Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Professor Lisa Chavez accused of illegal behavior by former University of New Mexico student

Angela Maria Williams, former Daily Lobo editor, a graduate of the UNM creative writing program and a former student of Lisa Chavez engaged in an emotional rant in today’s New Mexico DAILY LOBO.

Ms. Williams is particularly distressed about the resignation of Sharon Warner as Director of the UNM Creative Writing Program.  According to Sharon Warner, she resigned as a form of protest against the UNM administration decision not to
sanction Lisa Chavez for engaging with a student in a website sm performance. The Warner resignation was completely a voluntary one.  I gather it was an act of moral conscience at least as seen by Professor Warner.

Ms. Williams demeaned Warner’s resignation when she stated: “It alarms me even more that Warner was coerced into resigning for doing the right thing.”  And then went on to state: “I want to convey my heartfelt regret that Warner had to leave this way.”  

Williams does not present an iota of evidence that Warner was coerced to leave or had to leave.  Warner never stated that such was the case.  If she was coerced and the Warner resignation did not represent a form of voluntary protest, then Williams should come forward with evidence of this coercion of Sharon Warner.

In addition, Williams engages in a form of over dramatization when she characterizes Warner’s resignation as a “stunning blow” not just to the English Department but to the entire University since she was such a great teacher and did so much to create an excellent creative writing program.”  The fact is that Warner continues to teach at UNM, and did not give up her tenure at UNM.  And if, as Williams states, she was so successful in establishing such a strong creative writing program, there would be a number of excellent professors in the program who could and would step in as director of the program.  If the creative writing program is all about Sharon Warner and said program cannot survive without her, such is a very poor reflection on both Warner and the creative writing program she created.

Williams goes on to bash Lisa Chavez for in her terms engaging in a sexual act with a student and for Williams sexual acts also include “posing in sadomasochistic photos .” She goes on to strongly imply that Chavez had sexually harassed the SM posing student since she believes: “The power in any such situation belongs entirely to the professor, and this is the reason we have sexual harassment laws in the first place.”  She then asks: “Why was Chavez not properly punished for what amounts to repeated acts of sexual harassment?”

She was not punished since there was no sexual harassment. To have sexual harassment you need a complainant and Williams entirely ignores the fact that the student, Liz Derrington, has publicly stated in no uncertain terms that her participation was completely voluntary.  In fact in a blog interview, Derrington states that the major problem she has experienced is that few take her seriously.  Her interpretations of her own experience are simply dismissed by all too many persons.  And this is exactly what Williams does-she dismisses her as a person with no power, as essentially faceless and non-existent. What Williams purports that Chavez did to the student does not compare as to how badly Williams treats the student, how utterly disrespectfully she has treated Derrington in her essay.

Then Williams attempts to finish off Professor Chavez when she states: “What Chavez did was wrong, unethical and, above all, illegal.”  Above all, illegal!  This is the first time I have heard a charge of illegality lodged against Chavez.  Indeed, such is a very serious charge.  If Williams knows that some form of illegality has occurred, minimally she should tell us what it is exactly and going beyond the readers of her rant, she should go to the Albuquerque district’s attorney’s office with evidence of said illegality.  But she hasn’t, and I trust that she won’t since the illegality is probably a figment of her imagination.  If I am wrong, Williams can quickly prove the wrong beliefs of the dankprofessor, by going to the appropriate authorities in Albuquerque.

Williams states that she has “utmost respect for Warner. She has proven to me consistently over the years that she is one of the most dedicated and competent faculty members at UNM.”  The fact that Williams believes that Sharon Warner is one of the most dedicated faculty members at UNM is beside the point.  What is to the point is that Warner has been involved in a campaign to get rid of Chavez, and as part of that campaign she is willing to sacrifice her involvement in the UNM creative writing program.  Such is Warner’s right to protest and to resign.

What Williams misses is the utter lack of respect by her and Warner and others directed toward Chavez.  I do not know of Professor Chavez engaging in any disrespectful behavior.  And what is needed at the University of New Mexico is a lot more respect to be demonstrated by all the involved parties.

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

May 7, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual harassment, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | 2 Comments


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