Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

University of New Mexico Pummeled by Lisa Chavez foes

There have been no new revelations about aspects of University of New Mexico Creative Writing Professor
Lisa Chavez’s involvement with a student in an S&M scenario which appeared on the internet.   It has been reported on this blog and elsewhere that an investigation by the UNM administration determined that Chavez had violated no university policy and she remains in good standing as a professor at UNM.

However, there does continue to be new distressing revelations concerning some of the creative writing colleagues of Professor Chavez.  It turns out that some significant percentage of faculty of the Creative Writing Program just can’t get over the fact that Chavez remains a professor in good standing given her admitted involvement in S&M activities  and even given that the activities were consensual and that no student or anyone else has charged Chavez with sexual harassment.  Chavez has violated no rule, no New Mexico statute and no Federal law. 

What she has done is engage in “sexual deviance” which has inspired some faculty at UNM to go on a moral crusade to get rid of Chavez or in the dankprofessor’s terms to bound and gag the bad professor.  During all of these shenanigans Chavez has continued to do her professorial work and not engage in any angry responses.

 In a recent letter to the faculty of the English Department, UNM President David Schmidley wrote:
“The university is, first and foremost, a place where students, faculty and administrators alike constantly engage in learning. It’s now time for all of us to learn anew the lessons of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

But the anti-Chavez crusaders refuse to engage in any form of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Rather they engage in various forms of symbolic protest which in the extreme represent a form of self-flagellation.  First, Sharon Warner, the head of the Creative Writing program, a person who had been well known for her devotion to the creative writing program resigns as Director of the program but retains her tenured position.  Warner’s resignation was not a creative act, not an act in support of students or faculty but rather an act of a person who is self possessed and simply is unable to handle things unless one gets their own way.

Of course, Warner’s resignation did not bring reconciliation and peace to the program.  The UNM administration replaced Warner with as new director Julie Shigekuni.  Upon assuming this position, Shigekuni emphasized that she was interested in the welfare of the department and not department politics.  She characterized the situation of the program in the following terms-

“I think that situations such as the one that we’re in are harmful.  They harm the program. I think that it’s an unfortunate situation, but I also think that the program is harmed by people who do not want to be
here and are still here.”

Well, Warner did not heed the advice of Shigekuni and conflict in the program remained.

And now as reported in the Daily Lobo of November 11,  “creative writing professor Joy Harjo has resigned amid rumors that strife between the department’s faculty and senior administrators cannot be resolved.”

Harjo who had previously spoken out publicly against the UNM retention of Lisa Chavez made it clear that this was the reason for her resignation.

Faculty colleagues affirmed that Harjo’s resignation was a major loss for the University of New Mexico.
Harjo was the university ‘s only Joseph Russo Endowed Professor.

Diane Thiel, associate professor in the English department, said Harjo’s resignation is an incalculable loss to the University.   She stated that “Faculty and students have resigned and left UNM over this and will likely continue to. The recent resignation of Joy Harjo, arguably the most well-known Native American poet in the world, highlights the seriousness of the situation, many details of which have yet to be reported to the media.”

Harjo said she could not continue to work in a program “that has been so deeply compromised” and that she didn’t trust the University to uphold the rights of its students and faculty.”

“The Chavez-and-students sex-site debacle was mishandled,” Harjo said. “Because of this, the creative writing program lost face and credibility locally and nationally. Those of us – a majority of the creative writing program – who pushed for a proper ethics investigation based on policies already in place were retaliated against for speaking up. This whole situation could have been handled in a way that was respectful to all parties.  As it is, only the rights of one person was considered.”

Sharon Warner said Harjo’s resignation will leave a huge dent in the already crumbling infrastructure of the department, no matter who is selected to take her place.

Harjo also stated:

“I have no plans at this time to join any other University. In the spirit of the teachings of the Mvskoke people, I will continue forward and carry with me only that which nourishes. I’m suffering a great loss from losing this job. I’m suffering several years of loss.  She also said “It was a hard decision to make when you look at economic times and the strain of being an artist. They didn’t give me anything extra. That was nothing extra. That was the year that I was paid for.”

UNM Vice President Holder said the University had no plans to terminate or reinvestigate Chavez.

“Lisa Chavez remains an employee of the University and a professor of the English department where she has tenure, and the University is not planning to contest her tenure in any way, and if that was a part of Joy Harjo’s reason for resigning, I think we regret that,” Holder said. “I think we would like to say that we very much regret her loss. She was a valuable member of our faculty.”

Harjo bemoaned the fact that “only the rights of one person was considered” as if the rights of one person do not count.  In the dankprofessor’s opinion, the rights of Lisa Chavez do count and that Joy Harjo also has a right to resign in protest even if that resignation hurts the program as a whole and even if her resignation may very well represent an act of self-flagellation on her part. 

The University of New Mexico administration is to be congratulated for standing up to the university’s academic bullies who wish to pummel Lisa Chavez and who are now attempting to apply their pummeling to the university as a whole.

November 11, 2008 - Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico


  1. I totally disagree. Chavez is an employee who represents the state of New Mexico and the University as a whole. The damage she has done is lasting. No highly qualified student who can attend school out of state will choose this department, nor will any faculty member of renown.

    The Creative Writing program at UNM is a joke from coast to coast.

    Comment by Double Bind | November 11, 2008 | Reply

  2. Well, the dankprofessor totally disagrees with Double Bind. A professor employed by a state university does not as a professor represent the university or the state. The professor represents his or herself. Speaking personally as a professor for some thirty five years employed by the State of California I never considered myself as a representative of California or Cal State Long Beach. For example, when I wrote articles,I did not believe that readers viewed me as representing the State of California or for that matter Cal State Long Beach. Professors do not consult with others as to how effectively their work represents the State. Such would reduce faculty to mere bureaucrats or State agents.

    Now when it comes to administrators, they do represent the university administration and also indirectly represent the State. So if Double Bind has an argument, it is with the administration of the UNM, not with Professor Chavez.

    As for the charge that Chavez has done lasting damage to the University of New Mexico, such reminds me of the recent campaign to ban legal same sex marriage. Those who wanted court rulings overturned argued those engaging in such marriage were damaging traditional heterosexual marriage. Of course, whatever damage has been done to heterosexual marriage has come from within traditional marriage.

    In any case, in almost every situation in which consensual sexual relationships of whatever genre has been attacked, the attackers demonize, degrade and demean consenting others. In the present case it is those attacking Lisa Chavez who are doing the damage to the University as well as attempting to damage Lisa Chavez. And,of course, it is problematic to even apply the concept of sexual relationships in the present case. It would be more accurate to state that the parties engaged in a consensual performance.

    Comment by dankprofessor | November 11, 2008 | Reply

  3. […] prima donna professor resigns In my last posting on the Lisa Chavez controversy at the University Of New Mexico and the resignation of the […]

    Pingback by UNM prima donna professor resigns « Dankprofessor’s Weblog | November 13, 2008 | Reply

  4. There are many of us who are in total agreement with darkprofessor. Harjo, Warner, et al need to remember that their precious creative writing program would not exist without certain rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These SAME rights also include protections for Professor Chavez, who has maintained her professionalism as well as dedication to her art form, something to be admired rather than touted. Can as much be said for Harjo, Warner, etc?

    Further, as the University has deemed there is “no harm – no foul”, then it is more than curious, indeed suspicious, that this latest grandstanding flap appears more personal than professional. Perhaps a new turn in this country’s mindset will drive home the point that such tantrums and manipulations are completely transparent and, seen as such, will aid to further restore the intentions of the ‘founding fathers’ (and Clan Mothers, as our system is based and rooted in Iroquois concepts): Keep religion (morals) out of government, and keep government (politics, any politics) out of the bedroom.

    Comment by Threshold | November 22, 2008 | Reply

  5. You know I will be honest I disagree with alot on the website in regards to student dating, sex in the public sphere etc. Furthermore I do think Chavez was very naive and almost “masochistic” if the pun will be permitted, to post her photos on the web..she was looking to be caught…and as a grad student at the same university who is even making less than Chavez to me its not that hard to live on half her salary; ABQ is cheap, 40 bucks as hour to be paid for her research is one thing, but I don’t believe that she did it for the money. She was probably just curious.
    Nevertheless, I don’t get this witchhunt and why these professional people can’t act professionally surely no one will judge the program based on this, say I apply to PhD programs as I am doing, do I care if the program at Madison has some sex phone worker instructing me? No, but she better be published!
    I think the faculty has too much time on their hands signing petitions and they should be focusing on the students. Its really unprofessional of them to resign over this.

    Comment by Marie | January 14, 2009 | Reply

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