Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

A step in the right direction

The dankprofessor has been very critical of university policy statements on consensual relationships regulating student professor sexual relationships. Invariably these policies function to degrade both students and professors and subject professors to disciplinary actions, sometimes actions that include dismissal.

Now the West Hills Community College District has come up with a policy statement that is minimally invasive and punitive and not degrading of student prof couples.  There are still some problems.  So here it is followed by my comments-

Consensual Relationships

Romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors and employees or between administrators, faculty or staff members and students are discouraged. There is an inherent imbalance of power and potential for exploitation in such relationships. A conflict of interest may arise if the administrator, faculty or staff member must evaluate the student’s or employee’s work or make decisions affectingthe employee or student. The relationship may create an appearance of impropriety and lead to charges of favoritism by other students or employees.  A consensual sexual relationship may change, with the result that sexual conduct that was once welcome becomes unwelcome and harassing. In the event that such relationships do occur, the District has the authority to transfer any involved employee to eliminate or attenuate the supervisory authority of one over the other, or of a teacher over a student. Such action by the District is a proactive and preventive measure to avoid possible charges of harassment and does not constitute discipline against any affected employee.

 Note that throughout this statement MAY is used, such as “A conflict of interest may arise…”  There is a POTENTIAL for exploitation.  Of course, all relationships have a MAY; there is nothing intrinsic about relationships that pre-determine a result.  But most policy statements have no may and simply state that there is a conflict of interest, etc.

The major difference in the policy is that there will be no “discipline taken against any affected employee.”  Bravo to West Hills. Of course, never ever should there have been any discipline taken against any party to a consensual relationship at any university.

But there is one caveat regarding the goodness of this policy and that is the statement that “the District has the authority to transfer any involved employee to eliminate or attenuate the supervisory authority of one over the other, or of a teacher over a student.”   OK, most policies state that the university can unilaterally pull out a student from the class.  This policy leaves that out which is good, but pulling out a prof from a class in the middle of a semester functions to disrupt the entire class and may lead to punishing an entire class of students.

The dankprofessor still believes that this policy is a step in the right direction.

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January 3, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Investigation clears prof of sex charges

Naplenews.com reports that Florida Gulf Coast University Professor Patrick Davis has been cleared of charges that he had an inappropriate relationship with a student who he had impregnated and had plans to marry, and that he had inappropriately engaged in changing grades that he had assigned to the student.

After the university investigated all of these charges, the FGCU administration sent a letter to Professor Davis indicating all of the charges were unfounded.  However, in that same letter, the university administration chastised Professor Davis for engaging in what they termed “retaliation” against Professors Russell Sabella and Marilyn Isaacs, the colleagues of Professor Davis who had initiated the charges against him.   The university indicated that the retaliation took the form of sending an email to a reporter of a local TV station in which the identities of the charging professors were revealed.  In the letter to Davis, Provost Ronald Toll stated-“The University finds your behavior in this matter to be irresponsible, unprofessional, and retaliatory. The particularly malicious level of your accusations provided directly to the media reflects a disregard for FGCU regulations, policies and procedures that cannot and will not be condoned by the University.”

Davis was also chastised in the letter for not being responsive to his Dean’s questions regarding the charges lodged against him.

The naplenews.com also reported-

in his appeal letter, dated Nov. 14, Davis writes that the administration was aware he had not violated FGCU’s policies or procedures, as Associate Vice President Hudson Rogers conducted a previous investigation a year ago and found no improprieties.

“FGCU not only pursued this matter to its already predetermined conclusion (UNFOUNDED) by conducting yet another investigation (without any new supporting evidence), FGCU released knowingly false, albeit salacious accusations against me to the media in what appears as a deliberate, coordinated effort to defame my character and humiliate me,” he wrote. “The damage done to my reputation can not be undone.”

Provost Toll also found Professor Isaacs responsible for retaliation against Davis and she was given a written reprimand for her behavior.

Davis who has been suspended from classroom teaching will not be allowed to return to the classroom as a result of the investigation clearing him since another investigation of him has not been completed. This investigation relates to a complaint from a student “alleging unprofessional behavior in the classroom” by Davis.

The dankprofessor finds it to be quite clear that the FGCU administration does not honor in any way the presumption of innocence.  No matter that Davis has been cleared of rather serious charges, he has not been cleared in an ultimate sense since another charge is still pending. And once that charge is resolved in the favor of Davis another charge could be brought and Davis could remain in a state of “suspended animation” with no end in sight. 

The dankprofessor says enough is enough.  Let Professor Davis do his job.  But apparently too many key persons at FGCU just can’t handle reinstating a professor who had sex with a student, not only had sex but also fathered a child with the student and became engaged to the student and I assume married the student.

Of course, the Davis case was complicated by the fact that the charges also involved the charge that Davis had inappropriately changed a student grade.  However, the involved parties in this case very well know that if there was no sexual component there would have been very little attention given to Davis.  Prejudicial grading is widespread in just about all universities much more widespread than sex between a student and a professor.  If there were fewer of the sexually obsessed at our universities, there would be more attempts to engage major problems at universities, such as plagiarism, conflicts of interest that involve huge amounts of money and, of course, the tolerance of cavalier attitudes toward grading and the tolerance of  prejudicial grading. 

The hardcore bottom line at universities is that students care about grading and most professors do not; if most professors could have their way most of the time, grading would be left in the hands of inexperienced TAs.

 

December 20, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, Florida Gulf Coast University, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Anti-sexual zealotry at Yale

The witch hunt for sexual deviants is just beginning at Yale.  As reported in the Yale Daily News, the Women Faculty Forum wants to employ the new consensual relationships policy as a launch pad for a more encompassing sexual control policy.

In its report, the Women Faculty Forum also recommended that new, University-wide policies against sexual misconduct replace existing policies, which vary across Yale College, the Graduate School and the professional schools. They also want Yale to shift its focus from sexual harassment to the broader issue of sexual misconduct — an umbrella term that applies to both sexual harassment and assault, and includes other sexually motivated behaviors intended to intimidate or threaten.

The Women Faculty Forum also called for the creation of a centralized sexual misconduct grievance board to administer the new policy and address complaints from undergraduates, graduate and professional students, faculty and staff alike. Currently, complaints are evaluated by four different grievance boards across the University.

“We don’t think there’s a lot of additional study necessary in terms of outside research,” Woman Faculty Forum report co-author and School of Management professor Connie Bagley said. “I hope the group is serious about the issues and willing to roll up their sleeves, dig into the [Women Faculty Forum] report and policy and just get this done.”

Miller said the University’s quick response to the report’s demand for a review committee and new policy on student-faculty relationships signals a “recommitment” to preventing sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

“The administrators we’ve been working with agree that sexual misconduct has no place at Yale,” Bagley said last month. “They’re serious about trying to take additional steps to eliminate it.”

Both Bagley and Priya Natarajan, a professor of astronomy and physics and a co-chair of the committee that authored the report, said they are pleased with the University’s response to the Women Faculty Forum report so far, but added that this is just the beginning of the process. The new committee must act quickly and decisively and follow the policy changes outlined in the report, Bagley said.

The report came from over a year of research, writing and consultation with faculty and administrators, most of whom supported the group’s proposed policies, Bagley said. Members of the committee responsible for the report worked with the General Counsel’s Office to ensure that the policy changes offered in the report were legally feasible.

The Women Faculty Forum began work on its report on sexual misconduct in fall 2008, after several pledges to the fraternity Zeta Psi posed for pictures outside the Women’s Center with signs that read “We Love Yale Sluts” and 100 medical students wrote a letter to School of Medicine administrators in December 2007 expressing concern over the prevalence of sexual harassment at the school, according to the report. The Women Faculty Forum’s goal in writing the report was to help administrators to develop a workable, University-wide anti-sexual misconduct policy, Bagley said.

The dankprofessor finds it breathtaking that the report promulgates a policy of eliminating all sexual misconduct at Yale while at the same time insuring that the policies are legally “feasible”.   Eliminating/eradicating sexual misconduct is simply not compatible with law that recognizes due process and civil liberties.  Such elimination can occur but only in an authoritarian state ruled by sexual zealots.  Of course, “elimination” should be in quotes since so-called sexual misconduct is never completely eliminated.  The anti-sexual zealots know this and know that their work is never completed; vigilance is always necessary in their world view.

What this and other similar policies also foment is the use of informants, third party informants who will report on sexual dissidents.  Based on reports to me from distraught students and profs, the usage of informants is commonplace in  American universities.  Getting a handle on this situation is difficult since the identity of such informants is kept secret by university authorities.  In fact, most often the entire proceeding against sexual dissidents is of a secretive nature.  What makes the Yale policy even more fertile for the fomenting of informants is the usage of the nebulous term “amorous relationships”.  So if the behavior is perceived as not sexual but amorous such is enough to initiate the charges.

But one may ask who would be prone to become informants at Yale or any other university?  The prone would be distraught or jealous students or faculty.  A student who believes that she or he was unfairly given a poor grade may come forward with a false charge knowing that ones identity is protected and knowing in some cases that there are no rules regarding false charges.  Or one may be jealous of a fellow student or fellow faculty member or one may be a distraught ex-boyfriend.  The list can go on and on.

The world of Yale is no different than the worlds beyond the walls of ivy.  The small minded are everywhere.  The paranoid are everywhere.  The sexual zealots are everywhere.  The question is whether they will be allowed to takeover Yale and recreate Yale in their image.

For my prior posting on the Zeta Psi fraternity controversy, click here.

The dankprofessor will also be reporting on prior incidents of sexual hysteria at Yale and on a faculty member who was subjected to said hysteria.

December 15, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fear, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Uncategorized, Yale University | 2 Comments

Yale bans undergrad/prof sex and love

 The December 11 headline in the Yale Alumni Magazine reads-

“New policy for profs: don’t sleep with undergrads. Period.”

Of course, it could have read-

“New Policy for undergrads, don’t sleep with profs. Period.”

The article reported on the new Yale policy which prohibits all “sexual or amorous” relationships between Yale undergrads and their teachers.

In a memo to the faculty, Provost Peter Salovey  announced a stricter stance toward consensual faculty-student relationships. Previously, such relationships with undergrads were permitted if the teacher had no “pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities” over the student.  For grad students, a sexual or amorous relationship remains OK if there is no pedagogical relationship.

Why Yale grad students have a sexual prerogative with profs and undergrads do not is explained in the policy-

Undergraduate students are particularly vulnerable to the unequal institutional power inherent in the teacher-student relationship and the potential for coercion, because of their age and relative lack of maturity. Therefore, no teacher. . . shall have a sexual or amorous relationship with any undergraduate student, regardless of whether the teacher currently exercises or expects to have any pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities over that student.”

So putting the justification in dankprofessor terms, Yale undergrads are just too immature, they are not real adults like the Yale grad students and profs. So when these Yale undergrad kids grow up, Yale will allow them to have sex with the grownups of their choice, but still with some limitations, of course.

Maybe it might be better for Yale to reevaluate their whole admissions policy and only accept applicants who are mature.  An elite Yale education should be for persons who are already grownups.  If such was the policy, maybe Yale administrators would stop regarding Yale students as kids.

Of course, there is more.  The policy explains that without the new ban the integrity of the student prof relationship is at risk- “The integrity of the teacher-student relationship is the foundation of the University’s educational mission.”

What utter poppycock! If such puts the foundation of Yale at such great risk, how has Yale managed to survive for so many years and have had so many outstanding graduates?

But there is still more.  The policy goes on to state-

“In addition to creating the potential for coercion, any such relationship jeopardizes the integrity of the educational process by creating a conflict of interest and may impair the learning environment for other students…such situations may expose the University and the teacher to liability for violation of laws against sexual harassment and sex discrimination.”

The dankprofessor calls this the demonization of sex.  Sexual demonization is the underlying dynamic fueling all the crusades to ban, degrade, eradicate myriad forms of sexuality.  Yale becomes at one with the Christian right and the New England witch hunting zealots of centuries past.

And without doubt just about anyone could stand accused under this policy.  Those who are not sexual but just a bit too amorous can easily become suspect.  And as many of us know, those sexually accused are all too often assumed to be guilty, even at Yale!

This situation at Yale exposes the University to possibly becoming violators of human rights and human dignity.  But such a possibility hardly ever restrains those who are committed to eradicating the sexually impure in our midst.

December 14, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, love, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Yale University | 2 Comments

Copy of the Sharon Warner vs UNM lawsuit

Click here to view an unedited copy of the Sharon Warner lawsuit against the University of New Mexico.  I provide this to the dankprofessor readership without comment.  All of you know where I stand, it is just more of the same old same old in different garb.

October 28, 2009 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, higher education, lisa chavez, litigation, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, Sharon Warner, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

David Letterman unplugged

The sexual puritans will now have a field day as a result of the revelations that there was an attempt to blackmail David Letterman for having sex with with staffers and his admission that he did have staffer sex. 

From the right he will be blasted for being a philanderer and an adulterer.  From the left he will be condemned as a sexual harasser who had sex with staffers who could not say no since differential power precludes consent.  Of course, the worst is yet to come.

October 1, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, David Lettterman, ethics, sexual harassment | Leave a comment

UK lecturers “warned” to look but don’t touch

The BBC News reports (my comments are in the text)

A university leader has caused controversy by saying curvy female students are a “perk of the job”.

Terence Kealey, of the University of Buckingham, said lecturers were aware of females who “flaunted their curves”.

In a tongue-in-cheek article for Times Higher Education Magazine on the seven deadly sins of academia, he advised academics to “look but not touch”.

The National Union of Students condemned the comments as insulting and disrespectful to women.

Dr Kealey, a clinical bio-chemist and vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, likened the classroom to a lap dancing club and said admiring the curves of attractive students could help “spice up” marital sex.

In his article about the sin of lust, Dr Kealey wrote: “Most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays.
“What to do? Enjoy her! She’s a perk.” …

Dr Kealey recalled the days when sex between student and tutor, in return for academic favours, could go by unchecked.

“Thanks to the accountability imposed by the Quality Assurance Agency [the university watchdog] and other intrusive bodies, the days are gone when a scholar could trade sex for upgrades.”

OR to put it more accurately, the days are gone when a scholar and student can have a consensual relationships

‘Appalled’

Olivia Bailey, womens’ officer for the NUS, said: “I am appalled that a university vice-chancellor should display such an astounding lack of respect for women.

The dankprofessor is appalled that Olivia Bailey is not appalled at the lack of respect shown by the university vice-chancellor toward male lecturers.  To think that the curves of attractive female students could spice up marital sex, simply outrageous.   Of course, the good vice-chancellor neglects female lecturers who may get spiced up when in the vicinity of an attractive male student.  The vice-chancellor should be admonished for desexualizing female lecturers.

“Regardless of whether this was an attempt at humour, it is completely unacceptable for someone in Terence Kealey’s position to compare a lecture theatre to a lap dancing club, and I expect that many women studying at Buckingham University will be feeling extremely angry and insulted at these comments.”

I doubt it.  The dankprofessor thinks that Ms. Bailey should also be admonished for stereotyping female students as being “extremely angry and insulted”.  Ms. Bailey should restrain herself from creating female students in her own image.

His article has prompted a lively debate on the Times Higher Education website.

“I’m amazed that Terence K has a position in any university, and I’ll be damn sure never to apply for a job at Buckingham,” said one reader.

Another added: “Any scholar, who assumes that female students who show interest in the subject and ask for help because they have a crush on you or hope to manipulate you with their sexual charms, is a reality-challenged idiot.

Oh, please, he did not say all female students.  Does the reader really believe that no female student will ever attempt to manipulate a male lecturer with her female charms?  Manipulation goes on and on, everywhere, even at UK colleges, even by scholars using their scholarly abilities to manipulate their students and the their colleagues.

“And anyone who thinks that female students are there in the classroom expressly as objects of the instructor’s viewing pleasure needs to retire.”

But another said: “I’m appalled that everyone’s so appalled! – it’s just not that important, or offensive.”

Ditto from the dankprofessor.

Humour

Adding his own voice to the online debate, Dr Kealey said his article was a “moral piece” which used humour to encourage people to exercise self-restraint.

And he told the BBC: “It says that sex between middle-aged academics and young undergraduates is wrong. It also says that academics should enjoy the company of their students. That too is unexceptionable.

OK, for Kealey it’s all about age, no problem for the younger academic or for the older female student?

“The Times Higher readership is composed mainly of academics who would be expected to appreciate articles written at more than one level. The crudeness of some of the examples was to underpin the inappropriateness of transgressional sex and that is a conventional literary device.

Oh, God, it’s all about the crudeness of transgressional sex.  Or maybe its also about the crudeness of pedestrian sex.

“Sex between staff and students is not funny and is not a legitimate source of humour but it is legitimate to use humour to illuminate the ways that people finesse the dissonance between what is publicly acceptable and what is sometimes privately desired.”

Or maybe it’s about Dr. Kealey trying to finesse himself so he won’t lose his job.

A spokesman for the University and College Union said: “Harassment is not something to be taken lightly and I would be surprised, and deeply concerned, if any university, or vice-chancellor, tried to laugh it off.”

Isn’t this the first mention of harassment.  What has harassment got to do with anything?  I would hope that just about anyone would laugh off this comment.

Dr Kealey has been vice-chancellor at Buckingham – the UK’s only independent university – since 2001.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | attractive students, consensual relationships, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student professor dating, United Kingdom | 1 Comment

Hofstra student rape accuser becomes the accused

The Hofstra student who charged that she was the victim of a group rape on campus is now reported to have completely recanted her story.  Hofstra has apparently suspended her as a student and she faces criminal charges.  Those she charged as rapists have been released from jail.

The dankprofessor takes note of this in the context of an East Georgia College prof who was suspended after he protested that his university had no section in their university’s sexual harassment policy regarding false sexual  harassment charges.

The dankprofessor had hoped that after the Duke university false rape charges against the lacrosse team members that more university faculty and students and administrators would be less prone to jump to conclusions and really embrace notion of the presumption of innocence in relation  to alleged criminals, including those accused of rape. 

I guess that such hopes unfortunately represent a form of pipe dreaming.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, Duke University, East Georgia College, false rape charges, fear, higher education, Hofstra University, rape, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sex, desire and the absurd at FGCU

In an August 13, 2009 article the naplesnews.com reported in some detail on the Florida Gulf Coast University administration’s investigation of Professor Patrick Davis’s alleged involvement and upcoming marriage to a former student.  This article is required reading for anyone who is seriously interested in how a consensual relationship between a student and a professor in which neither the professor nor the student is the complainant ends up being subjected to investigation.

 In the situation under consideration, third party informants were the source of the complaints. I have previously argued that third party informants play a crucial role in the revealing of consensual student professor relationships.  In the present case, allegations about capricious grading are brought up.  The allegations should of course be investigated irrespective of whether there was a related sexual component.  However, as to be expected, it appears that the sexual component is treated as the primary component.  As the dankprofessor has repeatedly pointed out, universities should concern themselves with fairness in grading not what they may consider to be fair or foul sexual relationships.

The naplesnews.com article in passing cites the university’s non-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, which states that a conflict exists “when an individual evaluates or supervises another individual with whom he or she has, or desires to have, an amorous or sexual relationship.”

 Now this is a new one for the dankprofessor- a supervising individual is in violation of a non-harassment policy if said individual simply has a desire to have an amorous or sexual relationship with the supervised. Not acting on the desire is not enough; simply having the desire is adequate for disciplinary action. 

 So what is a desiring professor to do.  The only ethical action in this absurd scenario is for the professor to recuse himself or God forbid herself from supervising the student. The conforming prof could simply screen out attractive students from his classes.  Or in other words, get rid of attractive students.

I guess Florida Gulf Coast University reputation as a university that has sexually run amok is merited.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | attractive students, consensual relationships, ethics, Florida Gulf Coast University, grading, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Sex and grading

Professor Charles Lindsey of the Florida Gulf Coast University has responded to my critical post in his recent commentary on the issue of the regulation of student professor sexual relationships and the regulation of sexual relationships between other members of the university community.  I appreciate his temperate response and I now respond to his critique.
 
Professor Lindsey disputes my assertion that restrictions on relationships between people when one exercises supervisory authority over another are automatically “power abuse”.  Of course, such may come down to the adage of beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Here is how I behold.  Consensual sexual relationships between adults should not be subject to the intervention by a higher authority just because said authority feels that some or most persons may be offended by said consensual relationships.  Such should not occur simply because their may be the appearance of impropriety.  Appearances should not trump the right of consenting adults to be left alone.  The Supreme Court in the Lawrence case affirmed that traditional antipathy toward consensual same sex sexual relationships is no grounds for the intervention of state authority into said relationships or the penalizing of the parties in said relationships.  The same is true in regards to interracial relationships. But unfortunately there has been a long history of interventions by universities into interracial, same sex and student professor relationships at various times in American history.  It all depended on which way the winds of sexual bigotry were or are blowing.
Professor Lindsey then states the following-
Your argument seems to be that since we cannot stamp out all forms of prejudicial grading, we should remain silent about this one. I don’t agree with that either (if I am misrepresenting your position, feel free to correct me). Faculty have an obligation to be fair and objective in grading students, <i>and to be perceived as fair and objective</i> as much as we can manage it. Having relationships with one’s current students is highly damaging to this perception–ask any of the other students in the class–and the university has a legitimate interest in preventing such damage, since it ultimately impacts the reputation of the entire institution.
 
Lindsey does not understand my argument or the basic issue which is involved here.  Of course, I agree that faculty have the obligation to be fair and objective in grading.  Faculty should not treat any student differentially based on a sexual relationship or any other form of relationship.  To argue that ones personal relationship with a person who is also a student automatically precludes fair and objective grading is absurd.  It may or may not impact on ones grading.  Such is an empirical question that may be addressed in regards to any specific situation.  As indicated previously the fact that some students some of the time may look askance at such relationships is simply not relevant if one takes a civil liberties perspective.  And, of course, for many and probably most student professor sexual relationships, other students and other professors may have no knowledge of a particular relationship.  Given the contemporary campus climate re this issue, most of these relationships are probably quite closeted.
 
The irony is that once a policy is established in this area then the involved student will be treated differentially, subject to possibly be taken out of the classroom and have ones privacy taken away if the professor follows the boilerplate procedure and informs ones supervisor that the professor is having an affair with so and so student.  I call this abuse.  Professor Lindsey appears more willing to save the reputation of the university than protecting the reputation and privacy of the student and the professor.
Even the assertion that the reputation of the university is based in whole or in part on suppressing student professor sexual relationships is problematic except for those who are sexually obsessed.
 
Professor Lindsey then concludes with the following-
If you know where I can get information about workshops on prejudicial grading, I would be interested in looking into it.” 
Of course, I know of no such workshops at any university.  I suggested that this is where the need is because universities give lip service to the importance of grading.  If grading was held in high value by universities faculties it would be abominable that teaching assistants would ever do the grading; too important of a function to leave to the inexperienced. In my 30 plus years as a university professor it was routine that professors expressed disdain for students that they were grading.  Professors routinely have their favorite and not so favorite students but such favoring seems to be quite acceptable and supposedly unrelated to grading fairness.  And then there is grade inflation which occurs when profs give students higher grades so that they can get higher student evaluations.
And then there are professors who quite openly state how much they hate grading.  Hating what one does particularly when what one does has import on the lives of others clearly indicates we have a problem here.
 
I could go on and on as to how profs are generally oblivious to matters relating to fairness in grading.  The need for workshops in this area is great.  But there won’t be any since profs don’t invest themselves in grades and grading.  Professors don’t get accolades from other professors about what great graders they are; students care about grading, not professors. Tell me Professor Lindsey do you know of instances when job applicants for teaching positions are ever questioned about grading issues.
 
So I tell Professor Lindsey the issue at his university is not about grading; its about sex. Take the sex away and hardly anyone gives a damn. Say it isn’t so Charles Lindsey.

September 8, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, Florida Gulf Coast University, grading, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | 2 Comments

FGCU faculty member speaks out

Charles Lindsey, FCGU faculty member and President of the Academic Senate, speaks out against the hysteria being generated at Florida Gulf Coast University regarding student professor sexual relationships. 

Well, in the dankprofessor’s terms he sort of speaks out condemning those who want to have blanket bans but not confronting the banning of student prof relationships where there is a supervisory component.  He fails to grasp that such consensual relationships should not be subject to the power abuse of the university administration and are not inrinsically “good” or “bad”.

The banning of student prof relationships because they supposedly lead to prejudicial grading functions as a smoke screen which functions to cover up widespread prejudicial grading at almost all universities.  The probability is overwhelming that at FGCU and at almost all universities there have never been workshops on prejudicial grading- how to avoid said grading and what to do about it.

The dankprofessor holds that the so-called problem of student prof sex is miniscule as compared to the problem of prejudicial grading.  Unfortunately, as usual, sex trumps just about everything else.

September 7, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, Florida Gulf Coast University, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Trashing student professor “trysts”

News articles abound on the student professor issue at Florida Gulf Coast University.  More precisely stupidity and bigotry abound as reflected in the following student comment on student prof sexual relationships-

Sophomore Zack Michniewicz, 20, an engineering major from Tampa, said no good can come out of a professor-student relationship. The student could be taking advantage of a teacher in hopes of earning a better grade, he said, while the teacher could be abusing his or her power for personal gain.

Of course, for this student persons such as myself and my wife do not exist.  Mr. Michniewicz sees the only the bad. 

Why do student prof relationships tend to bring out the worst in people?  Maybe its because in this instance it is OK to degrade and demean and damn. 

Is the dankprofessor the only professor who will speak out against such trash talk?

September 7, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, Florida Gulf Coast University, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Student professor sex attacked at Florida Gulf Coast U

 A professor at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) has launched an intemperate attack on fellow professors who have an amorous affair with a university student.  Professor Edward T. Wimberley, who teaches courses in philosophy, ethics and environmental public policy, labeled such professors as “unscrupulous, self-serving and narcissistic adults.”

 Unfortunately, Wimberley feels that it is OK to apply such degrading rhetoric to any professor who engages in such a relationship.  Surely Professor Wimberley must know of some professors and students who had an affair and ultimately settled into marital tranquility and ultimately parenthood.  In fact, it may be that some of the children of these relationships may even be in one of the professor’s classes and now find that their esteemed professor labels their father as simply an unscrupulous narcissistic adult.

Of course, Wemberley totally ignores the likelihood that these relationships are often initiated by female students.

In fact, the whole anti-student professor relationships movement either ignores the female student or treats female students as children.  The fact is that if female students were not attracted to some of their professors and did not consider these professors as eligible, there would be very few of these relationships.  Remove female professorial attraction and the so-called problem in essence is resolved.  But, of course, this will not occur since we do not live in an authoritarian therapeutic state.

 Professor Wimberley goes on to state-

Personally, I fervently hope that the very concept of permissible and acceptable consensual relationships between students and faculty will be rejected outright. As a parent and professor, I can see no situation where it is acceptable for an undergraduate student — particularly one younger than 21 years of age — to be engaged in a sexual relationship with someone significantly older who is legitimately expected to provide a wholesome role model to students. I suspect that a stronger case could be made for consensual relationships with older students — such as graduate students. However, given the poor self-restraint of so many of our FGCU faculty over the years, I would have to assume that the adoption of a consensual-relationship policy will implicitly sanction inappropriate relationships among university faculty and staff with students and will serve to perpetuate the idea that such relationships are acceptable as long as they don’t violate the letter of university guidelines.

 Clearly the professor regards students as children or childlike.  If such was not the case, why does he invoke his parental status?  Although he acknowledges the possibility of consensuality when the student is older, he still opts out for the draconian banning of all student prof intimacies at FGCU. Of course, the professor would have trouble confronting the fact that the average age of FGCU students in 2008 was 23 years old.  No matter the reality that most students are adults at FGCU, Wemberley still speaks as an authoritarian parent who wants the university to apply his authoritarian values to all of the FGCU student children or “kids”,a term often used to refer to students by authoritarian professors.

But there is much more to this story.  It turns out that the ongoing evaluation of student professor relationships has been speeded up by the “revelation” that there is an investigation of a specific student and professor at FGCU.

The naplesnews.com has reported-

Professors in the counseling department filed a complaint against Associate Professor Patrick Davis, accusing him of being engaged to be married to a graduate student who he has advised and taught. They also raised concerns that he has retroactively changed some grades issued to the student, whose name was redacted from reports.

 Note that the accusation as reported was that he was engaged to marry a student who he HAS advised and taught.  As for the serious charge that he has prejudicially changed a student grade, such can be dealt with without banning all student professor intimate relationships. Prejudicial grading and grade changing is wrong, no matter as to whether there was or was not a sexual component.  The fact that some apparently consider the student professor consensual sexual relationship issue as more important than the problem of prejudicial grading reflects the deterioration of academic ethics. 

The best thing that the FGCU administration could do is simply suspend the effort to regulate/control intimate relationships between students and professors; if not such will inevitability lead to abuse of too many students and professors and the violation of their privacy.  Of course, the FGCU administration should be vigorous in enforcing grading practices so that they will be uniformly non-prejudicial.

September 3, 2009 Posted by | attractive professors, consensual relationships, ethics, Florida Gulf Coast University, higher education, privacy, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

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 | 2 Comments

Love, sex and external examination

Keith Reader in his commentary on external examiners in the UK elucidates on his position that external examiners may be the way to go to avoid potential conflict of interest situations when a student to be graded is in a sexual relationship with the professor.  Alan Clements in his article, “Strengths and Weaknesses of the External Examiner Mechanism” describes the process as operating in the following manner:

An external examiner is appointed to monitor a course. External examiners are normally senior academics who are paid a modest honorarium for their work during their fixed term appointment (usually 4 years). External examiners must be disinterested with no links with the university they are examining and with no conflicts of interest (e.g., a relative studying at the university they are examining). A typical university may employ 300 external examiners to cover all its courses.

The external examiner takes part in the development of a course as an advisor and is consulted whenever rules are changed. The external examiner’s principal role is in quality control and the monitoring of the exam procedure. A professor in the USA may create an exam paper on Monday, give it to the students on Tuesday, and grade it on  Wednesday. In an English university, a teacher sets an exam with a marking scheme that provides sample answers together and an indication of how the marks are to be allocated. This exam is handed in to the secretary responsible for exams. The exam office sends the exam and its marking scheme to another member of the faculty for checking. This teacher returns the exam with corrections and suggestions and the person who set the exam creates a new version.

Having been checked internally, the exam paper is now sent to the external examiner who looks at the paper from the point of view of accuracy, conformity to the curriculum and quality. The external examiner would, for example, consider whether the assessment examines all parts of the unit and whether it is capable of discriminating between poor, good and very good students. The external examiner the returns the exam paper with comments and suggestions. These are passed to the unit leader who is expected to make the appropriate changes.

Clearly, such a long and involved process of setting an exam means that it is difficult to fine-tune an exam to a class because the exam is set months before it is taken. Equally, it is impossible to set several exams per unit because of the lead time and the bureaucratic overhead.

The role of the external examiner does not end with the checking of exams. After the students have taken the exam, the external examiner visits the university and attends the unit and progress boards. The external examiner has the right to comment on any aspect of the department’s work and assessment procedures. The external examiner scrutinizes work that has been graded (on a sampling basis) and may even interview students and staff. The external examiner signs final pass lists to validate them.

After the exam boards have met, the external examiner returns to his or her own university and writes a report. This report is sent to the other university’s registry as well as to the head of department. The department is expected to implement any suggestions made by the external examiner and to report back to them. Ignoring an external examiner’s comments is not an option.

Assuming that this system as it operates in the UK is successful in terms of abolishing potential conflict of interest impacting on course grading by insuring uniformity/standardization of course content and course grading, such would obviate any need to give special attention to student professor sexual relationships.  Certainly the UK external examiner process would veto the call for banning student professor sexual relationships since conflict of interest is not a problem.  However, as outlined by Reader, such is not the case since he indicates that the renouncing of these relationships is part of this UK process.  But why?  Why should they be renounced?  Of course, such renouncing has occurred and will occur in the context of moral and sexual outrage or offense.

What disturbs the dankprofessor and I expect would disturb most American academics is that the UK process standardizes courses and exams and grading to such a degree that the professor almost becomes an irrelevancy.  Ones course is no longer ones course but rather the university system’s course; the professor simply becomes a cog in the educational mechanism.  For the dankprofessor, such represents dehumanization to the nth degree.  And, of course, such can also be viewed as a steppingstone to the impersonal world of online education.  This becomes an education with no teacher passion, no love of knowledge leading to the knowledge of love.  How sad, how utterly pathetic that in order to eliminate the personal in education we might end up creating a Brave New World of Education.

But if this is to occur in America, it will not come about tomorrow.  Students enrolled in one section of a course are unlikely to find that they are experiencing the same course that students are experiencing in another section.  There will continue to be good courses and bad courses; good graders and bad graders.  And there will continue to be classes in which what happens in class is important to the learning process.  There will continue to be courses in which it would be impossible for an external grader to engage in fair grading unless the grader attended all sessions of the class.  And there will continue to be courses in which students are graded on what happens in class-class participation, class presentation as well as being graded on term papers and special projects.  Will the external examiner read all the 50 or so term papers to insure that there is fairness in grading?  And, of course, in the UK, the US and Canada or any other country, the usage of external graders would be highly problematic in disciplines such as art and theatre arts and dance.

An expansion of  the educational bureaucracy in order to eradicate student faculty romance should be considered to be out of order.  The only persons who would end up profiting from such a process would be the bureaucrats and their allied entrepreneurs.  In our age of moral entrepreneurship, it may be a pipedream to call for a laissez faire policy in higher education re matters of the heart.  But such will continue to be the calling of the dankprofessor.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, grading, higher education, love, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, United Kingdom | Leave a comment

Poetry, poets and sex

Poets have been making the headlines over the last couple of weeks, not in the USA, but in the UK.  Ruth Padel is now Britain’s first female Oxford Professor of Poetry.  Initially such was quite unexpected. Heavily favored to assume the Oxford Professor of Poetry was Caribbean Nobel laureate Derek Walcott. But Walcott dropped out of the race at the last moment, and a race it was, which made Padel the leading vote getter.

Walcott dropped out since he did not want to publicly engage in a controversy concerning his past sexual behavior.  As reported by the Guardian’s Katy Evan’s Bush-

“…an anonymous “smear” campaign alerted between 50 and 200 academics to his history of sexual harassment, as recounted in a 1984 book called The Lecherous Professor. John Walsh (an “old friend” of Padel’s) tore strips off Walcott…Accusations and recriminations flew and Walcott withdrew, saying he had never commented on the matter and wasn’t about to. Padel was voted in with her detractors’ boots in her back.

…Walcott was disciplined by Harvard University in 1982 (after which the university updated its sexual harassment policy) and settled out of court with another student, Nicole Niemi (now Kelby), at Boston University in 1996. He justified himself on the first occasion saying his teaching style was “deliberately personal and intense”. In fact, it was so intense, according to the student who complained, that after she refused his advances, he refused to discuss her work and gave her a C, which the university later raised to a pass.”

Ms. Evan-Bush goes on to state-

Whether or not you think this should bar Walcott from the Oxford professorship, the lack of clarity around the terms of the debate is disturbing. The press refers to “smears” against Walcott. “Smears” means slanderous untruths; Walcott has admitted making some of the comments attributed to him, been disciplined, had his grade reviewed, and settled out of court.

It may have been settled out of court and Walcott demurs to engage in the court of public opinion and withdraws from the Oxford candidacy, but the “victim” of his 1996 sexual harassment, Nicole Kelby, finds the whole thing quite unsettling.  She feels that Walcott should be the Oxford Professor of Poetry-

I am appalled and saddened by the anonymous smear campaign against my former mentor Derek Walcott. Everyone has a right to face his or her accusers. That’s why I sued Boston University. I wanted to discover if Professor Walcott was actually harassing me. At first, I thought he was joking. Anyone who knows him knows that it is his way to be sexual, to push the envelope of both decorum and good taste. I didn’t really want to think that this man whom I placed so much trust in, and had so much affection for, would actually be bartering sex for favours. It didn’t seem possible. But as events unfolded, I needed clarification.

Do I think that it’s appropriate for a professor to joke about sex with a student? No. I do not. Many years ago my daughter Hannah died, so I understand how dangerous the world can be. As a mother, I can not tolerate the idea of a young woman being harassed. Sexual harassment is not about lust, it is about asserting power over the powerless.

However, while I believe that it is not appropriate to be sexual towards students, I also realize that it happens. Writers, by nature, have reckless hearts. Poetry is a passionate art. That is why it is crucial that institutions have strict policies against sexual harassment and are not too embarrassed to allow concerns to be heard. It is impossible to legislate behaviour, but to allow a student an opportunity to question behaviour in a safe and open forum is within our grasp. I believe that Oxford is capable of dealing with any situation of this nature.

Derek Walcott is not an evil man. Like any man, he is flawed. But, like any great man, he is retrospect and understands that his flaws are universal. And from them, he creates art.

His role in this society is crucial. Art forces our minds to reinvent what we think and so we build impossible buildings, find improbable cures and make changes that could never have been dreamed of before. With every artistic moment the paradigm shifts and civilisation grows stronger for it.
I can only hope that Oxford decides to stop the election and allow everyone more time to reconsider what has just happened. Derek Walcott should not walk away from this post. He is the greatest living poet in our time and what he has to say is vital to all of us.

Well, Oxford didn’t stop the election and as a result of a 27 year old Harvard sexual harassment case and a 1996 Boston University sexual harassment case in which the so-called victim now engages in the bizarre, Walcott is out.  In Kelby’s terms the paradigm shifts but the dankprofessor believes that civilisation has not grown stronger.

In fact the book in which the Walcott case was written up, THE LECHEROUS PROFESSOR, was a paradigm shifting book.  It was this book by Billie Dziech and Linda Weiner which put forth a previously bizarre notion that differential power precludes consent, that there can never be a consensual relationship between a student and a professor.  This idea galvanized the campus anti-sexual feminists at the time and ultimately led to the initiation of a campaign to ban all student professor sexual relationships.  Or to put it another way, the Dziech argument conflated sexual harassment and consensual relationships.  In terms of the Walcott case, if the student had protested that she had consented, no matter to Dziech, it is still sexual harassment. It also energized the dankprofessor who had always been wary of persons who wanted to take the right of sexual consent from others in the name of protecting them from themselves.

Unfortunately, universities throughout North America bought into this gibberish and power was taken away from student professor couples and the power was given to Big Brother and Big Sister administrators.  The damage was done and continues to be done, and is now being done in the UK.

And as for the successful moral campaign against Derek Walcott becoming the Oxford Professor of Poetry, it can be called many things, but one thing it cannot be called is poetic justice.

And one final question- What’s wrong with a poet/professor telling a joke about sex in front of a student???

May 24, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, Oxford College, passion, poets, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, United Kingdom | 1 Comment

Sex, grading and external examiners

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?

May 19, 2009 Posted by | Canada, consensual relationships, ethics, grading, higher education, Mark Bourrie, outing students, privacy, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, United Kingdom | 2 Comments

Burning desire in the classroom

The dankprofessor now feels that he may have been just a bit too hard  on William Deresiewicz (aka Cockmaster D while he was a professor at Yale) in my last post on his “Love on Campus” essay. 

Deresiewicz  is one of the very few academics who has directly opposed what has become a campus “truth” which is that female students never initiate anything sexual with a professor.  Almost all campus fraternization policies say that such is the case.  Female students are never seen as having any agency in this area.  Female students are not seen as being attracted to male profs.

Deresiewicz puts it in in these terms:

Love is a flame, and the good teacher raises in students a burning desire for his or her approval and attention, his or her voice and presence, that is erotic in its urgency and intensity. The professor ignites these feelings just by standing in front of a classroom talking about Shakespeare or anthropology or physics, but the fruits of the mind are that sweet, and intellect has the power to call forth new forces in the soul. Students will sometimes mistake this earthquake for sexual attraction…

I think that Deresiewicz has it right in terms of professors igniting students, at least some of the students some of the time. Of course, there are many profs who never ignite students.  I surmise that it is the non-igniting professors who are the profs who are likely to become involved in sexual harassment charges; their advances are hardly ever welcomed by students.  On the other hand, the fully engaged and engaging professors are the ones likely to become involved in consensual sexual relationships with students since they are dealing with students who are ignited as a byproduct of their involvement in the class.  Or to put it in what may be overly simplified terms, professors who love teaching their subject are likely to become the subject of student love.  Of course, in the end Deresiewicz cops out- the students are mistaken, their “earthquake” has nothing to do with sexual attraction;
professors should help these jolted students avoid the excesses of campus love.

What Deresiewicz also fails to understand is that what he calls an earthquake experience is not unique to female students on campus.  In traditional terms, such is called being swept away.  The swept away feeling although applicable to both men and women, tends to be viewed as more often sought and experienced by women.  It is also used as a rationale for having sex-
“he just swept me off my feet”- although the swept away feeling may be less often invoked for sex in todays hookup and binge drinking campus culture.

Now someone who understands the swept away experience is unlikely to state to the swept away, as Deresiewicz states, that ‘you are mistaken, you are not really attracted to the prof, you are just experiencing brain sex.’  The dankprofessor response to Deresiewicz and others giving this sort of counsel to the swept way is that the professor counselors know little or nothing about love and romance and sex in the real world.  The fact that they often attempt to enforce their sexual biases as formal campus rules for sexual behavior is otherworldly.  What we pedestrian students and professors are often left with are campus administrators who suffer from both puffery and buffoonery in their everyday campus sexual rule making and enforcing.

May 12, 2009 Posted by | attractive professors, brain sex, consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, love, passion, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student professor dating, Yale University | 2 Comments

On proper student professor sexual relationships

In a 2007 AMERICAN SCHOLAR essay on “Love on Campus” by William Deresiewicz, the author has some interesting observations on student professor relationships.  He states:

…there is a reality behind the new, sexualized academic stereotype, only it is not what the larger society thinks. Nor is it one that society is equipped to understand. The relationship between professors and students can indeed be intensely intimate, as our culture nervously suspects, but its intimacy, when it occurs, is an intimacy of the mind. I would even go so far as to say that in many cases it is an intimacy of the soul. And so the professor-student relationship, at its best, raises two problems for the American imagination: it begins in the intellect, that suspect faculty, and it involves a form of love that is neither erotic nor familial, the only two forms our culture understands. Eros in the true sense is at the heart of the pedagogical relationship, but the professor isn’t the one who falls in love.

Love is a flame, and the good teacher raises in students a burning desire for his or her approval and attention, his or her voice and presence, that is erotic in its urgency and intensity. The professor ignites these feelings just by standing in front of a classroom talking about Shakespeare or anthropology or physics, but the fruits of the mind are that sweet, and intellect has the power to call forth new forces in the soul. Students will sometimes mistake this earthquake for sexual attraction, and the foolish or inexperienced or cynical instructor will exploit that confusion for his or her own gratification. But the great majority of professors understand that the art of teaching consists not only of arousing desire but of redirecting it toward its proper object, from the teacher to the thing taught.

Of course, Deresiewicz is right, but only partially right.  He is right in the sense that the student and the professor often have a passion for the subject matter.  And it is a passion that can facilitate an intense intimacy, and an intense desire by the student for approval and affirmation.  Such is what the dankprofessor calls the love of knowledge. But what Deresiewicz fails to understand is that sometimes this intimacy can lead to the knowledge of love.  He fails since he discards the knowledge of love as simply a mistake by a naïve student and a foolish or inexperienced or cynical instructor who will exploit the student for his or her own ends.

So Deresiewicz ends up playing the same old academic game when it comes to student professor sexual relationships.  The student doesn’t know, the cynical professor exploits the naïve vulnerable student.  But how does Deresiewicz know?  He knows the same way that big sister and big brother know.  They know the mind of the Other, know what motivates the Other and what is proper for the Other.  And in Deresiewicz’s terms the proper professor will redirect desire toward its proper object, from the teacher to the thing taught.

So what the good professor wants is the proper professor and proper student never engaging in improprieties.  Such, of course, is a form of pipe dreaming. And if there is a serious attempt to have the university not tolerate such improper relationships, such could very well transform university campuses into police states.

The author goes on to state-

Teaching, Yeats said, is lighting a fire, not filling a bucket, and this is how it gets lit. The professor becomes the student’s muse, the figure to whom the labors of the semester — the studying, the speaking in class, the writing — are consecrated. The alert student understands this. In talking to one of my teaching assistants about these matters, I asked her if she’d ever had a crush on an instructor when she was in college. Yes, she said, a young graduate student. “And did you want to have sex with him?” I asked. “No,” she said, “I wanted to have brain sex with him.”

Of course, he could have had a myriad of responses to his question, but for the author, one response is sufficient for him to make his case. But such is insufficient for the dankprofessor.  For the dankprofessor knows that there are many alert female students who went on to graduate school and to become teaching assistants who did want to have sex with their professor and some had sex and some may have even ended up mating with a professor, maybe even mating with a professor who was a colleague of Deresiewicz. 

But I also wish to make it clear that that the concept of “brain sex” as described in this essay, may very well be a viable concept.  But what I refuse to accept is the implication that “brain sex” exists on some higher plane than “ordinary” student professor sex.  Whether it is student professor brain sex or student professor sexual congress neither one per se is a mistake which needs redirection. 

The major problem in regards to sex, whether it be on or off campus, are the zealots and the self-righteous in their attempts to redirect the sexuality of others to some pre-ordained mold.  The love of knowledge will often lead to the knowledge of love, irrespective of what notions of propriety may be the calling of the day.

May 10, 2009 Posted by | attractive professors, brain sex, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, love, passion, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, Yale University | 1 Comment

Daphne Patai on academic affairs

Daphne Patai has written a powerful critique of university policies on student professor relationships and on sexual harassment policies in the context of writing a review essay on six novels dealing with university life.  Following are excerpts from her essay focusing on Roth’s THE DYING ANIMAL which has been adapted as a movie under the title, ELEGY and Prose’s BLUE ANGEL.  All six novels are listed at the end of the essay.

Excerpted from Daphne Patai, “Academic Affairs,” SEXUALITY AND CULTURE, vol. 6, No. 2, June 2002, pp.65-96.

The original publication of this review is located at

 http://springerlink.com/content/hj6jjrqdtnvap5gy/?p=e3ff6bef91634fcea27e677c48ed6989&pi=0

DOI- 10.1007/s12119-002-1004-0

 
While academic bureaucrats busied themselves in the 1990s with a

quixotic but persistent attempt to regulate both speech and personal interactions on their campuses, a group of creative writers struck blows against such a narrowing of our lives by providing us with delicate and nuanced, or satirical and scathing, imaginings of the complexities of actual relationships between real (though fictional) persons who find themselves caught up in the new vigilantism.

Their novels demonstrate that the politically correct script of male/professorial power and female/student powerlessness is a pathetically thin distortion which negates the texture of human life and produces little but propaganda tracts ranting against a purported patriarchy and its hapless victims. In the hands of a spirited and talented writer, the resources of fictional narrative–its potential for shifting points of view, for negotiating huge jumps in time and sudden reversals, for interior monologues and musings, startling imagery and evocative turns of phrase—can at least attempt to do justice to the dense inner life and complex events that define human existence, in the academy and out of it.

The novels under discussion here take for granted a reality so simple

and obvious that it has somehow escaped the notice of many social

critics. People meet each other, and that is how relationshipsbegin.

Many of these encounters take place in schools and workplaces,

where people spend most of their waking hours. Given

thesecircumstances, it is likely that many of the ensuing interactions

will be tainted by one or another kind of “asymmetry,” since no two

humans are exactly alike or occupy precisely the same

positions.What makes the concept of asymmetrical relationships

resonate so negatively in the minds of those who would govern

personal interactions is, of course, the obsession with power.

Asymmetrical relations are bad–so this line of thinking goes–

because no romantic or sexual intimacy should exist where one

person has power over another. Such power imbalances are

inherently evil to those for whom a simplistic conception of

“equality” has become the standard of justifiable social relations.

This phenomenally narrow viewpoint ignores the obvious fact that

the “power” people act out in their relationships is of many and

varied types, and that one person’s predominance in one sphere is

often matched by the others in another sphere. Who has more

brains? More charm? Morebeauty? More vigor? Greater emotional

resources? Better health? Better taste? Not to mention more wealth,

status, and all the other material aspects of life? Might a professor’s

ability to give a bad grade not be countered by his student’s

opportunity to write him a

damaging evaluation? And is not virtually all professorial omnipotence

these days trumped by the threat that the “weaker” party (ostensibly

the student) might initiate a complaint against some

supposedly offensive word or gesture that may or may not have

actually occurred? A mere moment’s reflection reveals that the usual

critique of asymmetrical relations relies on a stunted and feeble

definition that is stacked–and of course is meant to be against

men.

Sex is power, yes; but so are brains, charm, wealth, status, and,

as Philip Roth teaches us over and over again, health and youth.

But since it’s patently absurd to try to outlaw relationships defined

by all or any of these inequalities, the new academic vigilantes

go for the broadest possible category and thus simply target

all personal interactions. For who is there on campus who is not

hierarchically differentiated from some other individual one way

or another? The overly broad definitions of “sexual harassment”

that have ensued, which invariably include “verbal acts” that may

make someone uncomfortable, allow all other imbalances to be

covered, by implication. And the stigma resulting from a charge

of sexual or verbal harassment is so great (and the financial stakes

of potential law suits so high) that, these days, a charge of harassment–

a mere accusation, however flimsy, however transparently

fabricated–may well cost the accused his (for men are the primary

target) job.

Unable to do away with “power” altogether (and without even

considering seriously whether it would be desirable, let alone remotely

possible, to do so), we scurry to regulate relationships. For

the Church fathers’ view of women as representing sexual danger,

capable of luring men from their higher concerns, we have substituted

an opposing view that now dominates our secular society: of

men as a threat to women, compromising, impeding, and exploiting

them at every turn. And since the pattern of young women

seeking out older and more accomplished men does not seem to be

retreating in the face of feminist critiques, what can we hope to do

but discourage those relationships as best we can by stigmatizing

flirtation, invitations, stares, touches, jokes (all of these explicitly

addressed by the latest sexual harassment policy of my own university)

even when they have nothing to do with sexual extortion

or coercion but are merely incidents of ordinary human interaction?

Fortunately, the current preeminence of sexual harassment specialists

and other micromanagers of collegiate life is not without

challenge, as the novels under discussion here demonstrate. True,

these literary works (and others of similar tenor) are small in number-

nothing to compare to the thousands of sexual harassment

codes the vigilantes have composed and are attempting to enforce,

egged on by the federal government and fortified by some rulings

signed into law by, ironically, Bill Clinton. But long after sexual

harassment codes are gone, these novels will be read both as reflections

of American life in the late twentieth century and as examples

of the unique abilities of fiction to reveal the human condition

in all its subtle intricacies and embroilments…

The Human Stain is the third novel in what Roth (in a New York

Times interview conducted with Charles McGrath, May 7, 2000)

described as a “thematic trilogy, dealing with the historical moments

in postwar American life that have had the greatest impact

on my generation”–the McCarthy era, the Vietnam War, and the

impeachment of Bill Clinton each story told through the mediating

perspective of Nathan Zuckerman, whom Roth has referred to

as his “alter brain” The first work in the trilogy was American

Pastoral, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1997, followed a year later

by I Married a Communist. The Human Stain, in turn, was succeeded

by a short novel once again taking up a character-narrator

we have met before. The Dying Animal, Roth’s most recent novel,

ressurrects David Kepesh, first introduced in 1972 in a Kafkaesque

novel The Breast, and narrator as well of Roth’s controversial 1977

novel The Professor of Desire. Now 70 years of age, Kepesh, in

The Dying Animal, relates the story of his affair, eight years earlier,

with Consuela Castillo, a 24-year-old Cuban-American student of

his, possessed of enormous “erotic power” that is both “elemental

and elegant” (p. 98). Roth does not directly address the issue of

current attempts to regulate professor-student relations except

to ironically note Kepesh’s habit of avoiding involvement with

his students till the semester is over and grades are turned in, at

which time he typically invites them all for a party at his house and

notes which ones stay late. Who is pursuing whom in his various

relationships is never entirely clear. But some of these studentteacher

liaisons persist in the form of lasting friendships, as we

learn near the novel’s end.

Kepesh speaks in a monologue to an unidentified interlocutor

whose questions and comments are implicit in Kepesh’s answers,

but who only on the novel’s very last page (just as in Portnoy’s

Complaint) responds and, indeed, is given the last word. No longer

a professor in The Dying Animal, Kepesh is now a well-known

culture critic and media personality. In laborious detail, on an occasion

that is revealed only at the novel’s end, he tells the story of his

obsession with Consuela, whose voluptuous beauty–and especially

her gorgeous breasts–enraptured him. A year and a half into

their affair, she breaks it off in anger over his failure to put in an

appearance at her graduation party. Recalling this episode, Kepesh

says:

The smartest thing I did was not to show up there. Because I had been

yielding and yielding in ways that I didn’t understand. The longing never

disappeared even while I had her. The primary emotion, as I’ve said, was

longing. It’s still longing. There’s no relief from the longing and my sense

of myself as a supplicant. There it is: you have it when you’re with her and

you have it when you’re without her. (pp. 94-95)

But Kepesh by his own account then spent three more years

longing for her, and a few years beyond that she suddenly re-enters

his life, bringing not joy but tragedy as she tells him she has breast

cancer and not great odds for survival. Kepesh is not particularly

admirable (nor does Roth attempt to make him so) as he confesses

his dismay at the thought of her soon-to-be “mutilated” body, which

undoes his sexual desire even as his heart breaks with tenderness

for her plight (p. 138). Why has she come back? Apparently to ask

Kepesh to photograph, before her surgery, the breasts he so adored.

In recounting his affair, Kepesh delineates his indefatigable efforts

to avoid emotional entanglement and to hang on to physical

lust as the wellspring of manly energy, always contrasted to the

death-in-life that he considers marriage to be. Roth even subjects

Kepesh to some scathing analyses by a disgruntled middle-aged

son (from a failed early marriage that he’d walked out of), telling it

as he sees it, and often quite on target about his father’s many faults

and shortcomings:

Seducing defenseless students, pursuing one’s sexual interests at the expense

of everyone else–that’s so very necessary, is it? No, necessity is

staying in a difficult marriage and raising a little child and meeting the

responsibilities of an adult. (p. 90)

But none of this sensible criticism detracts from the compelling

narrative Kepesh weaves, with its topsy-turvy version of who’s

really in control in this affair between an older man, who sees the

end in sight, and an exuberantly beautiful much younger woman

who shouldn’t have to face her mortality but does, out of season.

Time, Kepesh says, for the young is always made up of what is

past; but for Consuela, sick with breast cancer,

time is now how much future she has left, …Now she measures time counting

forward, counting time by the closeness of death …. her sense of time is

now the same as mine, speeded up and more forlorn even than mine. She,

in fact, has overtaken me. (p. 149)

It is Kepesh’s intimate friend, George O’Hearn, who, in analyzing

Kepesh’s predicament after the affair with Consuela ended,

evokes the earlier novel’s image of Kepesh as “the professor of

desire” (p. 99). Recognizing that Kepesh will “always be powerless

with this girl” (p. 98), O’Hearn urges him to avoid all contact

with her. Lust and life are one thing; love quite another, and O’Heam

worries that Kepesh is “failing in love” Far from restoring a Platonic

unity to the lovers, O’Hearn argues, love is a danger, because,

“love fractures you. You’re whole, and then you’re cracked

open” (p. 101).

But if it is Consuela’s “erotic power” that has kept Kepesh in

thrall to her, the only power he, by contrast, held over her, Kepesh

believes, was his pedagogy, his ability to instruct her in music and

literature (p. 101). Most importantly, orgasm, for Kepesh, meant a

momentary end to the sickness that is desire. It is in this context that

he cites Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” from which the novel takes

its melancholy title, alluding to the process of aging:

Consume my heart away; sick with desire

And fastened to a dying animal

It knows not what it is. (p. 103)

Even a dying animal, however, can retain some sense of propriety.

“Ridiculousness” to Kepesh, is relinquishing one’s freedom

voluntarily (p. 104). While fully recognizing this, he had not been

able in his relationship with Consuela to avoid it and had experienced

emotions unbearable to him: jealousy and attachment: “No,

not even fucking can stay totally pure and protected, “Kepesh says

(p. 105), in lines similar to those spoken by Faunia Farley in The

Human Stain. What makes his suffering touch the reader is that

Kepesh doesn’t even know just what he’s longing for: “Her tits?

Her soul? Her youth? Her simple mind? Maybe it’s worse than

that–maybe now that I’m nearing death, I also long secretly not to

be free” (p. 106).

In a nasty review of The Dying Animal feebly entitled “Tedium

of the Gropes of Roth” (The limes [London], 27 June 2001), Elaine

Showalter dismisses the novel as “cowardly, sterile, and intellectually

shallow.” She can muster no sympathy for Kepesh’s insistence

on his “freedom” as being the fulfillment of American individualism.

Showalter considers the novel’s ending to be its protagonist’s

one shot at being a “mensch” a shot we’re not sure he’ll take. But

the novel’s focus on a man who uses sex as a weapon against his

mortality is no reason to despise it, unless we are prepared to judge

all works of art on the basis of whether their civic message is one

we wish to endorse. Showalter quotes with disdain Roth’s line about

the “astonishing fellators” found in this generation of young women

(~ la Lewinsky). Another reviewer, Anthony Quinn, refers to

Kepesh’s obsession with Consuela’s gorgeous breasts as “just a bit

creepy and objectifying” (“An Old Man’s Fancy,” The Times [London],

24 June 2001). It appears that critics are not very eager to

hear what Roth is really saying. We seem to want our aging men to

be heroes, mature and wise. We don’t like seeing them as vulnerable

individuals not yet finished with sexual desire, as Roth insists

on representing them.

To immerse oneself in Roth’s bold and erotic prose is to confront,

however unwillingly, the habitual denigration of eroticism in

American society, which celebrates the marriage-and-commitment

narrative despite its notorious failures in our time. Roth’s Kepesh

wants never to pay any price for his sexual indulgences and egocentric

behavior. But his protest against age and infirmity, his insistence

that desire continues, that sex can be an affirmation of life

against the inevitability of decay and loss–all these are worth hearing,

even coming from a character as complicatedly unsympathetic

as David Kepesh…

Starting with his first novel, Goodbye, Columbus, and ending

with The Dying Animal, his latest one, Philip Roth has, over a 40

year period, lavished an unflagging energy on the effort to dissect

the sexual and emotional lives of male protagonists who often resemble

himself (Jewish author/professors with little talent for marriage

and a great taste for self-analysis). What is at times referred to

by critics as his “misogyny” is, it seems to me, rather a willingness

to probe the heart of the egocentricity and lust that drive his male

characters. It takes courage to do this in Roth’s unabashed way, to

celebrate–as he does in The Dying Animal–“the charm of the

surreptitious” and to make such provocative statements as: “Marriage

at its best is a sure-fire stimulant to the thrills of licentious

subterfuge” (p. 110). Roth does not allow us to see his narrators

and protagonists as unproblematic or admirable exemplars. Nor

does he–like critics such as Bell Hooks and Jane Gallop defend

“asymmetrical” relationships on the self-congratulatory grounds that

brilliant professors and their best students are naturally attracted to

one another and that these associations are crucial to the intellec

tual and creative development of both. He insists that such relationships

need no academic defense. He makes no pretense that there

is a cerebral or pedagogic value to them. Life and lust are their own

justification. Nor does he, on the other hand, idealize the ensuing

relationships. Far from it, he exposes their seaminess and comic

aspects, but also the passion and vulnerabilities from which they

spring, above all the vulnerability of older men confronting their

fear of aging and death, susceptible to female sexual power in a

manner that is presented poignantly and, I suspect, realistically…

Quite a different emphasis governs Francine Prose’s latest novel,

Blue Angel, a darkly comic story of a besotted 47-year-old writing

professor and the talented and ambitious 19-year-old student who

causes his downfall. In a witty and biting third-person narrative

confined strictly to the point of view of her protagonist, Ted

Swenson, Prose exposes the smelly little orthodoxies (as Orwell

put it, in quite another context) of the contemporary academic scene.

Because this novel of a professor ruined by sexual harassment

charges is of particular relevance to the travesties of justice actually

being played out on many university campuses today, it is worth

considering it in some detail.

Ted Swenson, a writer-in-residence at Eust,on College in northern

Vermont, has been married for twenty-one years and is still in

love with his wife, Sherrie, and capable of, as she puts it, “leering”

at her. As a professor in contemporary America, however, he knows

the rules, and the narrative gives us his thoughts about them:

Such are the pleasures of intimacy: he can look [at Sherrie] as long as he

wants. Given the current political climate, you’d better be having consensual

matrimonial sex with a woman before you risk this stare. (p. 16)

At his college’s obligatory meeting to review the sexual harassment

policy, Swenson thinks heretical thoughts:

What if someone rose to say what so many of them are thinking, that

there’s something erotic about the act of teaching, all that information

streaming back and forth like some…bodily fluid. Doesn’t Genesis trace

sex to that first bite of apple, not the fruit from just any tree, but the Tree of

Knowledge? (p. 22, italics in original)

Devoted to his wife and daughter, Swenson acknowledges that

“teacher-student attraction is an occupational hazard” and has therefore

avoided entanglements with his students, though over the years

several have made overtures to him. And he’s well aware, too, of a

case at the State university (where his daughter Ruby studies), involving

a professor who, while showing a classical Greek sculpture

of a female nude, had commented “Yum” Accusing him of

“leering” his students charged that he’d made them uncomfortable.

Suspended without pay, the professor had taken his case to

court. Swenson is wary of a similar climate at his own college, and

of the increasing power of the “Faculty-Student Women’s Alliance”

waiting to pounce on any male word or gesture. And he is suspicious

of a colleague who is head of the Alliance and is also the

English Department’s “expert in the feminist misreading of literature?’

For reasons he can’t fathom (but guesses it’s a “testosterone

allergy”), she seems to want him dead.

How, then, after so many years of sound judgment, does it happen

that he falls into the role of Professor Rath to his student’s Lola

Lola (as in the classic film The Blue Angel, from which the novel

takes its title)? Prose’s autopsy of Swenson’s fall is a bracing work,

funny and sly and politically incorrect at every turn, right up until

the end when Swenson realizes that the movie he should have been

watching was not The Blue Angel but All About Eve.

Can a talent for writing be a seducer? In the case of Ted Swenson,

decades of teaching “creative writing” to mediocre students (whose

stories, often involving bestiality, we get to sample), along with ten

frustrating years of never quite getting around to working on his

long-awaited third novel, have left him fatally vulnerable to talent,

no matter how unlikely its source.

Angela Argo is far from the best looking young woman in

Swenson’s class at Euston College. In fact, she has sat for weeks

squirming and sighing instead of speaking, calling attention to herself

primarily by means of her abundant face piercing, the orange

and green streaks in her hair, and the black leather motorcycle jacket

with theme-related accouterments that covers her skinny body.

But poor Swenson has few defenses against the spark of talent

that Angela reveals to him after seeking a meeting in his office.

And his first reaction to her work is the very thing that today gets

professors in trouble: differential treatment. Wanting to protect her

talent from the ritual hazing that his class has turned into as students

savage one another’s writing week after week, he agrees to

read and comment on Angela’s work in private. Thus begins the

special relationship–initiated by Angela at each successive stage–

that will eventually cost him his reputation, his job, and his marriage.

Interwoven into this realistic tale of a contemporary campus liaison

is a sympathetic portrait of the plight of writing teachers and of

writers, especially those stuck in a dry season that can last a decade.

The novel captures perfectly Swenson’s enraptured response

to the discovery of Angela’s talent. It is a generous, tender response.

Swenson is alert to the students’ ambiguous attitude toward him:

“He’s the teacher, they’re the students: a distinction they like to

blur, then make again, as needed” (p. 10). But this sensibility and

foreknowledge won’t save him from enthusiastically gravitating

toward the genuinely talented. And as Angela feeds him chapter

after chapter of her novel, Swenson falls into the very mistake he

constantly warns his students against: taking the story as autobiography.

Thus, he begins to imagine that he himself is the teacher Angela’s

protagonist is enamoured of, and that her first-person narrative is really

a confession, made to him privately, of her troubled life.

It doesn’t help matters much when a colleague who teaches poetry

tells him about the graphic sexual poems Angela had written

for that class. Soon the sexual content of Angela’s writing and her

intense anticipation of Swenson’s reactions week by week lead

him to sexual fantasies about her. When she says that she thinks all

the time about his reactions to her writing, what he hears is that

“she thinks about him all the rime” (p. 158). So they lurch from one

encounter to the next, each less clear than the last. Everything in

their relationship initially revolves around her writing–her eagerness

for his reaction; her computer’s collapse, which leads her to

ask him to take her shopping for a new one, and in turn leads to his

presence in her dorm room whose door (he finds out later) she’d

locked as soon as they had entered.

Francine Prose explores with great subtlety Swenson’s seduction

and betrayal. She does not present him as a total innocent. As

a man in mid-life, he is aware of his mortality and the appeal of

glowing youth all around him. “Age and death–the unfairness of

it, the daily humiliation of watching your power vanish just when

you figure out how to use it” (p. 145). But Angela’s rapid transformarion

after their brief escapade is no joke; she begins demanding

more of his attention to her writing, berating him when he doesn’t

provide it quickly enough. “What happened to the worshipful student

who hung on his every word” Swenson wonders. “Now that

she’s let Swenson sleep with her she doesn’t respect him anymore”

(p. 187). Prose shows the reversal of all the traditional rules and

values, as Angela quickly moves in for what turns out to be her real

goal: getting him to show her novel to his agent. But still Swenson

argues with himself about her motives:

Does Angela–did she ever–have a crush on him, or is she just using him

for his professional connections? Is Angela blackmailing him, or simply

asking a favor? What does a favor mean when you have the power to wreck

someone’s life? (p. 190)

By coincidence, a woman colleague also wants the same favor:

“This is really too much. Two women in twenty minutes cozying

up to Swenson as a way of getting next to his editor” (p. 191). And

to make matter worse, he must face the open resentment of his

other students when he, with complete sincerity, praises Angela’s

writing in class.

Angela’s fury when she learns that Swenson hadn’t fought for

her book with his agent finally makes her clarify her behavior: “The

only reason I let you fuck me was so you would help me get this

novel to someone who could do something” (p. 236). And next

thing he knows, she’s charged him with sexual harassment, taken a

tape of this last conversation to the dean, and is threatening to sue

the college. The dean immediately urges Swenson to resign.

Reviewing his own responsibility, Swenson thinks:

He knew about the power differential between teacher and student. But

this wasn’t about power. This was about desire. Mutual seduction, let’s say

that at least, lie’s too embarrassed to let himself think, This was about love.

(p. 245)

Barred from his classroom, dangerously indifferent to his school’s

sexual harassment proceedings (not a “court of law”), Swenson

insists on a hearing instead of resigning quietly.

When he tells his wife, in a restaurant, about the trouble he’s in,

she blames him entirely and informs him that Angela spent half her

time at the school’s medical clinic (where Sherrie is a nurse), ostensibly

because she’s suicidal–but actually, Swenson realizes, because

Angela was pumping the staff for details about his life to

work into her novel.

The couple sitting beside them seems to have gotten up and left. At some

point when he and Sherrie were at once so engrossed and distracted, the

lovers must have retreated into their cocoon of protection and light and

grace, of chosenness, of being singled out and granted the singular blessing

of being allowed to live in a world in which what’s happening to

Sherrie and Swenson will never happen to them. (p. 256)

As the Faculty-Student Women’s Alliance demonstrates against

him, and Swenson rents the film of The Blue Angel (a film he knows

Angela too has seen), he realizes at last that “there’s no chance of

winning, of proving his innocence” (p. 266).

The night before the hearing, he lies in bed composing and revising

speeches about what he thought he was doing, about his respect for Angela’s

novel, about the erotics of teaching. And the dangers of starting to see

one’s student as a real person. (p. 267)

But he is totally unprepared for the actual hearing process, in

effect a trial in which he faces six colleagues, one of them the head

of the Faculty-Student Women’s Alliance (p. 270). As “agreed”

upon (but not by him), witnesses are called, but no cross-examination

of them is permitted, since this “is not, after all, a trial” (p.

273). So much for due process.

When Angela appears, parents in tow, at the hearing, Swenson

notes her changed appearance. Her hair is now a

shiny, authentic-looking auburn . . . . And how bizarrely she’s dressed–

bizarre, that is, for Angela. Neat khakis, a red velour sweater, ordinary

college-girl “good” clothes. For all he knows, the piercing and the black

leather were always the costume, and this is the real Angela, restored to her true

self. For all he knows. He doesn’t know. All right. He gets that now. (p. 272)

In a particularly subtle scene, Swenson, having deluded himself

for so long, having somehow managed to avoid noting that Angela’s

real interest was in promoting her writing, not in him, finds at his

“trial” that he would rather play the “sullen guilty lecher” that his

colleagues think he is, would rather confirm their “image of him as

the predatory harasser” than admit “to the truer story of obsession

and degradation, the humiliating real-life update of The Blue Angel”

(p. 273).

Colleagues and students come forth to testify. A brave student

from Swenson’s writing class, initially showing far more discernment

than his elders, tries to argue: “I can’t see what the big deal is.

Shit happens. People get attracted to other people. It’s not that big a

deal” (p. 284). But Swenson watches the change that comes over

the student as he realizes that what Swenson is charged with is

having extorted sex from Angela in return for showing her work to

his editor in New York. The student’s face shows his perception of

unfairness warring with his sense of loyalty to his teacher: “Swenson

wants to tell him that the real unfairness involves the distribution of

talent and has nothing to do with whatever happened between him

and Angela Argo” (p. 285). Bravely, the student tries to stick to his

principles:

But nothing has prepared him to resist the seduction of having the dean of

his college calling him a writer and a half-dozen faculty members hanging

on his every word. How can he disappoint them? How can he not offer up

any scrap of information he can recall. (p. 286)

Francine Prose gets the details of all this just right: the banality

and venality of academic vindictiveness and piety; the stereotypical

assumptions about professorial misconduct; the eagerness to

find sexual wrongdoing; the unavoidable small-minded

Schadenfreude as colleagues and students get to revisit old grievances

and slights, and the sheer cynicism of faculty and administrators

claiming to be concerned with students’ welfare. When Claris,

the class beauty, testifies that he took no inappropriate actions toward

her, Swenson can see that no one believes her. Or they think

Swenson is insane.

How pathetic. What is wrong with him? He never even entertained a sexual

thought about Clads and spent months mooning over Angela Argo? How

abject, how ridiculous. He isn’t a normal male. (p. 288, italics in original)

Another student testifies that they all knew something was going

on because all their work was criticized, while Angela’s was

not. No one is interested in discussing the other possible reasons

for admiring a student’s work. “Swenson’s learned his lesson.

He’ 11 never criticize another student. Not that he’ll get a chance”

(p. 291).

Finally, Angela gets to speak–if she feels “strong enough to

address the committee” (p. 296). “As she moves [toward the table],

Swenson thinks he can still see sharp angles of sullen punkhood

poking through the fuzzy eiderdown of that Jane College getup”

(p. 296). Following the familiar ritual, Angela is praised for her

courage in coming forward, and spared the ordeal of listening

to the tape she had orchestrated to make it sound as if Swenson

had indeed persuaded her to trade sex for showing her book to

his agent.

On her face is that combustive chemistry of wild irritation and boredom so

familiar from those early classes, but now it’s become a martyr’s transfixed

gaze of piety and damage, lit by the flames of the holy war she’s waging

against the evils of male oppression and sexual harassment. (p. 297)

Throughout Angela’s distortions and deceptions; Swenson tries

to keep “his grip on the truth—-on his version of the story….A grip

on recent history…. On reality” (pp. 298-299). The committee, he

sees, is ready to believe the worst because he asked to see more of

a student’s writing. Yet, he admits to himself, her testimony isn’t all

made up:

Well, there is something sexy about reading someone’s work: an intimate

communication takes place. Still, you can read…Gertrude Stein, and it

doesn’t mean you find her attractive …. Once more, the committee’s version

of him–the scheming dirty old man–seems less degrading than the

truth. (p. 301)

Prose avoids turning her story into a postmodern narrative in

which we can never hope to learn the truth. Earlier episodes have

shown us what took place, and we recognize Angela’s lies in her

testimony before the committee, her insistence that the sexual initiatives

were his. But the author’s voice gives us a different perspective

on where the harm really resides:

How pornographic and perverted this is, a grown woman–a professor–

torturing a female student into describing a sexual experience to a faculty

committee, not to mention her parents. Swenson could have slept with

Angela on the Founders Chapel altar, and it would have seemed healthy

and respectable compared to this orgy of filth. Meanwhile he has to keep

it in mind that Angela started all this. Angela chose to be here. (p. 303)

Only at her father’s urging that she share her “good news” does

Angela admit to the assembled group that Swenson’s editor in fact

wants to publish her novel (p. 305). Swenson thinks:

Len Currie is publishing Angela’s novel. So what is this hearing about?

Angela should be kissing Swenson’s feet instead of ruining his life. As she

must have decided to do when she still believed that Swenson, her white

knight, had failed to get her manuscript published. If that’s when she decided.

Who knows what she did, and why? (p. 305)

On cue, Angela describes the lingering effects of the whole

wretched experience, her nightmares, her distress. As Angela’s testimony

draws to a close, the women’s studies professor once more

congratulates Angela and commiserates with her:

“Angela, let me say again that we know how tough it was for you to

come in and say what you did. But if women are ever going to receive an

equal education, these problems have to be addressed and dealt with, so

that we can protect and empower ourselves”

“Sure,” Angela says. “You’re welcome. Whatever.” (p. 307)

When it is finally Swenson’s turn to speak, he knows what he

should do is apologize—but of the many things he is sorry for,

breaking the college’s rules about professor-student relationships is

not one of them:

He is extremely sorry for having spent twenty years of his one and only

life, twenty years he will never get back, among people he can’t talk to,

men and women to whom he can’t even tell the simple truth. (p. 308)

And then, in an entirely predictable almost last-straw moment,

Swenson’s daughter’s boyfriend tells the committee that Ruby told

him her father had sexually abused her when she was a child.

Swenson watches his colleagues’ reactions:

they have taken off their masks. Jonathan Edwards, Cotton Mather,

Torquemado. Swenson’s crime involves sex, so the death penalty can be

invoked. No evidence is inadmissible. They’re hauling out the entire

arsenal for this mortal combat with the forces of evil and sin. (p. 310)

Thus, at novel’s end, Angela’s career is starting and Swenson’s

careerwalong with his marriage is ending. Sounding somewhat

like one of Philip Roth’s heroes, Swenson finally recognizes the mystery

of femaleness, acknowledging that he can never fathom Angela’s

motives. Only she will ever know the truth. As he hears the campus

bells tolling, he wonders why they’re ringing now, at 5:25 p.m.

Then, gradually, it dawns on him. It’s the Women’s Alliance, announcing

their triumph over another male oppressor, one small step along the path

toward a glorious future. He’s glad to be out of that future and headed into

his own. (p. 314)…

Does it take a woman writer, a Francine Prose, to unabashedly

demonstrate the stupidity of the current shibboleths regarding male

professors’ “power” and female students’ “powerlessness”? To protest

the prurient attitude that lies behind the apparent obsession with

sexual relations on campus? To delineate so scathingly a young

woman’s methodical and self-serving manipulation of her professor?

When men writers do this (e.g., David Mamet in his play

Oleanna), their work is often dismissed with the presumptively

devastating charge of “misogyny.” Francine Prose’s novel is an

effective rejoinder to this canard. It is both touching and true: written

in a melancholy self-deprecating style befitting her protagonist’s

essential decency and ironic awareness, and at the same time profoundly

insightful into the mechanisms of academic life at the present

time.

Philip Roth presents us with a scathing portrait of the harm unleashed

by the stupidity of vigilantism of language and personal

relations in today’s America. In novel after novel, he offers a celebration

(sardonic and pathetic though it often is) of the erotic power

of young women and the deep conflicts of the men who love and

fear them. Nicholas Delbanco portrays a costly and enduring love,

which comes in guises and moments that defy academic proprieties,

and he leaves no doubt that the price is worth paying. Francine

Prose details the seductiveness of talent and the egocentric drives

that motivate women as much as men, despite all the lies currently

circulating on this subject. Eric Tarloff, writing in a far lighter vein

than these three, opts for happy endings as the essential sanity of his

protagonists somehow prevails. Perhaps, indeed, he is the most idealistic

of the group. But all four are writers of great skill, opening our

eyes to the hidden dimensions and potentialities of those “asymmetrical”

relationships conventionally viewed today as merely sordid

or exploitative on the professor’s part, deprived of life, forced into caricatured

tableaux in which all roles are set out in advance according to

the position–in terms of race, sex, and status of the protagonists.

One turns from these works of fiction, these portraits of academic

life at the end of the twentieth century, back to the everyday

reality of sexual harassment officers, codes, and committees, threats,

and public displays of virtue, with a profound sense of wonder.

How can it be that rules and guidelines that should be an embarrassment

to any sensible society now govern every school and

workplace? How have the supposedly powerless so successfully

altered the terms of everyday interactions that the supposedly powerful-

who, we are constantly told, prey on them–are now so

vulnerable, so much at their mercy? Is this some demented dream

from which we’ll soon all wake up? Not, I fear, in the short run.

But the commitment of writers such as these four to the craft of the

novelist rather than to the cant of current ideologies gives us reason-

however fragile–for hope.

Philip Roth, THE HUMAN STAIN; Philip Roth, THE DYING ANIMAL; Philip Roth, THE PROFESSOR OF DESIRE; Nicholas Delbanco, OLD SCORES; Francine Prose, BLUE ANGEL; Eric Tarloff, THE MAN WHO WROTE THE BOOK

May 9, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, Daphne Patai, ethics, feminism, Francine Prose, fraternization, higher education, Philip Roth, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 1 Comment

HOT FOR TEACHER at the University of Minnesota

HOT FOR TEACHER is the attention getting headline for the University of Minnesota student newspaper article authored by Ashley Dresser on student professor sexual relationships.  Although the headline is a tad sensationalistic, the dankprofessor believes that this is one of the very few student newspapers articles on this subject that generally gets it right.

Much of the article is based on an interview with a female student referred to as Prudence, who is having a relationship with a professor. Prudence is a pseudonym; such was, of course, the prudent thing to do.  Prudence referred to the professor as MY professor.  As the article states:

“Well, I find MY professor to be hot.” When we asked her exactly what she meant with that kind of emphasis on ownership, she proceeded to unveil every girl’s college fantasy:
“I’ve known him, my professor boyfriend, since I started working in his department about two years ago. I never took a class under him, but he always flirted with me…I blew him off mostly, but a couple of months ago he asked me out to dinner. We have had many, many discussions about whether or not it’s okay to pursue this, but so far it’s working out well enough. We just have to be discreet about it.” Before I could even get the question out of my mouth, Prudence added, “And yes, I call him ‘professor’ in bed.”

So much for all the articles that phrase student professor relationship in terms of professors being attracted to the student but generally via omission deny the reality that students are often attracted to professors.

As stated by the writer-

My classmates and I were awestruck by her academic prowess, but it did cross our minds that he could just be a hairy old man. A couple of Facebook clicks later, however, and Prudence proved us wrong. He is, in fact, a gorgeous specimen – perhaps heightened by the fact that he is not opposed to scandalous romance. (As a side note: the fact that we now have the ability to friend our professors on Facebook to learn more about their personal lives, sift through their photos, etc. makes this dating scene even more hot to handle.)

And then the writer violates campus journalistic tradition and provides material from an interview with the professor, albeit the professor is cloaked in anonymity-

“It is highly likely that us professors are attracted to our students,” Prudence’s professor said when asked for comment. “We see our students every single day and if they are taking a class with us, that probably means we have the same interests…And in general, guys don’t really care about age or profession with girls, so the fact that they are attracted to one of their students isn’t necessarily going to bother them.”

Well, in the dankprofessor’s opinion the professor gets it right.  This is why the dankprofessor uses the phraselogy of “from the love of knowledge to the knowledge of love”.

The author then states-

Yet it does seem to bother a lot of other people. A simple Google search of “professor-student relationships” brings up a wealth of commentary about its pros and cons. In particular, check out www.dankprofessor.wordpress.com [2]. It is a weblog that “examines the sexual politics in higher education and beyond.” Parents and the university administrations tend to be the two major groups that are having the qualms, which is ironic, since neither of them are the ones in the actual relationship itself.

Well, the author gets it right about the dankprofessor weblog. But she doesn’t get it completely right when she states that parents and university administrators are the two major opposing groups. She omits the major grouping- women’s studies faculty and feminist faculty who adhere to a hardcore anti sexual and anti male agendas. This group was the prime mover in the adoption of the sexual codes regarding student professor relationships and it is this group which would attempt to make trouble for any professor sexually involved with a student, no matter whether the student had ever been in the professor’s class.  And it is this group that administrators are adverse to challenging and generally are willing to go along with their effort to make life miserable for any professor dating any student.  Such is consistent with the decision of the student and professor who are the subjects of this article to not reveal their identity.  And it should also be pointed out that some universities formally ban all student professor fraternization.  But even when the relationship are not de jure banned as in the present case, the relationship is de facto banned in the framework of the professor becoming subjected to an array of punishments- from being treated rudely by fellow faculty to getting a horrid teaching schedule to being terminated.

As for parents, the following is stated-

“My parents would try to talk me out of it, if they knew,” Prudence said. “They would say I’m squandering my youth or that he’s using me for sex…The professor and I are sixteen years apart, but I would definitely recommend dating a professor to any student. They are more worldly and mature and they know how to treat a lady. I’m not knocking college boys, but they still have a lot of growing up to do.”

Well, Prudence may be a bit off base re parental response.  Based on my experience and knowledge of the experience of others, most parents are unlikely to respond with horror to their daughter dating a professor, particularly if they have met the professor.  And, of course, if one of the parents is a prof, rapport may develop quickly between the professor parent and the professor who loves the daughter.  So I urge Prudence to be a bit more prudent, and not to assume that her parents will be rejecting parents.

The article ends with the following quote from Prudence-

“It’s all media and society hype that makes it seem so bad. Over the years, people have also given relationships in which the male is significantly older than the female a bad name…They make it seem like the guy is just after sex. Well, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but aren’t all guys, no matter what age, after sex? At the end of the day, we are just two people looking for some companionship.”

Amen from the dankprofessor.  And this is what I have been trying to do- get beyond the hype to the everyday realities of these relationships. What is two people looking for companionship has been demonized over and over again by moral zealots and the morally perverse.  To argue as Mark Bourrie has argued that professors involved in these sorts of relationships are “scum” and Erik Ringmar that such professors are disgusting is morally perverse.

Congratulations to Ashley Dresser for writing this article and I encourage my blog readers to read the entirety of this article.

May 2, 2009 Posted by | attractive professors, attractive students, consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, love, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, University of Minnesota | 1 Comment

Female student response on disgusting professors

The dankprofessor needs to give more visibility to a comment by a female student on the disgusting professor post.  So here it is as a separate post-

Comment:
I am an intelligent, twenty year old, female student and I have been attracted to multiple professors–none of which were balding, middle-aged, or disgusting.

The reality is that, a lot of the time, professors at universities are NOT drastically older than their students. Nearly half of my professors have been less than fifteen years older than me, which makes them far from middle-aged. And this is just argument for the sake of argument. Because, in reality, age is nothing but a number and ought to have no bearing on the issue.

Furthermore, the teachers that I have been attracted to, were attractive in the degree to which they were LESS disgusting than other men that I’ve met. They are rational, sensitive, inquisitive, socially involved, and far from “scheming pedophiles.” These two issues (catholic preist pedophilia and student-teacher passions) simply can’t be compared if only for the sheer fact that twenty year old girls are adults. I am an adult. Sorry to break it to you, Mr. Ringmar.

I am even somewhat involved with a former professor of mine. We are friends, but our friendship has negotiable boundaries. And for the record he is only 28. He is working toward his Doctorate. He has never disrespected me.

That is the reality of things.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | attractive professors, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, love, NCTU, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 3 Comments

Campus sexual bigotry and degradation

From Taiwan to Ottawa, from Los Angeles to London, professors and students who are in sexual congress with each other have become fair game for those wishing to engage in unrestrained sexual bigotry.  By  sexual bigotry, I am not referring to those who assert that such relationships may or do represent some form of conflict of interest, but rather to those who who degrade and demean  and dehumanize both the involved professor and the involved student.  

The dankprofessor finds it difficult to accept that academics find it to be OK to refer to their colleagues who have dated students as scum and disgusting and to imply that they are rapists or statutory rapists.  But what I even consider to be more disturbing is that hardly any academics on the sidelines come forth and challenge the acceptability of using such degrading rhetoric.  When such challenging does occur, it is likely to be of the anonymous kind.

One anonymous professor commenter recently stated on the dankprofessor blog- “It’s pretty darned hard for me to look into the eyeballs of my older male colleagues and tell them that they AND their wives are scum.”  The commenter is referring to older professors who had married one of their students.  I would hope and expect that addressing or thinking about a colleague, senior or otherwise, as scum would not exactly be easy, particularly on a continuing basis.  It wouldn’t be easy since continuing personal contact would most likely function to humanize and normalize the targeted professor.  Having the targeted professor as a predatory alien existing outside of our everyday lives facilitates for some a commitment to the imagery of the professor as a sexual outsider.  The accompanying imagery of the female student is usually that of a non-person (she is often anonymous and socially invisible) or that of an exploited child who cannot fend for herself.  She is usually seen as not having the ability to consent even if she states that she has consented.

For a professor to come forward and risk the stigma being seen as a sexual outsider and also being terminated as a professor has pretty effectively put these professors in the campus closet.  And those who may come out and support the rights of professors and students to consent to a sexual relationship with each other will frequently lead to others as seeing the supportive professor as being one of those professors.  And such was the situation in the past for gay men and lesbians.  Gay men and lesbians existence depended on their ability to be out of sight and out of mind, to live closeted lives.  Of course, the irony is that as gays came out of the campus closet, said closet then came to be populated by professors who were or had been in sexual congress with a student or students.

The answer for gays was coming out of the closet.  If there is to be a ceasefire on professors in sexual congress with students, it will occur because these professors and others who support these professors will come out.  It will occur when these professors and their supporters will be able to effectively deal with their fears.  And it is both fear and loathing that has dominated the social sexual climate at all too many campuses.

A small step forward could occur if student professor relationships would become a part of campus sex education weeks.  Organizers of these events advocate openness in terms of sexuality but when it comes to campus sex of the genre referred to here, there is no openness, there is nothing.  Of course, nothing can be better than something when the something only includes rants against so-called offending professors.

Another small step forward would include recognition of how the anti student professor sex movement, has impacted on campus friendships
between students and professors, how such has led to increasingly impersonal campuses.   It should lead to the recognition that many professors and administrators have come to realize that anyone, irrespective of their behavior, can become labeled as a so-called sexual deviant.  Professor open door policies are no solution to the paranoia on campus, particularly when third party informants are encouraged to come forward.

Under the mantel of a so-called professionalism, sexual bigotry, sexual
policing, sexual paranoia has become a dominant reality in campus life.
And as in all authoritarian states, the persecution most often occurs in secret; secrecy is rationalized under the guise of this being a “personnel” matter.  Again, the closet carries the day.

And the dankprofessor asks these questions of the readers of this post.
Are you a professor or administrator or a student who might agree with the dankprofessor in whole or in part, but you feel you can’t speak out because of fear?  Might you attempt to overcome your fears by emailing the dankprofessor at dankprofessor@msn.com or posting a comment, albeit anonymously on this post?

April 29, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fear, higher education, privacy, secrecy, sex, sex offenders, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, the closet | | 25 Comments

Intelligent women attracted to disgusting professors?

“There is something perfectly sick about universities — filled with fat, balding, middle-aged men (and women) and a constantly replenished crop of gorgeous 20-something girls (and boys).  Like the Catholic church, with its scheming pedophiles and innocent choir boys, it’s a recipe for disaster…

Why would an intelligent female ever sleep with a disgusting professor?”

Such is how Erik Ringmar, a professor in Taiwan, begins his post “Sex With Students, Pt 1, on his blog, Too Many Mangoes.

Maybe the good professor knows too many disgusting professors who have eaten too many mangoes or maybe the not so good professor considers himself to be a disgusting professor whose lecherous meandering have run amok?

Whatever the specifics may be, Ringmar’s imagery tells us more about himself and his imagination then anything about the multiple realities of student professor intimate relationships.

As for his question as to why an intelligent female would ever sleep with a disgusting professor, I would surmise that the intelligent female would not consider the professor disgusting.  The same would be said about the professor who sleeps with an intelligent female, the overwhelming probability is that the professor does not consider the female to be disgusting?  Maybe Ringmar’s problem is that he considers any party to such a relationship to be disgusting in the same manner that people who are anti-gay consider all gay relationships to be disgusting. 

Professor Ringmar’s problem is that apparently he can’t get beyond his disgust, and that he feels uninhibited in degrading persons who are or have been in a student professor relationship.

Well, Ringmar should know that more than a couple of professors who have been subjected to such degrading rhetoric do not feel degraded. Far from it.  They live their private lives in private, not engaging in any sort of sexual spectacle. Some have had the good fortune of meeting an intellectual confrere who they found attractive and such attraction was reciprocated.  Some, including the dankprofessor, eventually transitioned from student professor to husband and wife.

I have no doubt that even in Taiwan the love of knowledge can lead to the knowledge of love.  For those of you who have an open mind as well as having their eyes wide open, it can also happen to you.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | attractive students, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, love, NCTU, privacy, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Taiwan | 4 Comments

Sex and love between students and professors

Well once again Professor Mark Bourrie’s response to the dankprofessor is a non- response.
Here it is unexpurgated, uncensored.

“Dank indeed.
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.

April 14, 2009 Posted by | attractive students, Canada, Concordia University, consensual relationships, dating, ethics, grading, higher education, love, Mark Bourrie, passion, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 3 Comments

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