Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Framing Duke University

A Science Blog article, “Framing Technique Can Be Used as a Public Relations Strategy in Cases of Sexual Assault” reports on a new study published in the journal Communication, Culture & Critique.  Researcher Barbara Barnett of Kansas University reports on her qualitative textual analysis of public relations materials published by Duke from March 24, 2006 through June 18, 2007 relating to the three white Duke University lacrosse players who were charged with rape.  Professor Barnett found that “Duke University officials framed the crisis in terms of institutional reputation rather than the rape issue at hand.”

The Science Blog reported the following

Allowing for the examination of emphasis and meaning, Barnett’s analysis revealed that the University carefully crafted its response to allegations of rape, presenting itself as a voice of reason in an emotionally charged atmosphere, and as a victim of a rogue prosecutor, whose case relied on rumor rather than solid evidence. In a case that involved allegations of rape, there was surprisingly little discussion on the issue of rape itself.
Duke University proved adept at speaking about its own image and integrity, but failed to address the larger issues in the case, including sexual objectification of women, the risks of sexual violence on college campuses, and the perceptions of privilege in U.S. college athletics.

“In the end, the charges against the Duke athletes turned out not to be true, but for nearly nine months, Duke lived with allegations that three student athletes might have raped a student at a nearby university. Duke focused on its own reputation but missed an opportunity to talk about the larger issue of rape” Barnett notes. “Sexual violence is a serious matter, and organizations that find themselves confronting such charges, even charges they suspect may not be true, need to speak clearly and strongly to the issue of rape.

The dankprofessor finds Professor Barnett’s conclusions to be surreal.  The fact of the matter is that ultimately the Duke lacrosse imbroglio did not deal with rape but with false charges of rape.  What Duke proved adept at was never considering such a possibility but employed a frame which presumed the lacrosse players to be guilty.  Such a framing functioned to encompass the suspension of the players from class, the termination of the lacrosse coach, the termination of the lacrosse playing season, the acceptance of faculty and student stigmatizing of the players and a refusal to confront the flagrant racial objectification of the Duke lacrosse players.

Clearly a due process frame was an alien frame to the Duke University administration.  Ultimately Duke in some way could have employed what happened as a means of educating about the importance of the presumption of innocence, the personal devastation that can result from false charges, and the importance of holding those responsibility who directly and indirectly promulgate such charges.

And now we have Kansas University professor Barnett who avoids dealing with the irresponsible “framing” employed by Duke University.  Such represents another academic engaging in avoidance and denial.

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Duke University, ethics, higher education, political correctness, rape, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, victimization, violence | Leave a comment

The desiccation of university life

It’s about passion- a passion for learning and studying, a passionate search for truth.  Such was my vision of the university prior to becoming a professor so many years ago.  Such remains my ideal but with the knowledge that all too many universities have embraced a pedagogy that takes the passion out of higher education by replacing real live student professor encounters with powerpoint presentations and then totally getting rid of in person student professor interaction via online classes.

And, yes, the dankprofessor knows that there have always been too many professors who never really taught in the classroom, but simply assigned chapters from a textbook and then read their lectures in class which were essentially a rehash of the textbook.  These professors suffered from what I call the textbook syndrome.  Such means that they are totally dependent on the textbook; they have nothing to offer of themselves, their own thinking in their own words to their students, and therefore their greatest fear becomes the loss of the textbook for without the textbook they would have nothing to say.

What has changed is the embracing of a dehumanizing techno centered education by the powers that be at the university. Peak learning experiences, intellectual breakthroughs, bonding with professors and fellow students in the intellectual quest become an irrelevancy.  All eyes become focused on the screen, in class, out of class, almost all the time.

No wonder that so many universities have so easily embraced codes that ban student professor consensual sexual relationships. No big deal.  No big deal since passion, love and romance are seen as having nothing to do with university life.  No big deal since there is little or no university community.  In this vision of the university, everyone knows their place and should never be out of place and then there is Big Sister or Big Brother to keep students and professors in their proper places- powerpointing, powering up or powering down, keeping screen life clean and without giving offense to anyone at any time.

And now we have Margaret Soltan(UD), the Universities Diaries blogger, who understands how university life is descending into just another screen test (my words, not hers).  She breaks through in her blog entry of May 21 entitled “New Forces in the Soul”.  Do click the original essay and read it in its entirety.  And for those who are not inclined to click, below you will find what the dankprofessor considers to be the key parts of this brilliant essay.

…What’s striking about the contemporary American university isn’t this or that flashy scandal – drugs at San Diego State, professional basketball players at USC. It’s that many American campuses look like death warmed over.

Put your ear to the American campus. Listen. The pulse of the cellphone, the click of the laptop. The drone of the headset.

The quiet of the grave.

The quiet of a cathedral full of monks.

In class all heads stay bowed, the professor over her PowerPoint, the student over her Mac. The room flickers with illuminated screens in whose thin light a soul scopes out its trivia: Facebook, Minesweeper, Solitaire.

The white noise of the American university is the sound of souls subdued throughout the day by a succession of screens. The screen is in the classroom and in the diningroom. It is the dorm room and on the quad. Its pacifying effect deepens with iPods, cell phones, and Blackberries.

Of course it’s not just university students. We all look down, messing with our stuff on the metro, in church, in bed.

But it’s sad to see it among university students. Among their professors.

Because of all American cultural settings, the university’s specifically designed to break through the nothingness, to nudge you awake, toward enlightenment. The form of vitality intrinsic to a university is intellectual bliss, the condition of being engrossed in new thought. Not abstract thought. Thought embodied, vitalized, in another human being, a professor.

There are forms of vitality university campuses share with sports arenas and bars, but the distinctive nature of the university is that it offers intellectual vitality, that it offers a faculty which includes people who adore the play of the mind as it takes up this and that element of the world.

It’s not so outlandish a form of enthusiasm. Most people find the classic story of youthful awakening in My Fair Lady and Educating Rita enormously appealing.

And why? Because they recognize these as essentially love stories. They’re not about people downloading lecture content and tapping inquiries to an online ghost. They’re about two people who share a passion for clarity and self-transformation. One of them, a teacher, delights in the discovery of an eager intelllect, receptive to the ideas that excite him. The other, having found a sympathetic human being who has thought about the questions that fascinate her, spends every day charged with cerebral energy.

Also with emotional energy, to be sure. Erotic material exists inside the relationship.

A friend and fellow blogger puts it like this:

[A]cademic life is likely to be formed out of intense relationships all around. .. [T]he eros surrounding them injects them with an ambiguity and intensity that makes life interesting and urgent. Studying is exciting; eros is part of that excitement.
Studying is exciting. Eros is part of that excitement. Feeling your mind expand is exciting. You can do it fitfully, with LSD, or you can do it in a more disciplined way. Feeling a respected professor’s interest in you – even admiration for you – as you receive, absorb, and respond to important ideas is heady stuff.

Be assured that the professor is also excited – excited to have connected with a student about things that matter enormously to the professor.

Heart and body and mind – all are engaged in this intensity.

Actually, occasionally, this intensity will express itself physically, and an affair will ensue. Much more than an affair sometimes. How many professors are married to former students?

Our lives are more and more online, silent, self-absorbed, and, in our preference for customized websites, provincial. The university should be a counterforce to dulling, lulling screenlife, a place that arouses our passion for lightning bolts.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

May 22, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, passion, political correctness, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | Leave a comment

University of Georgia president and composer withdraws Clarence Thomas invitation

Blog readers, I have surreptitiously obtained a pre-release copy of a letter from the renown composer and President of the University of Georgia, John Adams to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas withdrawing an invitation to Judge Thomas as the UG commencement speaker.  The letter follows, expletives are deleted.

Dear Justice Thomas,

It is with a deep sense of regret that I now write to you withdrawing my invitation to you to be the graduation speaker for the Spring 2008 UGA commencement.  Such is no easy task for me.  But as President of a great university I must be responsive to the concerns and issues raised by the UGA faculty.

As you know, the University of Georgia has been subject to a number of sexual harassment cases this past academic year.  And as it has been pointed out by Psychology Professor Pamela Pick and many others, having a speaker such as yourself as a commencement speaker cannot help but bring to the surface angry feelings concerning these cases.  No matter that you have denied being involved in any form of sexual harassment, no matter that you have never been charged with sexual harassment, no matter that you had been thoroughly vetted by the US Senate on this issue as part of your confirmation process for the U.S. Supreme Court, I must give priority to the sensitivities of the faculty and students of the University of Georgia.  Priority must be given to the facilitation of a campus culture of tranquility and comfort.  Adversarial debate and discussion certainly has its place in the courts of our great land, but an adversarial campus culture can only function to hinder education and lead to a hostile learning environment.

And very importantly I find that the UGA faculty is genuinely bitter about your speaking at UGA.  Unquestionably an ignored faculty will become  a bitter faculty.   And it is in this context that I tell you that terminating your invitation in the name of our faculty, provides our faculty with something to believe and in the present case they can believe in themselves, that they can make a difference.  As you know, Justice Thomas, all people need something, some idea, some ideal to cling to.

As for myself, I must confess to you that this whole process has been very disheartening for me.  The truth is that I initially selected another speaker, a speaker who had been a crusader for financial and moral justice in America.  And so I must tell you that I withdrew the invitation to Governor Spitzer in a state of complete shock.  Now to have to sacrifice a Georgia native son, a wise man of few words, an esteemed Supreme Court Justice who has even been featured on 60 Minutes, is a most burdensome task.

I also must tell you that in selecting a replacement for you as commencement speaker, I consulted with some of most erudite persons in America.  It should bring some satisfaction to you that in choosing your replacement I relied heavily on the advice of your colleague Antonin Scalia and TV newspersons Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric.  I selected a person who has become an icon for many in America and, has respect for the constitutional limits imposed on him which prevents his pursuing the dream of becoming President of the United States.  Finally, the fact is that he has a close working relationship with the Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, and has a long and continuing friendship with PBS magnet Charlie Rose, made this decision a bit easier for me. 

So I will be welcoming as the UGA commencement speaker, the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Most sincerely,

John Adams, Composer and President
University of Georgia

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

April 28, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, political correctness, sexual harassment, sexual politics, University of Georgia | Leave a comment

University of Georgia prof defends faculty protest

Janet E. Frick, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Georgia,  has written an op ed piece explaining why some UGA faculty signed a petition in opposition to the selection of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as the graduation speaker for the UGA 2008 Spring commencement.

Basically Professor Frick argues that the UGA faculty just can’t take it anymore.  This past academic year the university has gone through one sexual harassment scenario after another.  And the good professor feels

The UGA community has been hungry for leadership on this issue. The selection of a commencement speaker who was embroiled in arguably the most public sexual harassment case in history – for this year’s commencement – demonstrates neither leadership nor sensitivity.

The leadership and sensitivity not displayed have been by Michael Adams, president of UGA.  According to Frick, a sensitive UGA president would not have selected “any speaker embroiled in controversy about sexual harassment – yes, that includes former President Bill Clinton – would be seen as an ill-advised choice this year.”

In the dankprofessor’s opinion, Professor Frick’s advice is not good advice for the UGA or for that matter any university.
Such advice reflects a descent into the culture of comfort.  Being committed to comfort and sensitivity will almost always be at odds with a culture of controversy and dissent, a culture which should be a part of any campus.

The rationale for avoidance of controversial speakers or the suspension of academic freedom is almost always justified under the mantel of offense or sensitivity or under the argument that some campus group can’t tolerate the speaker or the controversy. As for the argument that the faculty of UGA just can’t handle controversial speakers on sexual harassment, such is a very poor reflection on the faculty.  Maybe these faculty should resign if controversial speakers are too much for them to handle.

Janet Frick concludes her piece with the following statement- “I would like to see our president acknowledge that this decision was controversial, and defend the right of members of the UGA community to object to it.”

Of course, at this point in time it is obvious that the President’s decision was controversial; acknowledging it would be superfluous.  And as for defending the right of members of the UGA to object to it, is it not taken for granted at UGA that the right of objection by faculty and others is axiomatic?  If persons are attempting to suspend such a right then Professor Frick should publicly identify these persons.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008



April 26, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, speech, University of Georgia | Leave a comment

University of Georgia, sexual harassment and Clarence Thomas

The University of Georgia has been the site of a string of sexual harassment cases this past academic year.  The UG student newspaper has been diligent in reporting on said cases in detail.  Now the RED & BLACK reports that that the UG administration  has been dealing with the sexually harassing accused faculty in such a way as to minimize the pain for these faculty of being separated/terminated by the University of Georgia.

In at least four cases, the violator of the sexual harassment policy was not fired but instead allowed to receive the remaining money owed to them on their contract before leaving the University.

UG golf coach Todd McCorkle is set to make $100,944 in total following the day of his resignation through the end of his contract in June.

William Bender, a tenured professor in the college of education, faced sexual harassment complaints reaching as far back as two decades. He issued his resignation in September, but it does not become effective until May.

Bender is teaching online courses.

He will earn $40,448.40 between his resignation and the end of his contract.

Then there is Mark Jensen, assistant professor of genetics and epidemiology, who issued his resignation in March.

He was found in violation of the policy for sending frequent flirtatious e-mails and being “touchy” with students, documents show. Jensen will make $8,246 in the period following his resignation.

And there is Stephen M. Shellman, an assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, who admitted having a problem with alcohol and resigned March 7.

He was under investigation for two incidents involving alcohol and inappropriate contact with students. Shellman will have made $8,615.54 post resignation when his contract expires April 28.

But it is the golf coach that the UG student newspapers feels that the University of Georgia has mismanaged in the sense of making McCorkle’s “departure” too pain free. The student paper reports the following as having occurred.

On May 7, 2007, McCorkle resigned from his post as women’s golf head coach, amid a sexual harassment case initiated by his players.

Allegations were made that he repeatedly directed sexual comments and jokes at players, such as making jabs about their underwear.

The golfers also said he showed them the Paris Hilton sex tape, according to documents obtained from the Office of Legal Affairs.

One unnamed player claimed, “He is randomly rubbing your back or flipping hair, or a pat on the butt — and otherwise not thinking anything about it.”

The records indicate McCorkle admitted explaining the definition of “blue balls” to his players and calling one player “sexy” on the way to an SEC Tournament banquet.

Due to these admissions, he was found in violation of the Non-Discrimination Anti-Harassment Policy.

However, Steven Shewmaker, executive director of Legal Affairs, did not recommend that McCorkle be fired.

Instead, Shewmaker proposed McCorkle undergo extensive sexual harassment training and go without pay for the month of July.

McCorkle resigned three days later ­- three days before the NCAA tournament was set to begin.

At the time, Athletic Director Damon Evans said McCorkle would be reassigned within the athletic department.

“We are appreciative of Todd’s contributions to our golf program,” Evans said in a 2007 news release after the resignation. “We look forward to continuing to work with him within our organization.”

McCorkle now has a new title, administrative specialist-managerial.

He even has an office phone number listed on the University Web site. The problem is the number routes to current women’s golf coach Kelley Hester.

Nobody in the athletic department could provide The Red & Black with even a semblance of McCorkle’s job duties.

They didn’t know…

Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton took his best stab at explaining the former coach’s new title.

“I don’t know where he is,” Felton said. “He’s not physically here anymore. Since he’s under contract, he could still be asked to perform some function within the department.”

When asked of the likelihood of McCorkle returning, Felton said, “I would not foresee him being involved in the future.”

Felton said McCorkle’s case was not out of the ordinary. He referenced former basketball coach Jim Harrick and former football coach Ray Goff, whose contracts were honored after they left.

While Harrick endured a scandal of his own, neither had a sexual harassment case swirling around their terminations.

Evans did not return phone calls, inquiring into the nature of McCorkle’s reassignment.

And Felton said he did not know how the evolution of McCorkle’s new role was determined.

“I think that probably the Athletic Association would decline to comment on matters such as this,” he said.

McCorkle still is being paid as the head women’s golf coach even though he is 360 miles from campus.

He teaches golf to the general public, as an instructor at The Golf Club at North Hampton in Fernandina Beach, Fla.

McCorkle spoke to The Red & Black Wednesday afternoon, right before conducting a clinic at the country club.

“There really is a good story there, but I’m at a point in my life where I’m content with each of us going our separate ways,” he said of his dealings with the athletic department.

McCorkle’s contract with the University expires at the end of June, when he will no longer be paid by the University.

For now, he receives paychecks from the University and North Hampton.

But now comes the zinger and what on the surface might appear to be a non sequitur.  In response to this sexual harassment outbreak at the University of Georgia a number of UG faculty are protesting the scheduling of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as the commencement speaker for the upcoming June graduation.  The Associated Press reports -“Some University of Georgia faculty are concerned having U.S Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as the institution’s graduation speaker sends the wrong message after a year of sexual harassment scandals on campus.”

“What a slap in the face this is to everyone who has been working to bring to light the realities of sexual harassment, and to establish appropriate methods and offices for addressing this significant problem on our campus,” Chris Cuomo, director of UGA’s Institute for Women’s Studies, told The Red & Black student newspaper.

UGA spokesman Tom Jackson said Thomas has a close relationship with the UGA School of Law and has visited campus several times to give lectures.

“We’re honored to have an associate justice of the Supreme Court bringing our commencement address,” Jackson said.

Some faculty members told The Associated Press they planned to speak on the issue during the University Council meeting Tuesday afternoon. Associate professor Janet Frick said she was using her two psychology lectures Monday to educate students about the history of Thomas’ appointment to the Supreme Court.

I trust that the protesting faculty will point out that the almost all of the UG faculty resigned from UG rather than face sexual harassment charges and such comes to represent an admission of guilt.  In contrast to these faculty, Thomas has never resigned from any position regarding sexual harassment.  When faced with a charge of sexual harassment by Anita Hill, Thomas protested the validity of her testimony and was open to being fully interrogated.

The fact that many people believe he harassed Anita Hill is not the point.  The point here is that these protesting faculty presume Thomas to be guilty.  Will these faculty make such a distinction clear to their students?  If such not be the case, then it is the concept of civil and fair discourse that is “receiving a slap in the face.”

And talking about the consequences of sexual harassment charges, I trust that these faculty protesting against Clarence Thomas appearing as the UG commencement speaker would be just as adamant in their protests if Bill Clinton was the commencement speaker.  Such should be the case since Bill was charged with sexual harassment by Paula Jones and many believe that Paula’s charges were true even given that such charges have never been proven in court.  Of course, the Paula Jones case ultimately led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, a rather severe penalty to say the least.  And as in the case of Clarence Thomas, Bill Clinton protested his innocence and was “exonerated” by the US Senate just as Clarence Thomas was exonerated by the US Senate. 

Politics do make strange bedfellows or putting it in more direct terms, sexual harassment charges do create strange bedfellows.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008





April 24, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, political correctness, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics | | 1 Comment

Cigarette harassment at Yale?

A Yale faculty member who is a professor in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department “has been accused of sexual harassment, according to a Yale Police Department report filed April 8”.  Such was reported by the Yale Daily News.  And according to the YDN,

The accusation will likely be handled internally by Yale Graduate School administrators, YPD spokesman Sgt. Steven Woznyk told the News on Tuesday. The YPD and the Graduate School have agreed to try to resolve the harassment complaint without formal police action, Woznyk said. Despite the confirmation of the report, administrators within the department and Graduate School remain tight-lipped, and the accused faculty member – whose name the News is withholding because no formal charges have been filed and no finding has been made by the University – denied the accusation to the News.

I think the policy of the YDN not reporting the name of the Yale professor is a wise policy particularly since there has been no formal charge lodged against the professor.  However, the policy as implemented by the YDN appears to the dankprofessor as a psuedo-implementation since the the YDN report narrowed the suspect population to male profs in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilization Department.  The population was further narrowed down when the YDN reported that the professor was a cigarette smoker.

When contacted by phone by the YDN and informed of the sexual harassment charge, the professor responded-“You are incorrect, if I were harassing someone, I would know.” 

The YDN then reported on the comments of an anonymous department insider with knowledge about the case who said

the faculty member asked a lector to purchase cigarettes from Walgreens and bring them to the faculty member’s residence. The professor then refused to pay back the lector, the insider said.

“There was a condition for [the lector] to pick up the check,” the insider continued.

The lector rejected the condition and left the residence immediately, the insider said, and the nature of this situation made the lector very uncomfortable.

The faculty member returned to the NELC department on Tuesday, April 8 – the day the case was filed with the YPD. According to the insider, the faculty member called the lector into the hallway at the beginning of a class the lector was teaching and proceeded to yell at the lector in the hallway, insisting that the lector take the money for the cigarettes.

“Everybody was uncomfortable,” the insider said. “All the students were scared because of the way [the faculty member] was talking and the way [the faculty member] was making noise in the hallway.”

There were roughly 20 students in the classroom at the time of the incident. A student in the class confirmed the information relayed by the insider, which was shared with the class on Thursday.

The insider said the loud conversation outside the classroom hinged on discussion of the cigarettes and the money.

“Everybody was wondering what happened,” the insider said.

The dankprofessor must admit to being perplexed in regards to this case since a sexual harassment charge is at issue but there was no indication in the YDN report that anything happened of a sexual nature.  Apparently the lector was uncomfortable in regards to exchanging money for cigarettes.  Of course, some persons regard cigarette smoking in itself as being sexual and apply a Freudian interpretation to cigarettes. 

A more likely scenario is that the lector viewed the professor as trying to seduce her into becoming a cigarette smoker. Such could be regarded as cigarette harassment.  Given Yale’s politically correct environment, it seems to me that it is rather problematic for a professor to have a student or lector buy his cigarettes.  In this kind of case, shouldn’t the professor being doing his own dirty work?  Shouldn’t he be the one going to a cancer promoting cigarette peddling Walgreens to purchase his own smokes?

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008



April 17, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, political correctness, sexual harassment, sexual politics, Yale University | | Leave a comment

The professor as THE sexual outsider

The professor as THE Outsider seduces students and destroys morality as we know it.  Of all the treatises I have read on the condemning of student professor relationships this one by Kentucky Youth Pastor Kyle McDanell is the most extreme.  It does not come from a feminist perspective.  I assume that the youth pastor articulating this believes he is coming from an Evangelical Christian perspective.  Whatever the underlying theological or ideological framework may be, the good pastor does not hide his utter disgust at the the thought of student-professor intimacies.  As he says, the idea of Professor Abramson allowing such things on campus- “that’s just gross”.  For the pastor, Abramson’s writing just boils down to justifying sin.  And make no mistake about it, he believes having sex with a professor is a sin. As he states- “Thus, man will do everything it can to rationalize, normalize, legalize, and excuse everything; such as, having sex with a professor. Even among “consenting adults.”

Justifying student professor intimacies becomes the last straw for this pastor.  For him, rationalizing such consensual behavior comes to represent a form of human depravity. In his words- “Has our culture come this far that we can rationalize everything. This is the result of human depravity with postmodernism on top. Postmodernism is essentially make it up as you go. And when it comes to ethics, you can justify anything.”

Obviously this pastor has a visceral reaction when it comes to student professor relationships.  I have previously argued that such feelings are of the type that occur when there is a violation of a taboo, such as an incest taboo.  There is a feeling of utter revulsion and that anyone promulgating such a violation must be dealt with severely.  But professor student relationships do not have a history within Christianity of representing such a violation.  So it would be reasonable to ask what might be the origins of this revulsion?  Such is revealed in the following passage “Liberals, therefore, don’t want to be told that any form of sex is wrong; homosexuality, bisexuality, experimenting, multiple partners from multiple genders, transgender, and eventually polygamy, bestiality, and incest. This is how freedom is defined, and you see it in this professors argument. He doesn’t want to be told that sex between a student and an adult are wrong.

So when the pastor thinks of student professor relationships he thinks of child adult sex.  The professor becomes the child molester because the student cannot be an adult.  I believe that this is the default assumption held by many persons going way beyond Christian evangelicals.  It goes back to our childhood when the teacher is always the adult and the student is always the child.  Many persons just can’t get beyond this framework.  No matter that the student is 25 or 35 or 55; the student is always a child and always a victim. The idea of student and professor studying and learning together as two adults and loving each other as two adults and as marrying each other as two adults and parenting as two adults just goes beyond the mental capacity of those holding this hardcore default assumption.

And yes, there are other reasons that many persons are threatened by professor student relationships, but in the dankprofessor’s opinion, most of these other reasons are age related reasons, eg, the fear of the younger woman taking men from older women, the idea that young women are owned by young men and vice versa.  

In this context of age norm violation, the true believer will almost always see the student as child victim, no matter what the age of the adult female student.  The infantilizing of female college students is maddening to female students so infantilized.  And unfortunately no matter what her protest may be such protests are seen as the cry of a victim who has been brainwashed by her victimizer. Of course, the true believer often presents a veneer that disguises an underlying sexual agenda.  And that veneer is grading.  But the veneer is thinly veiled not anchored in disgust and anger and fear.  The prejudicial grader is not THE Outsider threatening the natural order of things. In fact, as  the dankprofessor has previously argued, academics as a whole put little or no value on grading.  What grading does in the present context is that it functions as a smokescreen hiding the underlying sexual dread.  The professor as outsider is not dreaded as a grader gone awry, but rather as a sexual outsider preying on our children. The professor as a sexual outsider has replaced the homosexual as sexual outsider.  

Note the similarity in rhetoric of the Pastor to the rhetoric of the extreme anti-homosexuality of the 1970s.  One of the leading 1970s

homophobes was psychoanalyst Abram Kardiner.  In 1971 in an open letter to the editor of the American Journal of Psychotherapy he stated:

“Homosexuality cannot make a society, or keep ours going very long.  Homosexuality operates against the cohesive elements in society in the name of a fictitous freedom…And no society can long endure when either the child is neglected or the sexes war upon each other.”

Essentially Pastor McDanell and those of the anti-homosexual genre of Abram Kardiner see themselves standing at the abyss both fighting The sexual outsider united in a stand that they believe will save our children. 

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2007

November 6, 2007 Posted by | fraternization, higher education, homosexual, political correctness, sexual politics, student professor dating | 1 Comment

Imperial Leather launches hugging campaign in the UK

In a previous post I bemoaned the developing taboos re hugging in the workplace and university place.  Now as I find via the Hindustan Times that the hugging taboo has become very well developed in the UK.  Imperial Leather financed a study on the hugging taboo and is now appealing to the UK public to embrace hugging( pun intended).  If any readers of this post are from the UK, I would appreciate receiving their word on hugging taboos in the UK.

Report from the Asian News International brought to you by the Hindustan Times

London, Nov. 3 — There’s nothing more comforting than a hug. However, psychologists warn that the trend of political-correctness is killing the innocent cuddle.

The finding is based on a study conducted in the UK.

Dr. David Holmes, senior psychologist of Manchester Metropolitan University, said that people have become so nervous about giving others a hug for fear of the consequences that the hug is close to extinction in the country.

“Political correctness is partly to blame as we have been conditioned not to touch anyone anymore as it can easily be deemed inappropriate,” the Daily Mail quoted him, as saying.

“Life now is all about having minimal physical contact. It is a real shame, but on the serious side it is a scientific fact that animals who receive little affection are unhappier than those that receive more contact.

“In addition, these days we are just too busy to hug…

A spokeswoman for Imperial Leather, which conducted the study, appealed for Brits to join the quest to bring back the hug.

“Physical contact is a human need, and although often forgotten, hugs are essential to combat and cope with every day stresses,” she said.

“Our study found having huggable, snuggleable soft skin makes us feel happier when coming into contact with loved ones.

“Imperial Leather are appealing to the great British public to join us in our quest to bring back the old-fashioned hug.”

Dr David Holmes added: “Overall, we should get back to hugging. It is good for us after all.

Published by HT Media Ltd. with permission from Asian News International

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

November 4, 2007 Posted by | hugging, political correctness | Leave a comment

Update on Professor Birmingham and the and the UCONN Law School

The Hartford Courant reported on November 2 that Birmingham would be reinstated as of the Spring semester, but in addition they reported that Birmingham would not be allowed to teach Feminist Legal Theory which he was orginally scheduled to teach.  No explanation was given by Dean Paul as to the dropping of this course. 

Also do check out Hartford Courant Forum on the article; it is a must read. Readers and alumni take Dean Paul to task for demeaning the academic enterprise at the University of Connecticut Law School.  The fact that Dean Paul continues to be dean and that no UCONN law professor has publicly spoken out on this case is damning.  Who will rein in this dean?  Truly, this is political correctness run amok.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

November 4, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, Uncategorized, University of Connecticut | Leave a comment

The love that dare not speak its name

In my prior post on the LA Times being bamboozled by the UC administration as to the number of professors dismissed for violating the UC student professor dating code, such bamboozling can be quite effective.  Such is likely to be effective since the whole process is usually shrouded in secrecy.  Charges for violation are confidential and the outcome of such cases are confidential.  The name of the alleged victim is confidential as well as the one who is so charged.  Of course, it is much more likely that more persons know the name of the alleged offender than the alleged victim.  Many times there may be no complaining victims.  In the UCLA case, a third party functioned as an informant; whether this informant violated the privacy of of the student and professor was simply of no concern to the UCLA chancellor.  The fact that the UCLA chancellor spoke out on this case is what is so exceptional.  Obviously the chancellor felt that he had to speak out to make it clear to all concerned that UCLA had a no tolerance policy for professors who violated  the consensual dating code and it was of no import to him that the professor had a very strong record of service to the UCLA community; it was also of no concern to him that many students rallied in support of the professor and essentially begged the UCLA administration to not dismiss the professor.  Shortly after these public pronouncements  the professor was no longer seen on campus.

But here is where this situation takes a bizarre turn.  Two years later as far as the UC administration is concerned, this dismissal never occurred.  The UC administration is being quite serious when they state there has never been a faculty dismissal under this code.  What happened to this professor is shrouded in secrecy.  What I speculate happened is that the professor resigned and retired in the context of signing a confidentiality agreement which meant he simply disappeared from campus.  I have no idea how many more professors may have disappeared from UCLA or from any of the other University of California campuses.  I challenge any student or professor to come up with names and numbers in this area.  I doubt that few will take up this challenge since any student or professor seeking such information will probably be held to be under suspicion, and may be subject to various violations of privacy.  The fact is that one professor from a mid-western university who published an article on student professor dating a few years ago in a sociology journal ended up being charged with sexual harassment; the professor so charged is a woman; the outcome of her case I believe is pending. 

The Dankprofessor holds that SECRECY is a key component in attempting to understand the contemporary context of student professor relationships.  A major, if not the most major, function of these codes has been to drive student professor relationships into the closet, the creation of a new campus underground.  Fewer and fewer professors are willing to engage in scholarly writing on the subject.  For those who do and even hint that these bans are problematic one can be pretty sure that the most hideous labels will be applied to them.  When Professor Abramson received his initial public attention in the Chronicle of Higher Education, commentaries published in the Chronicle focused on the good professor’s physical appearance indicating that his look was the look of a lecherous professor.  In the 1990s when I was one of the few male professors speaking out against these bans, I was subject to myriad character assassinations; such did not deter me, but I do feel that these attacks did deter others from speaking out.  Today I can’t find paper presentations in any of the major social science associations meetings, whether it be the ASA, APA, regional sociological and psychological associations.  There are many many papers on homosexuality and gays, the subject is now thoroughly out of the closet, and thoroughly in the closet when it comes to student professor relationships.  Academics play it safe, both students and professors, both tenured and untenured in adhering to appropriate norms regarding the love that dare not speak its name.  Of course, I am one of the few exceptions, I only wrote about gay life when the preponderance of gays were still the closet.  In 1971, I published an article entitled “Coming Out in the Gay World” which foresaw the upcoming positive changes in the creation of a “public” gay world and a world where homosexuality would no longer be the love that dare not speak its name.  Then and now advocates of the closet argue that going public would offend too many good upstanding citizens. So many of the attempts to repress speech and association in contemporary academic life relate to offending sensitive others.  How sad! How utterly sad that more and more academics are committed to not offending others.  How sad that as of this date not a single professor at the University of Connecticut Law School has come forward in defense of their colleague, Robert Birmingham!

It was back in 1994 in the journal Radical Teacher that sociologist Toni H. Oliviero wrote about the dangerous consequences relating to secrecy that would result from banning student professor relationships.  Quoting from this article-

“I am thinking of two things here. First the ways that prohibitions construct the silence of concealment. The establishment of anti-sex rules would create the need to lie (just when gays and lesbians are daring not to in significant numbers). Axiomatic is, There will be sex. There will be consensual relations between all sorts of people. Some of those relations will be only ostensibly consensual, in your view or mine. But sex will happen. Do we want to drive it underground and cause a sexual relationship between two adults to take its shape, even in part, from the narrow and twisted constraints that secrecy imposes? When you prohibit something, you cannot then talk about how to do it as well as possible, or as harmlessly. This constraint on our ability to learn is not in keeping with any notion I can imagine of ourselves as teachers or as citizens.”


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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

© Copyright 2007

November 2, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, fraternization, higher education, homosexual, political correctness, secrecy, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, the closet, UC, UCLA | Leave a comment

Update on Professor Robert L. Birmingham and his suspension by the UCONN law school

Many thanks to the UCONN law student who emailed me the most recent copy of the UCONN law student publication PRO SE.  This October issue of Pro Se has three articles on the Professor Birmingham suspension that merit reading in their entirety  One article deals with an overview of the controversy often relying on students first hand reports; the second is how the Law School dealt with the suspension of the professor’s classes and how students dealt with said disruption.  The third article is by Dean Paul who comments on the suspension and its aftermath.

Of major importance to everyone concerned is that Professor Birmingham is now scheduled to return to teaching, teaching 3 classes in the Spring semester.  Also, reaffirmed is that no student complaint was ever filed against the professor.  Students who were interviewed who were in the class indicated that one student during a discussion on the racial reparations issue made inflammatory remarks and then another student attempted to leave class; Birmingham then attempted to calm the student.  Dean Paul in his column does not explain why he suspended Birmingham indicating that now is not the time to do so and indicating an explanation may be forthcoming at a later time.

Following is an excerpt from the overview article focusing on observations made by students who were in the class. 

“A prominent professor at the School of Law has taken a leave of absence after moderating a contentious discussion on slavery and pausing a film on an image of a stripper while conducting a recent class. Robert L. Birmingham, a professor at the School of Law since 1971, stepped away from the law school for the remainder of fall semester after showing a clip of an interview from a film called “Really, Really Pimpin’ in Da South” in his Remedies class on Sept. 21. According to media reports, he showed the same clip later in another class upon a student’s request. According to a composite of information gathered from a number of students in the class, Prof. Birmingham presented an interview clip from the film relevant to United States v. Pipkins, a case involving an Atlanta pimp busted under racketeering statutes for running a prostitution ring. After Birmingham showed the clip, he halted the film shortly into the next scene, freeze-framing a stripper clad in pink lingerie posing suggestively on a stripper pole. Prof. Birmingham then commenced discussion about the interview while the image remained on the screen. The incident followed a racially charged discussion earlier in the same class. In Farmer-Paellmann, et. al. v. Brown and Williamson, a group filed a class action against a series of prominent companies seeking restitution for slavery descendents. Birmingham moderated a debate on the case discussing whether slavery descendents are better off now than if they had remained in Africa, according to several students in the class.  One student attempted to walk out after another student suggested African-Americans are better off because they are in America and not disease ridden in Africa. Birmingham implored the student to stay.  School of Law Dean Jeremy Paul learned of the incident from a faculty member in the days after the class and asked Dean of Academic Affairs Paul Chill to investigate. Paul said he had no official complaints from any students.  “The fact of a complaint would not lead to a decision,” Paul said.”

October 30, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, sexual politics, Uncategorized, University of Connecticut | Leave a comment

From campus rape to a Laura Bush candidacy for president

One of the cardinal tenets of the feminist movement to ban student professor relationships is that differential power precludes consent.  So in this framework a charge that  a relationship that is power differentiated is a serious one since a relationship based on coercion must represent some form of sexual assault.

Such is why the dankprofessor views the campus changes that have occurred in this area over the last 20 years as  transitioning from romance on campus framework to a rape on campus framework.  Such is indicative of the Andrea Dworkin position that heterosexual intercourse is never consensual. However, few feminists completely buy into the Dworkian take while at the same time maintaining that heterosexuality and heterosexual marriage is based on a patriarchal power dynamic.  Age differentiated relationships are seen as a subset of power differentiated relationships and therefore fall into their rape/sexual assault/non-consensual framework.

The attempt to apply this framework beyond campus scenarios has not been all that successful, e.g., the idea that Clinton forced Monica to engage in “sex”  was not bought by almost all Americans.  Whatever Clinton may have been guilty of,  he was not generally seen as being guilty of rape.  Of course, age differentiated relationships are still stigmatized by many.  Often the young wife of the older powerful man is discarded as a trophy wife or in more traditional terms as a golddigger. It has been noted by some  journalists that an inordinate number of Republican candidates for president have much younger wives, and it is an open question as to how this will affect their campaigns.  For example, is such a pairing acceptable to the the traditional values wing of the Republican party?  Will campus feminists express their ire against such pairings?  Will many Republican women divorce themselves from a Fred Thompson or a Rudy Guliani because they find their wives not to be socially correct and embrace a dual Clinton presidency.

Karen Heller  has an interesting column on candidates and their wives in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Excerpts from this column follow-

“There are two ways of looking at the field of presidential contenders. On the one hand, there’s the novelty of a woman, an African American and a Latino pursuing the White House.

On the other, presumably the left with a sizable rock involved, there are so many trophy wives.

Many candidates traded in their original models for younger, leaner and leggier partners, often producing a second family of adorable tykes so ideal for photo ops.

I know, a shocking turn of events in Washington.

This does mark progress of some sort.

In the old days, pols rarely married their daughter-aged girlfriends.

That was because they were still wed to their wives, divorce being a greater political liability than adultery.

Fred Thompson’s wife, Jeri, is 40, almost a quarter century his junior. Given to plunging necklines and soaring hems, she will never be mistaken for Laura Bush. The couple have two toddlers, making him one of several AARP diaper dads seeking the White House.

Sen. Chris Dodd, 63, who engaged in a 1985 “waitress sandwich” with Ted Kennedy while their dates were in the ladies room, is another. His second wife, Jackie, is a mere 18 years younger.

As is Cindy McCain, the Arizona Republican’s second wife of 27 years. Not being one to endure a marital vacancy, McCain began courting his second wife while married to his first.

Dennis Kucinich’s third wife, Elizabeth, has late-night pundits, You Tubists and, well, most males salivating. The former “boy mayor” of Cleveland, now 61, has a babe wife less than half his age.

She is car-crackup gorgeous and – for a change from the requisite blondage – a redhead, resembling Julianne Moore, only better and taller.

Should the Ohio Congressman be elected president, Elizabeth Kucinich would become the first first lady with a pierced tongue.

Does a spouse matter in politics? Ask George Bush, whose wife’s approval ratings dwarf his. She’s taken a pivotal role in criticizing Burma’s repressive regime and is now traveling in the Middle East.

Ask Bill Clinton. Or Hillary Clinton, for that matter. Not everyone sees this as a strength when his charisma continues to overshadow. “I think no woman is electable in America, and particularly not Hillary,” novelist Mary Gordon observed, “because she is married to this guy whom everyone is libidinally attached to. I think there is unconscious sexual jealousy of her among women.


Hold on here for a moment.  Given that Laura Bush is way more popular than her husband, and given that George is in the same position as Bill Clinton in being ineligible to run for president, might Laura consider doing the same thing as Hillary and throw her hat into the presidential candicacy ring?  Then voters will have a clear choice- a Bush presidency versus a Clinton presidency.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

© Copyright 2007

October 24, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, feminism, higher education, Laura Bush, political correctness, trophy wives | 2 Comments

Until proven innocent

Duke again.

October 17, 2007 Posted by | Duke University, ethics, higher education, political correctness | Leave a comment

Hooking-up and spitting game

In terms of the UCONN  thong controversy, the UCONN administration found nothing casual about a nanosecond film clip exposure of a thonged woman in Professor Birmingham’s class.  Dean Paul justified his decision to get the prof out of the classroom for the rest of the semester by indicating it was so that all students at UCONN experience a welcoming environment.  However, it may be that the good dean is out of touch with the UCONN student body at least such is probably the case as indicated in the Duke University student newspaper which reported the following-

“Casual sex is increasingly described as the normative form of romantic relationships on campuses, said Suzanne Shanahan, associate director of the Kenan Institute of Ethics and assistant professor of sociology. Shanahan led the presentation “Love on the Quad: Romantic Relationships,” Saturday to an audience of Duke’s Half-Century Club members, who attended the event as a part of Homecoming Weekend activities. In a cross-disciplinary research study, Shanahan examined the changing relationships among students at Duke and other college campuses, along with the concept of a “hook-up” and its effects on student interaction.“Popular press has become obsessed with the hook-up culture of young people,” she said. According to a report produced for the Independent Women’s Forum in 2001, 91 percent of college women surveyed on campuses nationwide described their school as having a “salient hook-up culture,” Shanahan added. Other surveys found that approximately 70 to 80 percent of college students engaged in intercourse with a casual sex partner during the previous year…
Nastassja Marshall, a junior, has witnessed her peers move each year from hooking up to entering into relationships.“Freshman year makes you want to go out and explore,” she said. “By junior year, people have realized what they want in a relationship.”Jonathan Schwartz, a senior, said he has also noticed the changing ideas of relationships on campus. “I know a lot of people who got in a relationship after their freshman year,” he said. “They have been together since and are just hoping for that long-term commitment.”Another cause of “relationship avoidance” is students’ sense that long-term, committed relationships get in the way of other activities in which they want to engage during college, Shanahan said. University students are often over-committed, and they instead anticipate getting into a relationship shortly after graduation.“Relationships may be too time-consuming and distracting for some people,” Schwartz said, explaining his peers’ preference for non-commitment.Mark, commenting on her opinion of the campus “hook-up” scene, agreed.

“People are trying to have fun without the complications of a relationship,” she said.  

The dankprofessor’s take on this is that I cannot help but wonder if the deans of academia are committed to creating a welcoming environment for students immersed in the hook-up culture.  Does multiculturalism and cultural sensitivity embrace  those who just want to hook-up?  Or is the embrace given to campus purity feminists who want to get rid of all hooking-up behavior, behavior which is often seen  as representing patriarchal oppression.  In any case, it would be interesting to have some good comparative data to determine in more exact terms how pervasive is the campus hooking-up culture.   Might it equally encompass universities such as  Duke and the University of Virginia and the University of Connecticut?  Might students who are into hooking-up even be found in law schools?  As for the University of Virginia, a recent article in their campus newspaper indicated that hooking-up at Virginia is often viewed in game playing terms-

“”The Game” refers to the general concept of guys trying to get girls to hook up, as opposed to a particular person’s “game,” or strategy for getting ahead in the Game. Thus, the expression “spitting game” refers to one person’s attempt to succeed in the casual hookup, the object being maximization of play and minimization of drama. That is to say, spitting game is hooking up as often as is desired, while keeping the level of emotional attachment, commitment and social consequences at a minimum. Think: What do I have to do to get this girl to hook up with me without the repercussions of emotional attachment? Now you’re getting into the mind of a player. Real players are natural flirters. For a player, the rewards of the game are enticing, but I get the impression they’d play it for free. Like noble baseball players of old, real players play for love of the game. There are two basic methods of spitting game, traditional and contemporary. Though any experienced player will be familiar with both styles, some definitely prefer one or the other. The key is to be able to judge a girl well enough to be able to know which style is more likely to be successful. Straightforward, down-to-earth girls are more likely to be attracted to the traditional style, while wilder girls are susceptible to the contemporary mode of play. This said, the traditional style of play tends to work on a larger proportion of the female population. The traditional style of spitting game is characterized by flattery, forthrightness and complimenting. Don’t beat around the bush; let her know that you’re interested. Guys with musical or artistic talent can show this off to impress a girl through the traditional method. Of the two, this is the more honest approach; however, treating a girl with this level of attention early on will lead her to expect it from you in the future. If you intend to hook up with this girl on a regular basis, keeping up this facade of genuine interest in her may become tiresome. If she shows signs of attachment, be wary: She may end up wanting to be your girlfriend.” (The writer promises that an article to follow will focus on the female perspective)

My point is not to endorse or condemn hooking-up and spitting game but rather I bemoan how split off from student culture are all too many of the ruling class in academia.  They are all too often blinded by a politically correct feminist ideology that cuts them off from understanding what is happening on the ground; such is reminiscent of American political leaders who are blinded by their ideological zealotry.

What to do?  No magic bullet, but maybe I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS should be required reading for all university administrators.

October 17, 2007 Posted by | dating, hooking-up, political correctness, sexual politics | Leave a comment

Thong protection for UCONN law students

So the Hartford Courant has editorialized in support of the UCONN Law School’s coerced leave for Professor Robert L. Birmingham.  According to the Courant,  Birmingham had crossed a line when he exposed unprepared studentsto a film clip of a woman dancing in a thong. I guess that the Courant holds that a public exposed thong represents a clear and present danger.  After all, if Bill Clinton, a Yale law school graduate, was driven to the edge by Monica’s exposed thong then it becomes obvious that protecting vulnerable UCONN law students from thong exposurebecomes mandatory.  Academic freedom be damned! 

To get some additional input on the UCONN fiasco, check out the Volokh Conspiracy blog; the associated forum merits our attention.  The following commentary from the forum particularly merits our attention-


UCONN 3L (mail):

Perhaps some context would be useful. I’m a 3L at UCONN and former student of Prof. Birmingham. I was not in Remedies or Nuremberg but I do have a good sense of the feelings on campus about the issue. I’ll attempt to fill in some gaps and am happy to answer any other questions if I’m able:
-Birmingham’s Remedies course is taught immediately before and in the same classroom as Nuremberg. That may explain how it became of interest to the Nuremberg class.
-Many students take multiple Birmingham classes. There were no doubt students from Remedies still discussing the film when Nuremberg began.
-Birmingham’s classes are non-traditional to say the least and he’s generally either loved or hated. He’s not going to teach anything out of a casebook. He’d much rather use (often contemporary) cases, provocative questions, and media aids (movies but more frequently oral arguments) to make his point. And it’s not clear what his point is until late in the semester. It can also be a bit of a culture shock to be in a Birm class for the first time with other students familiar with his methods. It’s a lot like being on the outside of an inside joke for a few weeks until you catch up with the schtick.
-UCONN you may remember is still “recovering” from the negative publicity surrounding the “bullets and bubbly” party last January in which black students on campus were offended by conduct at an off campus party (google uconn law bullets and bubbly). At that time the school was close to making everyone take sensitivity training and profs were encouraged to consider race issues in the classroom to promote diversity. Dead Paul is still wet behind the ears (on the job less than a year) and is eager to be seen as a strong leader. The perception among most students is that he acted as harshly as he did in this case because he wanted to show that the school was “tough on racism” in light of the negative publicity last year.
-The consensus from people in the class and Prof. B’s story is that the interview concluded while the scene faded into the scantily clad woman. The choice was either to show that for a couple seconds or cut off the interview before it concluded.
-Prof. B is notorious for easy grades in classes small enough to permit grading off a curve. Remedies does not count but his other courses (and he teaches 4/semester) do. An interesting undercurrent in the debate on campus is that most students think what the admin did was wrong, but they have a hard time feeling bad for students whose schedules are messed up because many of them are not in the classes to learn about nuremberg or energy or admiralty, but rather for an easy A.

10.11.2007 8:16am

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

October 14, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, Uncategorized, University of Connecticut | Leave a comment

Prostituting and pimping at the UCONN law school

Last week publicdefender.com had a discussion on the UCONN Professor Robert L. Birmingham case and some of the discussants were or had been law students at UCONN.  The dankprofessor was particularly taken by the following comment-

  1. Rastaman said:
    October 4th, 2007 at 11:01 am | Quote Not strange, frightening! The First Amendment, or free speech, is being systematically reduced to a slogan. A law professor, especially, should not have to be politically correct. Of all places to punish someone for their speech law school is the worst. The chilling effect of this decision on other professors will make the mass of boring, lecture note reading, intellectually stagnant professors the norm instead of the burden.UCONN law is a “wannabe” high end school, plagued by political insiders and government hacks. They can’t even get the library to stop leaking, perhaps the magnanimous wimp Dean can pick up a caulk gun and work on the building. He sure doesn’t have the moral courage to run the law school.

Chilling effect, absolutely.  Unfortunately, the Dean has the courage to systematically destroy academic freedom at the UCONN law school and at the University of Connecticut in general.  If the UCONN law school cannot even give lip service to academic freedom, it is not to be expected that the other colleges and professional schools of UCONN will be any different.  

The only professors who benefit from a university’s adherence to academic freedom are obviously the controversial ones.  Take away controversial professors and there is no need for academic freedom.  Obviously the UCONN administration is making some headway in creating a faculty of conforming dullards given the apparent faculty law school support of the actions taken against Professor Birmingham.  Many alumni, many current students have spoken out against these actions but to my knowledge not one single faculty member has done so.  Silence may indicate faculty support or faculty indifference; whether it is indifference or support the non-action of the UCONN faculty in the dankprofessor’s opinion is damning.

Also, let us not forget that Dean Paul and his fellow administrators felt that Birmingham’s “violations” were so serious that he had to be taken out of the classroom immediately; no time for any formal complaint and even a preliminary investigation.  Immediate actions were felt to be necessary.  Usually, in these sorts of “personnel matters” administrators do not go for a public airing of the problem; obviously such did not happen in this case.  The administration even called for a public forum on their so-called case against the professor.

Why such radical and precipitous behavior?  For a video malfunction that caused a microsecond view of a partially clad woman?  For the discussion of a legal case regarding prostitutes and pimps?  For the professor discussing the case for reparations for African-Americans for slavery in a legal remedies case?  Some may feel that it was the reparations issue and the professor putting it forward in the context of asking challenging questions.  Might some academics and administrators have a hypersensitivity to this issue since it was David Horowitz who argued a few years ago against reparations and put his argument forward in campus newspapers throughout the United States?  Some campuses responded to Horowitz’s essay not with a critique but with an attempt to block publication.  Horowitz argued that said response demonstrated how too many US campuses did not value academic freedom, and how too many campuses had become too politically correct. Maybe it is now the case at the UCONN law school that the Dean and the faculty have come to believe that Professor Birmingham and David Horowitz are in essence the same.  Whatever the case may be, certainly the situation under consideration provides support for the Horowitz belief that all too often universities have become a home for the inane.

As for the dankprofessor’s word on this, the word of the day is prostituting- professors and professor/administrators at the UCONN law school prostituting academic freedom. Or maybe I should add another “p” word, pimping.  Professors pimping for administrators in their goal of prostituting academic freedom.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.

© Copyright 2007

October 13, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, University of Connecticut | Leave a comment

Worshipping the PC God at the UCONN School of Law

The leave imposed on UCONN law school Professor Birmingham was not based on any formal student complaints, but rather Dean Paul imposed his leave based on students comments he overheard.  Such was reported in the October 15 issue of the Connecticut Law Tribune.  Excerpts from that article follow

“Paul, acting on overheard complaints from students about a racy movie clip shown in Birmingham’s Remedies lecture and in another seminar on Sept. 21, persuaded the professor to take a leave of absence for the rest of the semester.

Students on both sides of the debate have posted comments on various web sites. To some, Birmingham is a “creep,” to others he’s a teacher who “makes you think.” Some said Paul did the right thing by giving a “dirty old man a public wrist-slapping.” Others said Paul disgracefully bowed to “the gods of PC” with the forced leave of absence.

Some students have expressed dismay that no law school professors had spoken up in defense of Birmingham or academic freedom. Tom Baker, director of the school’s Insurance Law Institute, said he was not familiar with the details of the controversy, but said: “There are not two schools of thought among the faculty. The law school faculty supports Dean Paul and the administration on this.”

Many alumni are apparently less enthusiastic. Kyle Odin, who graduated in 2003 and is now a lawyer for IBM Financial in Armonk, N.Y., e-mailed Paul to after reading news reports.

“If the discussion about the issue of reparations for slavery can’t be discussed in a law school Remedies class, where can it be discussed?” he told the Law Tribune.

Michael Murshak, who also graduated in ’03, is a patent lawyer in Lansing, Mich. He and many others received copies of Odin’s e-mail to Paul, who arranged a conference call to address the alumni concerns. Murshak said he hoped the call would put to rest some of his “anger and frustration … . But I left the conference call more upset than I was before.”

Paul, who could not be reached for this story, has acknowledged he did not view the video before asking Birmingham to take the leave of absence. He said no formal complaint was made by anyone, but he and Associate Dean Paul Chill took action to demonstrate the college’s dedication to providing a welcoming, diverse and tolerant environment for students.

All three alumni interviewed said that, during the conference call, Paul dodged key questions and didn’t clarify what prompted Birmingham’s punishment.

“There were really two issues that went on here,” said Patrick, the D.C. lawyer. “The issue of the movie, and the issue of the discussion that accompanied it.”

She asked Paul whether he was upset with the movie, the discussion, or both. “The dean refused to answer that question,” said Patrick. “He started off the conference call saying we all knew what had happened and the circumstances around it, but he didn’t actually lay out that, ‘I got complaints about the movie’ or anything specific.”

The dankprofessor’s take on this is that given the political realities in American higher education, I know that I should not be shocked by the actions of the UCONN Law School.  But I am shocked that any law school dean would trump academic freedom and freedom of speech in the name of a welcoming environment to students.  Fortunately, there are some law students who understand the dynamic of what is going on, that Dean Paul and his supporters have “bowed to the gods of PC”.  For a dean who has become a born again PCer, who has joined the PC cult, imposing his will on Professor Birmingham demonstrates that he can walk the walk rather than simply talking the talk.   On the other hand the good dean may just be another anemic academic careerist and believes that walking the walk might very well lead the good dean on a pilgrimage to other sacred places of higher education;  I would think that Duke would provide him with a most welcoming environment.

October 12, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, University of Connecticut | Leave a comment

More Detailed Article on UCONN case

Following is the unedited article that appeared on the National Law Journal Online which was originally publishedin The Connecticut Law Tribune.  Although this article is somewhat dated, October 3, it is the most detailed report on this case that has appeared in print.  Although it is indicated in the article that Birmingham’s classes would be covered by other instructors, later reports indicated that the courses would be dropped. Dean Paul and Dean Chill appear to be the administrators who are calling the shots in this case. It will be interesting to see if the upper echelon UCONN administration continues to support actions that I think are fair to characterize as precipitous.  One student noted that it was ironic that this situation occurred in the law school’s legal remedies class. Surreal would also be an accurate term to use.

National Law Journal

©2007 National Law Journal Online
Page printed from: http://www.nlj.com

Academic freedom questioned at UConn Law School

Thomas B. Scheffey/The Connecticut Law Tribune
October 3, 2007
The University of Connecticut School of Law has placed veteran professor Robert L. Birmingham on a sudden leave of absence after the quirky but popular scholar showed a film clip in class from “Really Really Pimpin’ in Da South” a training film for prostitution.

UConn Law Dean Jeremy Paul confirmed today that he and Birmingham had a “discussion following an incident in one of his classes,” and decided it was “in the best interests of the school” for Birmingham to leave for the rest of the semester.

Paul called it “a difficult situation” and said he and his administration are concerned with fostering academic freedom, while preserving “a welcoming, diverse and tolerant environment for students.”

According to three students who were either present in Birmingham’s Remedies class on Friday, Sept. 28, or spoke with students who were, the sometimes provocative professor asked students to make a case for slavery reparations in light of the fact that much of Africa is beset by war, famine and AIDS. Some students were so upset and offended by the topic — and images of barely-clad exotic dancers in the “Pimps” film — that they stood up and walked out of the class.

The legal case under discussion was the 2004 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit case of U.S. v. Charles Floyd Pipkins, a.k.a. Sir Charles, and Andrew Moore Jr., a.k.a. Batman. Pipkins and Moore were appealing their convictions on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges as Atlanta pimps of juvenile girls as young as 12 years old. Pipkins speaks in the “Pimps” film.

The 11th Circuit opinion explains that prostitutes are free to choose a different pimp. Birmingham asked the 50 students in his Remedies lecture class whether that means they were not held in involuntary servitude — one of the counts in Pipkins’ and Moore’s RICO indictment.

Part of the problem with Birmingham’s film demonstration, according to witnesses, was due to the video equivalent of a wardrobe malfunction. “He’s not very good at operating the video equipment, and it didn’t stop when he wanted it to,” said one student. “It continued to show these dancers in tassels and a G-string, and stopped with a close-up of the G-string.”

A law school administration source familiar with the situation said that Birmingham stopped the film at the objectionable G-string segment a second time that day, when he used the film in his class on the Nuremberg trials. “It wasn’t just a one-time `wardrobe malfunction,'” the official said.Birmingham could not be reached for comment for this article. But in a formal apology to students, he wrote, “I regret that I did not cut off the film at the end of the interview of Mr. Pipkins in time to prevent the adjacent material from appearing on the screens. I apologize to those of you whom I offended. I apologize as well that I did not emphasize the presupposition of our discussion: the extreme enduring suffering that slavery entailed.”

Students React

On Oct. 1, Associate Dean Paul Chill met with students, in this semester’s first “Query The Dean” session, to discuss Birmingham’s actions and the administration’s reaction.

“It’s ironic that this was all about a remedies class,” said one female law student. “People were upset with some of the images in the film, and what Professor Birmingham said. But I think they were even more upset by what the administration did to him.”

One minority student added, “Two wrongs don’t make a right here. Lots of other professors have said provocative things without any reaction from the administration like this. I think Dean Chill and Dean Paul are punishing a professor they don’t like in the name of protecting minority students’ feelings.”

The students spoke to the Law Tribune on the condition that they would remain anonymous.

Two recent graduates appeared at the Oct. 1 session and spoke up in Birmingham’s defense. “A lot of people are really mad,” said a female law student.

Students praised Birmingham’s efforts to spark critical thinking and his provocative use of the Socratic method. “He’s one of very few professors who don’t teach like it’s purely a vocational school,” one said.

A female student, however, noted that she had a female African-American classmate who “was very angry and offended” by Birmingham’s class, because “the wounds haven’t healed” from discrimination that student suffered in her youth.

Looking For A Replacement

Birmingham has an unfortunate backdrop to contend with. Earlier this year, SmokingGun.com posted photos from an off-campus party themed “Bullets and Bubbly.” The photos depict white UConn law students sporting tiger claw tattoos, “do-rags,” 40 oz. beer bottles and T-shirts emblazoned with “THUG LIFE” and “SNAP, SNAP, SNAP.”

In the soul-searching that followed that incident, students debated whether Student Bar Association officers in the photos should step down.

“I think the administration was trying to apologize for the stereotyping [at the] Bullets and Bubbly party,” said a student who would only speak on condition of anonymity.

Paul said no student formally complained about Birmingham. He said students were divided over whether Birmingham’s behavior deserved a sanction or whether he should be protected under principles of academic freedom. Black and white students, Paul added, were on both sides of the divisive issue.

Paul said Dean Chill is working diligently to find a new lecturer for the 50-person remedies lecture class and to find alternative instruction for three 18-person seminars Birmingham was teaching.

“A friend of mine was taking 10 credits from Birmingham — he was teaching more than any other law professor at the school,” one third-year law student maintained.

October 10, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, University of Connecticut | Leave a comment

Political correctness run amok

The NY Times editorialized today on radio station WBAI pulling the plug on a broadcast of the recording of late poet Allen Ginsburg reading his poem, “Howl”. Such represented a retreat by WBAI as being in the forefront in innovative radio programming.  According to the Times, this retreat came about as a “result of fear that the Federal Communications Commission would levy large obscenity fines that might bankrupt the small-budget station.”  Such did not represent an irrational paranoia by WBAI since a few offended listeners could very well be enough to bring down the wrath of the FCC on WBAI.  As the Times noted, the FCC had already fined CBS $500,000 for a nanosecond telecast of Janet Jackson’s nipple.

Now joining this censorship fray is the law school of the University of Connecticut which not only pressured one of their professors, Robert L. Birmingham, to not teach all of his classes for this Fall semester, but the law school dean went on to cancel all of his scheduled classes for the semester leaving his enrolled students in an academic never never land. 

Why the excommunication of the good professor and the canceling of all his classes?  The Hartford Courant reported that Professor Birmingham showed a film clip of an interview with a pimp convicted in a court case called U.S. vs. Pipkins.  However, it was not the interview itself that the UCONN law school found to be problematic, but it was what appeared  immediately after the interview- a scene of a scantily clad woman; Birmingham then immediately pressed the button to freeze the film.  It was the instant view of the scantily clad woman that was enough to upset a couple of students and end Professor Birmingham’s teaching for the foreseeable future.

“We believe it is in the best interest of the university not to escalate the situation and would like only to say that Professor Birmingham showed a relevant interview in class,” said Heather Kaufmann, Birmingham’s attorney. “He stopped the film at the completion of the interview. Period. The suggestion that the questionable material was shown intentionally is both troubling and dishonest.”

But whatever the intentions of the professor may have been, such did did not matter to the UCONN law school administration.  What only mattered was an instant second of offense that supposedly was experienced by a couple of students.  There was no FCC pressuring UCONN to take this action; no authoritarian organization threatening the university.  The impetus for UCONN to take actions that undermine the principles freedom of speech and academic freedom was political correctness run amok.  The dankprofessor believes it is outrageous that a law school can make such short shrift of these principles, principles which some Americans, both inside and outside of academia, still believe are worth preserving.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.
© Copyright 2007

October 8, 2007 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, University of Connecticut | Leave a comment


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