Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Campus Fear and Loathing

Here are two letters in response to the LA Times article on Professor Abramson.

Challenges facing women on campus

Re “Professor makes a case for faculty-student romance,” Oct. 22

“UCLA professor Paul R. Abramson’s delusional “love contract” proposal to provide cover for professors preying on coeds is not only reprehensible but unethical. Every valid profession rightly prohibits such predatory behavior, whether within the context of doctor-patient, lawyer-client or military officer-subordinate. Our culture is damaged when the powerful take advantage of the weak, who may feel compelled to permit such predatory advances for fear of lower grades or employee evaluations. These relationships are certain to cause psychological damage, making it shocking that a psychologist would disregard such effects. Parents make financial sacrifices to send children to college. If they cannot trust the educators, then higher education must be completely revamped.” Rick Coston Melbourne, Fla.

The dankprofessor believes that if there is any delusional thinking going on here, it is not the thinking of Professor Abramson.  Somehow the letter writer is certain that any student-professor relationship is certain to cause damage; I assume he means damage to the student or professor and not to the observer.  What can be so mystifying is that very certainty. How can one be so sure that Abramson is advocating professorial predatory behavior which leaves the subject of such behavior incapacitated, unable to defend oneself, to ward off such monstrous behavior? Going beyond the obvious that the letter writer is objectifying the involved parties, I would speculate that this reflects a default assumption held by many believing in such views.  The default assumption occurs when one envisages a professor-student relationship one also envisages an adult-child relationship; it is an automatic unthinking visceral reaction.  It is consistent with the notion that professor student relationships are always age differentiated. I have previously discussed this imagery in prior postings. Clearly this letter writer is committed to this thinking since he sees parents like himself being betrayed by universities which fail to protect their children, which fail to protect parents’ investment in their children.  More generally such a view is indicative of a hierarchal world view.  In such a world order any crossing of borders that facilitates informal interaction between subordinates and superiors threatens the natural order of things.  This framework which the existentialist social psychologist Thomas Hanna called humanoidistic is synonymous with being in a perpetual state of fear.  This situation is exasperated when there are a number of similarly situated others, and when there is is an emergence of leaders (demagogues) who manipulate the fearful to combat some external enemy.

Second letter to the editor-

“This article failed to capture some of the devastating changes written into the faculty manual. The arguments put forward by political scientist Gayle Binion of UC Santa Barbara seem to have been lifted from the protocols of the Ministry of Fear in George Orwell’s “1984.” To provide just one example, perception of favoritism constitutes harassment and is grounds for censure or even dismissal. The worst of it is that women, especially in the sciences, will not be helped and advanced because male professors will be leery of anything resembling close communication. It’s a grotesque consequence of puritanical constraints.”

Jascha Kessler

Santa Monica

The writer is a professor of English and modern literature at UCLA.

Bravo to Professor Kessler.  The Ministry of Fear is not a misnomer.  I am not overstating when I state that Gayle Binion is a fear monger; I do not know if she is a professional fear monger but nevertheless a fear monger.  She suffers from fear of lawsuits, fear of professors, fear of students, fear of parents of students and she functions as a catalyst for the creation of fear based campuses where those who are involved in consensual relationships become outlaws; where professors and administrators and graduate students are continually warned about the dangers of any campus display of sexuality, any display of affection,  and where they must submit themselves periodically to “workshops” which will supposedly  help them obey the rules of the new campus Puritanism, and avoid facing secret campus tribunals. 

Enough said for now on the LA Times article.  More on the LA Times article in upcoming posts.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

© Copyright 2007


October 27, 2007 - Posted by | coercing women, consensual relationships, dating, fraternization, higher education, ivory tower romance, sexual harassment, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating

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