Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

ABC Reports on Michelle and Barack and Student Professor Relationships

ABC News had a report on student professor relationships that was not all that bad. There were a few errors, once again the law dean at UC Berkeley was portrayed as having an affair with a law student; maybe I am out of touch but when someone says so and so had an affair the implication is that the “relationship” was more than just a few hours.

In any case, the catalyst for this ABC report was the revelation by Michelle Robinson, now Michelle Obama, had met Barack in the context of a formal power differentiated relationship. Here is how ABC News put it in the context of discussing student professor relationships-

“But not all such love affairs end in disaster. In 1989, Chicago lawyer Michelle Robinson was assigned the role of adviser to a summer associate from Harvard University, her future husband and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. According to an interview in the Illinois Journal Gazette and Times-Courier, she took the high road and refused to go out with Obama for a month.”

Is the ABC implication that Michelle took the low road when she decided to go out with him? If it was a low road, it turned out to be a pretty good road.

Might there be some campus feminists out there who wish to apply the feminist tenet that Barack could not have freely consented since differential power precludes consent and he was in the subordinate position? According to Michelle he did the asking. Attempting to apply the feminist perspective leads one into the absurd.

Of course, the Hillary Clinton campaign might have had an initial inclination to exploit this situation, but such could not occur without an immediate flashing back to Bill and Monica with Monica doing the initiating in her role of subordinate intern.  Employing the feminist doctrine, Monica could not consent because she was in the subordinate position.

The absurdity of the differential power precludes consent is so blatant but somehow so many academics accept it as axiomatic.

In addition, too may academics give lip service to the assumption that student professor relationships are doomed to a disastrous failure.

ABC did not accept this scenario and provided an example of a student view contrary to the cartoon stereotypes.

ABC interviewed Harvard student Aarti-

“Aarti, 22, who didn’t want her last name used, graduated from Harvard University last year. She told ABCNews.com that romances between professors and their students were “very, very prevalent” on her campus.
“For someone who loves learning, who is more appealing than the professor?” she asked.

She went on to state that “His vocabulary, which I have yet to see challenged, was a regular subject of discussion among the females,” “and for those females who didn’t feel this way at the beginning, well, they definitely changed by the end of the semester.”

One of her friends at Harvard dated her thesis adviser while he was teaching her class. That couple dated for a year.

“Frankly, I don’t think the romantic involvement itself is unethical, as long as the student is not receiving preferential treatment in any way,” she said. “Then, it is not just a private romantic endeavor, but rather a case of unfair treatment that essentially affects all the students in the class.”

Aarti said she would not pursue a teacher because of the double standard for women when it comes to sex.”

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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 15, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, consensual relationships, dating, ethics, feminism, fraternization, higher education, Michelle Obama, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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