Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

The litigation con

 It has been brought to the dankprofessor’s attention that the dankprofessor has not dealt with the prevention of litigation as a reason or possibly major reason why so many universities have adopted policies banning student professor consensual sexual relationships.  The argument can be made that universities simply want to save money, want to decrease the potentiality of successful lawsuits so consensual bans come into being.  Paul Abramson puts forth this argument in his recent book ROMANCE IN THE IVORY TOWER when he states the following, “The real reason for these prohibitions…is that universities want to further reduce their liability in civil lawsuits- no sex and no romance means no negligence.”  Do note the Abramson is not stating the universities should adopt such bans, but rather this is the reason that the bans are adopted.The problem with the assertion that fear of litigation is a reason or major reason for adopting these policies is that there is absolutely no evidence that such is the case.  I have reviewed numerous campaigns to ban student professor relationships and hardly ever is avoidance of litigation mentioned. Presently I am reviewing the two year campaign to adopt these policies at Ohio State University, and there is a huge amount of material documenting this campaign in detail, and so far I have not found any evidence that litigation issues were mentioned by any advocate at OSU. In the near future, I will present info and analyses concerning the OSU campaign. 

And, in addition, Abramson states in his book that there is no evidence that once these policies are adopted that either the incidence or costs of sexual harassment lawsuits are decreased on university campuses. And I am not aware of any successful lawsuit regarding a campus consensual relationship either before a campus adopted a consensual ban or after the campus adopted the ban.  If there was such a case that led to a large monetary settlement, I can’t find it.  No matter the amount of a monetary settlement, there is simply nothing on the record that I could find that there has ever been such a case. In fact, I challenge my readers to provide some relevant cases in this area.  I may have missed such a case.  So the dankprofessor does request blog reader assistance in finding such a case that is university related.I would also speculate that the adoption of bans have probably added some additional costs for universities. One would relate to the adoption of a bureaucracy to enforce such a policy.  And then there is the expense of hiring sexual harassment trainers to run workshops and seminars in this area.  And then there is the money expended to make faculty aware of any new polices. 

I am also quite aware of the argument that consensual relationships can end in acrimony and such can lead to a successful sexual harassment lawsuit. No doubt about it that some relationships can end in acrimony as well as some ending in a cordial manner, but whatever the ending may be, there is still no evidence of a university case in which the consensuality or prior consensuality was an important component in a sexual harassment lawsuit involving a university. 

But there is an additional component that should not be left out, and that is if there is a ban on consensual relationships, then the defendant to a sexual harassment civil suit cannot argue in his defense that the relationship was not harassment since it was consensual.  And the lack of a consensual defense by the defendant could facilitate the success of sexual harassment lawsuits and would simply be irrelevant as to providing increased protection to the university. 

So I do not think that the dankprofessor should be viewed as delinquent for not previously dealing with the litigation scenario.  The litigation scenario used as a justification for banning student professors relationships is just another academic con game, and, in this case, the accomplished academic con artist  is unlikely to use this con.

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

December 10, 2007 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, litigation, sexual politics, student professor dating

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