Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Middlebury College “capitulates”

Middlebury College has taken a giant step toward the promulgation of a student professor consensual relationship policy regulation.  Such occurred on November 12 at a meeting of the Community Council of Middlebury College.  In a near-unanimous decision, Middlebury’s Community Council ultimately endorsed the spirit of the proposed policy.  The spirit of said policy was delineated by University of Virginia professor Ann Lane who on September 24 at a lecture at Middlebury which according to middleburycampus.com “urged administrators to take a stand against relationships that place students in a position of relative weakness.”  “What does it mean when you are having a relationship with someone who has great power over you?” asked Lane during her talk.

Middleburycampus.com never does tell the reader what it means, but whatever the meaning may be, Lane considers it to be a negative meaning.  Of course, whether an intimate relationship be asymmetric or symmetric, meaning would vary from relationship to relationship.  Lane engages in gross stereotyping and never considers the possibility of such relationships having positive meaning.  She is more concerned not with the parties to the relationship but the meanings that persons such as herself attach to the relationship. And Professor Lane does not like any such relationship.  Of course, it is much easier for her to deal with her advocacy of this position without having to confront the couples she wishes to regulate and dismiss.

The Community Council meeting of November 12 was characterized by middeburycampus.com as “a short but heated 20 minute debate.”  The nature of the heat was not delineated, but said heat did not last very long in the Council with only one dissenting vote against recommending a revision in the proposed Middlebury consensual relationship policy. The Council did not incorporate that part of the proposed policy that allowed for the dismissal of the offending professor.

In any case,  I expect that in reaching their decision the Council was satisfied that the Middlebury College community was presented with only one side of the issue represented by Ann Lane.  If Middlebury had lived up to its history of providing a liberal education for its students, they would have not only presented Ann Lane but an academic opposing such bans as well.  The fact of the matter is that Ann Lane has engaged in one on one debates on this issue.  I know that such has been the case since in the 1990s I engaged in such a debate with Professor Lane.  Assuming that Middlebury has not invited a person representing the other side, such still can still be done prior to the adoption of any policy on consensual student professor relationships.  In fact, I will go out on a limb and volunteer myself to engage in a presentation on this issue at Middlebury College.

From what I know of the debate on this issue, I do not believe that a scintilla of evidence was presented that demonstrated that Middlebury has suffered in any way during its 200 year history as a result of having a consensual policy which did not go beyond simply discouraging romantic or sexual relationships between students and professors. The Community Council ended up embracing a Carleton College policy which held that student professor relationships have been “found to undermine the trust, respect and fairness that are central to the success of Carleton’s educational mission.” 

To take away the mating/dating rights of adult students and professors at any college, the burden should be on the college to provide evidence that such relationships have undermined the success of the educational mission of the college.  I believe that no such evidence has been presented at Middlebury, and that the promulgation of this policy simply represents a form of sexual Puritanism with a feminist veneer. 

In the 1970s, the anti-homosexuality campaign had for a period of time the anti-homosexual crusader Anita Bryant, now in the 2000s anti-homosexuality has been replaced by anti student professor relationships with Ann Lane replacing Anita Bryant.  We have gone from an Anita Bryant campaign to “save our children” to an Ann Lane campaign to “save our students” since Lane de facto regards students as children who need the protection of persons such as herself.  Nothing new here, persons arguing against the power abuse of others and then arguing that they should have the power to take away the rights of others.

Following is a list of members of Middlebury College Community Council, o7/08.

 Tim Spears, Dean of the College, co-chair
Eric Hoest ’08, co-chair

Administration Appointees:
David Donahue,
Associate VP for College Advancement
Alfredo Ramirez, Special Advisor for Student Community Development
Liza Sacheli, Marketing Manager, Center for the Arts (alternate)

Faculty Appointees:
Noah Graham, Assistant Professor of Physics
Emily Proctor, Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Staff Council Appointees: 
Michael Glidden, Counter Worker Barista, Dining Services (ex-officio)
Linda Ross, Assistant Director of Custodial Services
Peggy Fischel, Manager of Telecommunications Services (alternate)

Student Appointees:
Mary Dwyer
Dean Atyia
Peyton Coles
Canem Ozyildirim
Cordelia Ross
Caitlin Sargent
Elizabeth Goffe
Sarah Attman
Abigail Blum
Eric Hoest
Thomas “Max” Nardini

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.  Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2007

November 18, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Middlebury College, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment


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