Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Dating bans in the corporate world

As I have pointed out in previous posts those advocating student-professor dating bans often cite the corporate world as the ideal in their attempt to justify said bans.  Why I have asked should universities invoke the corporate model?  Of course, when it comes to the corporate world all too often their so-called corporate ethics are honored in name only.  Such is definitely the case when business or corporate dating bans are invoked.  Such bans will not work as illustrated in this article, nor should we want them to work.  Corporate employees in general terms should have a right to privacy and freedom of association.  If we can have Coach Jackson and VP Jeanne Buss of the LA Lakers having a “public” dating relationship, why shouldn’t this also apply to line employees?Excerpts from

Love & Company: Workplace Romances Happen, but First Consider the Pitfalls
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Date: 9/9/2007
Sep. 9–When work so dominates the lives of employees that some are forced to catnap under their desks, is it any wonder that love is blooming among the cubicles?Corporate culture has long frowned upon co-workers dating, but as Americans work longer hours, many employees are encountering their new squeeze by the water cooler or copy machine. A 2004 Glamour magazine and lawyers.com survey of 1,747 employees found that 41 percent of Americans between 25 and 40 have engaged in an office romance.Singles are romantically pursuing one another not just in the office but in almost every work environment, even though dating a colleague has its own set of risks and issues.

Nicole Valdez, 29, a bartender at Seven restaurant in San Jose, says she never had any intention of going out with a co-worker — least of all, her boss — when she was hired in 2003. After a few months on the job, a romance was born. Today, she calls her employer, Seven co-owner and chef Curtis Valdez, her husband.

“It’s not something you plan to do,” says Nicole, who married Curtis in June. “It just happens. You never know where you’re going to meet the right person.”

To ensure that work remains the top priority of employees, many companies discourage such intimate fraternizing, and many have dating policies that prohibit a supervisor from going out with a subordinate.

“You shouldn’t use your time in the workplace to facilitate developing a personal relationship,” says couples therapist Ian Kerner, author of “DSI: Date Scene Investigation” (Harper Collins, 2006) “Companies often hold social events, and it’s great to flirt a little with somebody, but you have to respect that this is still a work environment.”  As people become increasingly defined by their work, and as careers take precedence over personal lives, co-workers are going to turn to one another for support — or more, says author Kerner.

The reasons for attraction are obvious: The workplace is often filled with like-minded people sharing common goals and presenting their best side in a professional arena. As the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates learned with employee and future wife Melinda French, romantic feelings happen.

“Meeting people via work is only natural,” Kerner says. “People are recognizing that work is a dynamic, vibrant environment for this.”

Clarice Simmons, 41, an Advanced Micro Devices relationship manager, knew of the risks in dating a co-worker when she began seeing a field application engineer named Phil in 1993.

Simmons had witnessed a married regional manager’s downfall when news of his affair with a saleswoman became public through the office grapevine. After co-workers complained about the lovebirds’ behavior, his supervisor confronted him. He denied the relationship. When they uncovered his lie, they transferred him to another office.

“My policy has been to try to keep personal things outside of the workplace because it’s just distracting,” says Simmons, who married Phil in 1994. “So when we decided to get engaged and move in with each other, we told my manager first. He was really happy for us, almost like a fatherly figure.”

But keeping a secret, especially in a bustling office, is not always easy. Therapist Kerner describes a couple he knew, a woman and her male subordinate, who kept their relationship on the down-low at their pet-friendly office.

When she brought her poodle to work, the pooch, normally a miser with its affections, was openly friendly toward the man she was secretly dating.

“The poodle gave it away,” Kerner says. “Remember that there is always going to be something that someone might observe.” …

To see more of the San Jose Mercury News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.mercurynews.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, San Jose Mercury News, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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Copyright 2007 San Jose Mercury News

This material is published under license from the publisher through YellowBrix, Alexandria, Virginia. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to Yello

September 11, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, sexual politics | Leave a comment

Guest commentary by John Bonnell

I am honored that Professor John Bonnell has sent us this post sharing his perspective on sexual harassment in contemporary academe.  I particularly welcome guest commentaries during this time when I am traveling and  have a minimal amount of time to be on on the computer.

Jon Bonnell writes-

     A few reflections upon Brian McFillen’s assumption, in the blogpost for
September 7, that “Things seem to have improved since I entered college in
the late 90s, as universities have gotten a grip on what constitutes sexual
harassment and what does not.”  If my own experience is representative,
McFillen’s view must be modified with the understanding that colleges may
have improved their grip, but what they wield with that grip is a cudgel. 
That is to say, they unscrupulously and, one must say, eagerly flail
targeted instructors and professors with charges of “sexual harassment,” no
matter how farfetched or simply false these charges may be.

     I have been subjected to four kangaroo-court like “investigations,”
beginning in 1998.  In every instance, some student disliked my diction or
my anecdotes, and claimed as a consequence that I had no right to be
teaching college English.  None of the objectionable terminology was ever
directed to or against a specific student.  (For example, in 2003 I was
suspended from teaching without pay for examining James Joyce’s story “The
Boarding House” in a fashion I have used for over three decades.  I used the
word “bitch” to imaginatively fill in an unspecified “free allusion” made by
a party-attending character with regard to a nineteen year old sister of
another party-person.  A female student complained.  The college accused me
of “sexual harassment” and conducted an “investigation.”  Note that the
student did not accuse me of “sexual harassment;” Macomb Community College
did!  I was found “guilty” of employing language that was inherently
demeaning to and harassing of any woman.  No woman should ever have to hear
what I might say in Anglo-Saxon, the college pontificated.  Especially the
word “bitch.”  The faculty union wholly supported the college’s charge and
punishment.)  The College has learned that its blatant disregard for law and
for the meaning of the phrase “sexual harassment” will be supported not only
by the majority of faculty but by the federal judiciary, and all inferior
tribunals.  And, as I have learned, simply to be accused of “sexual
harassment” is already sufficient proof of guilt.  The College has learned
this, too, and does not hesitate to foster such deception.

     Perhaps Brian McFillen’s erroneous assumption is promoted by another
aspect of these curious developments.  The College (as do other
institutions?) suppresses all public discussion of such complaints,
“investigations,” charges, and punishments.  It does this because to be a
“victim” of “sexual harassment” is comparable to being a victim of rape, and
all such victims are entitled to strictest confidence and anonymity.  When I
was suspended in 2004 for utilizing a personal anecdote to illustrate panic,
my own panic, an illustration that the College deemed was sufficiently
“sexual” to constitute “harassment,” the College successfully prevailed upon
the American Association of Arbitrators to NOT publish the arbitrator’s
finding, even though the “victim’s” name did not appear in the decision. 
(By the bye, the College had punished me a few years earlier, in part, for
using the same anecdote, but the objection then was my employment of the
Anglo-Saxon “balls” instead of the proper Latin, “testicles.”  In 2004, the
College decided the anecdote itself was “harassing,” regardless of the
diction.  A dramatic illustration, incidentally, of Justice Harlan’s correct
assertion in 1971 [see COHEN v. CALIFORNIA, U.S.. SUP. CRT., the famous
“Fuck the Draft” case] that a government which stooped to banning words will
soon be banishing ideas.  Exactly my experience.  A further curiosity in
this assault on my “academic freedom” was the fact that the complaining
“victim” placed this anecdote THIRD in her list of objections, holding
accounts of a policeman who killed himself with his own revolver while
“playing” Russian roulette and of a rooster beheaded in 1947 in Colorado-a
fowl who subsequently refused to die-as more disturbing.  But the College
could construe no sex in her first disaffections.  To the College’s credit,
it did not do in 2004 what it did in 2003.  It did not telephone dozens of
my students to discern whether I simulated coital thrusts against my desk;
whether I “flipped off” all the students in my class; whether I labeled the
women in the class as “cunts.”  Finding no support for these conjectures
evidently chilled the College’s enthusiasm in subsequent “investigations.”)

     Maybe the “disinfectant of sunshine” is not so successfully thwarted on
other campuses as it is on mine.  (When I wrote, in 2005, to Attorney
General Micael Cox, asking him to point out to the College its perversion of
F.E.R.P.A. and other federal regulations on privacy, he wrote back to say
the State of Michigan has no interest in my “private” dispute with the
College.)  Maybe McFillens’ sanguine conclusion is justified elsewhere in
the nation.  But I’d bet the other way.  One of the attorneys active in the
2003 investigations of my treatment of Joyce has since been named a Dean at
the third largest university in Michigan.  In 1998, when Macomb College
began its witch hunt of my person, it retained only one attorney, part time,
to look after its interests.  Now it has an entire Office of the General
Counsel, with at least a half dozen full time attorneys diligently
“defending” the College.  The proliferation of lawyers in the lucrative
halls of academe promises more bad news for believers in authentic
individual rights and freedoms.  Civil libertarian counsel Harvey
Silverglate has described college campuses as the most unfree places in
America.  I can find no reason to disagree.

John Bonnell
Professor of English, when not debarred by bogus charges of “sexual

September 11, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, higher education, John Bonnell, sexual harassment, sexual politics | 3 Comments


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