Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Rice University to crackdown on student prof sex

Rice University has recently been the subject of accolades from rather diverse sources.  Rice was the highest ranked Texas college or university in the 2009 Forbes Magazine ranking of student friendly universities; Rice was ranked 43rd in a field of 600 ranked universities.

And Rice made the Chronicle Of Higher Education listing of colleges that are particularly employee friendly during the current economic downturn.  In the CHE issue of July 10, 2009, Professor of History Alex X. Byrd had this to say about the Rice administration-“They really know the dilemmas that are facing people that work at universities, and they really work hard to have the universities meet those issues.  They’ve really got us covered.”

I am not sure how covered the Rice professors were in prior years, but as of this Fall semester, all Rice faculty will be more sexually covered than in prior years.  As reported in the student newspaper, the Rice Thresher

The Faculty Senate updated its Statement on Consensual, Amorous Relations with Students for the first time in over a decade…The new statement, which goes into effect in September, prohibits any romantic relationships between faculty and all undergraduate students, and between faculty and graduate students directly under their supervision or in their department.

The updated statement, which was approved in a 17-2 vote by the Senate on April 15, includes stricter language and more precise definitions of expected behavior, Faculty Senate Speaker Deborah Harter said.

The Chair of the Working Group on Rice’s Amorous Relations Policy was Rebekah Drezek, a bioengineering professor.  She urged faculty to carefully read the document. Drezek said “Many faculty felt it was a confusing document and did not provide clear guidance on expected behavior.  In addition, it was among the least restrictive policies in the country.”

Of course, for those who believe it is best to have sexual rules and regulations even for consenting adults, having non-restrictive “liberal” rules becomes an anathema.  But the fact of the matter appears to be that at Rice undergraduate students are not viewed as adults, no matter what their age.  Adulthood apparently is partially achieved when one becomes a graduate student.

The Thresher also quoted a Professor Harter, a French Studies Professor, who stated that at the Academic Senate meeting “Drezek noted that weak policies on amorous relations often end up hurting female students disproportionately.”  The dankprofessor is sure that no data was presented in support of this rather ambiguous statement.  Even if there was data that showed that female student disproportionately benefited from liberal policies such would have then also been a basis for opposition to amorous student faculty relationships.

The irony is that strong controlling policies function to benefit the weak who feel the need for rules from above to control their behavior and the behavior of others.  Adults who believe in personal autonomy even in sexual relationships are likely to view the controllers as engaging in unwarranted intrusion into private personal relationships.  An additional irony is that Rice, a Texas university, now takes the initiative in this area after the US Supreme Court rules in Lawrence, a case coming out of Texas,  that the state could not regulate private consensual relationships between persons of the same sex. 

In addition, the updated statement says that “in an academic setting such romantic or sexual relationships conflict with the implicit trust we encourage our students to enjoy vis-à-vis their professors [and] can result in emotional and psychological damage, and always have the potential for an abuse of power that constitutes unprofessional conduct.”  The policy then states that “accepting or exercising professional responsibility for any student with whom a faculty member has had a previous sexual or romantic relationship within the previous three years is presumed to create a conflict of interest and to violate professional ethics.”

Really, the above represents the same old traditional argument-that sex is dangerous and the only safe sex is marital sex.

However, not all Rice faculty bought into the evils of student professor amorous relationships.  The Thresher reported that some faculty “argued strongly that students over 18 are in a position to make good decisions, and that to prohibit relationships with them is to meddle unnecessarily in the private lives of consenting adults.”  However, there were only two dissenting votes cast in the Academic Senate.

And at least one Rice student publicly expressed opposition.  Sophomore Jeff Miller said he was concerned about the policy’s impact on student life.  He said- “This will restrict the already-limited dating options here at Rice.”

The dankprofessor’s response as to the restricting of dating options at Rice is that such will be surface restrictions.  Sexual lives at Rice are probably in general undercover.  For the romantically inclined, the love of knowledge at Rice can still lead to the knowledge of love.

August 10, 2009 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, privacy, Rice University, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating


  1. I find this particularly interesting because Rice University has the highest per capita number of virgins among all universities. It’s not that the average student at Rice has limited dating potentials due to the institutional structure, but because Rice has a heavy curriculum as compared to other universities in the area. The people who go there come from affluent backgrounds that strive for education (this is not to say that poorer students do not attain education; I am a working-class student who is applying to Ph.D. programs). That and it is highly expensive compared to other Texas universities (I believe in the area only the University of St. Thomas is higher). It is regrettable that such a thing has happened at Rice (and now I associate such repression with the Owls). I only hope a similar occurrence does not happen at the University of Houston. We may be the beacon of hope in this city.

    Comment by Nadya | September 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. And if you believe all those students are virgins you must be stupid. If they were by end of year one they no longer are..
    But i think the issue is that many girls especially foreigners and specifically asians american too take advantage of sexing profs… They don’t have morals or ethics to work hard for the grades when they can sleep with the profs. I know of several young women that slept with professors and got better grades for it… In the arts and architecture very rampant. So I think a no sex policy between student or professor regardless of age is the clearest mandate. If they really want to date wait till you graduate…

    Comment by Bitchplz | September 25, 2012 | Reply

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