, smiling about fun times, watching movies together, spending time together at my grandparents’ house. So many things – they ended too soon, too horribly.

This tragedy is definitely hard for us. All I can say is “saudade, Uncle. You are missed, loved, and remembered fondly.”

I can only offer sorrow and empathy for Stefania’s family and friends for their terrible loss. I’m sure it is as painful as my own family’s loss of Hector.

I agree with my cousins – it is good to see so many friends, students, acquaintances who miss the loss of our uncle. No, it doesn’t take away the pain, but it is good to know so many people appreciated him.

My prayers to Stefania’s family and friends – may they begin healing from this incomprehensible sorrow.

March 10 at 1:43 PM
by juliea Benzaquen

Yes, that smile was life giving. I will remember Mr. Torres as a wonderful, kind, funny, caring person and professor. I am so sad for our loss..He will be missed by all of his students!

March 10 at 4:40 PM
by Gloria Larrieu

I’ll never forget Hector. He was my prof for two classes in grad school at UNM and definitely a brilliant, loving, and humorous man. Bless him and Ms. Gray, as well as their families and friends. This is so sad and tragic.

March 10 at 5:51 PM
by Teclo Bolano, San Francisco, CA

I am, God, so appalled at this tragic, tragic loss of two such vibrant figures on campus. Never having been on campus myself (being self-educated, though well- read and a deep, keen thinker), I am doubly afflicted by this Pan-Latin, intranational nightmare. ?No hay mal que por bien no venga? Peut etre, but this surely pushes that envelope. I am imagining the sweet, sere campuscape of UNM, still in the balmy rising light of early dawn with this fine young couple, gliding arm-in-arm, pencil-dark in heavy shadow, blossoms sweet on the vestigial breeze off the mesa- they are, perhaps, going for coffee and chorizo at the local funky breakfast cafe of bohemian repute- the one where the china is chipped and unmatched, the coffe strong, the waitresses hirsute and sly. And…lo! They are not there. The hours have lengthened, the manicured gardens untrammelled now by those beloved shadowforms… Burn in whatever pagan hell begot you Ralph Montoya, 37!!!!!! Where is YOUR tearful portait, sir? At long last- where is YOUR tearful portrait????

March 10, 2010 Posted by | University of New Mexico | 1 Comment

Sexual messiness and Louisiana Tech

 Turns out that Louisiana Tech has no formal regulations regarding student professor relationships.  Good for Louisiana Tech.  No institutionalized snoopers and no sexual policing by university administrators.  But, of course,not everyone is happy with this laissez policy as indicated in this  publication-

 Student-professor relationships are notoriously messy affairs on college campuses, potentially compromising the classroom interactions between the professor and his students or leaving a professor vulnerable to sexual harassment charges. the lack of any written policy discouraging such actions has student opinion split.

 Notoriously messy?  Is such really the case?  In my pedestrian life as a professor, I do not recollect ever having a notoriously messy relationship with a student.  I can’t even recall a highly messy relationship.  I can’t even recall any of my colleagues sexual relationships with students as being notoriously messy.  At least in my case, maybe this messiness did not occur because the relationships occurred in the context of mutual love and respect.

But, of course, consenting adults have the right to engage in relationships, messy or not messy.  Maybe a little messiness makes the relationship a bit more interesting.  After all, if there was no initial messing around nothing would have gotten off the ground.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, higher education, Louisiana Tech, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | 2 Comments

UNM student/professor couple murdered

The New Mexico Daily Lobo has reported that UNM English professor Hector Torres  and his girlfriend Stephanie Gray, A UNM grad student in Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, were found dead Monday in his home near campus.

Ralph Montoya, the female victim’s ex-boyfriend, is charged with two counts of murder. He is booked in Metropolitan Detention Court on a $250,000 cash-only bail.
According to the warrant issued by APD, Montoya walked into the downtown office of attorney Lauren Oliveros on Monday and confessed to killing two people on Sunday. He told Oliveros the two bodies could be found at the residence of the male victim.

When police arrived at the residence, at noon, they saw two bodies lying on the floor from the outside window. Upon entering, officers saw the male victim laying face down in a pool of blood with a gun aimed at his head.

According to the report, it appeared to the officers that the gun was placed there by another person to make it look like the victim committed suicide.
Officers reported that the female victim was found face up in a pool of blood, but no visible wounds were found on her body. The male victim is 54 years old, and his girlfriend is 43, according to the report.

In response to the murders, the UNM administeration issued the following statement-

 “The UNM community has been diminished by the untimely deaths of two of our own. Professor Hector Torres will be remembered as a scholar of great passion, dedication and kindness. Graduate student Stefania Gray was a scholar of great promise. Both were wonderful individuals and we join their families and many friends in great sadness.”

Professor Torres was on faculty in the UNM Department of English since 1986. He was born in Tijuana, Mexico, raised in El Paso, Texas and, with the benefit of the GI Bill, earned all his degrees, including a doctorate in English language and literature from the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, he was teaching a course on Chicano Culture, a theory course and was directing an independent study.

He regularly teaches courses in literary and critical theory, postmodernism and contemporary Chicana and Chicano literary discourse and film, English syntax and discourse analysis, as well as courses on writing about film. His research and scholarship focused on contemporary, postmodern Chicana and Chicano literary discourse and film, literary and critical theory.

In a 2007 interview he said, “I think being a Spanish speaker who learned English in school drove my interest in linguistics, language and literature.”

In 2007, with UNM Press he published, “Conversations with Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Writers.” The impetus for the books was in his study of social linguistics – or the relationship between language and society. “The language of literature is language of reflection rather than language through interaction, but the social linguistic approach still interests me,” he said in a 2007 interview.

Stefania Gray was a graduate student in comparative literature in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. She was working with Raji Vallury, assistant professor in French, on her thesis, “Dreams of Andalusia: Women, Gender, Memory and Nation.” She was to defend the day after spring break.

Vallury remembers her as “vibrant, beautiful and strong.” She was a heritage Spanish speaker who earned her undergraduate degree and then went out to the workforce where she was a flight attendant. She came back to school and was the first woman in her family to do post-graduate study. She was already planning to pursue a doctoral degree, Vallury said.

The dankprofessor must note that in the aforementioed statement the UNM administration  does not mention that there was a relationship between the murdered student and murdered professor.  Maybe such a mention would be out of order in this statement.  But I do know this- that in universities throughout the United States, including UNM, student prof couples function in a hostile environment which has been created as a result of a persistent rhetoric which functions to dehumanize such couples.   Universities have given a license to just about  everyone to demean and degrade student professor couples.  And therefore it is not a shocking statement that for the mentally distraught  this cultural framework may function as a LICENSE TO KILL.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | higher education, sex, student professor dating, Uncategorized, University of New Mexico, violence | 1 Comment

The ethics of TA/student relationships

I like this posting by Prof. Janet D. Stemwedel aka as Dr. Free-ride on advising a TA how to deal or cope with his desire to date one of his students.   In contrast to almost all postings I have read in this area, she treats the student as a mature person and openly grapples with the complexities of the situation.  She does not invoke her own power in telling him what to do.  This prof does not views ethics as dictated from above nor does she preach anything in the name of conformity.  As for her advice, the only place where I think she is off base is when she advises that the final grading of the student should be by the professor not by the TA.  This really is inconsistent with her overall sound notion that the “special” student should not be treated as a special student and be treated just like all the other students.  If the student amour’s final grading is by the prof then all the other students final grading should be by the prof. 

I am posting the entirely of the student’s question and the good professor’s response.  Click here to go to her blog.

Posted on: February 22, 2010 5:04 PM, by Janet D. Stemwedel

By email, a reader asks for advice on a situation in which the personal and the professional seem like they might be on a collision course:

I am a junior at a small (< 2000 students) liberal arts college. I got recruited to be a TA for an upper division science class, and it’s going swimmingly. I’m basically a troubleshooter during labs, which the professor supervises. The problem is that I’ve fallen for one of the students, also a junior. Is it possible for me to ethically date her? The university’s handbooks are little help–sexual harassment is very strictly prohibited, but even faculty are technically allowed to date their students–and my instincts keep flip-flopping. On the one hand, teacher-student relationships are automatically suspect, but on the other I’m not sure that it’s significantly different from TAing the close friends that are in the class.

I obviously have no intention of changing grades or doing anything resembling sexual harassment, and I’m pretty good (sometimes too good) at being objective and keeping work and my social life separate. The grading is also pretty objective, and the professor goes over it to be sure my grades are reasonable. If it is possible, what do I need to look out for? Do I need to inform the professor (she knows I’m friends with the subject of my infatuation)? And in the event that we do go out, do I have to tell her that I grade her tests and labs (it’s unusual for a TA to grade in upper division courses in our department)? It seems like it might be easier if she didn’t know, but it would be at least lying by omission.

I know this probably sounds like it ought to be addressed to Dan Savage, but I’d really appreciate your advice and any advice your readers might have.
Thanks so much,

“Forbidden Chemistry”

I’ll allow as how Dan Savage knows a lot, but when was the last time he thought about the ethical challenges of power gradients in educational and training environments?
This is one of those situations that’s hard to avoid in academia, an instance where normal peer relationships are complicated because one of the peers has been given extra responsibility by someone outside of the peer group.

Maybe it’s not as frequent in all-undergraduate institutions, but it’s not at all uncommon in graduate school to end up having one of your friends TA a course you’re taking (which can entail grading your problem sets and exams). My recollection of these grad school courses is that students and TAs alike were driven by a grim determination to get through all the work they had to do. Rather than taking it personally on either end (the wretched problem set one friend submitted, or the painful grade the other friend assigned to that wretched problem set), everyone pretty much assumed an unfeeling, uncaring universe that was out to get us all equally, one way or another.

Good times.

However, our correspondent here is describing an environment with a baseline of warmer feelings, where members of the junior class are reasonably friendly with each other and the universe is a pretty OK place. An environment where people might even find love.

Except the potential for love here is challenged by a power disparity. A TA may not have a lot of power over his students, but could it be enough to mess things up?

There are some big questions Forbidden Chemistry needs to think about here. High on the list is his ability to fulfill the duties of the TA job. Doing this job well involves helping the students in the lab class so that they have a reasonable shot of getting the experiments to work. This includes being as fair as he can in how he uses his time — not letting a handful of students monopolize his troubleshooting and leaving the rest without the help they need. The job also requires him to do some grading of student work, and to do this as objectively and consistently as he can.

Having a student in the course become a girlfriend could potentially interfere with both of these elements of the job requirements. It might lead, consciously or unconsciously, to a different pattern of providing assistance during the lab periods. And, it might undercut Forbidden Chemistry’s ability to be objective in grading the assignments.

Let’s pause here to recognize that there’s already something a little awkward, as Forbidden Chemistry notes, about grading one’s peers. Even if you’re focused on evaluating their work, it’s hard to keep that completely distinct from evaluating them. And even if you’re clear that it’s just their work you are evaluating, they may not feel as though the lines are that clear when they get their graded work back. I’m inclined to think that this is an issue that professors with TAs who are in the same cohort as the students they are TAing ought to deal with explicitly as they mentor their TAs. (Yes, I think that there ought to be mentoring of one’s TAs, but that’s probably a topic best left to a post of its own.)

Aside from the question of whether a romantic relationship with a student in the course will undercut Forbidden Chemistry’s performance as a TA, there’s also the question of what effects the dynamics of the TA-student relationship could have on his relationship with the object of his affection. How awkward would it be for her to dating someone who’s grading her work? Would she worry that she was being graded more leniently — or, more harshly, if Forbidden Chemistry ends up going too far in an effort not to show favoritism? Even if she were confident that she was getting fair treatment in the class, would her classmates who were not dating a TA share this perception.

Indeed, in some ways the big consequence to fear from asking a student out here is what that would do to Forbidden Chemistry’s relationship with the other students in the class. Would they perceive such a relationship as setting up unfair conditions in the lab course? After all, if Forbidden Chemistry starts dating the object of his affections, they might well start spending a lot more time together. Would this give her greater access to Forbidden Chemistry to get her questions answered about how to make the labs work, or how to analyze the data, or what counts the most on the lab write-ups? The other students might decide that Forbidden Chemistry is falling down on his TA duties if he doesn’t provide them with similar all-access consultations out of class. Maybe this will end up undermining the friendships he had with some of these students before he was the TA for their class.

Finally, Forbidden Chemistry needs to consider the possibility that the object of his affections, if asked out, may decline. How awkward would that make their interactions in the context of the TA-student relationship? How can one party “lie low” after such a rejection without either shirking duties to a student who may need assistance or opting out of getting help she made need from her TA?

So, Forbidden Chemistry wants to find a course of action where he can fulfill his professional and personal obligations, and one that brings about good consequences (and minimizes bad consequences) for himself, the object of his affections, the other students in the course, and the professor supervising him.

Here’s my advice:

Wait until the end of the semester, until the grades are out of your hands. This has the very best chance of keeping professional duties and personal duties from getting tangled up and pulling in opposite directions.

Given that there is a preexisting friendship in place, though — indeed, a web of preexisting social relationships within the junior class — it’s not unthinkable that an innocent interaction in a social context might get something started. As the romance novelists might put it, maybe despite Forbidden Chemistry’s best efforts, his heart (and that of his beloved) will not be denied. If this happens, do not opt for stealth and try to keep it secret. At a small college, the chances of actually keeping a secret like this are vanishingly small. Moreover, the appearance of a cover-up is likely to have worse effects (especially on Forbidden Chemistry’s professional interactions with the students in the course) than the relationship itself.

While Forbidden Chemistry and his beloved are avoiding hiding in the shadows, though, Forbidden Chemistry will need to take concrete steps to ensure fairness.

In the lab, Forbidden Chemistry will want to keep track of troubleshooting time, to make sure all the students who need his help are getting a fair slice of that time.

Also, I’d think Forbidden Chemistry would need to let the professor for the course grade the girlfriend’s work. To make this easier on the prof, and to maximize the chances for objective grading across the students in the class, this means Forbidden Chemistry should grade all the other papers first; the prof can then use these graded papers as a guide to partial credit. (Alternatively, Forbidden Chemistry can devise a “grading guide” that captures all the point assignments, and hand this over to the professor, with the other graded papers as an additional reference.) Of course, it’s probably fairest if Forbidden Chemistry doesn’t even look at the girlfriend’s paper before grading the other papers and making a grading guide.

There is a chance that the professor for the class will view this sort of effort to avoid a conflict of interest as responsible. There is also a chance that the professor for the class will view this sort of effort to avoid a conflict of interest as a pain in the ass for her. Suddenly she has grading to do that she didn’t have to do before! Couldn’t Forbidden Chemistry just wait until the course is over? Why can’t college juniors separate business and pleasure? However, recall that the context already in place has Forbidden Chemistry grading friends. College life, especially at small residential colleges, tends already to mix business and pleasure. So maybe there is already good reason for professors to have discussions with their TAs about the general issue of how to manage professional and personal responsibilities when worlds collide.

And, if Forbidden Chemistry ends up dating his student before the term is over, he and she must commit to keeping their interactions in the lab all business. Even if the relationship isn’t a secret, and even if no one says anything about it, people will be watching.

Again, I’m inclined to think that if the feelings are real, they’ll be robust enough to pursue after grades are filed. But if something mutual blossoms before then, be grown-ups about it and take the steps you need to in order to ensure your effectiveness as a TA isn’t compromised — including admitting that some situations don’t help our objectivity, and making arrangements to get help from someone not in this particular crucible of love.

Good luck!

February 23, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | 2 Comments

Mass censorship at UC SanDiego

In response to a shut down of all student media at UC San Diego a Facebook group has been formed- 

Tell AS: Mass Censorship is NOT the Answer

The Facebok position statement follows.

In response to the recent string of racist events at UC San Diego, AS President Utsav Gupta, has recently put a moratorium on ALL media organizations.

What this means is that all 33 media organizations cannot have access to any of the funds they need to publish Spring Quarter. The hard work of hundreds of students is being denied because of the actions of a few.

Tell AS: mass censorship is not the answer. Punishing 33 organizations for the actions of one is neither fair nor productive. Media organizations on this campus represent a wide range of students, interests and opinions. They are a diverse set of publications that allow students to express their thoughts, opinions and creativity. Silencing this creative outlet WILL NOT solve the problems of racism, inequality and bigotry. If anything, it takes away outlets through which students can express their outrage at these problems.

You cannot promote diversity by eliminating creativity. You cannot solve racism by censoring the student voice.

The Associated Student president issued the following statement-

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dear UC San Diego,

Last night, a deeply offensive and hurtful program was aired on Student Run Television (SRTV), a service of the Associated Students. The content of this program does not represent the views of the Associated Students, and was aired by KoalaTV, the television show put on by the student organization The Koala. We condemn the actions of The Koala, its program and its content.

The Koala was not properly authorized to display content on SRTV. We are in the process of determining how the program was aired. In the meantime, as authorized by the ASUCSD Standing Rules, I have revoked the SRTV Charter for review. We will only open it again when we can be sure that such hateful content can never be aired again on our student funded TV station.

Alongside this initiative, I have frozen all student media organization funding. The Koala has long since been a controversial publication at UC San Diego and is primarily funded by our student fees. I do not believe we should continue funding this organization with our fees.

We must develop effective policies to ensure that our fees do not go to the support the hateful speech that targets members of our community. I ask that those media organizations that did nothing wrong and are unfairly affected to be patient until we can resolve this situation.

To this end, I have charged a campus-wide committee to review the funding of student media. This committee is open to every member of the UC San Diego community – faculty, staff, students, and whoever else feels strongly about this issue. The information about this the committee shall be posted to as.ucsd.edu in the next few days, or you may email me directly at aspresident@ucsd.edu if you’d like to obtain future email updates.

The Associated Students stands in solidarity with those affected by last night’s program, and we remain committed to being the voice for all UC San Diego students.

Utsav Gupta
Associated Students President

The Foundation for Indivudal Rights in Education has issued a statement highly critical of the shutting down of student media at UCSD

Click here for San Diego non-student coverage of the situation.

The dankprofessor wants to make it clear that the racial comments made by some UC students associated with the student media are dastardly.  Events at UCSD mocking Black History Month are also deeply offensive.  However, shutting down student media is deeply repugnant to the ethos of university life.  This is not Iran, people.  This is also not the deep south of the 1940s.  UCSD should deal with this in the context of a discourse characterized by civility, not censorship.

February 23, 2010 Posted by | censorship, higher education, racism, speech, UC San Diego | Leave a comment

Dining out as risky behavior

Thank you very much for taking the on-line sexual harassment training program that was recently offered by the University.  Preventing sexual harassment on campus is the responsibility of all of us.  I greatly appreciate your participation.

One concern has been raised regarding the training program.  The specific scenario of concern involved a faculty member taking a student to dinner on a weekend.  The program indicated that this conduct was not, in and of itself, sexual harassment.

The University wants to make clear that while this might not be sexual harassment in the absence of other facts, it is not good practice to engage in this type of activity with students as it can clearly lead to charges of sexual harassment.  Of course, University policy forbids any faculty member from having a dating relationship with any student with whom he or she has a teaching, research or advisor relationship.

 I am not sure what university issued the above statement. Link is provided so those who are familiar with the script may be able to determine which university.

 Of course, the absurdity is apparent.  The dankprofessor notes that it is not clear that having dinner with a student can lead to harassment.  The risk of food poisoning, of indigestion, of soup slurping would seem to be higher risk behaviors.  In any case, if one is interested in having a better understanding of this scenario maybe the scenario should be fleshed out a bit, such as the dinner being in celebration of the student graduating, or of the student being accepted into a graduate program or a gesture in helping the student deal with a death in her family.  Or maybe a result of a mutual attraction which could lead to a dating relationship and to marriage and to parentage and to divorce.

But as noted by the higher authority- “Of course, University policy forbids any faculty member from having a dating relationship with any student with whom he or she has a teaching, research or advisor relationship.”

 But if one really attempted to live by these rules one could end up being normal and engaging in everyday worship of the God of Normal and, of course, engaging in appropriate dining behavior

February 18, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, fear, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics | 1 Comment

Otero University and student professor sex

As has been clearly demonstrated over the last few days, violence is no stranger to university campuses. Although it is more frequently violence by students toward other students and toward faculty, faculty to faculty violence is not unknown as was clearly demonstrated at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. We also find there to be faculty violence toward students as recently occurred at Otago University in New Zealand where student Sophie Elliot was murdered by lecturer Clayton Weathersome.

What makes the Otago U tragic murder different is that some people have come up with a way to prevent such violence.  They say the  way to do this is to have stringent measures taken against faculty who become sexually involved with a student. You see the Elliot/Weathersome affair and then murder was a student/prof affair.

Otago University has under taken a review of rules on staff-student romances, a review which was sparked by the brutal murder.  Persons, both inside and outside of the university, have been encouraged to make submissions on the issue. Elliott’s mother Lesley said she wanted vulnerable students who entered into relationships with university academics to be supervised and counseled, and for the academics involved to immediately resign.

The reaction of  the mother of the murdered student is understandable, but unfortunately all too often emotion carries the day when it comes to draconian measures enacted in the attempt to control violence, particularly sexual violence.

To view student professor intimate relationships as somehow intrinsically fostering violence is outrageous.  99.999 percent of such relationships do not lead to lethal violence.  If one was going to focus on relationships that are more likely to lead to violence and lethal violence, such would be student/student relationships.  And, of course, when it comes to campus violence and violence in general, alcohol consumption should be a major area of concern.

The mother stated-

“I feel something should be in the employment contract of staff to the effect that if a relationship develops, they are obliged to resign. We think this policy also needs to be highlighted to students… If students knew a person would have to resign, they may have second thoughts about going out with staff.”

Now it is this last line that irks the dankprofessor.  No student should have second thoughts about going out with a staff member because of this one tragic case.  And, of course, if this sort of thinking is taken seriously, then any person, student or non-student, would have concerns about going out with a lecturer because of the violence implication.

Now I know that some will say I am overreacting to the ramblings of a distraught mother.  Unfortunately, such is often how universities end up imposing stringent controls on student professor relationships.  People become distraught and want immediate action, and universities respond by not dealing with violence or coercion or sexual harassment but rather by demeaning those who are involved in consensual relationships.

Let us hope that Otago University does not go in the aforementioned direction.  What student professor couples want is what most other couples want and that is to be left alone as they pursue their mutual romantic goals.  To consider these couples as sort of criminal couples is not only absurd but is also criminal.

February 15, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, fear, fraternization, higher education, Otero University, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, violence | 2 Comments

On defending Roman Polanski

The blog Shakesville periodically publishes material on the plight of Roman Polanski by guest bloggers or by one of their regular bloggers.  No matter who the blogger is on Shakesville you can be assured that Polanski always represents for them the ultimate societal enemy.  Anyone who deviates from their anti-Polanski party line is considered to be scum, to be a rape apologist.

So it is not surprising that their most recent anti-Polanski rant focuses on Johnny Depp who recently made some very public comments calling for the freeing of Roman Polanski.  And emerging out of the Shakesville closet is a blogger going under the name mschicklet.

mschicklet states-

Johnny Depp wants us all to know that Roman Polanski is no longer a threat. You see, Mr. Depp seems to think that Polanski is no longer capable of raping someone, because he is in his 70s and has a wife and children. So, there you go, nothing to worry about. We can all sit back, relax, and join the “Free Polanski” crowd.

Depp doesn’t say that Polanski is incapable of rape but for some 20 plus years he has been living a pretty sedate life- married with children and engaging in filmmaking and more filmmaking.  Such is the gist of Depp’s comments- that Polanski’s freedom does not represent a risk to society.

mschicklet continues-

Except, wait a minute. The second man who raped me had a wife and children. Every single day, I am blindsided by anxiety attacks brought on by the memory of his scent, his voice, even the sound of his name. Memory is a fickle thing, but I remember what he did to me. He raped me. While he was married. While his two young daughters were sleeping in the next bedroom.

But, Mr. Depp says there’s no way a man with a wife and children would do such a thing. No way someone who’s married for 20+ years, who kisses his daughters goodnight and tucks them into bed, could possibly rape anyone. So, does that mean my experience means nothing? Does that mean it really didn’t happen?

He doesn’t say that no married man with children could do such a thing, but dealing with Roman Polanski in a marital context, Depp says Roman Polanski has not done such a thing.

mschicklet continues-

I take issue with the fact that Johnny Depp is using his privilege to minimize and even deny the horrific events that so many victims have been forced to endure. And, after reading the Survivor Thread and listening to the stories of other rape victims in tear-filled counseling groups, I know my story isn’t all that rare.

Depp is using his privilege?  What privilege?  Speaking out for or against Polanski is not a privilege, it is a right.  He is no more privileged than the dankprofessor, and as far as I know my privileges are quite pesdestrian.  And Johnny Depp has not attempted to deny or minimize the horrors experienced by many victims of rape.

She continues-

Because, as we’ve learned, that’s the thing about rapists. They rape people. A wedding band doesn’t stop them, nor does the fact that they have children. Nor does their age. Denying this, as Mr. Depp is doing, silences rape victims. And, really, haven’t victims already been silenced enough?

Well, mschicklet attributes a whole lot of power to Depp.  He’s just an actor, mschicklet, he has the power to silence no one.  Now, maybe I am missing something, but mschicklet says that Depp is silencing rape victims and mschicklet is a rape victim and she has not been silenced.  OK, I know that victims of violence, rape or otherwise, respond differently to their victimage, but her prior paragraph she indicates that all rape victims respond in the same manner.  Note that I was more restrained, I said “many” rape victims.  But mschicklet stereotypes rape victims.  For example, not all rape victims want Polanski to be imprisoned.

She continues-

In addition to trying to be the final word on what a rapist is or is not, Johnny Depp also wants to know why Polanski was arrested. “Why now?” he asks. Why is this coming up now? Because Polanski fled the country for 30 years and refused to serve his time. By asking “Why now?” Mr. Depp is focusing responsibility on the wrong people – the people who want our justice system to do its job. Instead, he should be holding Polanski accountable. Mr. Depp’s words absolutely scream, “Poor him! Poor guy! Let him go! Leave him alone!” What sort of a society do we live in if so many people feel the need to defend and protect a rapist? If this isn’t rape culture, then I don’t know what is.

I do not believe that for a second that people who are defending Polanski are defending him because they have a need to protect a rapist.  I defend Polanski not out of some psychological need relating to rape but rather the belief that Polanski has been treated unfairly and he has been punished enough.  Whatever the circumstances were with with Samantha Geimer, Polanski cannot just be reduced to a rapist.  The complexities of this man are immense.  Few people in this world have gone thru the sort of horrific events that Roman Polanski has gone thru- a survivor of the Holocaust whose mother was gassed to death and a survivor of his wife’s mutilation and murder by the Manson gang.  mschicklet is distressed that people cannot open themselves to the horror associated with rape while at the same time she seems clueless as to the horrors experienced by Polanski.

And she continues-

And ever since the arrest of Polanski, that’s what I’ve seen from such a large portion of Hollywood and society in general. I’ve seen some of the most respected actors and filmmakers in Hollywood defend someone who doesn’t deserve it. Either they deny that he is a rapist, deny that he ever was a rapist, or blame us for not letting the rapist go. I wish Johnny Depp realized that by adding his name to the long list of rape apologists, he not helping the situation – he is hurting so many people who are now faced with the cold truth that one less person is on their side.

It must be nice to live in the fantasy world that Johnny Depp lives in. In fact, I remember when I had similar beliefs. Men with children are safe, I would think to myself, in large part because that’s what my mother taught me. It wasn’t until I was raped that I finally realized how wrong I had been. But it shouldn’t take something like that to “wake us up.” We shouldn’t have to wake up in the first place.

Unfortunately, mischicklet lives in a kind of fantasy world.  She rants on about rape victims, but if rape victims are so important to her she engages in a giant psychological feat when she never mentions Polanski’s so-called rape victim.  She must know that Samantha Geimer wants Polanski to go free; she must know at the latest judicial hearing Geimer was represented by an attorney who argued for Polanski’s freedom.  mschicklet chooses not to ACKNOWLEDGE a person she considers to be a rape victim.  What utter callousness!

And as for concern for safety which mschicklet mentions, I share her concern.  But my concern for safety entails being protected from persons such as mschicklet, persons who seem to embrace a form of vigilante justice, persons who give full vent to their anger, persons whose self-righteousness seem to know no limit.  And as for safety and Roman Polanski, I personally believe that those people who believe that Polanski represents a clear and present danger to society are in a state of delusion.

And as for her comment about our culture being a rape culture, such a notion has some merit.  But support for a rape culture has nothing to do with defending or opposing Roman Polanski.  Evidence that we are living in a rape culture is that “we” support sending persons to prison in which rape is often supported not only by inmates but also by prison guards.  The fact we can’t protect persons from rape who we send away to prison so we can be protected from being raped is quite damning!!

As for rape victims, speaking up in support of Polanski, click here and for a detailed account of the circumstances involved in the Geimer statutory rape, click here.

February 5, 2010 Posted by | celebrities, rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics, victimization, violence | 10 Comments

Prostitution, violence and

So a Canadian study has found that “people who buy sex are no more violent than the general population, and any legislation about prostitution should not be based on the incorrect belief that all johns are abusive”, says a Simon Fraser University sociologist researching the subject.

Chris Atchison surveyed more than 1,000 johns between June 2008 and April 2009 for his controversial study, entitled Johns’ Voice.

Based on about 1,000 anonymous online responses and 24 in-depth interviews, Atchison concluded that johns do not appear to be any more aggressive than the rest of the population and should therefore not be painted as uniformly evil.

He said 1.9 per cent reported having hit, pushed or physically attacked a prostitute, one per cent reported having raped or sexually assaulted a prostitute and 1.7 per cent reported having robbed a prostitute.

“The question becomes, ‘How different are sex buyers from any other member of the population?'” said Atchison.

OK, the dankprofessor must have been pretty naïve- I didn’t know that people believed that men who patronized sex workers were more violent than men who did not.  I guess this is on the same level of the idea that pornography causes male viewers to go out and rape. Of course, everyone knows that pornography overwhelmingly causes men to stay home and masturbate.  But then again masturbation is a form of self-abuse.  So I guess one just can’t get away from the idea that sex is harmful to self and if not to self then to others.

But there is more as reported in the Vancouver Sun

The study drew strong criticism from some quarters.

“It’s an outrageous study and it really works towards normalizing sexual assault,” said Aurea Flynn of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter.

“I’m really angry about the emphasis on the compassion for johns that the study provides and I’m very concerned about its impact on the continued normalization of prostitution in Canada because I believe prostitution is violence against women.”

Flynn was particularly angered by what she called the demonizing of a marginalized population that is often forced into the sex trade due to a lack of options.

Atchison said 79.9 per cent of johns surveyed wanted prostitution legalized for “altruistic reasons,” such as to protect prostitutes with health and safety regulations.

But Flynn said: “I believe that is the johns wanting to protect themselves from contracting diseases, which they are very afraid of.

“If they really wanted to help women, they’d be fighting for better welfare rates, universal child care, universal education and job skills training.”

She believes the legalization of prostitution would increase human trafficking and the exploitation of women.

The Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter — which defines prostitution itself as an act of violence — actively campaigns for its abolition.

And so it goes- prostitution is violence even though it be consensual sex. But what the dankprofessor has learned in this short blog posting is that money is the ultimate arbiter.  Consensual sex turns into violence if you add a financial component. The money does the talking. So the dankprofessor’s advice to men who want to play it safe- empty your pockets before engaging in any kind of sexual fraternization.

OK, one more note- Aurea Flynn of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter says she is really angry regarding the results of the study. She fears that people may become more empathetic toward johns.  As for my empathy, I can feel Ms. Flynn’s anger. I suggest she take her anger home and in the privacy of her home, she relax and try to get some relief.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, masturbation, prostitution, rape, sex, sex work, sexual politics | 3 Comments

A rape victim on her rape and on Polanski’s “victim”

I encourage any one who wishes to have a fuller understanding of rape and its long term and short term consequences to read Samskara’s presentation and analysis of her rape.  In the context of her rape experience, Samskara explains why the so-called facts presented by Samantha Geimer, the alleged rape victim of Roman Polanski, leads her to conclude that Geimer was not a victim of forcible rape.

This is a must read for anyone seriously interested in the Polanski case and rape in general.  I hope readers circulate this so it might come to the attention of Polanski and/or his legal defenders.

January 12, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics | 25 Comments

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