Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Sadomasochistic posing professor found fit to teach

The Albuquerque Journal reported yesterday that University of New Mexico professor of English Lisa Chvez* was found fit to teach by the UNM Deputy Provost Richard Holder. Provost Holder reported to the English department faculty that he determined that the faculty member had posed on a sadomasochism website with at least one of her graduate students, and that Professor Chvez should not have to face a faculty ethics inquiry.

In a March 10 letter to English department faculty, Deputy Provost Richard Holder said he thinks associate professor Lisa Chvez used poor judgment in participating in the Web site’s activities with one of her students.
But, Holder goes on to say, “In my mind this participation did not rise to the level of calling into question her ‘unfitness for duty.’ ”

Holder’s decision isn’t sitting well with some English department faculty members, 13 of whom had signed a petition calling for the Faculty Senate Ethics and Advisory Committee to review Chvez’s conduct. The petition expressed “serious ethical questions” about Chvez posing with a graduate student who was enrolled in one of her classes at the time.

“It’s not a faculty rights issue, I don’t think. It’s not an academic freedom issue. It is a faculty conduct issue,” professor Gary Scharnhorst said. “I believe that she crossed the line having inappropriate relationships with graduate students.”

Scharnhorst said none of his colleagues are angry that she posed on the Web site.
“What everyone finds troublesome is the fact that she was involved with graduate students,” he said.

Another English faculty member, Anita Obermeier, stated that the issue had “pullled the department apart” and that the non-referral of the matter to the Ethics Committee “was a huge slap in the face.” (double entendre intended?)

The university had hired an attorney to investigate the professor’s behavior and the investigator determined-

Chvez had been moonlighting for People Exchanging Power, a group based in Albuquerque that advertises conversation for cash. The group specializes in fetish exploration…
The investigation determined that “no crimes were committed, that no faculty member engaged in undue influence over any students or created a hostile learning environment, and that there was apparently no use of University-owned computers or telephone equipment.”

“The investigation revealed that the PEP website involvement of two graduate students preceded the involvement of Professor Chvez, and that both she and a third graduate student learned of the PEP website from the graduate students whose involvement preceded their own,” Holder states.

“All four of these adult women reported that their activities were consensual, and all disclaimed any recruitment, solicitation, or coercion.”

Holder said faculty members are free to appeal his decision to the provost.

The dankprofessor finds the UNM decision to be at odds with the present campus trend that embraces a feminist orthodoxy that when it comes to student professor relationships in some way involving sex such means that differential power precludes consent no matter what the student or students might state. Rather than accepting carte blanche that these students could not consent, the University of New Mexico did the right thing by looking into the particulars of the situation. The university did not engage in any a priori assumptions. Findings of no undue influence, no hostile environment, no use of university facilities means in the dankprofessor’s opinion, that there is no case against the professor. Bravo to the University of New Mexico administration for doing the right thing.

However, the dankprofessor is not naïve. It is not over. Offended faculty are likely to appeal. The offended faculty will be spurred on by some offended alumni, and I am sure a myriad of others. And if the appeals are unsuccessful and the good professor returns, she will be faced with a very hostile environment, no collegiality for her and I am sure no preferred teaching schedule, and she will be held under a microscope by faculty attempting to find that she has violated some university rule. Such may sound terribly cynical to many of the dankprofessor’s blog readers. However, for those believing I am embracing cynicism, the dankprofessor’s response is that it is realism that I am embracing. No pipedreams from me when it comes to contemporary university life.

For updates on the Chavez story, click here and here.

*In the originating article, the professor’s name was incorrectly spelled as Lisa Chvez; the correct spelling is Lisa Chavez

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. In addition, story leads will be most appreciated.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 17, 2008 - Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, University of New Mexico


  1. […] As previously reported by the dankprofessor, Professor of English Lisa Chavez had been investigated by the UNM administration for posing nude on a sadomasochism website, People Exchanging Power (PEP). She had posed nude with some of her students who had previously been involved with PEP. The investigation determined that Chavez had not exerted undue influence on these students, that the student involvement was consensual. […]

    Pingback by Opposition coalesces against UNM for not punishing sadomasochistic posing professor « Dankprofessor’s Weblog | April 3, 2008 | Reply

  2. This poses three types of stigmas. The first one is that she’s a female taking control of her own sexuality. That is especially threatening in a Puritanical culture such as ours that demonizes female sexuality and sexual liberation as deviant. The second one is that she is engaging in BDSM activities. The BDSM community is marginalized all over the world and sex-negative feminists want to portray those of us involved in BDSM as “sick” while the Religious Right believes unconventional sexual practices are an aberration to God. The third one, of course, is that she is a professor posing with students.

    My best wishes go out to Chavez.

    Comment by Nadya | October 14, 2009 | Reply

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