The only thing Elizabeth Esther gets right in her article, “BYU, It’s Not About Sex It’s About Honor“, occurs when she states “I’m just not a fan of prolonged punishment and public humiliation”.
BYU basketball player Brandon Davies goes to the BYU authorities and tells them in private of his violation of the honor code. Then BYU morally violates him by putting him thru a public degradation ceremony. Such also impacts on his teammates ability to function as a cohesive winning unit.
Why couldn’t BYU wait until the end of the semester to punish Davies? Why did they need to go public? What is not stated in the article is that not only was Davies immediately suspended as a basketball player, but also suspended as a student. The BYU mentality reflects a mob rule mentality. It reflects a mentality of immediate gratification.
BYU acted in a dishonorable manner in the way they treated Brandon Davies who as a student has now learned how a so-called religion treats young adherents who may have strayed from their moral code.
What BYU did to Davies has nothing to do with religious values but rather the values associated with authoritarianism.
The focus of the dankprofessor blog is on consensual sexual relationships between students and professors. Occasionally I look beyond the university to see how consensual relationships are handled in other contexts. What is presently happening in Texas as regards the client lawyer relationship definitely is of interest.
Attorneys working on behalf of the Texas Supreme Court and State Bar of Texas have proposed the state’s first rule prohibiting lawyers from engaging in sexual relationships with clients.
• Lawyers won’t condition representation on having a client engage in sexual relations.
• Lawyers won’t solicit sex as payment of fees.
• Lawyers won’t have sex with someone the lawyer is personally representing unless the sexual relationship is consensual and began before the attorney-client relationship began or if the attorney and client are married.
Now this looks quite reasonable to the dankprofessor and could possibly represent a viable compromise that could be applied to the student professor situation. However, I do have a major caveat regarding this proposed policy and that regards the automatic exemption from regulation if the attorney and client are married. Problem is that marriage in Texas is not open to same sex couples so the policy appears to end up discriminating against gay couples. I say appears since the policy exempts from regulation couples who had an ongoing relationship prior to the client/attorney relationship. So the marriage reference could be dropped without reference to marriage.
Even with the aforementioned change, there is a whole array of problems that could come into play. How does one prove that a sexual relationship occurred prior to the attorney/client relationship? Might such proof function as an invasion of privacy of the client? Who can initiate said investigation, etc? I trust that these procedural matters will be discussed as the policy consideration proceeds.
It also should be pointed out that the lawyer/client relationship is more like the psychotherapist/patient relationship than the student professor relationship. In both of the aforementioned relationships the relationship generally occurs on a one to one basis in a private setting, a setting in which it is of paramount importance that the client be able to be completely open with the lawyer. Both the patient and the client usually enter the relationship in a situation of high anxiety; both are in a situation of dis-ease. Such is not ordinarily the situation of students taking a class in a public setting in which revelation of personal intimate information is generally not required.
In addition, the client does not become a part of the legal community. The student does become a part of the university community. And the student is not paired with a particular professor in which the pair is in an adversarial relationship with another professor.
Although there are things we can learn from the Texas proposal, in no way do I want the university campus to become similar to a court room and more similar to the legal profession. If anything, too many university campuses have become torn asunder under the tutelege of dueling lawyers.
OK, I will begin my reply post to Hugo Schwyzer’s response to me by picking a bone with him as to how he presents me. He indicates that at Cal State Long Beach I had built a name for myself “as a consistent (some would say relentless) advocate for legitimizing sexual relationships between teachers and students”. If the good professor had done his homework on me, he would have known that I built a name for myself in the area of legitimizing sexual relationships starting in the late 1960s when I relentlessly opposed discrimination against gays, wrote “Coming Out in the Gay World” which came to be regarded as a classic article in the sociology of homosexuality, created the first officially recognized undergraduate course on homosexuality in 1969, and worked to help create the first officially recognized GSU in California at CSULB and last but not least I wrote an article against Anita Bryant and her campaign against homosexuality which was reprinted throughout the United States and helped to defeat the Briggs initiative in 1977, and led to numerous threats against my life, see that article by clicking here. Post my involvement in the gay rights campaign, I became involved in issues regarding interracial dating and marriage and helped to found the Interrace Association at CSULB.
So prior to my getting involved in the student professor issue I had an extensive background regarding transcending sexual boundaries, standing up for sexual freedom and consent. In this area I was relentless and remain relentless. Such relentlessness was not stifled by the small mindedness of too many of my opponents and their attempts to objectify and demonize me. For example, Schwyzer states that I celebrate student professor sexual relationships. I do not celebrate any form of consensual sexuality. What I celebrate is the right of consenting adults to engage in sexual fraternization no matter how offensive such fraternization is held to be by others. What offends me are those who engage in coercion of consenting others who happen to violate their sexual “ethic”.
And as for Schwyzer not being able to see the similarities in the dynamics of those opposing interracial relationships and those opposing student professor relationships, I suggest that he is suffering from a form of cultural blindness. I suggest that he read Lillian Smith’s book KILLERS OF THE DREAM and then he may understand the southern “ethic” that embraced the notion that a white woman/black man relationship can never be consensual, such always precluded consent, that such always represented rape, and that white men were protective of “their” white women who could not consent for themselves and were in essence children or childlike. Of course, any dissident black man faced a sentence of death via hanging and/or burning for the sin of loving the wrong person. Of course, today’s sexual dissidents who engage in academia’s love that dare not speak its name do not face being physically killed but rather being socially and psychologically exiled from academia since they have violated the sacred principle of “differential power precludes consent”. Safer for them to remain in the closet which has historically been the home of the sexually persecuted or those in support of the sexually persecuted.
In response to me, Schwyzer states-
I’m not incapable of drawing distinctions between behavior which is criminal and behavior which is merely unethical. But I also think that folks like Dank fail to recognize three things:
1. College students in their late teens and early twenties are still developing intellectually and emotionally, as this New York Times Magazine article made clear recently. Many young people are in a space between, as the old saying goes, “the Already and the Not Yet.” They are already legal adults and are in many ways fully responsible, but in other key ways continue to need more time to develop the complete capacity for impulse control and moral reasoning. As the Times article put it, the only ones who “got it right” about how long it takes young people to grow up are the car-rental companies, who often refuse to rent their vehicles to drivers under the age of twenty-five. While nineteen year-olds may be ready for sexual relationships with their peers, they are vulnerable to exploitation (whatever protestations may be made to the contrary) by those who are substantially older.
Schwyzer continues to focus on students as young people, apparently teens or just post teenager. Such reflects Schwyzer’s hangups or possibly his complete immersion in the world of PCC. To assume that university students are young and immature is absurd.
To assume that being young reflects immaturity is absurd. To assume that being old reflects maturity is absurd. To assume nothing and treat and respect the individuality of the other is not absurd. Such reflects in Buberian terms the willingness to employ an I-thou framework. Schwyzer employs an I-it framework which makes coercing others so much easier.
Then comes his point 2-
2. The power imbalance between a professor and a student, regardless of the latter’s age, makes it impossible for the student to give consent as long as the professor is in a position to evaluate (or recommend) him or her. You can’t trust a “yes” unless the person who says the “yes” also feels free to say “no” in the confidence that there will be no deleterious consequences. And as long as a student is in any position to be evaluated professionally by their professor/lover, they can’t have that knowledge that a “no” will be safe. That’s not infantilizing; that’s common sense.
Here he states it really is not about age, but about power imbalance in general. He holds it axiomatic that students cannot give consent (such assumes of course that the student is not the initiator and the professor is the one consenting). Such represents the end point of his argument- students cannot consent so we will not allow the student to be in such a position. What he fails to note is that now he and his chosen colleagues are now in the power position and they have taken away the ability to consent of both students and professors. Both students and professors must consent to the will of the all powerful bureaucrat. Schwyzer and his confereres end up calling for what all authoritarians call for- OBEDIENCE, obedience to them. And as for his comments about possible deleterious consequences, freedom always represents the possibility of deleterious consequences; lack of freedom always represents the reality of deleterious consequences.
And now to his third point-
3. The damage that professor-student sexual relationships do to the broader academic community is enormous. I’ve written that some of the students with whom I had sexual relationships remembered what we shared fondly; otherssuffered lasting negative consequences for which I take full responsibility and a profound sense of guilt. But leaving aside the essential question of the impact of these relationships on young women’s lives, I can say with certainty that these affairs are impossible to keep secret. Campus gossip made them widely known. Not only was I labeled a lecher, but the legitimacy of the entire college was in some sense compromised. I’ll never know how many young people grew a bit more cynical, a bit less trustful of the system, a bit more suspicious of older men as a result of my sadly well-deserved reputation in the mid-to-late 1990s on this campus.
Is Schwyzer referring to PCC here being damaged in some way by his relationships with young women? I speculate that he is projecting his own sense of damage and guilt on to the wider academic community. He is seeing his campus world thru his guilt tinged lenses. He ends up dealing with his guilt by coercing others to be “better” than he was; he ends up being an authoritarian do-gooder. And as for campus gossip, my advice to him is to just get beyond the rumor mongers; do what you consider to be right and don’t focus on the opinions of others. And, of course, it will often be the case that no matter what one does, one can end up becoming rumor subject matter.
As for recommended pieces regarding this issue, he neglects the most powerful published essay written by then graduate student Cristina Nehring. You can find it on my blog, of course. I can’t reprint the whole article, but I have reprinted enough to capture the essence of her argument, and do read the recent student comments on this posting. Of course, you can read a couple of my pieces by clicking here and here as well as reading SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND CONSENT which I co-edited. Daphne Patai’s book although somewhat tangential gives a pretty good portrait of how campuses are becoming less free. And, of course, anything written by Dick Skeen, material based on his doctoral dissertation, should be required reading.
And I bemoan the loss of community on too many campuses. The implementation of these fraternization rules make informal interaction between students and professors problematic. Fear too often now structures student professor interaction; fear that there may be a sexual imputation. Schwyzer never mentions this; never mentions that many campus regulations prohibit both sexual OR amorous relationships. On a personal note, I became a professor already a part of academic life since I had married a professor’s daughter and took for granted the camaraderie, the informality that was a part of the community of learners, no matter what the age. It’s basically gone now; replaced by an impersonal bureaucracy, paid bureaucrats making sure things are under control which de facto means keeping things in the closet.
I also want to make clear that I do not condemn or disrespect Schwyzer for his attempt to come to terms with his past sexuality. His guilt feelings I do not doubt are real; his need for redemption is real. What I question that in his need for redemption or expiation he ends up advocating the coercing of others for engaging in consensual sex he disapproves of. In the dankprofessor’s framework he commits the sin of coercion which represents his own unacknowledged arrogance.
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.
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.
Ken Mondschein in his blog posting, Queer in the Academy; how the tenure process stifles difference, gets it right as to the stultifying nature of contemporary academic life.
Academia embodies a paradox: We’re allegedly open to all sorts of new ideas, tolerant of differences, rabid about social justice, have made the embrace diversity all but mandatory, and are willing to discuss any sort of crazy theory. At the same time, we’re buttoned-up personalities in button-down shirts who are afraid to push the bounds of politically correct groupthink and who enforce bureaucratic school policies and an unwritten code of “professionalism” with tongues well-versed in euphemism. Both of these are, of course, stereotypes, but they’re stereotypes with roots in reality.
They are well rooted in reality; it is the reality I experienced for most of my 35 years as a prof. I was fortunate to get tenure in 1976 before the conformity mindset had taken root. No matter that I was a dissident professor before I received tenure said dissidence was of no relevance to my tenuring. But by the 1990s all this had change, deviations of any sort, particularly of a sexual nature, were no longer tolerated. The faculty mantra was to get Dank, to shut him up, but it was too late. It didn’t matter that I was disliked by a number of my colleagues, I took academic freedom seriously and being liked or disliked was simply not germane to my academic life.
Nowhere is this cognitive dissonance more manifest than in academics’ personal lives. We can study the rebels of history, but God forbid we try to épater le bourgeois ourselves. Those who wish to snatch the golden ring of tenure must self-censor every e-mail, hide behind pseudonyms on discussion boards, and make sure no incriminating photos of Happy Hour get posted on Facebook. This has only grown worse in recent years: In a tight job market and with the increasing insistence of running the Academy like a business, the pressure to be a perfect employee and to have no life outside of one’s research and teaching (save, perhaps, for some safe and non-threatening form of exercise such as jogging or swimming) is all-consuming.
In short, our lifestyles have become so self-regulated, difference has become so closeted, that our actual code of conduct embodies the exact opposite of what it professes. Tolerance is nonexistent: To be “queer” in academia is to be as damned as it was in pre-Stonewall days. The thing is, queerness is, as always, a moving target.
How tragic the closet remains a refuge for those deviate from the sexual norm. The God of Normal must be obeyed and worshipped.
So who is queer these days? For starters, women with children. In researching this piece, I received a few e-mails from people who had to hide their gay BDSM lifestyles from their colleagues. However, it was pointed out to me that the real sexual nonconformists in academia are those considered some of the most normal in the real world: reproductive females. I was pointed to one study of art historians that revealed that, even with a field that is overwhelmingly (70%) female, men—especially married men with children—were granted tenure faster and more consistently, and at more prestigious institutions. For a woman to achieve on the level of a man, she needs to be, effectively, a female eunuch. This reflects both that two-career couples are likely to de-prioritize the woman’s career—and that home and childcare are more likely to fall to the woman, to the detriment of their careers. Even in the purportedly feminist academy, it seems de facto gender roles are alive and well.
How does this work? To get Foucaultian, the tenure carrot is used to discipline the academic body. “In my experience, thus far, the body and the person and the disciplines of both are opened up for commentary by senior faculty under the rubric of ‘tenure’,” an assistant professor in a Midwestern university posted on the H-HISTSEX discussion network. “If you want tenure you should think about such-and-such; you should be careful about so-and-so if you want tenure.”
No, the ones who are consciously or unconsciously holding up the married, heterosexual, tweed-jacketed male as the gold standard are our senior department members—those who make the hiring and promotion decisions—and the rest of our colleagues in our fields of study. (And how did the generation that first marched for equality get so conservative?) The mold of “the way an academic should be” is nothing more than something in their heads—a self-perpetuating myth that forces us into untenable hypocrisy. Rather than perpetuating it, we must do what scholars have done throughout the ages: Examine our deeply held and unquestioned beliefs, and discard those that are badly founded.
While it is true that we, as a society, are growing more alienated from any ideology of authenticity, authenticity in the existential sense is an integral part of the academic mission to search for truth. It is no easy thing to adjust one’s gaze so that a woman is given the luxury of not having to choose between her child and her career, and so that being one’s authentic self (within the limits of professionalism and ethical conduct) is not an object of shame. However, it is a moral imperative.
Oh, yes authenticity is the bottom line here. The inauthentic are rewarded and the authentic are exiled. Authenticity between professors and even moreso between professors and students has no place in the academy. Love has no place in the academy. Of course, the love of learning is given lip service by the powers that be. But what is given no lip service is authentic love between a professor and a student. Such can be given no lip service since these relationships are officially held to be non-authentic, are viewed as being unacceptably asymmetric and regarded as a form of abuse. Condemnation is not simply reserved for those who may engage in such relationships but also for those who write of professor student relationships in a non-condemning manner.
The one failing of Mondschein’s posting is his failure to recognize that student professor intimate relationships are now the love dare not speaks its name in all North American universities. They have been effectively put in the closet as evidenced by Mondschien’s inability to see them, to write about them; they are simply beyond the fringe, an utter affront to the God of Normality.
Billie Dziech is probably the most committed academic to obliterating student professor intimate relationships. She began her campaign in the 1980s with the publication of her tome THE LECHEROUS PROFESSOR and she continues her crusade to the present day. In 1998 in the Chronicle of Higher education she published an essay entitled“The Abuse of Power in Intimate Relationships”.
This essay has not been systematically critiqued and continues to circulate on the web. The CHE essay provides the dankprofessor an opportunity to critique Dziech’s “thinking” on this issue. So come along with me on this critical journey into the heart of Dziech; maybe we can find something of value. I have highlighted quoted material from her essay
While the tangled puzzle of the relationship between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky may appear far removed from life on American campuses, that is not the case. The current scandal recalls recent campus debates about intimate relationships between people with differing degrees of power — usually faculty members and students — and whether those relationships can be genuinely consensual.
In addition, the Clinton-Lewinsky controversy has become a litmus test of Americans’ attitudes toward male-female relations, and a harbinger of future positions on gender issues. Students and educators should listen carefully to the debate.
It is obvious that educators contemplating intimate relationships with students need to look hard at the portrait the media have painted of Monica Lewinsky. Reports depict her as a child deeply scarred by her parents’ acrimonious divorce; as an overweight teenager who developed a crush on a popular high-school classmate and then carried on a lengthy affair with a former high-school teacher; and as a young woman who at some point may have idolized or pursued Bill Clinton.
There is a simple message in the details of this young life. Whether or not we admit its pathetic quality, we must all recognize that people such as Monica Lewinsky exist, and that they pose a significant threat to those who choose to become intimately involved with them. The younger the person, the more likely that individual is to engage in fantasy and in actions based on whim. The more wounded the individual is at the onset of a relationship, the more vulnerable and unstable that person is likely to be during and after the affair.
Explicit in her analysis of Lewinsky is that we are on safe grounds in basing a psychological evaluation of her on media reports. And, of course, Monica Lewinsky posed no significant threat to Clinton or anyone else. The significant threat came from Linda Tripp and Special Prosecutor Starr who used Tripp’s surreptitiously taped conversations with Monica. Linda Tripp and Prosecutor Starr systematically invaded the privacy of Lewinsky in order to invade the privacy of Clinton. But Dziech in her essay never mentions Tripp and mentions Starr only once in passing. And no where in this essay is there any mention of the role of third party informants and the ethical issues involved when universities use or employ third party informants in their attempt to expose student professor couples.
Hence academicians, like Presidents, are either naive or reckless when they engage in physical contact (or what Mr. Clinton has described as an “emotional relationship”) with impressionable, unpredictable students who are unlikely to comprehend the true parameters of such interactions. Professors and Presidents alike should be sophisticated enough to realize the dangers inherent in singling out a subordinate for special attention. Monica Lewinsky is a chilling reminder that even the gift of a book of poetry (especially one with erotic material, such as Leaves of Grass) can lead to disaster.
Again Monica did nothing chilling. It was the people who were out to get Clinton who engaged in chilling and dastardly behavior.
People in positions of authority cannot ignore the vulnerabilities of those in subordinate positions. Perhaps that is why Andy Bleiler, the former drama teacher with whom Monica Lewinsky was sexually involved, seems so disreputable. Contending that the 19-year-old Ms. Lewinsky was “obsessed with sex” and that she “stalked” and “trapped” him into a five-year affair, Mr. Bleiler claimed that the young woman had been “no victim.” But his assertion rang hollow, even with the omnipresent supportive wife standing at his side.
Of course, observers cannot ignore the vulnerabilities of those in the so-called superordinate positions. Persons in power positions become targets of other who wish to bring them down; some times by false charges, sometimes by frivolous civil suits. The fact is that when it comes to power figures everyone close to the so-called powerful is vulnerable. And when it comes to love and sex, one cannot truly love without making oneself emotionally vulnerable.
There is more at stake in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal than just reputations, however. Educators should also note that countless Americans accept Mr. Bleiler’s portrait of the person Bill Clinton calls “that woman.” Those of us in academe who have fought for equality for women and the eradication of sexual harassment should be disturbed by polls such as one that found that men who had previously regarded the President as a “wimp” now were more inclined to support him — and to regard his wife positively because she once again “stood by her man.”
Of course, Clinton left office with high approval ratings. In fact, until the arrival of Barak Obama, Clinton was and possibly still is the most popular American politician in the world at large. His “affair” with Lewinsky did not hurt his stature, or that of his wife.
Already, the story of the President and the intern has revived old gender stereotypes that had seemed almost exhausted. The public appears to accept, without reservation, the image of Bill Clinton crafted by the Hollywood Houdini Harry Thomason and other supporters: He is struggling valiantly in adversity; he shoulders his burdens and carries on selflessly for family and country. Should it become necessary, those same supporters are undoubtedly prepared to portray Ms. Lewinsky as a delusional hysteric or a conniving predator who sullied an honest man’s virtue.
Well Billie Dziech must know that no politician is honest. Given all the attacks on Clinton, he still has emerged unsullied. No need for his supporters to sully Lewinsky since Dziech does a pretty good job of degrading and sullying her.
At present, though, the public doesn’t seem to need encouragement to view Ms. Lewinsky negatively. All it has to do is rely on stereotypes. Adhering perfectly to the old script on gender, a recent female caller to C-SPAN identified Ms. Lewinsky as “a wannabe.” The caller explained that she meant the kind of female found in every office or school, the kind who will do anything to be the boss’s or teacher’s “favorite.” One television commentator described Ms. Lewinsky as a “Valley girl,” another as “every woman’s nightmare.” Some enterprising citizen has been thoughtful enough to publish on the Internet either authentic or doctored nude pictures of Lewinsky. She has emerged as the pretty young thing who threatens hearth and home, because, presumably, even the strongest men are unable to resist a wily 21-year-old.
Dziech seems to be Lewinsky obsessed. Yes, she was in the public scene, but she was involuntarily dragged into said scene. Dziech needs to go beyond Lewinsky and focus on people who invade the privacy of others, such as Linda Tripp and Kenneth Starr.
That is surely a chilling portrait for those who have worked for laws and policies that encourage men to take responsibility for their sexual activities. Just when it appeared that Americans were beginning to “get” sexual harassment, just when the sexes seemed on the way to more mutual respect, along came the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal to demonstrate how overly optimistic that impression was. Nothing inappropriate may have happened between Lewinsky and Clinton, but, because of the allegations, society seems to have reverted, at least temporarily, to an escapist mentality of the past: “I don’t care what happened on campus, at work, or even in the Oval Office, so long as it doesn’t happen to me or my daughter.”
Oh, please, people are more caring than Dziech is willing to believe. Most people came to see, except for Republicans in Washington, that the Lewinsky affair was consensual, and the matter should be dropped except that it was OK to read so-called non-fiction tell all books on the Clinton Lewinsky scenario.
The consensus of the polls conducted since January seems to be that Americans are not particularly disturbed by a 51-year-old authority figure’s having sex with an intern less than half his age. If one listens to radio and television call-in shows or reads the polls, it appears that the old, dark days are here again — that once more, it is acceptable to view students and working women as seductresses preying upon naive males.
Its not the old dark days, but rather the live and let live days, the days of non-acceptance of the government coercing adults involved in consensual relationships. Dziech fails to understand and note that her so-called dark days were the same days that many Americans came to accept homosexuals at work, in government, as friends and as relatives.
An especially telling Newsweek survey reported that 45 per cent of the public believes that, if a sexual relationship did occur between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton, it was her fault for pursuing him. Only 17 per cent accepted a basic tenet of sexual-harassment law: that a person who is in a position of power misuses his authority if he — or she — engages in sexual activity with a subordinate.
Only 17% accepted the so-called basic tenet of sexual harassment law since they viewed the Clinton Lewinsky relationship as consensual. Take away the dehumanizing subordinate rhetoric and most people will admit and accept the fact that they have been in power differentiated relationships which they believe were consensual. Dziech and others deny their perception of consensuality and wish to portray most Americans, particularly women, as victims.
It is little wonder that the public misunderstands that point. A month of exposure to the tortured logic of Administration officials and lawyers trying to minimize the scandal has demonstrated how easy it is to obscure the patently obvious point: It’s the sex that matters. In other words, if the alleged consensual relationship were legally, ethically, and socially acceptable, there would be no reason to discuss perjury, subornation of perjury, or obstruction of justice. If Mr. Clinton lied under oath and attempted to obscure the truth, it was because he understood what many, on campus and off, seem unwilling to admit publicly: Where an imbalance in authority exists, there can be no equality and thus no genuine consent.
Dziech is patently wrong here, out of touch with reality. Generally people are sympathetic to Clinton lying because the lying dealt with his private sex life. And people don’t want the government in their bedrooms. Bottom line the problem that Dziech cannot understand is that many people if not most people would do the same thing as Clinton did- refuse to tell the absolute truth about their sex lives.
The law, assuming that human beings are more than animals enslaved to their passions, demands that those in positions of power behave responsibly and rationally, no matter how immoral, stupid, or lascivious their subordinates might be. That legal mandate seems lost on a public content to dismiss Monica Lewinsky as someone who “asked for it.”
Yes, people in power should behave rationally and responsibly and such is why it was wrong for a special prosecutor to engage in a sexual crusade and wrong for the House Republicans to impeach Clinton.
Before there was a name for sexual harassment and a recognition that, between individuals with disparate authority, even consensual sex is coercive sex, women who had affairs with teachers and employers were described as either seductive and dissolute or naive and vulnerable. However, when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 were enacted, they required businesses and educational institutions to construct policies and procedures to discourage harassment and to set up training programs to educate people about the law and about appropriate interactions between superiors and subordinates.
Said educational campaign has failed, abysmally failed. Selling consensual sex as coercive sex is a patent absurdity, it won’t sell.
Monica Lewinsky’s life spans the quarter-century of American history that has devoted close attention to gender issues, so it may be understandable that the public is unsympathetic to her not only because of her alleged willingness to engage in the purported sexual activity, but also because she is considered likely to have known better. She had every opportunity to be better educated than women in past generations were about the dangers and damage inherent in inappropriate sexual relations — and yet she allegedly still chose to become involved.
There is nothing inherently dangerous about inappropriate sexual relationships, e.g. same sex relationships were historically considered inappropriate; the danger came not from something inherent in homosexuality relationships, but the danger came from other people, people like Dziech who meddle in other peoples sex lives. And if we had a populace that was committed to appropriate and only appropriate sexual relations, what a dull world we would have created, a world that only could approach fruition in a totalitarian society.
Her situation should send a wake-up call to her peers. Just as the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas debate made it impossible for people to deny awareness of sexual harassment, so those in the post-Lewinsky generation may find it increasingly difficult to declare innocence or victimization after engaging in sex with teachers or employers. The caveat that governed consensual sex on the campuses and in the workplace during most of Ms. Lewinsky’s mother’s life was a simple “Don’t — or you’ll pay a heavy price.” Over the past decade and a half, however, as case law has mounted, and as complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and grievances filed at colleges and universities have increased, educators and employers have become more supportive of those who report having sexual relations with superiors.
More supportive most likely because they are required and are paid to do so. There is big money involved in the sexual harassment industry, not only for the university police but for lawyers and for persons such as Dziech who are hired by universities as consultants to engage in the impossible task of creating an environment in which power differentiated persons do not fraternize. Too bad for Dziech, such is an impossible dream.
But despite that institutional support, the public reaction to Monica Lewinsky may — and probably does — suggest that a generation more sophisticated about sex and more knowledgeable about the law will be expected to assume greater personal responsibility for recognizing, resisting, and reporting inappropriate behavior. (And whether they like it or not, schools and colleges will continue to be the most likely settings in which those three “R’s” can be taught.)
Dziech is wrong again about the universities. Yes, there will be those recognizing, resisting and reporting, but most of the three Rs will be practiced by those who take responsibility for their own sexual behavior; resist the unwelcome intrusion by academic busybodies, and report only to themselves and trusted friends.
The assumption that all young adults are more sophisticated about harassment than they were in the past is unfortunate, though. First, it does not take into account the psychology of true victims, whose particular circumstances and emotional frailties may make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to recognize and resist harassment — and may make reporting it inconceivable. Monica Lewinsky may be one such victim. One has only to read accounts of her background to realize that she is a very vulnerable young woman.
The other problem with imposing a higher standard on the post-Lewinsky generation than has been used in recent years is that it wrongly assumes that the stepped-up discussions of harassment by parents, educational institutions, and the public have adequately educated the young about the problems with consensual relationships. That is simply not the case. Public discussion of sexual harassment has been, at best, contentious. Add the romantic portrayals on television and in film of illicit sex between teachers and students, and the message about the dangers of consensual sex becomes highly convoluted.
Yes, these messages are highly convoluted but so are Dziech’s messages. And as for the young, her messages are directed to all members of the university community, no matter their age, no matter if the student is 25 or 35 or 45; they all need to be coerced by Dziech, et. al, to do the right thing.
Most colleges and universities have done little of substance to clarify the issue. Many simply ignore the problem of consent in their sexual-harassment policies; some strongly warn against consensual relationships; but almost none have been courageous or practical enough to ban consensual relationships altogether. While many businesses unequivocally prohibit relationships between adult workers and supervisors, debates in academe have centered — as they often do — on faculty members’ rights. When discussion of consent in relationships between supervisors and students is discussed, it usually occurs in an emotionally charged atmosphere, which results in students’ seeing the problem in simplistic, hyperbolic terms.
No businesses have across the board effective bans. Said businesses talk the talk but hardly ever walk the walk. In other words, appearances do not reflect reality. With the workplace becoming in essence the home place for many employees, employees will and do fraternize; it’s a matter of propinquity and convenience.
If the post-Lewinsky generation is to be held to a higher standard of accountability in sexual relationships than in the past, campus advocates for women’s issues should be very concerned about the Lewinsky-Clinton scandal and should initiate discussions about the ramifications of consent. That may not happen, however, if Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, speaks for most advocates of women’s rights. She is reported to have said: “If the President had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, it was consensual. That’s a distinction I think people are trying to blur.”
Non-academic feminist Jill Ireland got it right.
Although Ms. Ireland may not “get” the dynamics of consent, we can hope that other women do, and that they will exercise reason and objectivity in the days ahead. It is no secret that academicians tend to be politically left of center and thus sympathetic to many of Mr. Clinton’s domestic and international policies. Should Monica Lewinsky disavow her previous affidavit or be found to have been sexually involved with the President, many academics will be trapped between Mr. Clinton’s verbal and political support for women’s issues and the misogyny and disregard for women that his private actions convey. If that happens, academics should muster the courage to divorce the man from his policies and reaffirm the truth they have fought hard to establish: However much superficial sophistication about sex or theoretical knowledge about sexual harassment students and workers might have, they are always at risk in relationships with professors or employers upon whom grades, recommendations, pay, or jobs depend.
But so are professors at risk, at risk of being charged with sexual harassment; at risk of a low graded student charging sexual harassment as part of a revenge scenario. Everyone is at risk. Certainly nothing that Dziech and her conferes have done have reduced the feelings of risk by both faculty and students. Maybe what is needed is for all academics (including) students to take a vow of celibacy, maybe using the Catholic Church as their model!
No one in a public scandal about sex looks good. In this case, not Monica Lewinsky. Not Bill or Hillary Clinton. Not Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Not the press. And certainly not a nation that has told pollsters that it doesn’t much care how men and women treat one another, as long as the economy is sound.
Wow! Finally she mentions Kenneth Starr, but only in passing. Shouldn’t Starr be Dziech’s star?
Some commentators have lauded this complacency about the alleged sexual activity as evidence of Americans’ increased “maturity,” “sophistication,” and “tolerance.” Those of us who write and speak about social issues and who teach college students need to reassess our roles in producing this “sophisticated” society. With the exception of their families, today’s youth are influenced most by their peers, the entertainment industry, and education. Since it is unlikely that friends and film stars can shed much light on the legal and ethical dimensions of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, educators must address the issue, both in casual conversations and in classroom discussions that deal with male-female issues, human development, social history, and the responsibilities of public leaders.
Yes, I agree that such should be addressed in classroom discussions and in informal conversations, but such is unlikely to occur in the context of coercion. People are unlikely to state the truth in public settings when said statements can lead to being disciplined and removed from the classroom. Of course, such persons can confidentially write to the dankprofessor, knowing that they, students and professors, have me as a resource person who will respect their confidentiality and their right to privacy
And we must realize that academe’s conception of sophistication and tolerance is directly tested in how it handles its own problems. When most campuses refuse to ban sexual relationships between students and professors, why should the public, when confronted by scandal, disapprove of the President’s cavorting with a young woman barely of legal age? Sophistication, tolerance, freedom, and individual rights are admirable concepts, but the genuinely enlightened recognize that there are always limits to freedom, that some behaviors deserve harsh judgment, and that, in some circumstances, tolerance allows pain and injustice to occur. Actions that denigrate and exploit women, particularly vulnerable subordinates, fit that category. We have an obligation to teach these principles to our students, by our words and by our own behavior.
Of course, given Dziech’s sophistication, she denies the reality that what she wants is a Big Brother or Big Sister university where students and professors must trust powerful others to not misuse their power in the sexual area. Does Billie Dziech really trust university administrators to wield such power in a fair and equitable manner, particularly when such power wielding is often done in secret? Doesn’t Professor Dziech know that Kenneth Starr copy cats and varicolored sexual zealots populate the ranks of sexual police aka university administrators? As is often the ultimate question, who is to protect us from our protectors, particularly when the protectors were once sophisticated professors who gave up their professorships for the “right” to wield big power and big money?
Following my commentary is an ABC NEWS report on Marquette University’s rescinding of a job offer as dean of their College of Arts and Sciences to Jodi O’Brien who had been Chair of the Seattle University’s sociology department. Both Seattle and Marquette are Jesuit universities. Their similarity in being Jesuit colleges apparently is in name only since Marquette’s reneging on O’Brien as Dean lacks any ethical underpinning.
The underpinning of their reneging relates to the fact the O’Brien is lesbian, and she is a lesbian who is not in the closet. Her sexual preference was known to Marquette from the getgo. And O’Brien was not being hired as a lesbian; she was being hired as an outstanding scholar and an outstanding academic leader. I know that such is the case for Jodi since I have been a long term admirer of her scholarship and her leadership as President of the Pacific Sociological Association. And I also know that she helped to create a damn fine sociology department at Seattle.
Marquette denys firing O’Brien because she is gay-
“Officials at Marquette have said they withdrew the offer not because O’Brien was openly gay, but because of the nature of her published vignettes on lesbian sex and same-sex marriage”.
But apparently Marquette has not revealed which passages of her work they found lacking and why such was found to be lacking. Professional etiquette would have been to bring up said work while Professor O’Brien was at Marquette and going thru their evaluating/vetting process. Given that such did not occur and given that they now had some reservations about her published work, they could have had her return to campus and in person shared their concerns with her and given her a chance to respond, but such was not the case, no professional courtesies extended in the context of their unprofessional treatment of her.
The dankprofessor has no doubt that Maquette’s backtracking on the hiring of Professor O’Brien as based on her being lesbian. They did a hatchet job on her. If they so choose, members of hiring committees and academic administrators can find something or other in any applicant’s writing that they find to be questionable, and use as a basis to justify for not hiring while at the same time attempting to keep in the closet the real reasons for their decision.
I say to the Marquette administration- Shame on you for this outrageous decision. I say to Seattle U, bravo for the support shown to Jodi O’Brien during this very difficult time for her. And I say to Jodi that I hope this ultimately works out best for her, and that Seattle trumps Milwaukee as a place to live on just about every possible criterion.
Here’s the ABC News article-
A lesbian sociologist with sterling credentials and countless scholarly works is at the center of a social justice struggle that is playing out at two Catholic universities — one from the liberal Northwest and the other anchored in the conservative heartland.
Jodi O’Brien, a highly respected and openly gay professor at Seattle University, was appointed dean of the college of arts and sciences at Milwaukee’s Marquette University in April, but then on May 2, the offer was rescinded, in part, because of some of her academic writings were at odds with the church.
“I was stunned,” O’Brien, 50, said at the time in the Seattle University Spectator. “I had no idea this was in the works.”
The controversy has brought into sharp relief two Jesuit schools, 2000 miles apart, one where gay students and faculty feel accepted and the other where despite efforts, some students and faculty say anti-gay attitudes still prevail.
Monday, dozens of faculty from both Jesuit universities took out a full page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, protesting Marquette’s decision to withdraw O’Brien’s appointment based on her sexual orientation.
They called on administrators to offer her the job again with an apology and condemned the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and “other outside influences” in the decision.
The reversal “puts academic freedom at risk at Marquette University,” said the ad. “We reject an intellectual ‘litmus test’ for our faculty, staff, and leaders in the administration.”
“We believe this action has caused significant harm to the reputation of Marquette University,” the statement said. “It threatens our credibility and integrity as a university. It has caused suffering among students, alumni, staff, and faculty, and it will cost Marquette considerably in terms of community relationships, research, and recruiting and retaining students and faculty.”
Officials at Marquette have said they withdrew the offer not because O’Brien was openly gay, but because of the nature of her published vignettes on lesbian sex and same-sex marriage.
O’Brien, who just ended her tenure as chair of Seattle’s sociology department and is not a Catholic, told ABCNews.com that she is no longer granting interviews.
“I have not yet had an official conversation with Seattle University about returning, but colleagues and administrators there have been very gracious and supportive during this time,” she said.
Kathleen La Voy, who worked with O’Brien for 15 years and who wrote her recommendation for the Marquette job, said she was “amazed” at the appointment reversal.
“Jodi has always embraced Catholic values,” said La Voy, chairman of the psychology department and associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at Seattle. “She has upheld the values of the church on a personal level and is able to honor what a Catholic believes.”
“She is great working with people, a great advocate for students and a fair-handed and outstanding administrator,” said La Voy, who signed the protest ad.
Earlier this month, about 100 students protested the action, carrying signs demanding an official four-pronged apology: to O’Brien, to the search committee, and to the Marquette and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] communities.
“We just had a meeting with the president and there’s no apology yet,” said Desiree Valentine, 22, who graduated on Sunday and was part of the protest.
Marquette Not so Welcoming for LGBT Students
“I wouldn’t say this is a comfortable place on the whole for LGBT students,” said Valentine, a gender studies major who was told she could not bring a transgender speaker to campus.
“I feel like the people on campus are very supportive,” she said, “but it gets more difficult on an institutional level.”
“Marquette was moving in the right direction in the area of diversity, especially LGBT issues, but when this broke, it was a huge set back,” said Valentine. “I appreciate my Jesuit education, but my great love comes with great disappointment.”
O’Brien was hired by Seattle in 1995 to teach sociology, anthropology and women’s studies. Since 2002, she has been chair of its sociology department.
According to an interview with The Advocate, O’Brien said Marquette had recruited her in 2008 and after she made the short list, she withdrew her name. Again in 2009, she was a finalist and accepted the post in mid-April.
The Rev. Robert A. Wild said the school changed its mind about O’Brien after reading a sociological study of lesbian sex she wrote.
“We found some strongly negative statements about marriage and family,” he told The New York Times.
Julie Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said Archbishop Jerome Listecki had been “very vocal” and “transparent” in discussions with Wild, but does not interfere with hiring at Marquette, which is under the Jesuit Order.
His objections “had nothing to do with her sexuality,” said Wolf. “It was some of her writings.”
Marquette spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfiel referred press to a prepared statement that said the university “remains steadfast in its opposition to any and all forms of discrimination, as reflected in our Statement on Human Dignity and Diversity. In rescinding the employment offer to a recent candidate, the university was aware that there would be those who opposed the decision, and Marquette President Robert A. Wild, S.J., has acknowledged that the search process requires review.
“This was a substantive decision, even if a difficult one, that Father Wild made based on what he believes to be in the best interests of Marquette University and its mission of excellence, faith, leadership and service. It was certainly not a decision based on fear, outside pressure or, as has unfortunately been alleged, on discrimination because of sexual orientation. Nor does this decision challenge a faculty member’s right to academic freedom.”
Some community members had suggested that there may have been interference from other conservative decision makers at the school.
“We hear opinions and viewpoints from multiple people and from various constituencies,” said Pfiel, who said although the university was autonomous when it comes to hiring faculty, O’Brien was a “leadership hire.”
Marquette has also pledged to have an “ongoing dialogue next year with students, faculty and staff about academic freedom, our Catholic identity and the needs of the LGBT community.”
Pfiel said the university was a “welcoming community,” but some faculty and students said that was not the case.
“It’s OK,” said Nancy Snow, 51, who is a professor of psychology and one of about five gay faculty members on campus. She was asked to show O’Brien and her partner around the campus in mid-April before the offer was rescinded.
Snow called the university’s reversal, “a public disgrace and an embarrassment.” She said Marquette officials were “absolutely” aware that O’Brien was gay.
“[O’Brien] was very distinguished, a full professor with an 11-page CV and 17 edited books,” said Snow. “She is an amazing scholar and highly qualified.”
Anti-Gay Remarks at Marquette
“I think the [atmosphere] here is still kind of uncomfortable,” said Snow, though she said attitudes toward gays had improved in her 20 years at the university.
“There is a gay-straight alliance, but there are still problems with students being disrespectful and making offensive comments like, ‘That’s so gay,’ which is so hurtful,” she said. “There are some right-wing Catholics here who think being gay or a lesbian is sinful and satanic.
“The university is not vocally supportive of them,” she said. “The students are really the leaders here with the moral conscience.”
Rachel Stoll, a 22-year-old gender studies and anthropology double major who was proud of her eight years of Jesuit education in high school and in college, said many students have bonded over the O’Brien incident.
“The reason a lot of us took offense in terms of our Jesuit identity,” said Stoll, who graduated this week. “We were raised to believe in social justice and working toward equality for all people and for human dignity. We saw this as an affront to our core Jesuit values.”
Stoll, though she is not gay, said she has faced “gender-based” bias as a woman on campus.
“Every year, we try to do the ‘Vagina Monologues’ to raise money for charity, but they never let us do it on campus,” she said. The administration often gives “vague answers or don’t answer the question asked,” she said.
But Paul Milakovich, Marquette’s associate vice president for university advancement and an openly gay man, said the university has been a “very comfortable place to work.”
“I am completely out and they knew when they hired me,” he said. “My partner attends basketball games with me and everyone is very accepting.”
Milakovich sees no contradiction between Catholic teachings and his own sexuality.
“I would be offended by the idea of discriminating against [O’Brien],” he said.
As for the differences between Jesuit universities like Seattle and Marquette, he said, “Schools take on their own culture and how the teachings of the Catholic Church are understood.”
Seattle University, on the other hand, has rehired O’Brien after she resigned in anticipation of the dean’s post at Marquette.
“We welcomed her back, of course,” said Seattle spokeswoman Laura Paskin.
There, the university has recently embraced Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” an annual feminist tradition at many American colleges.
“I certainly don’t know about Marquette, I have never worked there, but the environment at Seattle has always been very open and accepting for everyone, whether it’s race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation,” said O’Brien’s colleague La Voy.
“I’ve taught human sexuality in psychology department panels, about gay pride and the transgendered, on and on, and it always been open and accepting,” she said. “Our gay-straight alliance is a strong group and not some people hiding in a corner somewhere in the university.
“Jesuits have always been very open,” La Voy said. “Really, social justice is the bottom line around here and they live it.”
I recently blogged on the new Duke University policy which regulates in detail Duke University students sexual behavior. The major rationale given for such intrusion into the private lives of Duke students is that the policy attempts to insure that all sexual interaction between students is ‘absolutely’ consensual.
What the dankprofessor finds bemusing is that Duke does not apply this policy to faculty, staff or administrators. Shouldn’t Duke be concerned that all the sexual behavior engaged in by their employees is absolutely consensual? The dankprofessor thought it would be of interest to see how Duke handles student professor relationships and if said policy is consistent with their coercively administered sexual code.
Their 2002 policy begins with the following statement-
Duke University is committed to maintaining learning and work environments as free as possible from conflicts of interest, exploitation, and favoritism.
Where a party uses a position of authority to induce another person to enter into a non-consensual relationship, the harm both to that person and to the institution is clear.
Note that the person inducing is the person in authority; the person not in authority cannot induce. We shall see that the rest of their policy is consistent with this since students are hardly ever seen as being agents of their own behavior.
The policy continues-
Even where the relationship is consensual, there is significant potential for harm when there is an institutional power difference between the parties involved, as is the case, for example, between supervisor and employee, faculty and student, or academic advisor and advisee.
But even when there is no power differential there is risk of harm. On the other hand, there is also the potentiality of good- romance, love and marriage and children. But the Duke administration can never entertain that sexual behavior is good. They embrace the notion that sexuality is intrinsically bad EXCEPT when there is regulation from above. Only the powers that be can protect Duke students from such evil consequences; such is why Duke passed the draconian policy regulating sexual behavior of students.
The policy continues-
…the student–teacher relationship represents a special case, because the integrity of this relationship is of such fundamental importance to the central mission of the university. Students look to their professors for guidance and depend upon them for assessment, advancement, and advice. Faculty–student consensual relationships create obvious dangers for abuse of authority and conflict of interest actual, potential, and apparent. Especially problematic is such a relationship between a faculty member and a graduate student who is particularly dependent upon him or her for access to research opportunities, supervision of thesis or dissertation work, and assistance in pursuing job opportunities.
Interesting is their assertion that relationships between grad students and faculty are “especially problematic”. Interesting since Yale in its newly revised policy only applied blanket bans to undergraduates. Graduate students were given more leeway since they were seen as more mature.
Duke University has adopted a consensual relationship policy for the following reasons: to avoid the types of problems outlined above, to protect people from the kind of injury that either a subordinate or superior party to such a relationship can suffer, and to provide information and guidance to members of the Duke community. Most of all, this policy seeks to help ensure that each member of the Duke community is treated with dignity and without regard to any factors that are not relevant to that person’s work.
The last sentence brings us into the land of the absurd- policy insures each member of the Duke community is treated with dignity. Is attempting to control the sexual decision making of others dignified? Can outright coercion of others insure the dignity of others? This policy as formulated may help the policy enforcers to feel more dignified, and facilitate their work of attempting to take dignity away form others.
The policy continues-
No faculty member should enter into a consensual relationship with a student actually under that faculty member’s authority. Situations of authority include, but are not limited to, teaching, formal mentoring, supervision of research, and employment of a student as a research or teaching assistant; and exercising substantial responsibility for grades, honors, or degrees; and considering disciplinary action involving the student.
No faculty member should accept authority over a student with whom he or she has or has had a consensual relationship without agreement with the appropriate dean. Specifically, the faculty member should not, absent such agreement, allow the student to enroll for credit in a course which the faculty member is teaching or supervising; direct the student’s independent study, thesis, or dissertation; employ the student as a teaching or research assistant; participate in decisions pertaining to a student’s grades, honors, degrees; or consider disciplinary action involving the student.
Students and faculty alike should be aware that entering into a consensual relationship will limit the faculty member’s ability to teach and mentor, direct work, employ, and promote the career of a student involved with him or her in a consensual relationship, and that the relationship should be disclosed in any letter of recommendation the faculty member may write on the student’s behalf. Furthermore, should the faculty member be the only supervisor available in a particular area of study or research, the student may be compelled to avoid or change the special area of his or her study or research.
If nevertheless a consensual relationship exists or develops between a faculty member and a student involving any situation of authority, that situation of authority must be terminated. Termination includes, but is not limited to, the student withdrawing from a course taught by the faculty member; transfer of the student to another course or section, or assumption of the position of authority by a qualified alternative faculty member or teaching assistant; the student selecting or being assigned to another academic advisor and/or thesis or dissertation advisor; and changing the supervision of the student’s teaching or research assistantship. In order for these changes to be made and ratified appropriately, the faculty must disclose the consensual relationship to his or her superior, normally the chair, division head, or dean, and reach an agreement for remediation. In case of failure to reach agreement, the supervisor shall terminate the situation of authority.
What the dankprofessor finds to be most degrading in regards to students is that the faculty member must disclose the consensual relationship to his or her superior. What about the consent of the student re disclosure? What about the student’s right to privacy? And as for a faculty member unilaterally disclosing this relationship to a so-called superior, such behavior is damning. The faculty member who ends up as being an informant should have grownup and had the ability to say no to arbitrary authority who refer to themselves as “superiors”.
Of course, there are ethical issues involved here. But ethics are too important to be left to an authority which imposes its will on non-consenting others. Ethical engagement should always be at the core of university life. But the Duke student policy and student professor sexual relationships policy do not promote ethics. The ethic they promote is one of force; is one of authoritarianism. Consenting sexuality of adults is too important, too private to be controlled by university administrators, no matter how superior they consider themselves to be. The dankprofessor feels that university administrators who end up being part of a sexual police are utterly morally repugnant.
Tony Judt has a sort of memoir blog at the New York Review of Books. I find all of his posts to be delightful and insightful. His latest posting is on student professor relationships then and now, mostly then. I encourage my readership to read the entire posting. Following are a couple of excerpts from the post and then my comments.
In 1992 I was chairman of the History Department at New York University—where I was also the only unmarried straight male under sixty. A combustible blend: prominently displayed on the board outside my office was the location and phone number of the university’s Sexual Harassment Center. History was a fast-feminizing profession, with a graduate community primed for signs of discrimination—or worse. Physical contact constituted a presumption of malevolent intention; a closed door was proof positive.
Shortly after I took office, a second-year graduate student came by. A former professional ballerina interested in Eastern Europe, she had been encouraged to work with me. I was not teaching that semester, so could have advised her to return another time. Instead, I invited her in. After a closed-door discussion of Hungarian economic reforms, I suggested a course of independent study—beginning the following evening at a local restaurant. A few sessions later, in a fit of bravado, I invited her to the premiere of Oleanna—David Mamet’s lame dramatization of sexual harassment on a college campus.
How to explain such self-destructive behavior? What delusional universe was mine, to suppose that I alone could pass untouched by the punitive prudery of the hour—that the bell of sexual correctness would not toll for me? I knew my Foucault as well as anyone and was familiar with Firestone, Millett, Brownmiller, Faludi, e tutte quante. To say that the girl had irresistible eyes and that my intentions were…unclear would avail me nothing. My excuse? Please Sir, I’m from the ’60s…
Why should I not close my office door or take a student to a play? If I hesitate, have I not internalized the worst sort of communitarian self-censorship—anticipating my own guilt long before I am accused and setting a pusillanimous example for others? Yes: and if only for these reasons I see nothing wrong in my behavior. But were it not for the mandarin self-assurance of my Oxbridge years, I too might lack the courage of my convictions—though I readily concede that the volatile mix of intellectual arrogance and generational exceptionalism can ignite delusions of invulnerability.
Indeed, it is just such a sense of boundless entitlement—taken to extremes—that helps explain Bill Clinton’s self-destructive transgressions or Tony Blair’s insistence that he was right to lie his way into a war whose necessity he alone could assess. But note that for all their brazen philandering and posturing, Clinton and Blair—no less than Bush, Gore, Brown, and so many others of my generation—are still married to their first serious date. I cannot claim as much—I was divorced in 1977 and again in 1986—but in other respects the curious ’60s blend of radical attitudes and domestic convention ensnared me too. So how did I elude the harassment police, who surely were on my tail as I surreptitiously dated my bright-eyed ballerina?
Reader: I married her.
Projecting Judt’s situation into the contemporary academic scene, marriage to ones fantasy girl is no excuse. All that is needed is one third party informant of the Linda Tripp genre. And, of course, almost all universities codes ban “sexual OR amorous” behavior. So any protestation that you waited until marriage for sexual congress to occur is beside the point. Marriage would de facto indicate that there were amorous shenanigans going on.
In any case, I say “bravo” to Tony Judt. He didn’t capitulate to the campus sexual zealots. He shut the sexual regulators out and maintained his sexual autonomy. Too bad that there are hardly any Tony Judt’s into today’s academe. The men and women of the university world let the sexual control freaks have their way with them. If they violate the will of the sexual zealots, they almost always do so deep within the campus closet.
I like this posting by Prof. Janet D. Stemwedel aka as Dr. Free-ride on advising a TA how to deal or cope with his desire to date one of his students. In contrast to almost all postings I have read in this area, she treats the student as a mature person and openly grapples with the complexities of the situation. She does not invoke her own power in telling him what to do. This prof does not views ethics as dictated from above nor does she preach anything in the name of conformity. As for her advice, the only place where I think she is off base is when she advises that the final grading of the student should be by the professor not by the TA. This really is inconsistent with her overall sound notion that the “special” student should not be treated as a special student and be treated just like all the other students. If the student amour’s final grading is by the prof then all the other students final grading should be by the prof.
I am posting the entirely of the student’s question and the good professor’s response. Click here to go to her blog.
Posted on: February 22, 2010 5:04 PM, by Janet D. Stemwedel
By email, a reader asks for advice on a situation in which the personal and the professional seem like they might be on a collision course:
I am a junior at a small (< 2000 students) liberal arts college. I got recruited to be a TA for an upper division science class, and it’s going swimmingly. I’m basically a troubleshooter during labs, which the professor supervises. The problem is that I’ve fallen for one of the students, also a junior. Is it possible for me to ethically date her? The university’s handbooks are little help–sexual harassment is very strictly prohibited, but even faculty are technically allowed to date their students–and my instincts keep flip-flopping. On the one hand, teacher-student relationships are automatically suspect, but on the other I’m not sure that it’s significantly different from TAing the close friends that are in the class.
I obviously have no intention of changing grades or doing anything resembling sexual harassment, and I’m pretty good (sometimes too good) at being objective and keeping work and my social life separate. The grading is also pretty objective, and the professor goes over it to be sure my grades are reasonable. If it is possible, what do I need to look out for? Do I need to inform the professor (she knows I’m friends with the subject of my infatuation)? And in the event that we do go out, do I have to tell her that I grade her tests and labs (it’s unusual for a TA to grade in upper division courses in our department)? It seems like it might be easier if she didn’t know, but it would be at least lying by omission.
I know this probably sounds like it ought to be addressed to Dan Savage, but I’d really appreciate your advice and any advice your readers might have.
Thanks so much,
I’ll allow as how Dan Savage knows a lot, but when was the last time he thought about the ethical challenges of power gradients in educational and training environments?
This is one of those situations that’s hard to avoid in academia, an instance where normal peer relationships are complicated because one of the peers has been given extra responsibility by someone outside of the peer group.
Maybe it’s not as frequent in all-undergraduate institutions, but it’s not at all uncommon in graduate school to end up having one of your friends TA a course you’re taking (which can entail grading your problem sets and exams). My recollection of these grad school courses is that students and TAs alike were driven by a grim determination to get through all the work they had to do. Rather than taking it personally on either end (the wretched problem set one friend submitted, or the painful grade the other friend assigned to that wretched problem set), everyone pretty much assumed an unfeeling, uncaring universe that was out to get us all equally, one way or another.
However, our correspondent here is describing an environment with a baseline of warmer feelings, where members of the junior class are reasonably friendly with each other and the universe is a pretty OK place. An environment where people might even find love.
Except the potential for love here is challenged by a power disparity. A TA may not have a lot of power over his students, but could it be enough to mess things up?
There are some big questions Forbidden Chemistry needs to think about here. High on the list is his ability to fulfill the duties of the TA job. Doing this job well involves helping the students in the lab class so that they have a reasonable shot of getting the experiments to work. This includes being as fair as he can in how he uses his time — not letting a handful of students monopolize his troubleshooting and leaving the rest without the help they need. The job also requires him to do some grading of student work, and to do this as objectively and consistently as he can.
Having a student in the course become a girlfriend could potentially interfere with both of these elements of the job requirements. It might lead, consciously or unconsciously, to a different pattern of providing assistance during the lab periods. And, it might undercut Forbidden Chemistry’s ability to be objective in grading the assignments.
Let’s pause here to recognize that there’s already something a little awkward, as Forbidden Chemistry notes, about grading one’s peers. Even if you’re focused on evaluating their work, it’s hard to keep that completely distinct from evaluating them. And even if you’re clear that it’s just their work you are evaluating, they may not feel as though the lines are that clear when they get their graded work back. I’m inclined to think that this is an issue that professors with TAs who are in the same cohort as the students they are TAing ought to deal with explicitly as they mentor their TAs. (Yes, I think that there ought to be mentoring of one’s TAs, but that’s probably a topic best left to a post of its own.)
Aside from the question of whether a romantic relationship with a student in the course will undercut Forbidden Chemistry’s performance as a TA, there’s also the question of what effects the dynamics of the TA-student relationship could have on his relationship with the object of his affection. How awkward would it be for her to dating someone who’s grading her work? Would she worry that she was being graded more leniently — or, more harshly, if Forbidden Chemistry ends up going too far in an effort not to show favoritism? Even if she were confident that she was getting fair treatment in the class, would her classmates who were not dating a TA share this perception.
Indeed, in some ways the big consequence to fear from asking a student out here is what that would do to Forbidden Chemistry’s relationship with the other students in the class. Would they perceive such a relationship as setting up unfair conditions in the lab course? After all, if Forbidden Chemistry starts dating the object of his affections, they might well start spending a lot more time together. Would this give her greater access to Forbidden Chemistry to get her questions answered about how to make the labs work, or how to analyze the data, or what counts the most on the lab write-ups? The other students might decide that Forbidden Chemistry is falling down on his TA duties if he doesn’t provide them with similar all-access consultations out of class. Maybe this will end up undermining the friendships he had with some of these students before he was the TA for their class.
Finally, Forbidden Chemistry needs to consider the possibility that the object of his affections, if asked out, may decline. How awkward would that make their interactions in the context of the TA-student relationship? How can one party “lie low” after such a rejection without either shirking duties to a student who may need assistance or opting out of getting help she made need from her TA?
So, Forbidden Chemistry wants to find a course of action where he can fulfill his professional and personal obligations, and one that brings about good consequences (and minimizes bad consequences) for himself, the object of his affections, the other students in the course, and the professor supervising him.
Here’s my advice:
Wait until the end of the semester, until the grades are out of your hands. This has the very best chance of keeping professional duties and personal duties from getting tangled up and pulling in opposite directions.
Given that there is a preexisting friendship in place, though — indeed, a web of preexisting social relationships within the junior class — it’s not unthinkable that an innocent interaction in a social context might get something started. As the romance novelists might put it, maybe despite Forbidden Chemistry’s best efforts, his heart (and that of his beloved) will not be denied. If this happens, do not opt for stealth and try to keep it secret. At a small college, the chances of actually keeping a secret like this are vanishingly small. Moreover, the appearance of a cover-up is likely to have worse effects (especially on Forbidden Chemistry’s professional interactions with the students in the course) than the relationship itself.
While Forbidden Chemistry and his beloved are avoiding hiding in the shadows, though, Forbidden Chemistry will need to take concrete steps to ensure fairness.
In the lab, Forbidden Chemistry will want to keep track of troubleshooting time, to make sure all the students who need his help are getting a fair slice of that time.
Also, I’d think Forbidden Chemistry would need to let the professor for the course grade the girlfriend’s work. To make this easier on the prof, and to maximize the chances for objective grading across the students in the class, this means Forbidden Chemistry should grade all the other papers first; the prof can then use these graded papers as a guide to partial credit. (Alternatively, Forbidden Chemistry can devise a “grading guide” that captures all the point assignments, and hand this over to the professor, with the other graded papers as an additional reference.) Of course, it’s probably fairest if Forbidden Chemistry doesn’t even look at the girlfriend’s paper before grading the other papers and making a grading guide.
There is a chance that the professor for the class will view this sort of effort to avoid a conflict of interest as responsible. There is also a chance that the professor for the class will view this sort of effort to avoid a conflict of interest as a pain in the ass for her. Suddenly she has grading to do that she didn’t have to do before! Couldn’t Forbidden Chemistry just wait until the course is over? Why can’t college juniors separate business and pleasure? However, recall that the context already in place has Forbidden Chemistry grading friends. College life, especially at small residential colleges, tends already to mix business and pleasure. So maybe there is already good reason for professors to have discussions with their TAs about the general issue of how to manage professional and personal responsibilities when worlds collide.
And, if Forbidden Chemistry ends up dating his student before the term is over, he and she must commit to keeping their interactions in the lab all business. Even if the relationship isn’t a secret, and even if no one says anything about it, people will be watching.
Again, I’m inclined to think that if the feelings are real, they’ll be robust enough to pursue after grades are filed. But if something mutual blossoms before then, be grown-ups about it and take the steps you need to in order to ensure your effectiveness as a TA isn’t compromised — including admitting that some situations don’t help our objectivity, and making arrangements to get help from someone not in this particular crucible of love.
In recent years there has been a major change in university policies banning student prof sexual relationships. The change has been the incorporation of “sexual or amorous” relationships. Almost all new or revised statements incorporate amorous relationships, eg, the new Yale statement incorporates amorous. And this change has been without critical comment.
The dankprofessor has been delinquent in addressing the incorporation of amorous. No longer will such be the case.
OK, let’s start out by being quite clear that these policies do not state sexual AND amorous; it is sexual OR amorous. So said policies definitely cover relationships that may not have a sexual component. This hugely increases the size of the population covered by the anti-fraternization policies.
We all know that being in love, that falling in love can occur without sex. And we know that some loving couples do not engage in sex because for one reason or the other they feel the time is not right. And some loving couples believe that their relationship should not be consummated until marriage. The makers of these policies know this, including the erudite members of the Yale Women Faculty Forum who play a critical role in creating Yale policy.
So are we really confronted here not just with a war against student prof sex but also a war against student prof love? On the surface, the answer is yes, but there is more, much more.
The reality is that if there was just a ban on sex between student and professors, many couples would be untouchable. They would be untouchable because they could simply deny having sex and there would be no one available who could dispute this. Faculty and students come under suspicion based on words and deeds, and appearances. Loving words, walking too close to a student, being seen too often with a student, having dinner with a student, notes of love to a student, loving emails to a student, a look of love directed toward a student or a look of love directed to the professor, this is what gets people in trouble. The assumption that underlying all of the foregoing is sex is just that- an assumption.
And, of course, what the amorous clause does is to not make it necessary to prove that sex has occurred. For the accusers, staying at the amorous level is just fine. Being found to be amorous with a student makes one a sex code violator.
But there is still more. What the amorous clause does is to make all close relationships with a student suspect. And therefore to diminish the possibility of becoming suspect many faculty refuse to be close with any particular student. Or for some profs playing it safe means that all interactions with students occur in a group context, never on a one to one basis. Sure having lunch with a student is OK as long as there are others who are partaking in said lunch.
It comes down to professors keeping their distance, and student professor couples becoming more and more closeted. Such is the nature of contemporary university life.
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-
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Sharon Warner former director of the UNM Creative Writing program has filed a lawsuit against the University of New Mexico. “Warner said she has suffered lost wages, lost promotional opportunity and emotional distress” caused in part by the decision of the UNM administration not to discipline her colleague Lisa Chavez for taking part in an off campus S-M phone venue. Professor Warner had previously resigned as Director of the Creative Writing program as a protest against the UNM administration for not disciplining Chavez.
Professor Warner had argued previously that students had been harmed by Chavez’s actions, but she was unable to cite any student suffering from said harm. Now Warner is arguing that she has been harmed by the administration doing nothing in reference to Professor Chavez, she finds such to be emotionally distressing.
The dankprofessor sees her bottom line as being that professors have a right not to be upset or offended by administrative actions. If professors had such a right, professors throughout the country would be filing lawsuits on a daily basis against university administrations. During my thirty plus years as a professor I was upset many times, too numerous to count, by actions of the university administration. Some times I was very disturbed by these actions, some times I had trouble sleeping, but I viewed this as being all part of the game, as being a grownup, as being a professional. My turning around and then suing the university for causing me to be distressed would have represented for me a giant copout, a comedy of the absurd.
Last year in a letter to the faculty of the English Department, UNM President David Schmidley wrote in regards to the Lisa Chavez controversy that “The university is, first and foremost, a place where students, faculty and administrators alike constantly engage in learning. It’s now time for all of us to learn anew the lessons of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.”
President Schmidley’s advice is still good advice. But rather than getting any attempt at reconciliation from Sharon Warner instead at some time in the future he will probably get a summons to appear in court.
The New York Times reported the following in regards to the September 1977 Polanski probation report-
The report, submitted by acting probation officer Kenneth F. Fare, and signed by a deputy, Irwin Gold, recommended that Mr. Polanski receive probation without jail time for his conviction on one count of having unlawful sex with a minor. In a summary paragraph, the report said: “Jail is not being recommended at the present time. The present offense appears to have been spontaneous and an exercise of poor judgement by the defendant.” It went on to note that the victim and her parent, as well as an examining psychiatrist, recommended against jail, while a second psychiatrist described the offense as neither “aggressive nor forceful.”
Despite Ms. Geimer’s age and her testimony that she had objected to having sex with Mr. Polanski and asked to leave Jack Nicholson’s house, where the incident occurred, the probation report concluded, “There was some indication that circumstances were provocative, that there was some permissiveness by the mother,” and “that the victim was not only physically mature, but willing.”…
The report paints a sympathetic picture of Mr. Polanski’s background. Compiled when Mr. Polanski was 44, the report began with an account of his fractured childhood. It described his birth to a Polish national father, Riszard Polanski, and a Russian national mother, Bula Katz, and told how his Jewish family was confined behind barbed wire in a Krakow ghetto during the German occupation.
In 1941, the report noted, Mr. Polanski’s mother was taken to Auschwitz, not to return. Later it said, “the defendant’s father cut the wires permitting the defendant to escape” the ghetto, to spend the war with Polish families.
Recapping the defendant’s background, the report said Mr. Polanski was blocked from attending advanced art school after the war “because of his Jewish origins,” lost his religious faith, and twice suffered a fractured skull, once as the result of an assault in Poland, once after a car accident. It noted a first marriage in Poland, and a second to the actress Sharon Tate, who, it said, “was killed by members of the Manson gang in Los Angeles in the well-documented case in 1968.”
Mr. Polanski’s income in 1976 was recorded as being $60,000. His local residence was the Chateau Marmont. He admitted to smoking an occasional marijuana cigarette and to having used cocaine once, but was self-described as only a “social drinker.”
According to the report, Mr. Polanski had no past criminal record, though the district attorney’s office on Aug. 10, 1977, had rejected a complaint alleging grand theft property and misdemeanor assault and battery. The complaint resulted from a visit to the grave of his wife, Sharon Tate, in Culver City, Calif.: Mr. Polanski took the camera from a German photographer who tried to photograph him from some bushes, but the district attorney decided he was simply trying to “protect his right of privacy.”
The report noted all of the assertions Ms. Geimer made in her grand jury testimony, along with the list of original charges, which included rape by drugs and sodomy. It also noted that a test “strongly indicates semen” on the girl’s underclothes, but that vaginal and anal slides were negative, and there was no evidence of physical trauma…
Mr. Polanski, interviewed by the probation officer, said he had not realized that his request to photograph Ms. Geimer without a top was problematic. “Topless photograph is acceptable in Europe. I didn’t realize it was objectionable here,” he said.
According to Mr. Polanski, “the whole thing was very spontaneous. It was not planned,” he told the probation officer. And, said the report, he “expressed great remorse regarding any possible effect the present offense might have upon the victim.”
According to the report, a number of Hollywood luminaries submitted letters endorsing Mr. Polanski’s good character. They included the set designer Richard Sylbert; the producers Howard W. Koch, Dino De Laurentiis and Robert Evans; and the actress Mia Farrow.
One psychiatrist who examined Mr. Polanski, Alvin E. Davis, found he was not mentally ill or disordered, and not “a sexual deviate.” “He is of superior intelligence, has good judgement and strong moral and ethical values,” the report said of Dr. Davis’s conclusions.
“He is not a pedophile,” Dr. Davis is quoted as saying. “The offense occurred as an isolated instance of transient poor judgement and loss of normal inhibitions in circumstances of intimacy and collaboration in creative work, and with some coincidental alcohol and drug intoxication.”
Dr. Davis was also quoted as saying that “incarceration would serve no necessary or useful purpose.” Another psychiatrist, Dr. Ronald Markman, was quoted as saying that Mr. Polanski was “not a mentally disordered sex offender, and therefore, not in need of hospitalization.”
With that information in hand, the probation officer went on to describe a culture clash that occasionally occurred when creators from Europe fled the Nazis and Communism to reside in Los Angeles. “Possibly not since Renaissance Italy has there been such a gathering of creative minds in one locale as there has been in Los Angeles County during the past half century,” said the report. “While enriching the community with their presence, they have brought with them the manners and mores of their native lands which in rare instances have been at variance with those of their adoptive land.”
So, the report concluded, remorse, cultural differences, a certain permissiveness and provocation, and the unlikelihood of a repeat offense conspired to make probation without jail (beyond the 42 days Mr. Polanski served while being evaluated) an appropriate punishment for Mr. Polanski’s actions toward a 13-year-old girl. But Mr. Polanski fled when Judge Laurence J. Rittenband indicated that more jail time and possible deportation were in order.
And, having been apprehended in Switzerland, Mr. Polanski is now up against the manners and mores of an era that often takes a harsher view of sex crimes.
What LA County Probation did is what probation authorities are supposed to do and that is to look at the individual offender and to reach a recommendation based on the specifics of the individual. Of course, what we find at the present time is a position advocated by many that Polanski’s background, and prior traumas are simply irrelevant in terms of how he should be punished. These advocates have what apears to be a robotic view of justice. One looks at the specifics of the criminal behavior, and reaches a verdict based on those specifics; one does not look at background specifics of the offender.
Such represents a dehumanized form of justice. Even the victim is not deemed to play a role in determining the sentence. In the present case, the victim, who is now an adult, her feelings about Mr. Polanski are deemed to be irrelevant.
Of course, what we are too often dealing with in the present case are those who are seeking vengeance. They are not interested in any dispassionate analysis of Mr. Polanski or even Ms. Geimer. They seek to inflame self and others by reviewing the details of Mr. Polanski’s crime not with the goal of understanding but rather with the goal of getting their pound of flesh. They demean and discard persons who believe that Mr. Polanski should not be in jail or go to jail as persons who support rape and rapists and child molesters or our simply uncaring members of a so-called Hollywood elite.
I am not a member of any Hollywood elite. I am not supportive of rape and child molestation. I am supportive of a humanistic criminal justice system. And in regards to Polanski, I am supportive of the LA Probation Department’s recommendations. Unfortunately for Roman Polanski, he would have had a much greater chance of justice in Los Angeles in 1977 than in 2009. Best for him and for us that he is not extradicted to the United States and be subjected to the wrath of the self-righteous.
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.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports that
The abuse of campus sexual harassment policies to punish dissenting professors has hit a new low at East Georgia College (EGC) in Swainsboro. Professor Thomas Thibeault made the mistake of pointing out—at a sexual harassment training seminar—that the school’s sexual harassment policy contained no protection for the falsely accused. Two days later, in a Kafkaesque irony, Thibeault was fired by the college president for sexual harassment without notice, without knowing his accuser or the charges against him, and without a hearing. Thibeault turned to FIRE for help.
And help he needs. It is surreal, to say the least. Complain about the lack of protection for the falsely accused then you are accused of literally some unspeakable crime against something and are led away from campus and barred from returning.
I remember when I was a full time academic and at one of those so-called training seminars I pointed out that there was nothing in the policy about false accusations but then I went further and stated that the university policy inverted the values of our criminal justice due process system. In the civilian world the accused is given all sort of rights, and may take avail of a public defender, but in the university world the defendant is provided with no rights while the complainant is given all sorts of assistance. Could it be that in the university world the accused is presumed guilty and treated as one of the guilty, no pretense of fairness here while in the civilian world it is generally all pretence- due process on the surface, but the presumption of guilt structures the system; the only thing to be determined is what is the guilty person formally guilty of.
Please do click this link, it is all there for your viewing. Of course, it is easier to engage in avoidance and denial.
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.
Professor Lindsey then concludes with the following-
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.
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.
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