Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Fear of professors and fear of students

One of my greatest fears is that the campaign to prohibit student professor consensual sexual relationships would lead to an academic environment which would put a chill on student professor socializing and student professor friendships. The consensual relationship prohibition might function and I believe has functioned to create fear of professors by too many students and fear of students by too many professors. It has done so by the embracing of cartoon imageries, gross stereotypes, of the professor as lecher and the student as seducer or gradedigger. Embracing such imagery can lead to the destruction of any sense of community in academia. Such imageries function to facilitate a greater sense of impersonality on campus and create an atmosphere that is all too similar to public hospitals and DMVs. Indicative of this fear on campus is a recent comment the dankprofessor weblog has received in response to the February 14 post on “Female student speaks of her relationship with a professor”. This comment merits our attention-

I just wanted to ask you if there is a proper way to address a male professor, as I am a female student? I was told the following by a male(neighbor)professor:
Most male professors have a sort of “good old boy” understanding regarding when female students address them outside of class or come for extra help.professors see them as predators. He also said that female students who need extra help etc. from their male professors are viewed as having “father issues” and/or are considered grade diggers.
I am a 30 something college student (senior) at a California State University. I have experienced great friendships with my professors during, as well as, after my course has finished. I never imagined that any of my professors saw me in this light, as I often address my male professors, as well as, seek out extra help. I have a 4.0 GPA and I did not earn this by avoiding any of my professor, male or female. His advice seems very harsh to me!
Could you shed any light on this topic? I have recently experienced some fear when approaching my current male professor as I have that negativity circulating in my mind. Am I just being gullible or naive? Could the professor have given erroneous advice?
I would love to have your thoughts on the subject. Thank you for the opportunity to present my question.
Kind Regards,

My response to her was in part as follows-

Your neighboring male professor has an extremely cynical and jaded view of the world, The overwhelming probability is that your male professors as well as your female professors view you in a very positive light, a 4.0 very highly motivated student. As a prof in the CSU system at Cal State Long Beach for 35 years, I can tell you that when a bright student visits a prof at the prof’s office for extra help to deal with the course material, such is valued. What profs don’t like are students coming to ones office to continually complain about their grade. Also, what profs don’t like is that so few students are interested in the course material, and never come to ones office. It is the indifference of students that both male and female profs dread.

For professors to reject socializing with students out of fear means that the prohibitionists have really won, that they are defining the campus climate, a very chilly climate that freezes out informal student professor socializing. Unfortunately, such is to be expected since when categorical intimacy bans come into being the social distancing between persons in different categories significantly increases. In Martin Buber’s terms, bans facilitate I-it relationships; to get to the I-thou, one must transcend the categorical boundaries, and friendship and love between members of different categories is always the enemy of those with an I-it framework. Or to put the I-it relationship in different terms- “everyone must know their place, and keep in place”. People who transcend taken for granted social and political boundaries, boundaries that are believed in with emotional fervor, are always considered THE ENEMY by the boundary believers.

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 dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 26, 2008 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, sexual politics, student professor dating

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