Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Crushing student crushes

Hugo Schwyzer, a Pasadena City College professor, blogs on educational issues and at times on matters relating to student prof consenting sexual relationships.  He strongly disapproves of these relationships, and has expressed his strong disapproval of my writings on the subject.  He indicates in his last post and in his other posts on this subject that in the 1990s when he was single he engaged in a number of sexual relationships with students.  But now such relationships are in the past since presently he is married.  To a cynical  outsider, it may appear that Schwyzer engages in an ethic of convenience- when single it was OK for him to find partners who were students, but now that he is married he disapproves of such relationships.  Of course, such a cynical view also reflects a basic sociological tenet- ones attitudes change as a function of changes in ones social positions.

Schwyzer’s change in his attitudes and behavior in regards to student prof sex would have been of no importance to me except for the fact that he uses his past experience in part as a rationale for coercing students and professors in matters relating to their sexual behavior.  Schwyzer admits to having done the wrong thing when he slept with some of his students.

He feels guilt about the errors of his past ways.  Given his past wrongdoings, he wants to redeem himself.  He states:

“Part of my own redemptive work was to chair a committee to write a policy for Pasadena City College on consensual relationships, a policy that was not in place during the years in which I was conducting a series of these affairs.”

So in order for him to feel good about himself, he is willing to take away the rights of others to engage in mutual date/mate selection where the dyadic relationship is student/professor.

Or to make this matter more personal for me, he would have supported policies that would have barred my dating/mating with my wife to be in the 1990s.  Why? To relieve his sense of guilt.  To stop students from acting on their crushes for particular profs.  Crushes are his words.  Its always student crushes, never professor crushes; he sees profs as falling in love. Profs don’t have crushes since profs are not children.  For Schwyzer, students have crushes since students are de facto children.  They are not yet grownups who can experience a mature love.  Or translated- they have not yet graduated; once they graduate then they are adults. Reminds me of the old idea that a girl cannot become a woman, remains a girl or a child until she married.

Schwyzer states-

If we’re doing our job right, we have the power to change the way a student thinks about himself or herself. At our best, those of us who love to teach are practiced seducers, Casanovas of the classroom. But my agenda isn’t about sexual conquest, it’s about creating an interest and a passion where none previously existed. It’s about getting students to want something they didn’t know they wanted! Though some students may sexualize their crushes, what they really want is to continue to feel the way you make them feel: excited, energized, provoked, challenged.

The key is to remember that old mantra of youth workers everywhere: “affirm, and re-direct.” Though it is surely almost always best for a faculty member not to name out loud his or her responses to a student, it is the job of teachers to say to themselves: “These feelings I have are normal, and quite understandable, and not bad at all. But desire is not an irresistible predicate to action, and while I affirm that there may be ’something here’, I’m going to take the responsibility to re-direct all of that intoxicatiing intellectual/sexual energy on to the work itself.”

When a student has a crush on a teacher or mentor, it’s the job of that prof to “affirm and re-direct.” The affirmation doesn’t have to be as obvious as calling the student out on the crush, unless the student has already confessed it. The key is avoiding three “wrong” responses: shaming or belittling the student, withdrawing from one’s mentoring role, or engaging in amorous relations. Each of these responses represents a different sort of betrayal, and a sensible teacher ought to avoid them all…

Advise and redirect reminds me of the “advice” of the elders of bygone days- to go take a cold shower, to deal with your needs in a solitary manner.  Or going back a 100 years or so, children were coerced via having their hands forcibly tied at night.  Crushes were obliterated by crushing children and others who had sexual desires.  Oppression and repression were the traditional ways of dealing with those who deviated from sexual norms in an anti-sexual society.

And being anti-sexual is what Schwyer is ultimately “all about”.  He often dresses up his rhetoric in a garb of maturity, responsibility and self-control.  But his bottom line is the same as all the others who are at the core anti-sexual- coercion.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | corporate dating bans, ethics, higher education, Pasadena City College, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 3 Comments

Israeli court bans consensual sex in the workplace

In what the dankprofessor considers a bizarre ruling, the Israeli National Labor Court found that a sexual relationship between an employer and employee can never be considered consensual even if the employee was the initiator and seducer. And if the relationship was purely sexually focused, the employer has engaged in sexual harassment.

The court stated- “in cases of a relationship that is in essence opportunistic sexual relations in the workplace, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the superior, even if it proven that the subordinate seduced him.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, women activists and experts in work relations have welcomed the court decision even though the relationship was voluntary and mutual and may have been initiated by the subordinate.

Attorney for the plaintiff, Sigal Pa’il stated “there must be a clear and unequivocal message regarding the norms of conduct in hierarchical relations at the workplace to turn it as much as possible into a sterile place free of intimate relations between employer and employee. The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law imposes extra responsibility on the employer to prevent sexual harassment, especially inside the workplace.”

A panel of five judges awarded damages to a 43-year-old woman who maintained a sexual relationship with the chief engineer of the company.  As reported by the Jerusalem Post-

The chief engineer was head of several departments, including the one in which the plaintiff worked. The relationship was entirely sexual and took place in the office, in the car on the way to or from work and at the beach. Each was married when they met.

The district court accepted the man’s claim that the woman had flirted with and tried to seduce him. It also ruled that the plaintiff was obliged to provide stronger proof to back her charges than she would in ordinary civil suit.

Nonetheless, National Labor Court Judge Varda Wirth Livne wrote that “I place the main burden of responsibility on the person who had the authority and attribute less responsibility to the employee who worked under him.

“This is the precedent which I would like to bring to my decision. When we are talking about a relationship that entails nothing more than occasional sex in the security room of the work place, and when, even according to the superior’s version, the relationship did not include anything more than sex, all the responsibility falls on the superior and there is no relevance to the fact that the employee tried to seduce him by wearing provocative clothes or acting in a certain way.” Wirth Livne added that “the aim of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law is to convey a message to employers and superiors that sexual-intimate relations between a superior and an employee which includes no more than sexual acts in the work place should be perceived as inappropriate behavior which should be regarded as sexual harassment while exploiting one’s authority.”

So if one is to take Judge Varda Livne seriously, then a relationship in the workplace between an employer and employee involving both love and sex would be “acceptable”. Some how I doubt that love would be allowed to trump sex.

 The dankprofessor also doubts the Jerusalem Post’s characterization that “women activists and experts in work relations have welcomed the court decision”. Have women activists in Israel really reached a level where they would eagerly embrace such a convoluted decision?

The attorney for the plaintiff did get it right when he stated that this decision will help to turn the workplace as much as possible into a sterile place free of intimate relations. And the consequences of this decision and similar court decisions do lead to sterile workplaces and when applicable to sterile university places. The tragedy and the absurdity is that too many people welcome such sterility although the welcoming may very well be for other people and not for themselves.

ADDENDUM- Some how the dankprofessor missed, but what should have been obvious, is that the court embraced the campus feminist cant that differential power precludes consent.  Unfortunately, this genre of American feminism has found a home in Israeli courts.

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 29, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, ethics, feminism, Israel, litigation, love, office romance, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics | 1 Comment

Contracted for love

And the dankprofessor does not have in mind anything to do with the Spitzer case. Love contracts in the workplace have become increasing used in the context of the efforts to bans consensual relationship being a dismal failure. A summary of the key aspects of love contracts as presented by attorney Joseph W. Gagnon follows and then I will have some comments as to the applicability of these love contracts to the university.

The essential elements. Although the precise language will vary, an effective love contract should contain the following disclosures: 1. The relationship is consensual and is not based on intimidation, threat, coercion or harassment; 2. The employees have received, read, understood and agree to abide by the company’s policy against harassment and discrimination; 3. The employees agree to act appropriately in the workplace and avoid any behavior that is offensive to others; 4. The employees agree not to let their relationship affect their work or the work of their co-employees; 5. Neither employee will bestow upon the other any favoritism or preferential treatment; 6. Either employee may end the relationship at any time and no retaliation of any kind will result; 7. The human resources department will include its contact information in case either employee feels the relationship is affecting his or her work; and 8. The employees have had sufficient time to read the document and ask questions before executing it of his or her own free will.

. Unenforceability as a contract is a nonissue. Whether the document is an enforceable contract almost doesn’t matter, because the real strength of a love contract lies in the nature of the acknowledgements made. It shows that the employer took affirmative steps to maintain a workplace free from sexual harassment and retaliation, and it serves as powerful evidence that, at least at the time of execution, the relationship was consensual. Finally, it reaffirms that both employees are aware of the existence of a policy prohibiting sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation and their obligation to abide by it.

. A love contract will not prevent all litigation, but it will assist an employer’s defense. Like any other step an employer takes, a love contract can be a strong deterrent to employee claims, but it will not prevent all future litigation arising out of a workplace relationship. Nevertheless, a love contract will, if nothing else, lay the groundwork for a solid defense should litigation ensue. For example, an aggrieved employee can still claim he or she suffered retaliation after a breakup, but a love contract confirming that the relationship began consensually should support a defense that the perceived post-relationship retaliation was based on personal animosity rather than gender-based discrimination.

. Considerations before utilizing love contracts. Although not a concern in Texas, a GC should confirm whether privacy laws of the jurisdiction where the business operates prohibit or limit employer monitoring of workplace relationships. Also consider how to present the idea of a love contract to a couple; unless a relationship is brought to the employer’s attention, the employer must exercise sound judgment in deciding when to address what a manager’s own observations may lead him or her to suspect is a budding relationship. Decide in advance what to do if one of the participants denies the relationship or refuses to sign the document. Finally, since there is no one way of developing an effective love contract, a GC should retain experienced labor and employment counsel to draft the appropriate language that meets the particular needs and objectives of the GC’s company.

Properly implemented and appropriately drafted, love contracts will reduce the likelihood of litigation arising from workplace relationships. In the event of litigation, an effective love contract will bolster an employer’s defenses and increase the prospect for prevailing on summary judgment or at trial.

For the dankprofessor, love contracts as described by Joseph Gagnon definitely appear to be applicable to the university. However, I have not been able to find a single university which has employed a love contract or seriously considered a love contract to deal with student professor consensual sexual relationships. I can only speculate why such is the case. And my speculations are governed by the reasons given by the prohibitors of student professor relationships.

Most likely a reason that would be given to oppose these contracts is that it is impossible to stop prejudicial grading by the professor. When I have been challenged about my own past practices as a professor and I indicate that my grading of the loved one was not impacted by our relationship, many people state that they just do not believe me; they indicate it is an impossibility. Another reason might be that the underlying framework for these bans is that differential power precludes consent and therefore as a result of this situation the student is in a state of diminished capacity and could not consent to a sexual relationship with the professor and would not be able to engage in consent as part of a love contract.

Such are the hypotheticals. What I believe is the major reason for no consideration in the university place is simply that the banning agenda is anti-sexual, and the application of a love contract would function to legitimize these sexual relationships. In the workplace, concern about sexual relationships is generally of a pragmatic kind- avoid litigation. Of course, those companies which have an anti-sexual agenda would not embrace a love contract.

And one additional observation by the dankprofessor, love contracts would seem to me to be a misnomer at least as applied to the university. Universities are not attempting to ban love; their attempt is to ban sex, and I cannot recall a single university policy where love is mentioned. The professor who falls in love with a student and the loves remains a secret love has really no place to turn in the context of attempting to engage in non-prejudicial grading. Can one seriously entertain a professor being excused to grade a student because he or she is in love with the student? Of course, those most vociferously advocating these bans, committed campus purity feminists, have dehumanized male professors to such a degree that they do not consider them to be capable of love. They see them in terms of being lechers, predators, seducers, harassers, abusers, rapists, but as lovers, I have my doubts.

I hope to have more posts on love contracts.  Input from blog readers on love contracts will be greatly appreciated!

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 21, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, ethics, fraternization, higher education, litigation, love, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment


The Sacramento Business Journal has THE solution; they know how to protect business owners, particularly small business owners,  from the pitfalls of intraoffice romance and sexual harassment lawsuits

Quoting from the business journal-

“Advisers to small businesses agree that a company can’t forbid romantic relationships in the workplace, but say they should consider policies that strongly discourage dating, especially between supervisors and subordinates. Experts also say companies should clearly outline policies on harassment and dating in an employee handbook — something many small businesses lack.

Love can bloom between coworkers at any time. Companies small and large would be wise to make sure an employee handbook is in place and policies on relationships are included, said Panda Morgan, director of the Greater Sacramento Small Business Development Center.

An employee handbook might seem like a trivial aspect of business, but it can be an important tool when relationships turn sour and harassment complaints or wrongful termination claims are made.

“The problem with small businesses is most don’t have employee handbooks because they don’t really see a need until something happens, and they realize their hands are tied and they can’t do anything about it,” Morgan said.”

After reading this article, The dankprofessor went out into the field in search of the handbook.  He found one entitled THE HANDY HANDBOOK OF OFFICE LOVE which was revised from the pioneer HANDY HANDBOOK ON UNIVERSITY LOVE*.  No date or publisher listed.  The dankprofessor will summarize the core handbook rules-










and if all else fails- KEEP HANDS CUFFED AT ALL TIMES.

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

February 14, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, dating, love, office romance, Uncategorized, workplace | Leave a comment

Red Cross consensual firing updated

As previously indicated, the Red Cross did not fire the person who was in the so-called subordinate position re this consensual relationship.  Subordinate was Paige Roberts, executive director of the Southeast Mississippi Chapter of the Red Cross. She is married and the mother of two children.  The Red Cross would not reveal their reasons for firing the CEO and not firing Roberts.  Consensual relationship does mean the involvement of at least two persons.  The Red Cross’s action in this case was quick and Draconian.  A consensual relationship just does not seem to me to be an immediate danger to the reputation and functioning of the Red Cross.  I still think that the underlying dynamic concerning this firing has not been revealed.

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2007

December 7, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, ethics, sexual politics | Leave a comment

The Red Cross and the possibility of another workplace con

Red Cross CEO Mark W. Everson announced his resignation from the Red Cross on 11/27.

The resignation was not voluntary.  As reported in the media and by the Red Cross he was dismissed/resigned as a result of having a consensual sexual relationship with a “subordinate  employee.”  Of course, all Red Cross employees would be subordinate to the CEO.  The identity of the employee he had a relationship with was not revealed, and the employee will continue to be employed by the Red Cross.  Everson’s annual salary with the Red Cross was $500,000.  Everson had only been with the Red Cross for 2 months. Previous to this position he had been Commissioner for the Internal Revenue Service and was appointed to that position by President Bush.

I find this whole situation to be most disturbing.  Little or no information was released as to the specifics of the nature of the consensual relationship and how said relationship lead to the CEO’s termination.  Given he was dismissed for a consensual relationship, it must be that two persons voluntarily consented.  But only one was disciplined in the context of dismissal; the so-called subordinate employee not only was not disciplined, but remains in good stead in the same position she/he occupied prior to the CEO dismissal.  If it takes two to engage in illicit consensuality, then shouldn’t both parties be disciplined, if there is to be any discipline?  But, of course, as we know, many would argue that the subordinate employee’s ability to consent was impaired therefore such would lead to the differential Red Cross response.  However, if differential power precludes consent, the relationship was not consensual, and the CEO could be charged with sexual harassment, but a sexual harassment charge was not forthcoming..  In fact, sexual harassment was not mentioned by any of the parties to the case.

But this does not mean that others with an investment in the sexual harassment industry have not implied or outright stated that this case is the sort of case that sexual harassment training organizations find of interest.  For example, one such organization, ELT, has stated the following about this case.

“Exec level terminations like this typically involve very serious misconduct – fraud, theft, misappropriation.  But in this new climate of intense ethical scrutiny, office romances now fall into mix of unforgivable transgressions.  By loosing his job to his libido, Everson now joins the prestigious ranks of Paul Wolfowitz of the World Bank, and Harry Stonecipher of Boeing.”  

Wow!  Consenting sexual conduct is now in the same league with fraud, theft and misappropriation. It’s the same as stealing from the company  or stealing for the company.  But what was stolen in the present case?

The ELT presentation continues-

“The damage from this kind of scandal doesn’t just stop at the risk of litigation.  (Remember that “sexual favoritism” is a growing claim – meaning that coworkers who witness a consensual relationship between a supervisor and subordinate can make a case.)  The harm goes much deeper. 

Start with the hard costs of just replacing Everson – it’s not cheap to find a suitable executive to lead a high profile organization that’s under constant scrutiny.  Managing an exec level search twice in one year is a lot of money down the drain.  Then there’s the inevitable loss of employee confidence and productivity that follows this kind of an announcement – not to mention the potential for increased turnover. Employees start to jump ship when they think it might be sinking, and when they associate their employer with corruption and embarrassment. And we can’t forget the bad PR and loss of confidence by the community.  Just think of all the corporate sponsors and individual donations that have been compromised by a little consensual sex in the workplace.”

Well the Red Cross could have given their CEO a leave of absence, had him go thru some sort of special therapy and then hopefully he could have resumed his position.  But it was the Red Cross’s decision to go thru with the additional expenses.  And as for employees jumping ship because they associate their employer with corruption and embarrassment, where was the corruption?  And what was the embarrassment about?  That the company moved too fast, that they immediately removed the CEO without any substantive investigation, that they did not discipline the subordinate employee?  And as far as loss of the confidence of the community, can one believe that the community as a whole really cares about the consensual relationships within the Red Cross?  Such is other worldly thinking.  In fact, many members of the community lost their confidence in the Red Cross well before this CEO’s Red Cross employment, such was lost by the incompetent performance of the Red Cross during Hurricane Katrina. 

And then in the Elt posting, ELT gets down what for them is the nitty gritty-

“What happened at the Red Cross can happen in any organization. No one is immune. It’s why compliance and prevention efforts around workplace harassment are so pervasive and top of mind for employers.  Organizations know they can’t just stand by, awaiting their turn on the front page of the newspaper.  Incidents like these are inevitable. 

This is where sexual harassment training comes in.  While romancing a subordinate may seem like an obvious no-no, educating employees about workplace harassment (particularly fraternization policies) is still desperately needed.  This is especially true for senior execs.  The landscape has shifted in recent years. Conduct that was once “acceptable” or at least ignored at the Board level, is no longer okay – and is ripe fodder for the media.  When the rules shift, it’s up to the organization to make sure that everyone gets the message loud and clear, especially the top brass.  Executives may think they don’t need to be part of sexual harassment training efforts, but cases like Everson’s make it clear they do. (ELT Blog: Don’t Forget Your Senior Execs-They Need Compliance Training Too).”

And the dankprofessor continues, and its hysteria time since “no one is immune”; such is why pervasive efforts are needed to immunize companies from the disease of consensual sexual relationships that can infect the entire company.  And who can facilitate the immunization process? Sexual harassment training organizations, and, course, ELT should be given primary consideration.  Their whole posting functions as one big advertisement for their services.

But what ELT does not tell us in this posting is that the CEO is married with two children, that the CEO was involved in an adulterous relationship with a subordinate employee.  Now it could be that the CEO’s dismissal had nothing to do with a violation of a consensual policy, but occurred because of his adultery. It is harder to dismiss anyone publicly on the grounds of adultery; easier to go to violation of the company’s consensual dating policy. And then in the Dankprofessor’s opinion who was the CEO’s partner in adultery becomes of paramount importance.  Even within the Red Cross, internal politics can get pretty dirty and all kinds of manipulations and cover-ups can occur.  I do not know what is the truth.  I do feel that the Red Cross moved awfully fast on this case, too fast.  At this point there should be some healthy skepticism as to the facts surrounding the dismissal/resignation of Mark W. Everson.

But Elt  which is an acronym for Specialists in Ethics and Legal Compliance Training does not engage in any skepticism, they simply accept the public relations statement of the Red Cross as being truthful.  I wonder why the ethically sensitive, such as ELT, does not have any skepticism about the reasons for the Red Cross firing.  Do they advise companies to proceed as quickly as the Red Cross did in firing a CEO? Do they advise their trainees to always immediately accept the public relations statement of their company?

But ELT realizes that there is no quick fix for employees involved in these scenarios.  As they indicate-

“…remember that harassment training is not a one time event.  Laws change and issues evolve.  People come and go.  And when it comes to curbing bad behavior – especially the kind that comes from a heady mix of sex and power – folks need their memories jogged from time to time.  Guess that’s why the US Supreme Court, the EEOC and many state laws call for “periodic” sexual harassment training.  It’s legal speak for “keep reminding them.”

So this may be a part of the workplace con- organizations with vested interests in the sexual harassment industry hype how consensual sexual relationships are now considered so horrendous that only through repeated training sessions can the dreaded consensual sexual relationship not rear its ugly head in the workplace.  And might this situation represent another workplace con in the framework of the Red Cross firing someone for adultery with an anonymous other and using the consensual relationship charge as an expedient way of getting rid of Everson?  Of course, the dankprofessor does not know just as persons subject to an effective con do not know they are being conned.

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2007


December 5, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, ethics, fraternization, sexual harassment, sexual politics | Leave a comment

Workplace dating taboo and the workplace con as applied to the academic world

 The San Francisco Chronicle has just published an extraordinarily good and in-depth article on dating in the workplace. To follow are excerpts from the article interspersed with commentary from the dankprofessor.

However, blog readers should be aware that these excerpts compose a small percentage of the entire article.  For those seriously interested in workplace as well as university place dating do click the Chronicle link and read the entire article.

For some prefatory commentary, the dankprofessor observes that this article puts to shame the notion that universities which embrace student professor dating bans are only embracing what has been embraced in the corporate world and is working in the corporate world.  Professor Gayle Binion of UC Santa Barbara,  the leading advocate of bans for the UC system, has used this argument ad nauseum.  For example in the recent LA Times article on campus banning, she argues in defense of the banning that limits on banning are common in many workplaces and academia is “kind of late coming to it.” So what is good for the corporate world is held by Binion to be good for the academic world. But as this article points out that not only are dating bans not good for the corporate world, but that widespread enforced dating taboos never really existed  What I felt at the time about the Binion statement and what I can now state without inhibition is that her argument is utter poppycock.  Read on to fully appreciate said poppycock.

“… The phrase “office romance” is so stigmatized that its very mention can elicit smirks. But the reality is about as far from its sleazy reputation as one can imagine. Workplace dating is the taboo that wasn’t. Finding a mate on the job has become downright respectable. After all, if Bill Gates can meet Melinda French at the office, what’s to stop the rest of us from doing the same thing?

It’s likely that the greater acceptance of workplace romance has a lot to do with its inevitability, given the changing nature of American society. The most recent figures from the Census Bureau show that the median age of marriage for women is just shy of 26; for men, 27. In 1970, those numbers were 21 and 23, respectively. It follows that the older you are, the less likely you are to marry your college sweetheart. Says Renee Banks, human resources director at Chronicle Books (no relation to The San Francisco Chronicle): “I definitely think it’s a reality that work is where people meet these days. When you don’t meet at college, that’s a pool of people that’s taken away from you.

After college, the pool of candidates moves to the office, and since Expedia.com statistics show that 40 percent of employees log more than 50 hours of work a week, their personal lives are chopped down to virtually nothing. Work is the place where people spend the majority of their days, make their friends and yes – meet mates. Said Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing, a New York- and Louisiana-based marketing firm: “People move to New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco for work, so they are disconnected from family and friends. Where else are they going to meet people if not the office? A health club?”

The Internet, you might respond. But even bloggers – many of whom spend their lives online – are beginning to dismiss online dating services as an ineffective way of meeting a significant other. “People my age are sick of the impersonal nature of Internet dating,” says Jessica Valenti, 28, the voice behind the popular blog Feministing.com and author of the book “Full Frontal Feminism.” Valenti is now dating a man she met through work; he hired her to write for the Web site where he works. “It’s nice to be around people who care about the same things as you do. My blogger boyfriend understands if I am on a computer at 2 a.m., and isn’t offended.”

Office romance gets a bad rap because the phrase conjures up images of Christmas party hook-ups and Clintonesque gropings, but potential couples tend to take months, if not years, to recognize and act on the vibe between them. (This is in no small part because of an understandable instinct to protect their paychecks.) As a result, people who form an emotional attachment at work often won’t make a move until they’re absolutely sure there’s something substantial between them that might go the distance, which is precisely why it so often does.”


“Pixar, like most of the companies we contacted for this article, would not discuss its workplace romance policy, if any. But if Pearl’s and Stanton’s perception that there is none is correct, Pixar is in the majority. Nearly 70 percent of companies have no policy at all. Sometimes emphatically so. Said Netflix spokesman Steve Swayze: “We like to think of ourselves as rule-averse. We hire adults and we expect adult behavior. Personal stuff is personal, and if it isn’t interfering with work, it’s not worth spending any time on.”

Pixar gets the dankprofessor’s highest award for furthering freedom of association in the workplace.  Such a simple notion that is generally discarded by those who are into power and control of their employees- their employees are adults and that personal stuff should be personal. The fact that such a notion is held to be an anachronistic one by almost all human resources personnel and the cadre of lawyers advising and defending employers indicates the level of disconnect existent in the workplace as well as in the university place. The article continues-

“Very few companies ban workplace romance entirely, probably for a very pragmatic reason: Enforcing such a ban is nearly impossible. Says Robyn Zazulia, 27, who met her fiance Alex Rogin, 34, when they worked on a project together at Wells Fargo: “I have a very good girlfriend who worked for a small company of 200 people, but there were very clear rules, explicit rules prohibiting intercompany dating. But nobody followed it; there was a lot of inter-company dating there because they worked together at far-flung places without friends or family around.” And why would companies want to try to outlaw behavior that enhances so many employees’ lives? Each couple interviewed for this story said that they were only one of many at the same firm.

The companies that do have a written policy on office romance commonly prohibit supervisors and subordinates from being romantically involved in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest and charges of sexual harassment. For example, Schwab restricts management or supervisors from having a close personal relationship with employees they supervise. In the event such a relationship forms, the parties are required to report it to their superiors or to human resources. Said Sarah Bulgatz, Schwab’s director of corporate PR: “They can work together – absolutely – as long as one is not the direct or indirect supervisor of the other.”

Nevertheless, as we found when we did the research for our book “Office Mate: The Employee Handbook for Finding – and Managing – Romance on the Job,” there is an enormous disconnect between the attitude of HR directors toward office romance and the paranoia of corporate attorneys and public relations departments when it comes to discussing the topic, which may be why people believe that companies frown on interoffice dating. In the example of one company we contacted for this story, an executive said that in-house counsel would not allow him to discuss the firm’s office romance policy on the record. We had intended to interview a young female employee of one of the company’s subsidiaries, but when she sought permission she was told she couldn’t even voice her opinions on the topic – let alone talk about her own experiences dating colleagues – if we said where she worked. Which means that it’s fine to date the people you work with, but talking about it could get you fired.

Chris Edmonds-Waters, head of HR for SVB Financial Group, a diversified financial services firm of 1,600 employees in San Francisco, says companies should stop being afraid of talking about office romance, whether within or without the company. “It’s good corporate hygiene,” he says. “All companies should have a policy on workplace relationships and should communicate that policy because it guides people’s behaviors and gives them a resource to use if they run into a sticky issue. It’s the fair and right thing to do.”

Policy or none, managers who find couples forming where they see potential risk occasionally ask them to sign a legal document pioneered by a San Francisco law firm called – you can’t make this stuff up – the “love contract.” According to Stephen Tedesco, a partner at the firm of Littler Mendelson, they do “steady business” writing contracts that confirm there is a romantic relationship between the two parties, that it is consensual, that no offensive conduct has occurred and that they agree to conduct themselves in a professional manner. Says Tedesco, “The love contract does prevent someone from rewriting the past if the behavior goes from non-offensive to offensive.”

It also guards against the possibility that an office romance – particularly between people who are highly placed – does not become fodder for a claim of sexual favoritism in response to the sort of behavior made famous in the early 1980s by William Agee, CEO of the manufacturing conglomerate Bendix. Agee hired a fresh grad from the Harvard Business School named Mary Cunningham and proceeded to promote her up the ranks so quickly that a national scandal ensued. They later married. Thanks to a 2005 California Supreme Court ruling, co-workers who witness such favor-granting are free to file a third-party claim of sexual harassment.

But outside of such blatant misbehavior, colleagues have no problem with co-workers who couple. According to a new survey from Yahoo! HotJobs, almost half of the respondents said they don’t really care if two co-workers become involved. If anything, they approve; 56 percent say they support colleagues becoming romantically involved, as Jennifer Taylor and Eliza Laffin discovered. When Jennifer Taylor was hired at Macromedia in the spring of 2003, her boss kept talking about a colleague named Eliza. “You and Eliza are going to love each other,” the boss would say. “You’re from Vermont; she’s from Vermont; you went to Brown; she went to Brown – you’re just going to love each other.”

In a city where single women chronically complain about the shortage of available men, the matter-of-fact acceptance of workplace relationships by Bay Area companies offers unattached workers a new way to look for love. And interestingly, it’s just as effective for older singles – men and women, gay or straight. When Careerbuilder.com broke down its office romance stats by age, they found that the numbers of workers who said they have had an office romance is virtually the same from ages 25 to 64. Schwab’s Sharon Hanna, 56, is living proof. She had met Dana Jones, 52, back in 1990 when Jones joined the department where Hanna worked as a supervisor. They were lunch-break friends for years before she launched into a dinner-party-giving phase immediately after breaking off a relationship. “One night the date I’d invited for myself was a total dud and after the party my girlfriend said, ‘Ditch him; the interesting guy at the dinner was Dana!’ That was a pivotal moment; until that moment I was oblivious.”

“If we hadn’t met at work we would never have gotten together,” Hanna added.

End of excerpts.

The dankprofessor wishes to highlight the statement in the article “..that the greater acceptance of workplace romance has a lot to do with its inevitability.  Such will be inevitable where you have a high concentration of eligible men and women who are in close proximity with each other on an everyday basis.  Romances will occur in such a setting; only thru a creation of a totalitarian regime in which the workplace is saturated by informants can the numbers be decreased.  Of course, the implementation of such a regime will not lead to worker efficiency, but rather lead to the workplace being dysfunctional.  Interestingly enough, advocates of such bans hold that if there are no such bans, such will lead to demoralization of employees and at the university the disintegraton of the teacher student learning process.  Such is about as far from the truth that one can get.  The opposite is closer to the truth- the fewer the bans the greater likelihood that there be a more productive workplace and university place.  The powerful bottom line is that these bans simply cannot undermine, effectively combat the principle of dating propinquity; maybe I should call it the law of dating propinquity.  People will seek eligible persons out in their immediate environment for dating and mating; only a police state can diminish the level of propinquitous mating and dating.

Of course, the reality of pervasive dating within the workplace is obscured to outsiders by rules that supposedly function to prevent such dating.  The major function of such rules is generally a window dressing function, a public relations function that communicates to the world at large that sexual harassment rules and fraternization rules are being embraced.  In other words, many companies are not walking the walk but rather talking the talk when it comes to these rules.  As noted in the article, the major sin is talking about the rules not being applied and not the violation of said rules. 

Another way of looking at this situation is not walking the walk but talking the talk is a giant con game, and the victims of the con include our universities which embrace these rules since it is believed that they work in the so-called real world and since also  within the university there are feminist ideologues who justify said rules in the context of differential power precludes consent. Combining workplace con artistry with the campus feminist mystifying rhetoric, campus administrators, professors, and students end up being the victims of this con voluntarily giving up their rights to consent and their rights of freedom of association.

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2007

November 13, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, dating, ethics, feminism, fraternization, higher education, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

To hug or not to hug in the workplace

I think we all know the obstacles to dating and romance in both the workplace and the university place. Employers with their legal consultants draw up fraternization rules that make it damn dangerous  for employees to even engage in furtive flirting.  Consensual romance all too often is conflated with sexual harassment.  Whether romantic overtures may be wanted or unwanted by him or her, such may not matter to the employer who has zero tolerance for overtures of any sort in his workplace.  All too often such employers have been love deprived for their entire lives so recreating such a deprived environment for those for whom they  now have control over becomes for them par for the course.  Some times it is a case of the employer protecting oneself from lawsuits; other times it is the employer who engages in a lawsuit rhetoric using such rhetoric as a smokescreen to squelch any form of affection and appreciation in his workplace.  Often such just boils down to the boss doing to others what in the past was done to him or her over and over again.  In other words, work time ends up being revenge time. In some of the most cynical scenarios it is the Chief/Boss/CEO diligently expunging consensual romance while behind sealed doors engaging in flagrant sexually harassing behavior.

In work environments that are deprived of affection and ruled by a tyrannical patriarch or matriarch, even small human gestures of affection can make a difference, such as a hug now and then.  But for many of the workplace ruling class, hugging may be viewed as way out of line.  Hugging is not always welcomed, and to make sure it is welcome, the hugee may be asked to sign a form waiving ones right not to be hugged.  This following quote on workplace hugging sort of sums it all up.

“Sometimes people get comfortable with each other, and over time they become more comfortable and that may include a big hug,” said T. Ray Bennett, with American Bureau of Shipping.

But Bennett says: “Hugging is typically not necessary to get the job done, so it’s not something we feel is necessary. We suggest that’s its usually best to stay professional and stay away from that.”

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

© Copyright 2007

October 21, 2007 Posted by | corporate dating bans, dating, ethics, fraternization, sexual politics | 2 Comments

Dating in the workplace and the university place

The NY Times has reported that office dating is becoming more acceptable, that is, more acceptable in the office.  Not that workplace dating ever decreased in the context of sexual harassment indoctrination which demanded one adhere to the line that office dating was a no-no since it could end up in an office imbroglio or some co-worker might become offended or upset or envious that he or she was not the chosen and such could end up representing a hostile work environment.  No matter that most or almost all of the office mates might feel great that true love was blooming in their midst; always lurking in the background could be the unloved waiting to take weighty action against the loved ones and their employers.  No wonder that office romance had become closeted romance.  But now the Times report there is change and these changes in the workplace and the accompanying concerns and issues also have relevance to dating in the university place. Excerpts from the Times article follows.

“An online survey this year by CareerBuilder.com found a significant drop in the number of workers who are keeping an office romance a secret, down from 46 percent in 2005 to 34 percent in 2007. About half of workers say they have dated a co-worker, according to CareerBuilder.com surveys conducted annually for the last three years.

The taboo of the affaire de cubicle has lost some potency, but exactly how much is difficult to gauge as statistics vary from survey to survey. Still, “you see quite a bit of emphasis on work-life balance,” said Jennifer Sullivan, who oversaw the CareerBuilder.com survey, conducted by Harris Interactive. Companies, she said, are allowing more flexibility versus having a handbook dictate how employees need to behave and what those relationships should look like in the office.

As a result, she added, “people are much more open about their relationships.”

Every workplace culture is different, with some less tolerant of office dating. A survey last year by the Society for Human Resource Management and CareerJournal.com found that, over all, there was fading concern about potential sexual harassment allegations (77 percent were concerned about it in 2005, down from 95 percent in 2001) but increasing concern that office dating could cause conflict among jilted lovers.

To that end there are now magazine articles and Web sites that not only condone going to work and picking up more than a paycheck, but that also offer advice on how to successfully do so. A book coming out next month, a kind of “The Rules” for the office, would have been difficult to publish in 1991.

In “Office Mate: The Employee Handbook for Finding – and Managing – Romance on the Job” (Adams Media, November 2007), the writers Stephanie Losee and Helaine Olen (who both married colleagues) say the workplace is the new village – and therefore an ideal place to find love.

Ms. Losee said the growing acceptance of office dating (not to be confused with a hookup) is something of a backlash against dating Web sites. “I’m not surprised that the Internet has not proven to be the locus of community we thought it would be,” she said, citing the notion in Robert D. Putnam’s book, “Bowling Alone,” that “we need to be physically near each other to feel happier and better in our everyday lives.”

“Where do we still have that physical proximity of neighborhoodliness?” she said. “It’s at the office.”

Well, the dankprofessor must agree that physical proximity or neighborhoodliness should be ideal for the blooming of romance.  In the social science literature this was called the principle of propinquity.  Of course, internet dating did away with the necessity of any physical proximity. But the girl next store or the guy in the next seat still had its pull and its convenience.  Get a whole bunch of people together who are eminently eligible and one will find dating and mating.

Such, of course, is the situation in regards to university life, thousands exuding eligibility in a community setting of a university. The fact that most of the university citizenry are students and a minority faculty members does not represent any “natural” boundary to romance.  Such should not be shocking to anyone that it has never been infrequent that men who are older and of higher status are found to be attractive by females, including female students attracted to professors.

Some puritanical feminists such as  Billy Dziech simply discard the professor who is sexually responsive to a female student as being lecherous.  Others discard the professor as being hung up on young women; as being on a power trip; as someone who should grow up and date women their own age.  Others go further and view such professors as dangerous predators who victimize young girls who are unable to provide consent and who merit excommunication from the university.

Myself, I take a very pedestrian view based on the principle of propinquity.  Eligible men will wish to date eligible women who are physically proximate and who they find attractive.  Such also applies to women.  Such also applies to female students and male professors.  No big deal. No rule, no ideologues no matter how motivated, will prevent such dating and mating. Driving student/professors into the closet yes; stopping such romances absolutely no. Can one seriously entertain the notion that such sexual repression could be effective knowing that a millenium of vicious anti-homosexuality did not prevent men and women from engaging in same sex affections?  Of course, effective repression was driving homosexually attracted men and women into the closet.  In essence the dominant society wanted qay people to be out of sight and therefore out of mind.  The “good” homosexuals were the homosexuals who did not flaunt, the good homosexuals were not seen as part of a homosexual couple but rather as good friends.

However, in today’s academic world all too many campuses are characterized by a hypersensitivity toward any male professor/female student interaction which in some subtle manner might indicate a sexual component.  Some people will impute a sexual component if the two persons stand close to each other; if there is a hug that is reciprocated; if the professor and student are simply talking and walking across campus, etc.  The campus presentations of a professor and student involved with each other are often no different than everyday interactions between a non romantically involved student and professor.  Consequently, almost anyone could become suspect.  Such may be in part the  reason for the increasing impersonality of American  universities.

In addition, university environments without bureaucratically imposed fraternization bans could very well be safer settings for dating and mating.  After all, if people study together, teach and learn together on a frequent basis, it is more likely that those who become romantically involved know each other pretty well prior to the romance blooming.  No need for blind dating.  As stated in the Times article- 

“People who work together have time to get to know one another, Ms. Losee and Ms. Olen said in interviews, to see how potential paramours behave under stress or how they treat the secretary. Unlike online daters, singles in the workplace are less likely to dismiss a good catch based on snap judgments. Take Ms. Losee’s husband, who is shorter than her and who liked to wear an oversize linen jacket, she said, that leaves something to be desired. “If I met him at a bar I would not have given him a chance,” she said. So perhaps, the authors suggest, a gal need not kiss as many frogs if she is allowed to kiss Kenneth from payroll. But does that mean she should?”

Of course, the dankprofessor does not advocate that she should, what I do advocate is that it is her and his decision to make.


If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submiited for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

© Copyright 2007

October 16, 2007 Posted by | attractive students, consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, dating, ethics, fraternization, higher education, student professor dating, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Dating bans in the corporate world

As I have pointed out in previous posts those advocating student-professor dating bans often cite the corporate world as the ideal in their attempt to justify said bans.  Why I have asked should universities invoke the corporate model?  Of course, when it comes to the corporate world all too often their so-called corporate ethics are honored in name only.  Such is definitely the case when business or corporate dating bans are invoked.  Such bans will not work as illustrated in this article, nor should we want them to work.  Corporate employees in general terms should have a right to privacy and freedom of association.  If we can have Coach Jackson and VP Jeanne Buss of the LA Lakers having a “public” dating relationship, why shouldn’t this also apply to line employees?Excerpts from

Love & Company: Workplace Romances Happen, but First Consider the Pitfalls
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Date: 9/9/2007
Sep. 9–When work so dominates the lives of employees that some are forced to catnap under their desks, is it any wonder that love is blooming among the cubicles?Corporate culture has long frowned upon co-workers dating, but as Americans work longer hours, many employees are encountering their new squeeze by the water cooler or copy machine. A 2004 Glamour magazine and lawyers.com survey of 1,747 employees found that 41 percent of Americans between 25 and 40 have engaged in an office romance.Singles are romantically pursuing one another not just in the office but in almost every work environment, even though dating a colleague has its own set of risks and issues.

Nicole Valdez, 29, a bartender at Seven restaurant in San Jose, says she never had any intention of going out with a co-worker — least of all, her boss — when she was hired in 2003. After a few months on the job, a romance was born. Today, she calls her employer, Seven co-owner and chef Curtis Valdez, her husband.

“It’s not something you plan to do,” says Nicole, who married Curtis in June. “It just happens. You never know where you’re going to meet the right person.”

To ensure that work remains the top priority of employees, many companies discourage such intimate fraternizing, and many have dating policies that prohibit a supervisor from going out with a subordinate.

“You shouldn’t use your time in the workplace to facilitate developing a personal relationship,” says couples therapist Ian Kerner, author of “DSI: Date Scene Investigation” (Harper Collins, 2006) “Companies often hold social events, and it’s great to flirt a little with somebody, but you have to respect that this is still a work environment.”  As people become increasingly defined by their work, and as careers take precedence over personal lives, co-workers are going to turn to one another for support — or more, says author Kerner.

The reasons for attraction are obvious: The workplace is often filled with like-minded people sharing common goals and presenting their best side in a professional arena. As the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates learned with employee and future wife Melinda French, romantic feelings happen.

“Meeting people via work is only natural,” Kerner says. “People are recognizing that work is a dynamic, vibrant environment for this.”

Clarice Simmons, 41, an Advanced Micro Devices relationship manager, knew of the risks in dating a co-worker when she began seeing a field application engineer named Phil in 1993.

Simmons had witnessed a married regional manager’s downfall when news of his affair with a saleswoman became public through the office grapevine. After co-workers complained about the lovebirds’ behavior, his supervisor confronted him. He denied the relationship. When they uncovered his lie, they transferred him to another office.

“My policy has been to try to keep personal things outside of the workplace because it’s just distracting,” says Simmons, who married Phil in 1994. “So when we decided to get engaged and move in with each other, we told my manager first. He was really happy for us, almost like a fatherly figure.”

But keeping a secret, especially in a bustling office, is not always easy. Therapist Kerner describes a couple he knew, a woman and her male subordinate, who kept their relationship on the down-low at their pet-friendly office.

When she brought her poodle to work, the pooch, normally a miser with its affections, was openly friendly toward the man she was secretly dating.

“The poodle gave it away,” Kerner says. “Remember that there is always going to be something that someone might observe.” …

To see more of the San Jose Mercury News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.mercurynews.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, San Jose Mercury News, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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Copyright 2007 San Jose Mercury News

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September 11, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, sexual politics | Leave a comment


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