Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

The Final Chapter: The dissection of the Ohio State University Task Force Report

The Dankprofessor will continue to plow thru the OSU Task Force on Consensual Relationships; it is important for persons interested in determining how a university arrives at a point in time at which a formal prohibition on student professor consensual relationships is adopted.  For the prior post on OSU and relevant documents click hereFollowing is a section of the Task Force Report that merits our attention.
“The Task Force was apprised of the variety of harms caused by sexual relationships between faculty and students. Apparently, a familiar pattern involves a faculty member who initiates a sexual relationship with a student, often a student in the same department with whom the faculty member frequently interacts. Initially, the student may be flattered by the attention and may give little thought to the power dynamics in the relationship. When the relationship ends or turns sour, however, the effect on the student changes sharply: the student then experiences hurt, guilt, shame and a lack of connection with her peers as a result of the relationship and worries about the effect of the relationship on her career, particularly if she feels that the faculty member is in a position to influence her future. The Task Force heard reports of faculty members who were known to have had multiple relationships with students, suggesting a propensity to misuse their power as professors.”
     Note the overt dehumanizing rhetoric employed in this excerpt.  Now we have THE student and THE faculty member presented in completely homogenous terms.  Such is illustrative of the I-it I-thou framework put forth by Martin Buber.  Here, we only have the I-it.  In such a depersonalized world there is only THE student, The professor, THE homosexual, THE Jew.  Once one knows who is who then one
knows the script and therefore without any personal knowledge of any particular student or any particular professor, one already knows how THE student and THE professor will act; what will happen to them once they cross into the forbidden territory of sexuality.  In this fiction as presented by the Task Force, “the student then experiences hurt, guilt and shame…”; no ifs here; such is Her fate.  And what happens to the faculty member? What about “his” experiencing hurt, guilt and shame?  Nothing here; absolutely nothing.  Haven’t we all heard this sort of muckraking?  Didn’t we hear it as children from parents warning us about sex or homosexuality or dating interracially or …?  Do we not know what this sort of rhetoric is all about, that this is about fear and possibly hysteria and ultimately obedience?  In the dankprofessor’s opinion, persons who engage in such rhetoric would be likely candidates for speech writers in the Bush administration.  However, it is hard for me to accept that engaging in this rhetoric  is compatible with being an academic.  What a sorrowful state we are in!
   Unfortunately, there is more from the Task Force illustrating academia’s sorrowful state
“The Task Force also discussed the third-party and reputational effects of faculty/student consensual relationships. We were told of a notorious case in which the fallout from a sexual relationship in the department caused the student in the relationship and other graduate students in the department to seek counseling and to consider transferring to other universities to complete their degrees. Persons in the department expressed their belief that the reputation of the department suffered as a result.”


Is this what it boils down to, reputational effects?  Since something supposedly hurts the reputation of some persons or some entity then the liberty to fraternize is suspended.  Reputations of departments vary from department to department and in the same department over time.  Selecting out student and professors in a sexual relationship who generally just want to be left alone for responsibility for the “reputational” effects is just other worldly!  In any case, the extreme effects of the particular case highlighted by the Task Force may just be academic gossip.  And if the case was so notorious, why didn’t the Task Force specifically name names?


 And the Task Force continues-


Regardless of the scope of any new rule, Task Force members were strongly of the view that little would change if the new policy did not have “teeth” or if persons were unaware of the restrictions. To be effective, there must be a duty placed on the faculty member to disclose the existence of any sexual relationship with a student – current or in the past – and to cooperate in making alternative arrangements for the supervision, teaching, grading, advising, counseling or other responsibility relating to the student. Additionally, any supervisor notified of such a relationship or who becomes aware of such a relationship should have a duty to take immediate action to provide an acceptable alternative arrangement. The Task Force was mindful of the potential hazards with requiring disclosure, particularly in cases of same-sex relationships or other socially disapproved relationships. For this reason, the supervisor should take all feasible steps to maintain the confidentiality of such information. Finally, to insure against multiple offenders escaping notice, any action taken in response to a report of a consensual sexual relationship or alternative arrangements made as a result should be reported to Human Resources. The Task Force agreed that policy and procedure for regulating consensual sexual relationships should remain as part of the University’s policy against sexual harassment.”


 So the Task Force wants to give this policy “teeth”.   And what better way to give it teeth than to bring third parties into the scenarios; informers in the genre of the Linda Tripps; informers who really care about the Monica Lewinskys of the world and have no agenda, emotional or otherwise, concerning presidents and professors of the world.  And in this world of third party informants, the good administrator (police) will take immediate action to correct the so-called problem, no need for for acting in a slow and cautious manner.  Here academic justice and sidewalk justice become one. 

And in a true Orwellian fashion the Task Force urges supervisors to maintain confidentiality of all information.  But if confidentiality mattered, if the privacy of the couple mattered, if one granted even minimal rights to those in the closet, then there would no third party informants.  The truth is as the Task Force apparently does not know that once the couple is compromised there is no confidentiality; confidentiality is history.  The Task Force is engaging in delusional thinking unless what they meant by confidentiality is secrecy and therefore the ability of the so- called supervisors to act knowing that their acts will not be in public view.  So the administrators are given their secrecy and the involved students and professors are stripped of their secrecy.  No sexcrecy(my word); no secret love.  Fortunately there were some OSU professors who saw thru this game at an OSU forum on the Task Force report.  The campus newspaper, The Lantern, reported


“Faculty at the meeting voiced concerns on the notification clause in the policy change. Originally, the revised policy required that human resources be notified if a faculty member entered into any consensual relationship with a student, even in cases where the faculty member was not in a supervisory position. Some faculty were concerned with this central reporting mechanism and with the creation of records of the relationships within human resources. In response to these concerns, human resources has revised the policy to require faculty to report the relationships only to their department chairs. No notification of human resources is required and no central records will be kept.With the adoption of the anonymous reporting line on March 1, T.K. Daniels, chair of the faculty council of the University Senate, expressed concerns that third-party reporting would be encouraged in instances of consensual relationships between faculty and students.”It’s a romantic police state,” Daniels said. “It’s even more so a police state because it can be reported anonymously.”Lewellen said the policy needs to be revised to discourage third-party reporting and that he believes this is a matter of professional ethics.”

 We shall see whether  third party reporting was modified when we look at the policy as adopted.   But suffice to state at this point that Professor Daniels understands what it takes to create an effective police state, it takes informers and more informers, and it takes the true believing ideologues to help the informers rationalize that they are doing the right thing.

  Of course, the Task Force recommended that there be a prohibition on faculty student professor relationships.  We will terminate this post with their summary of their recommendations.

“In summary, the Task Force recommends:

(1) That the OSU policy be revised to prohibit consensual sexual relationships between faculty and students or between university employees and students, whenever the faculty member or employee has supervisory, teaching, evaluation, advisory, coaching or counseling responsibilities for the student or would otherwise be likely to be asked to take on such a role in the future.

(a) That OSU implement the consensual relationship policy to impose a duty on faculty and staff to report and disclose any sexual relationship with a student encompassed within (1) above, either to their supervisor or to Human Resources and to cooperate in making acceptable alternative arrangements. The policy should also impose a duty on supervisors to notify Human Resources of any such relationships reported to them or that come to their knowledge and to take immediate steps to provide acceptable alternative arrangements.

(b) That the OSU consensual relationship policy contain a clear statement that disciplinary action will be taken against faculty or staff who violate the policy, either by entering into or engaging in a sexual relationship with a student encompassed with (1) above, or by failing to report such relationship or cooperate in making alternative arrangements.”

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 2008


January 5, 2008 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Ohio State University, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Uncategorized

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