Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

UNM Prof Lisa Chavez speaks out

There have been major developments on the UNM Lisa Chavez story. The website sexinthepublicsquare has published an in-depth and definitely worth reading interview with Professor Chavez.  Professor Elizabeth Wood, the interviewer, is to be congratulated for her good work.  The dankprofessor urges blog readers to read the entirety of the interview. And sexinthepublicsquare is now on the dankprofessor’s very selective list of blogs that merit reading on a regular basis. 

In addition, TV station krqe had a news segment on the Chavez sitution in which Sharon Warner was interviewed and images of Professor Chavez partaking in a sm scene were shown.

In the interview, Professor Chavez makes it quite clear that this incident did not involved a sexual relationship with a student-

I was not in a relationship with the student in the photos–other than the relationship between co-workers at PEP and as friends.I do not think adult students need to be protected from faculty. Of course I believe sexual harassment and any coercion are wrong, but I don’t believe consensual relationships are wrong. In fact, there are cases of such relationships in my department, but they have always been heterosexual. There are also cases of true harassment, which have not been pursued. I believe I am being treated this way partially because the purported relationship was between two women, and also because they see a certain “luridness” in what some in my department called  the “sex trade.”

I do think students and faculty both can benefit from close relationships–not sexual relationships per se, but friendships–and this is especially true in my field of creative writing. I have become friends with a number of the students I’ve worked with (and, for the record, I have never had a sexual relationship with a student, though I do not mean to condemn all such relationships), and I believe that the friendship helps us work better together. Creating writing is often a sort of soul-baring, and I believe that to work well together, we need to build up a mutual trust, which is something that goes beyond a formal student/teacher distance.

Bravo to Professor Chavez for not engaging in a condemnation of student professor relationships and reciting the cant that differential power precludes consent.  But even given her non-sexual involvement with students, the campaign against her will in all likelihood continue unabated.

What has become most clear to the dankprofessor is that resigned UNM Writing Director Sharon Warner is the major protagonist.  One does not have to read between the lines to figure out that she has de facto communicated that she was the one who broke this “story”.  She appears to be the “third party informant”. There was no story until she came forward.  Prior to her coming forward, Professor Chavez as part of an sm scene or performance was not recognized as such on the internet; she was not identified personally on the website.

Professor Warner in essence wrote the story.  And she is the story, not Lisa Chavez.  She is the absolutist moral entrepreneur attempting to sell her story at the expense of Lisa Chavez.  In essence, Warner’s story is summed up in the following quote- “We think a message must be sent out not only to her but to other faculty members because: If this is not unethical, what is unethical?”

Nothing here about protecting students from harm; it’s primarily about sending out a message to other faculty members, a message reaffirming traditional sexual morality.   For her, Lisa Chavez is a sexual outsider.  I have no doubt that this woman will not rest until Lisa is exiled or excommunicated from UNM. 

Adding melodrama to the story is Professor Warner’s resignation as Writing Director.  She just couldn’t handle Lisa Chavez not being punished by the UNM administration and she could not handle her colleague returning from sabbatical still in good university standing.  So she resigns in protest. The dankprofessor’s reaction is “big deal”.  Such was a symbolic protest with no substance; she did not resign as a tenured English professor; hardly anything as an academic really changes for her.

Professor Warner has promised to continue to campaign for the university censuring of Professor Chavez; she indicates that she will take this to the desk of Governor Richardson if such becomes necessary.  Not boding well for Professor Chavez is none of her English faculty colleagues have publicly indicated any kind of support for her while 13 of her colleagues have signed a petition asking for further university evaluation of her actions.  The dankprofessor estimates that there are 43 tenured faculty, including faculty who may be untenured but are on a tenure track in the UNM English department. Even if the UNM administration maintains its position as to not punish Professor Chavez, Chavez could very well find upon her return a very hostile and non-welcoming English faculty.  The fact is that bullying of academics by fellow academics is rife in the academic world; in this context, do checkout the website bulliedacademics.blogspot.com

Academic bullying can range from outright shunning to verbal hostility to a myriad of false charges having nothing to do with the original charge to the assignment of particularly unattractive teaching schedules to never getting another sabbatical leave to never getting promoted.  Of course, the intent is to punish the bullied and to make life so difficult that the bullied “chooses” to resign.  I call this a definite example of power abuse!  Nothing consensual about this, my point being that Professor Chavez engaged in a consensual SM performance.  Those trying to get rid of Chavez or bullying of her in the future, if such be the case, do not give a damn about consent and are the ones engaging in power abuse.

To date the administration of the University of New Mexico has been exemplary as to how they have dealt with this situation.  They merit the support of academics who truly take academic freedom seriously.  Unquestionably their power is and will be continued to be challenged.  Let us hope that they do not capitulate.

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

April 5, 2008 - Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, nudity, pornography, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, Uncategorized, University of New Mexico


  1. Thank you so much for the kind words about Sex In The Public Square. You might be interested in this addition to the information available: The graduate student referred to in our piece from yesterday tells the story from her perspective.

    Of course since you are now reading SITPS regularly perhaps you already knew that 😉

    Elizabeth Wood
    Sex In The Public Square

    Assistant Professor of Sociology
    Nassau Community College

    Comment by Elizabeth | April 6, 2008 | Reply

  2. […] For an update on his story, click here. […]

    Pingback by Opposition coalesces against UNM for not punishing sadomasochistic posing professor « Dankprofessor’s Weblog | April 6, 2008 | Reply

  3. […] 2,652 A passionate defense of student professor relationships       2,210 UNM Prof Lisa Chavez speaks out                                             1,991 […]

    Pingback by 2008 dankprofessor blog review and awards « Dankprofessor’s Weblog | February 14, 2009 | Reply

  4. Another refreshing report by the dankprofessor!
    I do not believe in S & M, except to admit that the mild version of being slapped by an attractive girl is somewhat pleasurable! Neither do I believe in homosexual relationships. However, as a fair minded straight guy, I must show tolerance for these things, so long as participation in said events wasn’t coerced.
    It is my humble belief that the faculty uproar wouldn’t be so great against Lisa Chavez, if the S & M had been mild, and practiced with men. The lesbian component is what alienates her colleagues, and perhaps the severity of the S & M. To be fair, I would not rally against Lisa, if I was a faculty member, as I wouldn’t want anyone to blackball me over a consensual dating relationship with an over 21 female student.
    I am surprised that there isn’t generally more colleage support for a teacher being sanctioned for consensual dating. If these “bans” are to be successfully fought, fellow faculty, especially those likewise unmarried, should rally in strong support in favor of the “transgressor”! Also, the American Association of Professors, despite their 1995 statement, should readily take up the cudgels of a faculty member being “disciplined” over a matter involving consensula dating. Isn’t that a major goal of any union, to defend the rights & liberties of its members?
    Those things, and the retention of qualified legal counsel, would go a long way towards sex police administrators being told, “Enough is Enough; don’t tread on our individual liberty & privacy, and those of adult students”!

    Comment by Donald Visconti | July 26, 2009 | Reply

  5. I am a resident of Abq connected to the majority of individuals who are involved in this situation in one way or another. I will try to compose this statement without the use of helpful information it is not my place to divulge. I would also like to state upfront that I am writing this without the aid, knowledge, or consent of any of those individuals.
    It is my sincerest belief that Professor Warner was and is acting fully within her responsibilities as the staff member receiving these allegations and complaints. Warner’s untarnished record of ethical conduct would speak for itself, and the list of students and organizations she is associated with would cement that fact, including the lack of any bias based on race or sexual preference. The point that most people are failing to grasp is that Professor Chavez’s conduct was the trigger to a hostile environment for well over half of the Creative Writing department. Her actions in and of themselves were not the problem, their effects on the student and faculty population were. The university’s inability to take action was. Nobody involved cares that Chavez is an hispanic woman with alternative sexual preferences. What they, and I, care about, is that she well and truly acted against the provisions of her employment, and acted maliciously against the individuals who dared to oppose her.

    Personally, I have no problem with two consenting adults of any gender, race, religion, or creed sharing a relationship. As a point of pact, I am actually an ordained minister specializing in (for now) non-legally binding commitment ceremonies for alternative partners. What I find deplorable is the fact that this relationship, and its adult business aspect, were publicized, that this relationship continued to the detriment of concerned and previously uninvolved parties, and that while Chavez singlehandedly destroyed the reputation and possibly the future of the already fragile Creative Writing department, the University tucked its collective tail between its legs and shivered.

    Add to that the fact that the administration et al manages to this day to keep this issue almost unheard of. The vast majority of the university population and the surrounding community is in an uproar about the slaphappy football coach and the aggressive soccer player, but have heard only vague rumours of what I believe to be the unimaginable misconduct and corruption surrounding Chavez, Jones, Ramos, and everybody else involved in the “investigation” right up to Schmidly himself.

    While everyone has the right to an opinion, for or against any cause, I urge anyone reading this, including you “Professor Dank,” to try to learn more about your subject matter on both sides of the argument. Your opinion may or may not change, anything can be spun to an advantage, but at least you can consider your opinions informed.

    Comment by Trent | December 1, 2009 | Reply

    • Trent, I don’t believe for a minute that you are speaking out just yourself.
      There are plenty of things that are unethical on both sides. One of them being a fellow colleague publicly humiliating a fellow colleague. Professor Warner should also be sued for malicious intents and slander towards Lisa Chavez. Professor Warner is not any more innocent than Ms. Chavez is, however, Lisa is not suing her yet.

      Comment by del | October 20, 2010 | Reply

  6. I definitely disagree with Lisa Chavez’s belief that professors and students can be close friends. it is unjust to the other students who are not on the inside friendship track. The playing field is not equal. Teaching creative writing is not an excuse for Ms. Chavez. I would advise her to find close friends elsewhere and therefore act more professional in the classroom
    I would never take a class with her. That is for sure. I prefer my professors to be more mature.

    Comment by Anna | July 8, 2012 | Reply

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