I have posted and reposted and probably posted too much on the Mark Bourrie’s commentary on student professor sexual relationships. But just when the dankprofessor feels finished with Bourrie, something comes up. And what has come up is a commentary by Keith Reader on the Bourrie strand; here it is-
Keith Reader said…
UK policy – all but universally accepted and applied – is conflict-of-interest based and thus requires any faculty member involved in an intimate relationship to renounce *all* professional contact with the student concerned. The issue of favouritism in marking etc. seems to me paramount, and it may be worth noting that in UK universities all assessed work is seen by a second marker as well as in borderline cases by an external examiner. Work is also submitted anonymously (it bears the student’s matriculation number and not his/her name). All very labour-intensive, but worth it in my judgement to obviate allegations of malpractice. I certainly do not criticise such relationships en bloc and in principle (I know many people who are in long-term partnerships with their former students), but share Dr Bourrie’s concerns about their potential for abuse, and believe that a recusal/disclosure approach is the besy way of forestalling this. And I don’t post anonymously …
And here is the dankprofessor’s response-
Keith Reader states that he shares Dr. Bourrie’s concern about the potential for abuse in regards to student prof sexual relationships. I suggest that Reader reread Bourrie’s comments- for Bourrie there is something more than potential for abuse; Bourrie finds these relationships to be inherently damaging to the university and to be mind-boggling. In his terms and in the terms of most of those who vigorously advocate for the abolition of student professor sexual relationships, these relationships are not simply another example of conflict of interests; they are something more. They are condemned and
special policies are promoted because they are dealing with sexual matters and sexual outrage.
Mr. Reader feels that the UK way of handling these cases is good since
“UK policy – all but universally accepted and applied – is conflict-of-
interest based and thus requires any faculty member involved in an intimate relationship to renounce *all* professional contact with the student concerned.”
Renouncing professional contact with the student seems quite medieval to me since the student appears to end up being of the genre of leper. Is such renouncing public? If not, why not? Does the renounced have any grounds for appeal? If the renouncing is private/confidential, just another personnel matter, how does the university monitor both the student and the professor as to their adhering to the renouncing. And since the policy allows personal interaction, but not professional, how is it possible for the university to know that in the context of an intimate relationship professional matters are not discussed. In the dankprofessor’s opinion, the policy as outlined by Reader is patently absurd.
But then Reader goes on to state:
“The issue of favouritism in marking etc. seems to me paramount, and it may be worth noting that in UK universities all assessed work is seen by a second marker as well as in borderline cases by an external examiner.”
If favouritism in marking is the paramount issue, then it should be paramount in all cases of professors marking students. But the reality as described by Reader is that it only becomes paramount in borderline cases. Of course, Reader makes no attempt to differentiate borderline from non-borderline cases. If all cases were treated the same, all cases would have an external examiner, then the problem is solved. No one is treated differentially, no need for a sexual investigation, no need for a renouncing, etc. Problem solved! Uniformity and fairness in grading becomes affirmed.
But I really doubt that Reader and Bourrie would go for this. For Bourrie, no moral outrage, everything uniform, just doesn’t fit the Bourrie profile. I expect that Reader will elaborate on why having an external examiner for all would not be a good way to go.
Finally, the dankprofessor wishes to bring up the question as to who would occupy the position of external examiner, and what would be the qualifications of said examiners. Certainly said examiners would not be members of the faculty, too many prejudicial factors would then enter into the situation. And, of course, faculty do not like to have their grading judgments routinely questioned so said examiners may end up in rather tenuous situations. And presently, does one know who are the external examiners? Might Mr. Reader know? Might Mr. Reader be an external examiner? Might someone refer me to an external examiner so I can become more conversant as to the problems facing external examiners? Or is the reality that no one knows anything about external examiners, that no one knows any one who is or was an external examiner, that no ones knows how one can become an external examiner?
Well once again Professor Mark Bourrie’s response to the dankprofessor is a non- response.
Here it is unexpurgated, uncensored.
I’ve answered your worthless critique many times.
All you seem to care about is rationalizing your seduction of your students. You are scum”
Bourrie’s usage of the scum rhetoric strips away his cloak of professionalism. No attempt to use professionalism here as a rationalization for his attitudes toward professors who have been intimate with their students. No attempt here for Bourrie to engage in any minimal form of academic or polite or enlightening discourse. His tactics are those of a hatemonger- objectify and dehumanize those who are on the other side. “Create” them in whatever terms the hatemonger wishes. No matter that Dank has never seduced anyone, Bourrie can still create and communicate Dank as a seducer without any need to cite supporting evidence since Dank is a creation of Bourrie’s imagination. Bourrie can imagine Dank and other professors who are intimate with students in what ever terms he wishes. Of course, such tells us more about Bourrie than it tells us about Dank, et .al. The fact that he homogenizes us, makes us all the same, allows no possibility that some of us seduce and some do not, is quite damning of Bourrie. As the philosopher Martin Buber would likely state, Bourrie lives in an I/it world, a world of impersonal categories, a world that is never allowed to transcend into an I/thou framework, a framework where there is personalization, where individuals are experienced as unique beings, where relationships are explored, where people can be appreciated and even loved. It is also a world that has been described by the anthropologist Mary Douglas, as a world of dirt and pollution and scum; a world infected by those who have engaged in violations of what is considered to be sacred.
In this world which Bourrie has created, there is no love. Bourrie along with many others
whose opposition to student professor relationships mainly has an anti-sexual dynamic, cannot comprehend that there can be a loving relationship between a student and a professor. The idea that a mutual love of knowledge can lead to love, a passion for each other is out of their world. The idea that some of these relationships become long term and lead to marriage, and even marriage at times without divorce is not considered. I think that I am on pretty firm ground when I believe that Bourrie has never given any consideration to the possibility that some of the professors and administrators he riles against at Concordia for not advocating student professor bans may very well have fallen in love with and married a student. And I am also quite sure that Bourrie has never entertained the possibility that some of his students may very well be the children of persons who were once in student professor relationships.
The mundane world of love, marriage and children is not there for Bourrie as applied to student professor relationships. Well, this mundane world is and was part of my world, and Bourrie’s writing me off and others like me as scum is not just beyond good taste, it reflects a descent into indecency and degradation. It reflects an attempt to pull his readers into his pornographic imagination.
And more must be said about love. It is striking that Mark Bourrie and his confreres say nothing about love, and nothing about falling in love. Such is striking since their often avowed goals is to preserve fairness and objectivity when it comes to grading. But never once does Bourrie say that the professor who has fallen in love with a student, a love which may be only known to the professor, should recuse oneself from grading the loved student or go to his supervisor to insure said love should not bias the grading process.
And as for barring student professor relationships that entail friendship without sex, Bourrie in his recent posting discounts such relationships as being different, not applicable. But, if ones goal really is to protect fairness in grading, one must know that at times close friendships, loving friendships can produce bonds that could threaten the fairness of the grading process. But Bourrie and apparently many others do not care about love and friendship interfering with grading. What they care about is sex and furthering their anti-sexual agenda. The fairness in grading appeal helps them to rationalize their goals, and that is too stamp out sex between students and professors.
As long as universities are not replaced by online education, there will be love and sex between students and professors. Such has become and will unfortunately continue to be at least into the near future, the love that dare not speak its name. And dankprofessor blog readers can be assured that the dankprofessor will continue to speak its name. Such is my pledge.
More red herrings, straw men and decayed logic. Give it up.
BTW, it’s “Dr. Bourrie”.
Of course, his response was a non-response. His non-response is ironic in that it demonstrates that he has ‘given it up’ The only thing marginally of a substantive nature is that he is disturbed that I often refer to him as Bourrie rather than Dr. Bourrie in my posts. Big deal, particularly given the fact that the only time that he referred to me by name in his posts, he did not give me a title or first name; the referral just used my last name.
Last name, title or no title, why get hung up on this rather than dealing with the issue? Well, maybe it is a major issue for Bourrie. In dealing with the prof student issue, Bourrie invokes professionalism ad nauseam; his appeal or rationale for his position is that he is defending professionalism. And in that context, professors having sex with students in his terms is an attack on professionalism which functions to demean the reputation of Concordia University or any university that does not ban these relationships and in the present case such functions to demean the reputation of the faculty of Concordia of which he is a member. So, consequently, Concordia’s non-banning of these relationships, in Bourrie’s terms functions to demean his reputation. And Bourrie is baffled that a prof engaging in said behavior is not concerned about reputation. In fact, at times he implies that he is protecting the reputation of the offending professor.
So such MAY be the reason that Bourrie is so zealously promoting his agenda on this issue. Ultimately, to a significant degree, it is about himself, his reputation and his professionalism. The most troubling aspect of this is that in his defense of self and professionalism, he throws out fundamental issues such as the right of adults to engage in consensual relationships as “crap”. And, of course, he trashes others by arguing they do not have the ability to consent; for him women involved in such relationships do not speak for themselves since they cannot speak for themselves. Once again we have the Man defining a woman’s reality- she is exploited because “I” say so; he doesn’t have to consult with them. He treats women as if they are children even though he at times argues that age has nothing to do with it. But I would argue that it does for Bourrie, for most likely Bourrie seems his self as an adult protecting female childlike students. Such is not terribly surprising since all of us at one time linked child and student together and teacher and adult together and some of us have not grown up to understand that at a certain point the linkage ends. Too many of us have this default assumption equating student and child and professor and adult and therefore such relationships are always exploitative. And the true believer is able to do whatever he/she believes is necessary to wipe out the scourge, to protect us from evil, or as Anita Bryant once said, to save our children.
The problem for all of us is who is going to protect us from the likes of Mark Bourrie? You have to have a strong skin to deal with Bourrie and his ilk; he already has tried to cast me away as a prof who supposedly seduced his male students. Of course, those who know me, know I seduced no one, much less male students since I plea guilty to being a committed heterosexual. Ultimately, the bottom line for us is that we must be able to protect ourselves from the seductive argument of Mark Bourrie. No external authority will do it. No professional or politician or preacher will do it, no one but ourselves will do it.
My prior posting to Bourrie’s blog follows-
“The “consenting adults” stuff is just crap. If there was some sort of Charter right in that regard, surely doctors and lawyers who have been disciplined by their professional associations would have relied on it as a defence.”
and in his first point he states-
“1. The power imbalance between students and faculty, raising the question of whether real consent can exist. That’s why the “consenting adults” argument is a red herring.”
Bourrie find the argument regarding the rights of consenting adults to be “just crap”. So much for his version of professionalism. I would argue that almost all persons who have seriously engaged issues regarding sexual behavior would argue that consent is of central concern, ethically and legally. Taking adults ability to consent away by a third party is damn serious business. It is so serious that the burden should be on the third party who argues there is no consent to prove there is no consent. And to emphasize the seriousness of the issue, let’s put this in rather stark terms. Where there is no sexual consent, there is rape. Even though Bourrie applies demeaning and degrading rhetoric to these so-called predatory professors, he doesn’t call in his terms a spade a spade; he does not call these profs rapists. Calling them rapists might function for some to show how transparently absurd is his argument.
Bourrie invokes the medical and legal professions in defense of his argument that universities can prohibit student professor relationships; doctors are banned from having sexual relationships with their patients and lawyers with clients although I think that the lawyer client ban is more variable, more tenuous. But what Bourrie does not say is that the medical profession does not ban intimacies between medical professors and medical students and the legal profession is far from uniform in banning such relationships between law profs and law students.
Just looking at the medical profession, just about anybody would be able to tell you there is a giant leap from being a patient and a doctor to that of being a student and professor. Patients are not a part of
a medical community; students are part of a university community. Patients don’t work, study and assist
medical doctors; students often do all of the aforementioned with professors. Patients don’t hang around the doctors office, students hang out throughout the university campus. Patients don’t socialize with doctors; professors and students socialize and are often encouraged to socialize by university administrators. Bourrie would like to have the university function like a hospital in terms of standards and practices with students. God help students and professors if such becomes fully the case; unfortunately such is gradually becoming the case.
And I don’t want to let the medical and legal professions get a pass re Bourrie’s power imbalance issue. Power imbalances are rife throughout the medical world. Does Bourrie really believe that relationships between doctors and nurses are banned and do not occur? That relationships between doctors and med techs are banned and do not occur? Between doctors and medical staff? I will leave it for Bourrie’s imagination to determine how the ethically engaged legal profession in the real world deals with the power imbalance issue.
I will say this in the legal area- Bourrie would be laughed out of court if he came and testified that he knew that in all student prof affairs there can be no consent, case closed. As indicated, it would be Bourrie’s responsibility to testify regarding a particular case and if he were an expert witness to present
evidence that consent was diminished or abolished in the particular case under consideration.
And if Bourrie is adverse to power imbalances and power abuses, he must know that appointing persons to investigate and control the sexual behavior of others in private requires a power imbalance and is essentially equivalent to power abuse.
I will now skip to Bourrie’s point 5 which is relevant to the points I have just made.
5. The potential liability of the university when it enables this to take place.
I do not believe there is an issue here. I know of no case in which a university was sued successfully for not prohibiting consensual relationships. Who would be doing the suing, not the consenting parties, but some third party, such as Dr. Bourrie. Maybe Bourrie might consider suing Concordia for not prohibiting such relationships. Even Bourrie saying that the university enables these relationships is problematic. Where there is a large number of eligible persons in terms of dating and mating concentrated in the same geographic area, relationships will occur; relationships will occur between profs and students, no matter what the university policy. Of course, if female students did not find some professors attractive, there will be no consensual relationships in this area. For this to occur, we will need some coercive mind manipulation and control and I am sure Bourrie would not want that.
Bourrie’s point 2-
2. The real and apparent conflict of interest re: marks, scholarship evaluation, internships, TA and RA hirings and assignments, and other out-of-class evaluations.
As for conflict of interest, I believe that Concordia as well as most other universities have conflict of interest policies. Where conflict of interest situations occur, the university should attempt to deal with them. No need for a special sexual conflict of interest policy. Of course, the conflict of interest policy as indicated by Bourrie is directed to having fair and objective treatment of students in terms of their various evaluations. Unfortunately, the university is terribly derelict in this policy, such is so apparent in that the university never ever warns profs or anyone else not to differentially treat students or colleagues in terms of personal attractiveness or in terms of personal relationships. I know Bourrie feels the sexual component is different. I don’t. The issue is the same. The issue is creating an environment where it would be unthinkable to grade students based on personal preferences. I know it is an anathema to me.
I know I never let any kind of personal relationship interfere with how I graded a student, etc. And in terms of apparent conflict of of interest, in my case such was not relevant since my private life was private. In any case, universities are terribly delinquent in dealing with conflict of interest policy, particularly when it deals with money. I suggest that people taka a look at the University Diaries blog
and see how medical schools deal with conflict of interest issues.
3. The disruption to the teaching environment, as other students believe a conflict and favoritism may exist.
Unfortunately as I have stated previously, students often feel there is favoritism with student x getting a better grade than oneself. Such is rife amongst students; I got a C because the prof did not like me, etc. etc. Does Bourie think that students do not frequently think that he grades based on personal preference.? This belief generally has little or nothing to do with reality. If, IN FACT, a personal relationship of a professor disrupts the learning environment, the student or students should be able to file a complaint and there should be an investigation. I know that Bourrie thinks such disruptions due to a student prof relationship are frequent. I beg to differ. It is rare. Bourrie will of course know of the exceptions, professors and students who are discreet will not be known by Bourrie.
4. The discomfort of students who do not want to be approached by professors seeking a relationship.
Of course, this can be an issue. And when it occurs, such should fall under the sexual harassment policy.
And, of course, Bourrie seems not to get it- that for a relationship to ensue, the professor does not have to approach. In my experience, the “approach” was by the female student or it was apparent that there was a mutual attraction. Or, on a more pedestrian level- I first dated my wife to be after the class ended, after Spring semester. She was not a student of mine in the Fall and we dated and had a serious relationship. Then she told me during registration for the forthcoming Spring courses,, she wanted to take one of my courses and if it was OK with me. I told her that her question was misdirected; the issue for her is whether it was OK with her. I treat all my students the same and as a student I treat her the same as all other students. It was her call to make, not mine. And, I know, unfortunately, there will always be people who think the worst, that she was prostituting herself for the grade; that she was a gradedigger. If you live for these people, then you will end up leading a horrendous life, trying to please people who always think the worst of others.
6. The affect of this behavior on the university’s reputation, as people in the community believe students can literally screw their way to an A.
People will believe what they want, no matter what the policy of the university. I would question if a university’s reputation will go up if they adopt such a policy. Will the status or prestige of Concordia or UT, really change due to this policy? Did the prestige of UC Berkeley go up after a policy was adopted.
In any case, reputation and prestige should be no rationale for taking away fundamental rights such as
choice of romantic partner.
And might I ask Bourrie, did Clinton’s prestige among the voters at large go down and remain down after his relationship with intern Lewinsky was revealed? And now as a “retired” person living with my wife who was my ex-student and meeting persons from all walks of life, including professors, and in terms of getting acquainted, we often relate how we met to others, and no person has ever responded with any degree of negativity. And if our past was a problem for them, then adios. And if we violated the so-called professional standards of whatever profession, no guilt from this party. I feel sorry for people who forego the opportunity to love and be loved in the name of professionalism. In the name of love, I sign off, at least for now.
Mark Bourrie’s response to my blogging merits a reply. His response follows-
No, Dank, I want professors to act professionally, in the context of the power inequity that exists, the disruptive aspects of these affairs to the rest of the students, the possibility of litigation, the real and perceived conflicts re: marks, scholarships, internships, references, etc. You need not put words in my mouth. I have made myself very clear. The legal profession views clients as adults, and it bans sexual relationships between lawyers and clients because of the power imbalance and the coercive power that comes from the lawyer/client relationship. I believe this is the same type of power imbalance that exists between profs and students.
Of course, I agree with Dr. Bourrie that we should all be concerned about the disruptive aspects of these affairs if there be any. Of course, if affairs of any kind are introduced into the classroom and such is disruptive of the class agenda, remedial action should be taken. Remedial action should be taken in terms of any kind of disruptive behavior, such as students talking to others during lecture, or persistently interrupting others, being rude to to others, etc. However, I expect that we would agree that students do not have a right not to be offended in the classroom. If we systematically avoid dealing with subjects that we fear would be offensive to some students, then education would be reduced to a form of pablum.
As for the possibility of litigation in regards to consensual student professor intimate relationships, the dankprofessor knows of no successful litigation that has been taken in this area. At least I know of none that has taken place in the United States. Maybe the situation is different in Canada. Maybe, Dr. Bourrie can give me some examples of successful litigation in regards to consensual student professor intimate relationships. And, of course, I am not referring to sexual harassment lawsuits in which there might have previously been a consensual relationship. I will not defend persons who are a party to sexually harassing another. I will hold that the behavior of persons who engage in mutual consent in the present situation under consideration should not and do not fall within the purview of litigation; such should be considered basic and elementary.
As for real and perceived conflicts of interests in regards to grading, etc., if I could wave a magic wand and remove all sexual interaction between students and professors, perceived conflicts of interests would remain rife in the university. It is par for the course for students to believe and often state that another student received a higher grade than oneself because the professor liked him or her or the professor does not like me as much as him or her. Students usually use this technique or psychological ploy to avoid attending/dealing with their own work; it is often a way of refusing to accept criticism and it is widespread in academia. Of course, any prof who feels he/she cannot objectively evaluate any student should recuse him or herself from evaluating that student. Unfortunately, such is unlikely to occur; said recusing prof would probably be stigmatized or even terminated.
Problems relating to prejudicial grading should be at the forefront of university concern, e.g, how to avoid prejudicial grading when the professor finds the student exceptionally physically attractive, reminds one of ones ex-girlfriend, etc., or is repelled by the appearance of the student. Nothing on this in the university. These sorts of grading issues usually only come up by those who suffer from a “keen” interest in the sexual behavior of others, whether it be of a professional or non-professional nature. If so-called professionalism rationalizes or justifies such an interest, such is most unfortunate. In my opinion, in general terms, terms like professionalism often function to cover up the real underlying interests. Such is my non-professional but professorial opinion. The dankprofessor also has an opinion as to why charges of prejudicial grading are never lodged against womens studies professors who hold that they should bond with their female students or who have overtly expressed hateful comments about men. But I will withhold my opinion on this. Maybe Bourrie can help us out on this one.
As for the university adopting policies similar to those adopted by the legal profession or the lawyering class being held out as a model for the professor class, God help us. Yes, there are many ethical problems and other problems in the university world, particularly plagiarism by both students and professors and administrators, but such I believe dwells into insignificance as to the the ethical problems of the lawyering class. Putting ethics and lawyers together is often considered to be an oxymoron. In any case, the lawyer client relationship is simply not analogous to the student professor relationship.
Mark Bourrie on his Ottawa Watch Blog responds to my critique on his wanting to ban student prof intimacies at Concordia University. He states-
An American university professor/blogger doesn’t get it. He says I want to “coerce” people. Actually, no. I want them to act professionally. I don’t want them to come on to, date and/or sleep with someone, then grade their work, decide on their scholarships, etc.
Of course, Dr. Bourrie is playing words games. He wants to coerce them if they act in a manner that he finds unprofessional. If they act like he wants them to act, if they act like him, no problem. Nothing new here, particularly in the area of sexuality. Follow my sexual standards or else! Nothing new here in reference to authoritarianism, just follow the ethic handed down from above, and all will be OK.
And then there is Bourrie’s naivete or is it verbal manipulation? Note his statement- “I don’t want them to come on to, date and/or sleep with someone, then grade their work, decide on their scholarships, etc.” This is sexism to the nth degree! Male active, female passive. A female student coming on to a male prof is nothing unusual, such has never been unusual and will never be unusual. Maybe the case is that female students do not find Bourrie attractive but such does not mean that they do not find other male profs attractive. I know this to be a fact based on my 35 years of experience as a professor as well as based on the experiences of many other professors and the many female students who have contacted me in regards to their love of their professor. And if Bourrie is unaware of male profs and female students marrying, such is other worldly. If female students were not attracted to male profs then the issue of consensual relationships would not be an issue.
Then Bourrie states-
“If sex between profs and students is so right, why do the profs involved keep it a secret? I figure anything that can’t take public scrutiny tends to be illegal, immoral or fattening. U of T gets that aspect, too, and it’s a good start.”
I ask Bourrie and his confreres, if in the past homosexuals believed their homosexuality right, then why did homosexuals keep their homosexuality secret? Why were homosexuals so closeted? Any person with some degree of common sense knows the answer to these questions. Being in the closet, keeping such things secret, does not mean that the secreted believe they are wrong, but often means that they do not want to be harassed, stigmatized and fired. As persons without power, they do not want to be subject to the power abuse of bureaucrats, police and various agents of moral zealots; moral zealots who act self-righteously in the name of their morality , their professionalism, etc.
And in more general terms about Bourrie’s feeling that “anything can’t take public scrutiny tends to be illegal, immoral or fattening.” Very funny if one does not believe in the right to privacy, in this case the right to privacy by consenting adults. I assumed that even so-called professionals believe sexual relationships between adults in private was OK. If the Concordia prof and student came out publicly, I guess Bourrie would feel OK about this rather than feeling that they were flaunting their relationship. I believe most people who are opposed to student professor relationships want them to be in the closet, not out in public for all to see, not engaging in marriage ceremonies, etc.
Bourrie then cites the University of Toronto policy in he following terms-
Here’s U of T’s policy. At least they recognize the conflict and say the affair must be disclosed, but look at the weasel word “should” in the first paragraph. I would prefer “must”:
University policy does not prohibit sexual relations between consenting adults. However, if you form any kind of intimate personal relationship with someone who teaches you or otherwise makes academic decisions affecting you, that teacher has a conflict of interest. She or he should disclose the conflict of interest to their academic supervisor – usually the Chair of the department or the Dean of the faculty – and should ensure that your work is graded by a colleague.
If your teacher does not disclose the conflict of interest, s/he is not simply in breach of University policy: s/he is showing a negligent disregard for your academic interests, and placing the legitimacy of your academic accomplishments in question.
Has Dr. Bourrie really thought thru the implications and possible consequences of policies of this sort? If not, I suggest that the good professor put himself in the position of the involved student and the professor who is committed to following university rules. One day, you as the student are removed from the classroom and theoretically put in another class for your own good. (Sometimes the student may not be physically removed from the class, but graded by another prof, no matter whether she stays or goes, the problems remain essentially the same.) And, in addition, you know that the university administrators who are “helping” you, know of your sexual activity that led to your removal. And then you will have to deal with the reality that it is your special professor who informed on you and has helped to remove you from his class. What kind of professor would do this? What kind of professor would do this to a woman who he supposedly loved? And for the involved professor his life goes on, no serious disruption since the disclose dispose policy, as some call it, has been implemented. I ask Dr. Bourrie, who professes to be a person who believes in this policy, have you ever given one iota of thought to the exiled student? Or was she simply a non-person who was disposed of? And this policy is implemented by some to correct a power imbalance; this is power imbalance at its worst.
But, of course, there is more, much more which is damning about this sort of policy. Supposedly the student is removed from class so that differential non-prejudicial grading can take place. But once the student is removed one can be assured that differential grading will take place since all the students but one will have the same grader. For the professor who is committed to fair and objective grading, the professor grades all the students using the same standard irrespective of whether the prof likes or dislikes the student.
However, dealing with the possible reality of the student being removed from class, who will be the grader and will the grader be able to grade this student as the regular prof grades all of the other students? How can it be assured that a colleague of the “special” professor will grade the student objectively, that his or her feeling about the special prof or the student, will not interfere with the grading? Will the grader be told that the student is the lover of the prof? And what if the grade is based on an in class project, on class participation, how will this be dealt with? And what if the student is taken out of an art or music or theatre arts or sports class? How can the prof deal with this? Shouldn’t the grading prof be forced to sit thru the entire class and then grade the student?
It is amazing that so many people, so many academics, are taken in by a policy that after a bit of thought one cannot help but label said policy as a sham. Academics often have knee jerk responses to these policies. Why? Because most academics give little thought to the intricacies, complexities and ethics of grading. Grading is at the bottom of the academic totem pole. Tell me about one professor at Concordia or UT who was hired in part because of their grading practices. Tell me about any university that has workshops for new or old faculty on grading practices. Of course, many faculty don’t grade, they ship out grading to teaching assistants. So much for the importance of grading.
Bottom line is that the policies that Bourrie, et. al., advocate are not based on a commitment to good grading but are rather based on rooting out those who they see as sexual deviants. In the dankprofessor’s opinion the irony regarding Bourrie and his concern for his daughter at the hands of a so-called predator professor is that his daughter would probably be at much greater risk if she becomes involved in the hookup and drinking culture associated with all too many colleges than if she became involved with her English or Theatre Arts professor. As the dankprofessor has indicated previously-
the love of knowledge can lead to the knowledge of love. Such passions simply cannot be destroyed or regulated by campus bureaucrats or professionals of any kind.
Mark Bourrie of the Ottawa Watch blog has complained to the Dean of Arts of Concordia University about a fellow university instructor who allegedly is having an intimate relationship with a Concordia student. Bourrie does not name the professor or student in his letter of complaint to the dean.
He states that his concerns relate to unprompted conversations he has had with eleven of his female students. He goes on to state that “The alleged affair is common knowledge among students in one of the university’s departments.”
The problem that Bourrie has is that a consensual sexual relationship between a student and professor is not prohibited at Concordia University. The Concordia Dean of Arts responded to Bourrie in these terms-
“Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. You should be aware that “Concordia does not forbid intimate [consensual] relationships between faculty and students”. We recognize that such relationships are intrinsically problematic, and strongly advise both students and faculty members against engaging in them, but they are not forbidden.”
The fact that the alleged relationship falls outside of the purview of regulation by the Concordia administration and treats students and professors as having the right to engage in autonomous decision making in regards to choice of romantic partners does not impress Dr. Bourrie. Far from it , he responds to said policy in these terms-
“That’s outrageous. Your answer is completely unacceptable. The power imbalance between a professor and a student is such that sexual relationships cross the boundaries of exploitation. I will bring this matter to the attention of the president of the university. Quite frankly, the conduct and attitudes of administrators and professors at Concordia borders on the bizarre.”
So Bourrie knows that in the alleged current situation, boundaries of exploitation have been crossed; he knows that such is the case since he believes that there is a power imbalance in any student professor sexual relationship and such crosses the boundaries of exploitation. Of course. Bourie ends up thoroughly objectifying and dehumanizing any student professor relationship. He doesn’t have to talk to the parties involved; he has already defined the parties in his cartoon world imagery. As for the female student, no matter that she may feel that she is not being exploited, no matter that she may see herself as an adult who has consented to the relationship, Bourrie knows her mind better that she knows her mind.
Bourrie goes on and the dankprofessor believes that he eventually tells us what is the dynamic fueling his opposition to student professor relationships-
“I am quite scandalized by this. The idea of, say, a 40-year-old prof and an 18-year-old student having a “relationship” just boggles the mind. I have a 14-year-old daughter. In four years, she could be “dating” some prof at Concordia. Quite frankly, I have found academia to be the most disfunctional and downright corrupt thing I have ever come into contact with… Apparently, the Senate of Concordia has considered the issue, and it’s OK for profs to have sex with students. Guess where my kids aren’t going…”
Bourrie’s story is the same old story for many of those opposing student professor relationships. The story is about protecting ones children or others peoples children from the evil adult predatory professors.
Of course, what Bourrie wants is the administration to represent authoritarian parents in helping them regulate the lives of their children. Viewing college students as adults is simply out of the question. Entertaining the notion that some students are older adults and wish to date professors who are also younger adults of a similar age is also out of the realm of possibility for Bourrie. Of course, at many universities many students are well beyond their teens, many are in their twenties thirties and forties and even some beyond. And, yes, I met my wife to be when she was a student of mine and in her fifties.
But as far as age is concerned, younger students deserve the same rights as older students. They have a right to be free of the power control and abuse of more powerful abusers, whether the abusers be authoritarian parents or administrators. The irony for Bourrie and likeminded others is that in the name of attacking a so-called power imbalance between students and professors they want a power imbalance in which they want absolute control. What utter hypocrisy!
Now the dankprofessor wishes to make it clear that he is not opposed to Bourrie, to university administrators providing their advice to students or to whomever they wish to provide advice. What the dankprofessor opposes is Bourrie and university administrations having the right to coerce others in
terms of romantic choice. Concordia University provides advice to their students and professors in this area. The problem is that they provide bad advice. The remainder of this post is devoted to presenting and critiquing said advice.
Presented below is the official university advice on student professor relationships; the text of this statement is highlighted. The dankprofessor’s comments appear unhilighted in the text of the statement.
Concordia does not forbid intimate relationships between faculty and students that are consensual. However, such relationships are fraught with danger and the recommendation from the Advisor is that it is better to avoid them.
There are several reasons for this recommendation, not the least of which is the observation that when such relationships sour – and they often do – it is the student who usually loses, not the faculty member. Offices that provide services to students often hear these tales, and know that, more often than not, the student drops out of a course, a program or even the university. Professionally speaking, faculty should be encouraging students to learn, not taking risks with their academic futures.
Of course, consistent with this advice is that persons never take risks in context of romantic and sexual relationships. In all relationships there are risks of relationships terminating; in marriage there are risks in marriages ending in divorce. In all human endeavors, there are risks of failure. Of course, no evidence is presented in the Ottawa statement that student prof relationships are more risky than other relationships. And the writer of this statement very well knows that when one goes to counseling services, one almost always hears “tales” of woes. If the observer/researcher can’t get out of his office and observe the myriad world of relationships, such represents laziness and incompetence. The statement is also insulting to faculty implying that the faculty psyche is beyond frailty and they do not experience loss when a relationship with a student ends. The last sentence- “Professionally speaking, faculty should be encouraging students to learn, not taking risks with their academic futures” – is particularly absurd and insulting. The notion that if the faculty member is romantically involved with the student he or she cannot encourage the student to learn is beyond the pale. In fact, I would argue based on the experience of many others, that the situation is just the opposite, that the prof is devoted to student learning. As the dankprofessor has pointed out- the love of knowledge can very well lead to the knowledge of love.
What faculty members may not realize is that they also place themselves and the University at risk by crossing this particular boundary. If a student who has entered a relationship with a professor decides, upon its termination, to file a complaint of sexual harassment, the case will turn on the issue of consent. There is a view that, given the considerable power differential between student and professor, a student’s consent to a relationship is always compromised. Whether one subscribes to this argument or not, human rights tribunals have supported it. The question becomes, is it worth the risk?
The dankprofessor would like to see the citations of so-called tribunals that there cannot be consent when there is a power differential between a student and a professor. If so, then Concordia is de jure governed by these cases and by definition there can be no such consensual relationships between students and profs. In any case, if all consensual relationships ended tomorrow, sexual harassment cases will continue unabated at universities. To conflate sexual harassment and consensual relationships does a disservice to those who are attempting to combat sexual harassment on campus and ends up trivializing sexual harassment.
There are other, less controversial legal arguments that suggest that faculty refrain from such relationships, namely breach of trust and conflict of interest. Here too, human rights tribunals and arbitration boards have found against faculty members. Faculty have a duty to avoid conflict of interest and to exercise their power over students only in the students’ interests, not in their own interests.
Again, it is presumptuous that faculty involved with students do not take the interests of students seriously. Conflict of interest issues deserve attention in respect to all aspects of university life. Given this, there is no special need for a category regarding student prof relationships. Campaigns against such relationships are sexually based, have an anti-sexual basis, and are generally not conflict of interests based
Faculty members should be mindful of Concordia’s own Code of Ethics, which defines the conflicts of interest that arise when there is a personal relationship between a faculty member and a student.
The requirement is that if the relationship cannot be avoided, the faculty member should excuse him- or herself from any supervisory or evaluative role with regard to the student concerned. It is not necessary to declare the reasons for the conflict. So at the very least, if you cannot avoid the relationship, you should declare it.
And declaring it, is this in the interest of the student? Shouldn’t the student have a say in the matter? Declaring the relationship makes the relationship a public relationship and now will fall officially within the purview of university administration decision making. My advice is to never declare these relationships to the university. By doing this the danger to both the student and prof goes way up.
As for students, the advice given by a student quoted in a University Affairs article is: “Do not have sex with anyone you sometimes have to call Mister, Doctor or Professor” – it may cost you dearly.
OK, lets get down to the nitty-gritty, the fear here is that the title will be replaced by the first name or darling or my love, or love, etc, etc. Such opposition to terms of endearment might represent a fear of undermining the university stratification system. And in terms of authoritarian structures or states, love is always the enemy.
U-news of Canada has a collection of recent essays, including one by the dankprofessor, on student professor relationships. Most of the essays are indicative of the retarded thinking on this issue. A close reading of the Dalhousie pamphlet on helping their professors and students could lead one to become diagnosed as paranoid. Ultimately, it is fair to state that these policies are driven by a fear of sexuality. Until said fears are overcome, the campus fear mongers will continue to rule the day with their cadre of campus police and lawyers.
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