Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Second thoughts on due process at SIU

When the dankprofessor sees recommendations such as those put forth by the SIU Faculty Senate, a tendency may develop to initially screen out the bad. Such was the case on my prior posting on SIU. So after regaining my wits, I searched out the SIU policy on consensual relationships.  And it is bad and following are the key sections of the policy as well as my commentary.

Consensual amorous or sexual relationships between faculty and students or between a supervisor and an employee may result in claims of sexual harassment, even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship. The power differential inherent in such relationships may compromise the subordinate’s free choice. When those in authority abuse or appear to abuse their power in a relationship, trust and respect in the University community are diminished. Moreover, others who believe they are treated/evaluated unfairly because of such a relationship may make claims of harassment.

Therefore, it is a violation of this policy if faculty members become involved in amorous or sexual relationships with students who are enrolled in their classes or subject to their supervision, even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship. No faculty, staff, or graduate assistant shall become involved in an amorous relationship, consensual or otherwise, with a student for whom that person currently has any teaching responsibility, including counseling and advising, coaching, supervision of independent studies, research, theses, and dissertations. In all cases in which an amorous or sexual relationship exists or develops, it is the obligation of the faculty member, staff member, or graduate assistant whose University position carries the presumption of greater power to disclose the relationship immediately to the appropriate supervisor who will contact the Office of the Provost for assistance in avoiding an appearance of impropriety and a potential conflict of interest.

Really the THEREFORE of the second paragraph is a non-sequitur since not all those in authority abuse or appear to abuse.  SIU dropped the third category- those in authority who do not abuse and do not appear to abuse. 

Then in the second paragraph, SIU appears to throw in the towel on appearances since the violations remain “even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship.”   Well, I said appears, and it “appears” to the dankprofessor that SIU is muddled or confused when it comes down to appearances and consensual relationships.

And last but not least the policy mandates that the faculty member disclose the relationship to an SIU supervisor.  Or to put it in an unvarnished dank manner, the policy mandates the faculty member out the student lover, the student is not entitled to privacy.   If the SIU had minimal concern for student rights and privacy, student consent would be basic and elementary.  So much for due process and fairness at SIU.

The dankprofessor hopes that the FreeU blog will recognize how the SIU consensual relationships policy tramples on freedom and due process.

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November 26, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, Southern Illinois University, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Rooting out the problem at the University of Iowa

I greatly appreciated the UI professor’s willingness to have his/her comments published anonymously
in the dankprofessor post- Shame and suicide at the University of Iowa.

The professor noted that the Weiger sexual harassment suit may have represented a situation of hostile environment sexual harassment.  The Inside Higher Ed article presented this case in the following manner-

A former student and teaching assistant’s lawsuit, filed in federal court against Weiger and the university, charged that he had a romantic relationship with another student, engaged in repeated classroom banter and touching of an inappropriate nature, and created a sexually hostile environment

The dankprofessor speculates that the suit against Mark Weiger evolved out of a consensual student professor relationship that ended up being framed as sexual harassment and most likely as hostile environment sexual harassment.   Such may have occurred in the context of sexual jealousy and rivalry as experienced by a spurned student.  Such escalation and conflation is more likely to occur in a culture where reputation is of paramount importance.  And according to the UI professor this represented the dominant culture at the University of Iowa.

Approximately one year ago on November 24, 2007 I published a post entitled  “Fear and Loathing at the University of Iowa” which was on the consensual relationships policy at UI.  A review of this policy demonstrates that UI did not simply ban these relationships, but viewed them in totally demeaning and dehumanizing terms.  A professor who was very sensitive concerning his public status and reputation could very well have been psychologically traumatized by having himself publicly presented as a sexual predator/harasser.

And if one takes the policy statements of UI seriously, ultimately there is little differentiation in terms of the seriousness of the charge of sexual harassment versus the seriousness of being charged with violation of the consensual relationship policy; in both instances the professor so charged de facto becomes a sexual predator.

UI President Sally Mason in a recent communication to students and faculty stated that now is not the time to speculate as to the causes of the recent campus suicides.  The dankprofessor holds that this is an example of the UI President engaging in avoidance and denial.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, shame, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Solving the sexual harassment problem via video

The following comment in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on the University of Iowa recent sexual harassment problems caught the dankprofessor’s attention. 

guyinic1 wrote:
It’s a sad day when faculty need to have any interactions with students videotaped but if that is what it takes, then so be it. And maybe departments should provide a conference room adjacent to the department offices so that everyone can see the interaction of the student and teacher. Again, this is so sad that a student can’t just stop by a teacher’s room and chat!
I also think that the policy needs to be very explicit not only with faculty but also students, telling them that if any sort of accusation is made, it will be investigated publically and since it is a public investigation, they will be named and will also be subject to laws regarding slander and liable if their allegations are false. College students who make allegations are not children, they are adults and I’m tired of them hiding behind the excuse of being intimidated by a person in authority. Too much is at stake here for both the accusors and the accused!

The dankprofessor admits that he has never given consideration to the possibility of having video cameras in  faculty offices and even in classrooms since classrooms are often the scene of hostile environment harassment. 

Such may represent an effective way of controlling/preventing sexual harassment events from occurring.  Of course, videotaping will not eliminate sexual harassment, but would likely lead to a decrease of these suits. 

No matter that there will no longer be privacy regarding student prof interactions.  Privacy rights and other rights become irrelevant if institutions are to have effective
control of students and professors.  And control becomes key as universities are gradually transformed into quasi police states.  If control mechanisms are not implemented we could end up with a complete abolition of university campuses which would be replaced, of course, by online education.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | higher education, privacy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

UNM prima donna professor resigns

In my last posting on the Lisa Chavez controversy at the University Of New Mexico and the resignation of the nationally recognized Native American poet Joy Harjo from the UNM as a protest against the UNM continued employment of Lisa Chavez as a professor in good standing, the dankprofessor believes he was not hard enough on Joy Harjo for her precipitous resignation.

Harjo said she could not continue to work in a program “that has been so deeply compromised” and that she didn’t “trust the University to uphold the rights of its students and faculty.”  But Harjo never spells out what are the rights of students and faculty that the UNM administration were not upholding.  If these rights violations were so serious as to lead Harjo to not provide her expertise and creativity to UNM students, then it certainly should behoove Harjo to spell out in detail the nature of these rights violations.

Harjo did state the following-

“The Chavez-and-students sex-site debacle was mishandled.  Because of this, the creative writing program lost face and credibility locally and nationally. Those of us – a majority of the creative writing program – who pushed for a proper ethics investigation based on policies already in place were retaliated against for speaking up. This whole situation could have been handled in a way that was respectful to all parties.  As it is, only the rights of one person was considered.”

If the UNM creative writing program “lost face and credibility nationally and locally”, such does not represent a violation of the rights of UNM students and faculty.  The academic status game never remains static; the rules of the status game are ambiguous and ever changing.  Today’s academic star may very well end up being tomorrow’s academic embarrassment.

For a department or academic program or academic to lose credibility, does not represent a violation of the so-called rights of the academic program or academic.  If Joy Harjo had a true commitment to the status and prestige of the UNM creative writing program she would have devoted more of her time and energy to said program.  She would have given paramount importance to continuing to teach the students of the UNM creative writing program.  Rather than having any devotion to these students, she bemoans that these students rights are somehow being violated and then she deserts these same students.  If one cares to look at this situation in a dispassionate manner, the dankprofessor believes one should conclude that Harjo resigned because she was primarily concerned with her own status and prestige needs.

Harjo’s statement that  “I have no plans at this time to join any other University. In the spirit of the teachings of the Mvskoke people, I will continue forward and carry with me only that which nourishes”, is further evidence of her own self-absorption.  No concern here about UNM students or colleagues; her own nourishment is the only thing that counts.  Such represents the orientation of an academic prima donna; prima donnas are not concerned with others or being team players or the prestige of the greater entity.  They are concerned about self, doing their own thing and going their own way.

But Harjo had more to add to her melodrama.   She also asserts that she and other professors who spoke up against the UNM position were “retaliated against for speaking up”.  But, of course, she does not outline the specifics of the alleged retaliations.  It is easy to say that retaliatory behavior should not be tolerated at UNM but it would be a whole lot more responsible to present the specifics of the retaliatory behavior; certainly such is more responsible than simply leaving the university and ones colleagues who have been subject to the alleged retaliatory behavior.

The fact is that the UNM administration has acted responsibly throughout this controversy.  They have acted in a responsible and conciliatory manner and they should be applauded by academics who believe in academic freedom and responsibility, even when it is “only” the rights of one person that are considered.

November 13, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | 2 Comments

Call for censuring/censoring Chavez continues at UNM

The Albuquerque Journal reports (August 23) that the campaign against UNM S&M performing professor of English Lisa D Chavez continues unabated.  The campaign is conducted by some of her Creative Writing  and English Department colleagues who want the UNM administration to take some sort of sanctions against the professor for engaging in a S&M scenario on a website with UNM students.  However, the UNM administration will not buy into the professorial moral crusade against Chavez. 

In a recent letter to the faculty of the English Department, UNM President David Schmidley wrote:
“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.”

The UNM President has brought in an outside consulting firm in an attempt to resolve the situation, but such resolution has not occurred.  Some faculty have refused to engage in any form of mediation.  In fact, some of the faculty are threatening to leave if they don’t get their way-

“How can I stay? I don’t think I can stay,” said Joy Harjo, a full professor in the university’s creative writing program and a well regarded Native American poet who left the University of California Los Angeles for the chance to work for her alma mater. She said she’s bothered there were no consequences and that the university was dismissive of those who expressed concern.
    “Bottom line here is that there’s something of integrity being sacrificed, and that’s what is most disturbing to me,” she said.
    Sharon Warner, who resigned her post as director of the nationally recognized creative writing program in protest of the university’s handling of the Chávez situation, said several faculty members, including her, are looking for employment elsewhere.
    Warner said she attended Friday’s “facilitated discussion” and considered it unproductive.

(from Albuquerque Journal August 23)  

University Diaries blogger Margaret Soltan sympathizes with the offended faculty and refers to Chavez
as a “tenured perv”.   UD has also expressed a concern that the Chavez controversy may lead to the demise of the Creative Writing program which is a very small program.  In her latest blog posting, UD states:

“While UD thinks faculty should do more or less what they want on their own time, she agrees with Warner and Harjo that Lisa Chavez’s behavior was grotesque enough — and you don’t hear her apologizing for it, or saying she won’t do it again — that UNM should have been able to impose some sanctions. UD remains perplexed as to why it does not.”

The fact is that the UNM administration has indicated in no uncertain terms that they will take no action against Chavez since her S&M posing activities were unrelated to any formal university function.  In essence, their position is that Chavez’s off campus activities and the students who were involved in these activities did not represent any involvement of the University of New Mexico.  And the fact that there were no student complaints as to these activities impacting on their role as students at UNM is additional support for the correctness of the UNM position.

And the dankprofessor also holds that university professors do not have a right not to be offended by their colleagues off campus activities.  And this is what academic freedom is all about- the right to offend
even when such offending is off campus and even when such offensive conduct appears to be of a sexual nature.  The fact that UD judges Chavez to be a “tenured perv” is irrelevant; the fact that I find such a characterization offensive is also irrelevant.  It becomes relevant to the dankprofessor when such characterization is used as a means to terminate or sanction a professor.  If tenure has any meaning, it should mean that faculty should not attempt to sanction fellow faculty for what they consider to be offensive.

Critics of Chavez will point to an ad for the sm website which employed Chavez and which “characterizes Mistress Jade” as “a stern teacher ready to punish unruly students.” Of course, such is a  frequent s&m fantasy.  But as far as punishment goes, it is clear that several persons at UNM would like to punish Chavez in the real world for her acting out punishment scenarios in a fantasy world.

Sadistic conduct in the context of attempted coercion and degradation is certainly going on in the real world of UNM but such conduct is not being promulgated by Lisa Chavez; it is being promulgated by some faculty against Lisa Chavez.  Can’t a creative writing faculty tell the difference between fantasy and reality?  Can’t persons who are supposedly committed to creative thought and writing for themselves and their students, restrain their desire to censor and control?  Such represents a minimal expectation for those who are committed to the values of the life of the mind.

August 25, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, censorship, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Lethbridge professor to be reinstated

Congratulations to Psych Prof Gregory Bird for winning his legal challenge against Lethbridge College.  A Canadian court judge has ordered that Bird to be reinstated as a psych prof at Lethbridge.  Lethbridge had suspended Bird on the grounds that he had sex with three female students.  No harassment charges had been filed against Bird, and Lethbridge College had no policy banning student prof sexual relationships.   Based on my knowledge of the situation, the relationships were consensual and two of the relationships were established prior to the women becoming students at Lethbridge.   Prior to the Court decision, an arbitration board had ruled that Lethbridge must reinstate Bird.  The Court ruling in effect affirmed the arbitration board’s decision.
 
Rick Buis, vice-president of corporate and international services for the college, stated “We’re disappointed it didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but obviously we have to comply with the justice’s decision.”
 
However, the court’s and the arbitration board’s decisions put constraints on Bird’s affairs.  His return is conditional on him not having sex with any student of the college.
 
But Lethbridge is apparently committed to implementing the court decision while at the same time undermining it since the college does not see his reinstatement as necessarily including a teaching component. According to Buis, “Our requirement is to assign a workload that is appropriate for a faculty member, that can include teaching, research, curriculum development and distance education.”

So Lethbridge is apparently going to implement their version of sexual morality by barring him from  classroom teaching.  So they are reinstating a teacher but at the same time may not allow him to teach.  If Lethbridge bars Bird from teaching, it becomes incumbent upon Lethbridge to indicate that the reason for barring him from teaching is based on something more than the application of their sexual moral judgments.

In the Canadian press story, the writer goes beyond Lethbridge to understand the basis of barring him from the classroom by interviewing a sexual harassment adviser for the University of Calgary, Voyna Wilson.  Choosing to interview Wilson seems to the dankprofessor to be a poor choice since Wilson’s area is sexual harassment, not consensual relationships.  My speculation is that they interviewed Wilson since she gives the same old puritanical feminist cant as she told the press that the imbalance of power between student and professor entering a relationship can lead to disastrous results. Of course, such relationships may also lead to good results.  In the Lethbridge case, there were no disastrous results for students but the results were disastrous for the anti-sexual zealots at Lethbridge.

Voyna Wilson then went on to state that faculty members are also risking permanent damage to their reputation by such behavior.

I suggest to Ms. Wilson that she not worry about the the reputation of faculty members such as Bird.   Wilson apparently sees herself as a sort of mother figure, albeit an authoritarian mother figure, who should warn faculty about the reputational effects of their behavior. Then Voyna Wilson warned all faculty to steer clear of sexual relations with students.

Clearly Voyna Wilson unabashedly embraces an authoritarian agenda as she attempts to put her faculty (children) in their place.  But there are still some faculty who believe that as adults they have autonomy, specifically sexual autonomy, and that they will resist authoritarian policies which attempt to recreate them as children.

In addition, when you have university administrators warning faculty about their sexual behavior, obviously, in Wilson’s terms, this also represents an imbalance of power.  But she is not concerned with this imbalance since she is the one on top with the power to engage in institutionally legitimatized abuse.  It is persons of the genre of Voyna Wilson that faculty should be warned about and to speak out against their abuses of power.

 —–
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

 

June 13, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, Lethbridge College, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, University of Calgary | Leave a comment

UK residents advised to destroy “questionable” sm books to avoid arrest

The Criminal Justice Bill has become the law of the United Kingdom as of May 8.  The dankprofessor has previously posted on this attempt to criminalize so-called extreme pornography by making it illegal for persons to be in possession of extreme pornography or what may appear to be extreme pornography.  I viewed the passage of this bill to be a clear and present danger to any person in the UK, citizen or non-citizen, who is in possession of what the authorities deem as extreme pornography.  But at the time of my original posting I erred in assuming that the law would be predominantly if not totally directed toward persons in the UK who view so called extreme porn sites on the web. I noted that American citizens in the UK could be arrested for viewing website originating in America that were legal in the United States.

The dankprofessor confesses to have been in a state of extreme naivete since I did not recognize that persons in the UK who are in possession of books, journals, photos, etc., that had representations of extreme pornography are subject to arrest for violation of the Criminal Justice Bill.

The website Index on Censorship facilitated my becoming more cognizant of how many persons could become entangled by this law.  Following are key quotes from the Index On Censorship post-

Collectors looking to make a fast buck by investing in erotica had a nervous awakening this morning. And fans of Madonna were left wondering whether they would need to mutilate one of her most famous books.
The Criminal Justice Bill …on ‘extreme pornography’…makes it illegal to possess images that depict ‘explicit realistic extreme acts’ that are also ‘grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character’. The penalty, if found guilty, is up to three years in prison.

Supporters claim that the target of the bill is very clear. Others are not so sure.

Sex, by Madonna, caused controversy on its publication in 1992. It was shot by respected photographer Steven Meisel. But critics accused it of including hardcore images of sado-masochism and even bestiality. In one photo, Madonna appears threatened by a knife. In another she appears in a sexually suggestive pose with a dog. Sex was banned in Japan.

Up to 100,000 copies may still be owned in the UK. Mint copies of this work are being traded for up to £700 on Amazon.

Confusion reigns. A barrister with expertise in this area argues that at least one of the images in Madonna’s book could pass all three tests set by the new law.

‘There has always been a grey area between art and pornography. For the first time, owning a book could land you in jail’, she added.

London lawyer John Lovatt, who advises on the Law and sexuality, is not so sure. ‘Personally, I do not think Madonna’s work would be criminal within the meaning of the new Act.

‘But this law is uncharted territory and will remain so until we see how the courts — and juries — interpret it.

‘If individuals wish to be 100 per cent safe, then they need to err on the side of caution. There are many books it would be safer to mutilate — or destroy altogether.’

His advice to collectors is therefore very simple: ‘be careful. It’s not worth going to jail for a coffee table adornment’.

The dankprofessor finds the bottom line of this posting to be disconcerting, extremely disconcerting to say the least.  To advise persons living in the UK to be careful and the safer thing to do with books of the genre of Madonna’s SEX would be to mutilate them or destroy them is almost beyond belief.

No wonder that “opponents of the new law burnt images outside the British Library before going on to mount a demonstration in Parliament Square”.

As reported by the website Inquisition 21st Century, Clair Lewis one of the demonstrators said that the protesters will employ other strategies as well-

“On the one hand, we intend to demand from the police, from the CPS, from Government that they make crystal clear which books, which images will be illegal. Future actions are likely to involve mass visits to police stations, asking the police to provide guidance, before the law is enacted.

“On the other, we are not going to make this easy for them. It is clear from police enthusiasm for this measure that they believed that taking control of people’s sexuality would be straightforward. It will not. We will fight them all the way. Every case will cost the police and authorities very dear indeed in terms of time, resources and manpower.”

“It is not the business of government to police the bedrooms of consenting adults. We cannot conduct our sex lives on the basis of ringing for legal advice every time we open a book.”

The voice of Clair Lewis will hopefully ring loud and clear not only in the UK but in all nations in which the freedom of the citizenry to choose for themselves what to view and read is considered to be axiomatic.

—–
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 25, 2008 Posted by | censorship, consensual relationships, ethics, pornography, sadomasochism, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, speech, United Kingdom | 1 Comment

Sex and the university in the United Kingdom

The London Times Higher Education section of May 22 has an extensive and on the whole excellent article on student professor sexual relationships with the focus being on relationships in UK universities.  It is interesting to see the differences between American and British attitudes on the subject.  Following are presented key sections of the article with the dankprofessor’s comments in the text.  This article definitely merits reading in its entirety by anyone who is seriously interested in the subject; click here for the full text.  My comments are highlighted in blue.
 

When dramatist Stephen Lowe took up a post as visiting writer at Dartington College of Arts, he expected the job to boost his theatre career. What he hadn’t anticipated was that he would meet his life partner. Lowe, then 31, fell for his 21-year-old undergraduate student Tanya Myers. After 27 years, the pair still live and work together and are the parents of two children.

It may sound like the contrived plot of a campus novel, but Lowe’s story is not unique. Despite widespread concern about abuse of power and conflicts of interest, sexual relationships between tutor and student often flourish within academe.

“I have altogether too much experience of teachers engaging in sexual relations with students, both their own students and (those of) their colleagues,” remembers Alan Ryan, now warden of New College, Oxford. He looks back on his early career at Keele University with fond memories of the relationships that began between young academics and their students. “In my misspent youth, my ability to resist temptation was not great, and since I started teaching in the early 1960s, and new faculty were mostly only a couple of years older than the finalists, the discovery of sexual pleasure was a shared experience,” he says.

“Of the affairs I remember, an awful lot turned into highly successful marriages, though a good many were simple flings,” he says. “There were, of course, spectacular characters who weren’t like this at all. Freddie (A.J.) Ayer (the philosopher) fell into bed with everyone who was remotely willing, and an awful lot of young women were very happy to tick him off on the list of famous professors they had laid.”

Attitudes are beginning to harden, however. Like their US counterparts, which have historically been stricter on campus relationships, British universities are starting to crack down on such liaisons. Policies are being drafted to deal with relationships and the inevitable conflicts of interest that can follow – as one might put it, “an A for a lay”. Questions of morality and responsibility, sexuality and pedagogy are being raised.

But however an institution chooses to tackle the problem, it’s certainly not going to disappear. As Ryan points out: “The availability of partners is a geographical matter; if you are cooped up on a campus, who are you likely to fall into bed with?”

It is hard for the dankprofessor to imagine an American university administrator speaking so openly about this issue and ones prior involvements with students as Alan Ryan, warden of New College, Oxford.  Ryan’s final observation that it is a matter of geography is completely correct- eligible men and women “cooped up on a campus” cannot be prevented from fraternizing no matter how hard university moralists and administrators try to eliminate these relationships.  The only way to eliminate these relationships is to eliminate campus life as we know it and replace it with so-called online education.

In the UK, attitudes towards relationships in academe are changing rather more slowly. In 2005, figures revealed after a Freedom of Information Act request by Times Higher Education showed that 50 out of 102 institutions had no policy requiring staff to declare sexual or other relationships with students that might give rise to a conflict of interest. Of those that did, few appeared to apply them: just 17 universities had any current records on file.

In the same year, 18 per cent of respondents to a poll conducted by the Teacher Support Network said that they had had a sexual relationship with a student. Despite this, only 73 relationships were officially recorded and just five of these were defined as sexual or romantic. Many respondents, 62 per cent, said they did not know whether or not their university had a protocol on such matters.

Nevertheless, attitudes among academics have already shifted. “Many more of my colleagues now teach one to one with the room door open. I also know that there are people who avoid teaching certain topics,” says Mary Beard, professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge. “That can’t be a good thing.”

She remembers two personal stories of close but non-sexual relationships that flourished at the university. While an undergraduate, Beard regularly spent long weekends with her tutor, who was decades her senior. Although the relationship was purely pedagogical, she admits that his motives may have been rather different from hers. Similarly, as a tutor, Beard formed a friendship with a young male student who eventually helped teach her to drive, sitting as her passenger regularly while she practised and improved.

“In the Oxbridge of the Twenties and Thirties, students went on holiday with their tutors,” she says. “It wouldn’t happen now. It’s hard to know where the barrier lies between institutional rules and a change in the culture. I think it’s very hard to know which is which,” she adds.

“In some ways we have to accept that there is an erotic dimension to pedagogy. If you take a traditional Oxbridge-style tutorial system, that’s one thing that students love and it’s some of the most interesting teaching when you really get to know someone. That doesn’t mean it’s about feeling someone up, but it is passionate. The difficulty is that that’s a terribly sexy experience; two people sitting together really talking through how Latin love poetry works. How do you desexualise that?”

Of course, you can’t desexualize it.  But no matter the moralists on and off campus will do their damnest to repress it. The dankprofessor has often speculated that those who are so involved in sexual repression may very well find their repressive activities to be quite sexually gratifying.  

“I think it’s a tricky moral dilemma,” Beard says. “I think it’s undeniable that some students and staff have been hurt by these kinds of relationships. I think it’s also undeniable that there have been people who have gained from them.”

But for some, whatever the age of the two individuals, the power relationship inherent between tutor and student means that sexual contact is tantamount to abuse of that power.

A decade ago, Paul Norris, then a social sciences lecturer at Southampton Institute (now Southampton Solent University), caused controversy when he left his wife for a student. He had previously been disciplined by the institution in 1992 for having a sexual relationship with a student on a course he both taught and assessed. His wife, who vowed to set up a support group for other women in her position, claimed that lecturers “perceive sex with students as a perk of the job”. “It seems common to me, and universities seem very blase,” she stated.

 Yes, the Norris case was a notorious one in the UK.  It was made notorious in part by his wife who set up a support group of wives who were left by their professor husbands for a younger student. Of course, banning older married men from having sex with younger women may very well be a fantasy for women such as the wife of Paul Norris.  No question that in the competition between women for mates, younger women generally have a competitive edge. 

 One senior lecturer working in London says she has seen too many young people distressed by the break-up of such relationships. When she conducted a straw poll among a group of colleagues and students, only two people felt it was wrong for a tutor to have a relationship with a student – a figure she cannot understand. She says relationships are formed because tutors prey on the naivety of students or because knowing young men and women use a member of staff for their own ends.

Now this prior paragraph certainly represents the Americanized purity feminist approach on this subject

In their book The Lecherous Professor, Billie Wright Dziech and Linder Weiner comment: “Few students are ever, in the strictest sense, consenting adults. A student can never be the genuine equal of a professor insofar as his professional position gives him power over her … Whether the student consents to the involvement or whether the professor ever intends to use his power against her is not the point. The issue is that the power and the role disparity always exist.”

And here is the hardcore attitude.  Billie Dziech has done more than any academic to facilitate the banning of these relationships by arguing ad nauseum that few students can ever be consenting adults when it comes to relationships with professors.

Brian Martin, lecturer in the department of science and technology at Wollongong University, Australia, agrees. He has written on the issue on numerous occasions, citing his concerns at the lack of action being taken by universities on the matter.

“University teachers hold positions of trust. They are expected to design teaching programmes and carry out their teaching duties to help their students develop as mature thinkers … for impressionable young students, the boundaries between intellectual development and personal life may easily become blurred,” he says.

“Even if academic evaluations are kept completely independent of personal involvements, it is likely that there will be an appearance of bias in the eyes of other students. When a key academic, who should be a mentor, shows a keen interest in a student’s body, it often sends a signal that their intellect is of secondary importance. The impact on the student’s self-confidence can be devastating.”

He is also dismissive of the value of formal institutional policies. “I don’t think policies on their own make a lot of difference,” he says. “Many policies exist, but I’m not aware of any studies examining whether they are enforced.”

Yes, I also know of no studies relating to the enforcement of these sexual codes or the effectiveness of said enforcement. Such should not be surprising since enforcement is usually in secret and secret police aka administrators hardly ever want their practices evaluated.  Secrecy gives license to the the enforcers to do what they want to do.

The potential for abuse of power is certainly an important issue, and one that is well recognised and well understood. Nevertheless, most personal relationships entered into by people in all walks of life involve some basic balancing of power and control. One should perhaps not expect relationships that grow within academe to be immune or exempt from these concerns.

Universities UK says that it is up to individual institutions to decide what their policy is on such “sensitive” areas and to implement those. There are no broad guidelines available to UK universities to help them draft a policy, but nationally the Office of the Independent Adjudicator can pick up cases where, for example, sexual harassment is claimed and the university itself is unable to resolve the case.

“They will consider extenuating circumstances that a student claims affected their performance and the institution didn’t adequately respond to – this could include a relationship with an academic,” a UK spokesperson confirmed.

This kind of careful “monitoring” of relationships leaves many academics cold, but while threats of sexual harassment cases loom there seems little alternative for universities. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that most individuals would not choose to begin a sexual or romantic relationship in their workplace or with a person for whom they have direct managerial or pedagogical responsibility. As Lowe comments of his own experience: “It’s a difficult place to have a relationship. It’s embarrassing whatever you do.”

With that in mind, academics advocate a soft approach to the enforcement of the rules. “I think the institution has to look out for people and make sure everybody looks out for each other,” Beard states. “I think a kind of police state where everybody is sniffing out to see how close X is getting to Y is wrong.

“It’s a lot like smoking. You can’t get people to give up unless you recognise that sometimes it’s pleasurable.”

I love this bottom line by Mary Beard.  Of course, people are not going to give it up since to the dismay of the moralists it is all too often too pleasurable.  And yes, Beard appropriately uses the concept of “police state”.  Once we understand that all too many universities are heading in the direction of sexual police states, more persons will oppose these policies.  What Beard fails to mention is that these policies cannot be effective to any degree without secret informants, third party informants of the genre of Linda Tripp.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

 

May 24, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, passion, secrecy, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, United Kingdom | 1 Comment

Professor Lisa Chavez and higher hypocrisy education

The Albuquerque Journal reported today on the controversy surrounding University of New Mexico Professor of English Lisa Chavez.  On the whole, the Journal piece was primarily a rehashing of prior reports on the the controversy, but there was some unreported items and the major contribution of the Journal story was to provide their readers with additional insights into some of the leading players in this imbroglio.
 
As for a new item, the Journal reported that the identity of Professor Chavez online was Mistress Jade.  The fact that it took several months for any newsgathering source to discover this moniker provides further evidence to the dankprofessor that Chavez had made a concerted attempt to separate her professorial id from her sm performance id.  And an ad for the sm website “characterizes Mistress Jade as “a stern teacher ready to punish unruly students.”” Of course, such is a  frequent sm fantasy.  But as far as punishment goes, it is clear that several persons at UNM would like to punish Chavez in the real world for her acting out punishment scenarios in a fantasy world.
 
The prime would be real world punisher as previously reported is just resigned Creative Writing Director Sharon Warner.  For Warner the fact that UNM refuses to punish Chavez for “moolinghting as a phone sex worker” is beyond the pale.  She had expected UNM to take “swift action to protect the UNM learning environment”.  The only reason she could fathom for UNM not doing this, as is reported in the Journal, is that “UNM instead caved in to threats of litigation”.
 
As for the UNM administration response, they reject the idea that they had caved into anything; they simply see no evidence that that Chavez threatened the integrity of the learning process at UNM.
 
And Deputy Provost Richard Holder who has represented the UNM administration throughout the Chavez controversy is not exactly a laissez faire advocate when it comes to student professor relationships.
 
The one constant principle, Holder said, is that faculty shouldn’t be romantically involved with students enrolled in their classes. “And if such a relationship begins, we try to get the student out of the class and into another class if we know about it,” he said. He said the power inequity between faculty and their students creates too great a potential problem. 
 “If things are going well in the relationship, you could say that the faculty member is more likely to give a very good grade,” Holder said. “But the opposite occurs as often when people are breaking up. They might get an F in the class and not deserve it. It works both ways, and it’s just better not to have that sort of relationship.” 
Holder said in Chávez’s case, there was not a romantic relationship with the student. 
   
Of course Holder’s views are utter poppycock when it comes to student professor romantic relationships.  He cannot present a scintilla of evidence that professors grade the romantically involved in any way differently then they grade the non-romantically involved.  What he believes without any evidence for said belief should not be considered a justification for taking a student out of class and forcing her/his transfer to another class.  Such represents what Holder characterizes as a power inequity, but here it is the university administrator with the power over both student and professor.
 
Holder goes on to state that in the present Chavez case and the student who preformed with her, both the student and professor were adults and their behavior “didn’t seem to impinge on the classroom.”  Yes, Holder apparently got it right in this case, but he doesn’t seem to be aware that this rationale would be the same rationale for not intervening in student professor romantic relationships unless the evidence showed that said relationship impinged on the classroom.
Yes, act based on the evidence which was applied in the Chavez case but then do not turn around and act on what one believes to have happened, and hold as Holder holds in student professor romantic relationships that one can and should act without an investigation of the facts of the case.
 
But for Professor Warner it becomes irrelevant what Deputy Provost Holder’s investigation found since she believes that “faculty members must maintain their objectivity, whatever it takes.” No need for Deputy Holder to investigate since Warner knows that their could not be objectivity in Chavez’s class.
 
However, the Journal went on to report that many of the UNM English faculty who are critical of Professor Chavez do socialize with students. As reported by one faculty member, “colleagues invite graduate students to their homes for end-of-semester parties and other gatherings. “But the faculty member said “faculty members should respect appropriate boundaries””. 
 
Now in the dankprofessor’s opinion this ‘I socialize with students’ smacks of that now dreaded word “elitism”.  Yes, I will drink with students at the appropriate time and place; reminds me of Hillary guzzling beers at the appropriate time and place which supposedly functioned to shed her elitist performance face.
 
And then last but not least the Journal cites another Chavez colleague, Diane Thiel, who indicated what disturbed her the most “was that the student who posed with Chávez was enrolled in her pedagogy class at the time”.  “The point of the class is to cover such things as teaching ethics,” she said.
 
Bless the ethics teaching professors since they know in some ultimate sense what is ethical versus unethical.  And the student who does not internalize ethics from above has ethically strayed.  So much for independent critical thinking. So much for objectivity in the classroom; you believe in what I believe and you are a good student. Hypocrisy is existent throughout our society but it utterly knows no bounds in the land of higher hypocrisy education.
—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008
 
  

April 20, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sex workers, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, University of New Mexico | 1 Comment

Sexual crusade likely at the University of New Mexico

Once again Elizabeth Wood of sexinthepublicsquare.com has performed a great service in facilitating student Liz Derrington writing about her relationship with Professor Lisa Chavez.  

As Liz indicates in her essay, which is excerpted below and can be read in its entirely by clicking here, she never had any kind of sexual relationship with Professor Chavez; they had a  relationship first as co-workers and then as friends.  As for the pictures of herself and Lisa Chavez, Liz indicates that the

the pictures we took during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in were entirely staged. Professor Chávez and I were playing characters, essentially: we worked under pseudonyms, along with assumed personas. As Professor Chávez has said in the past, it’s not like our photos bore captions with our real names and explanations of our connection to UNM, so I think it’s a stretch to say our work for PEP could be construed as damaging to the reputation of UNM, the English department, or the Creative Writing division.

Whatever the relationship that Liz and Lisa had, it was not a sexual relationship, and that their relationship in no way impacted on Professor Chavez’s fitness to teach.  In what I consider to be a key passage in her essay, Liz states-

Again, many of those people are the ones claiming that their objection to Professor Chávez being called fit to teach comes from a concern for students, but none of them ever asked me what happened; they simply stopped speaking to me.

Such is key to understanding the utter hypocrisy of persons attacking Professor Chavez, particularly Creative Writing Director Sharon Warner. Warner, et. al., have cloaked themselves in a garb of being committed to protecting students.  But as we see here such a cloaking is quite transparent.  Professors of this genre simply use students to promulgate their agenda aimed at stigmatizing and punishing professors they consider to be deviant.  The reality is that the student becomes an invisible, non-person.  Students only become visible when they are robotic in the sense of affirming everything the sexually crusading professors have said.

Complicating matters in this case is that both Lisa Chavez and Liz Derrington have become for too many effectively sexually objectified.  No matter what they say or do, they will be interpreted in sexual terms.  Or to put it in other terms, people who are sex workers, people who are phone sex workers,  are seen by the man in the street or by unthinking professors as being totally defined by the sex in sex worker.  Professor Chavez’s status as a professor is trumped for them by her sex worker status.  She and student Liz are mediated thru sexually tinged lenses. They become “prisoners” of the labels put upon them. For persons adhering to this framework, the idea of a person being a professor and a sex worker is an impossibility.  For them, the fact that the UNM VP welcomes Lisa Chavez back to the university is simply intolerable.

Persons such as Professor Warner feel morally violated and they will deal with the pain of their violation by embarking on a sexual crusade.  And if enough people are recruited to becoming part of this campaign, no one will be safe, not VP Holder, not the Chair of the Department of English, not any faculty member who publicly supports Professor Chavez and certainly not Liz Derrington, unless she disavows her friendship with Professor Chavez.

I am not engaging in any hysterical thinking here; I am basing this on what I have seen occur on university campuses and beyond over and over again.  I can’t definitively say what will be the outcome at the University of New Mexico since I do not have enough familiarity with the political and “moral” climate at the university and its environs.  I will be surprised if we do not see in the near future New Mexico state legislators involved in this imbroglio with threats of financial retribution being directed toward the university. 

My advice to persons at UNM who are concerned with civil liberties and academic freedom at UNM is too hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  And don’t engage in pipedreams about good and decent academics who will not do nasty things; engage in knowing ones enemy and fighting for values that would be unthinkable to abandon, such abandonment could put university life in the hands of moral absolutists.  Most immediately publicly support the UNM administration.

As indicated, here are the excerpts from the Derrington essay-

I am the graduate student referred to in the Sex in the Public Square post from April 4, entitled “Lisa Chavez speaks out.” I wanted to take some time to do some speaking out myself, as I have not done so before now aside from during the official investigation.

I began working for PEP in February 2007. Lisa Chávez and I began taking calls at the same time, but that was entirely a coincidence. I was taking a class with her that semester; it was an elective for me that I opted to take partly because I thought I would learn a lot and it would look good on my CV, but also because I had a great deal of respect for Professor Chávez as a writer and had heard good things about her as a teacher. As was the case with many of my professors in graduate school, I was able to be friends with Professor Chávez outside the classroom while still respecting her authority in the classroom. We never discussed our phone sex work in class, nor did we discuss class during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in. As Elizabeth has pointed out, the pictures we took during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in were entirely staged. Professor Chávez and I were playing characters, essentially: we worked under pseudonyms, along with assumed personas. As Professor Chávez has said in the past, it’s not like our photos bore captions with our real names and explanations of our connection to UNM, so I think it’s a stretch to say our work for PEP could be construed as damaging to the reputation of UNM, the English department, or the Creative Writing division…

As Lisa said, though, in July an “anonymous” letter arrived in the English department, “outing” Professor Chávez as a PSO. My understanding — Professor Chávez is the only one who has both seen the letter and talked to me about it — is that the letter contained photos from the website, some of which included me. Or it might be that the letter referred to the website, and upon viewing the website, other professors recognized me as well as Professor Chávez. At any rate, it came out that the two of us, along with a student who’d graduated in May 2006, were working for this company. At first it seemed like UNM’s lawyers didn’t see anything wrong with Professor Chávez participating in PEP activities with an adult graduate student, but by the fall an official investigation was underway.

People were ostensibly concerned for me. They wanted to make sure I hadn’t been coerced into working for PEP, hadn’t been recruited via the University, that my grades hadn’t been contingent on my work for PEP, that I didn’t feel like I’d been harassed or made uncomfortable, etc. Honestly, though, at this point I have a hard time believing that they want Professor Chávez to be punished, or at least for further investigations or reviews to be made, because they’re concerned for students. One reason for my skepticism is that the official investigation was thorough. As the Daily Lobo article points out, the Deputy Provost found that “the graduate students involved ‘reported their activities were consensual, and all disclaimed any recruitment, solicitation or coercion.'” And yet the anti-Professor Chávez contingent continues to call for her head.

Another, more pointed (for me) reason for my skepticism is the fact that once word of my involvement with PEP (not to mention the photos) began to spread, many of the professors in the department began to shun me. Most notably, my dissertation advisor at the time refused to work with me anymore, meaning I had to switch advisors less than three months before my dissertation defense. That same professor also told more than one other person that she felt she ought to contact the university where I now work — I had the job lined up last semester — to tell them that I’m not morally fit to teach. I hadn’t intended to continue doing phone sex work once I started teaching anyway (largely because I found it mentally and emotionally draining), but I ended up having to quit several months sooner than I’d planned because I began to have panic attacks anytime the phone rang — I was afraid it was someone from the English department calling to check up on me, to accuse me further of engaging in immorality. My credit card balances still show the damage that quitting before I had another job available did to my finances. I sank into depression, not because of anything Professor Chávez did — indeed, she has never been anything but supportive of me, professionally and personally — but because I felt betrayed and abandoned by a number of other people in the department whom I had trusted and respected.

Again, many of those people are the ones claiming that their objection to Professor Chávez being called fit to teach comes from a concern for students, but none of them ever asked me what happened; they simply stopped speaking to me.

Furthermore, word reached me at one point that I was being blatantly slandered within the department, that people were being told that Professor Chávez and I were engaging in a sexual relationship, and that we were also engaging in prostitution. PEP does offer in-person domination sessions, and while I appreciate that such sessions tread a very fine legal line as they are sexual in nature without involving actual sex, the fact of the matter is that Professor Chávez and I never participated in such sessions; the work we did was strictly over the phone. I hired an attorney once the official investigation was underway, because I feared being slandered further, and I felt that the English department was doing a poor job of representing my interests. In the end, the only evidence I had of the slander was hearsay, and so I didn’t take legal action, but I felt a great deal of hostility directed at me within the department, particularly on the part of many of the same people who would like to see Professor Chávez punished further, if not fired…

I graduated in December, and am now working as an adjunct instructor. I want to focus now on my teaching and writing, on trying to establish my career, but this scandal continues to occupy my thoughts, and not just because I consider Professor Chávez a good friend and it upsets me to see her being treated the way she’s being treated. I still have concerns about my professional future: I know that there are a number of faculty members at the University of New Mexico who would give me a strong recommendation if asked. However, I also fear that there are faculty members who, if asked about me, would give me a negative evaluation based not on the work I actually did at UNM, but on their disapproval of my work as a phone sex operator. I dislike feeling like I have to keep looking over my shoulder, so to speak, every time I put UNM down as a former employer. I’m not foolish enough to put the professors who have clear objections to my behavior down as references, but my fear is that if another department were to take it upon themselves to do an exceptionally thorough background check on me, the aforementioned professors would be all too willing to bring up subjects that would be inappropriate in that context. My hope is that by speaking out, I will, if nothing else, be able to control the narrative being told about me, at least to a certain extent.

—–
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 6, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sex workers, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | 3 Comments

UNM Prof Lisa Chavez speaks out

There have been major developments on the UNM Lisa Chavez story. The website sexinthepublicsquare has published an in-depth and definitely worth reading interview with Professor Chavez.  Professor Elizabeth Wood, the interviewer, is to be congratulated for her good work.  The dankprofessor urges blog readers to read the entirety of the interview. And sexinthepublicsquare is now on the dankprofessor’s very selective list of blogs that merit reading on a regular basis. 

In addition, TV station krqe had a news segment on the Chavez sitution in which Sharon Warner was interviewed and images of Professor Chavez partaking in a sm scene were shown.

In the interview, Professor Chavez makes it quite clear that this incident did not involved a sexual relationship with a student-

I was not in a relationship with the student in the photos–other than the relationship between co-workers at PEP and as friends.I do not think adult students need to be protected from faculty. Of course I believe sexual harassment and any coercion are wrong, but I don’t believe consensual relationships are wrong. In fact, there are cases of such relationships in my department, but they have always been heterosexual. There are also cases of true harassment, which have not been pursued. I believe I am being treated this way partially because the purported relationship was between two women, and also because they see a certain “luridness” in what some in my department called  the “sex trade.”

I do think students and faculty both can benefit from close relationships–not sexual relationships per se, but friendships–and this is especially true in my field of creative writing. I have become friends with a number of the students I’ve worked with (and, for the record, I have never had a sexual relationship with a student, though I do not mean to condemn all such relationships), and I believe that the friendship helps us work better together. Creating writing is often a sort of soul-baring, and I believe that to work well together, we need to build up a mutual trust, which is something that goes beyond a formal student/teacher distance.

Bravo to Professor Chavez for not engaging in a condemnation of student professor relationships and reciting the cant that differential power precludes consent.  But even given her non-sexual involvement with students, the campaign against her will in all likelihood continue unabated.

What has become most clear to the dankprofessor is that resigned UNM Writing Director Sharon Warner is the major protagonist.  One does not have to read between the lines to figure out that she has de facto communicated that she was the one who broke this “story”.  She appears to be the “third party informant”. There was no story until she came forward.  Prior to her coming forward, Professor Chavez as part of an sm scene or performance was not recognized as such on the internet; she was not identified personally on the website.

Professor Warner in essence wrote the story.  And she is the story, not Lisa Chavez.  She is the absolutist moral entrepreneur attempting to sell her story at the expense of Lisa Chavez.  In essence, Warner’s story is summed up in the following quote- “We think a message must be sent out not only to her but to other faculty members because: If this is not unethical, what is unethical?”

Nothing here about protecting students from harm; it’s primarily about sending out a message to other faculty members, a message reaffirming traditional sexual morality.   For her, Lisa Chavez is a sexual outsider.  I have no doubt that this woman will not rest until Lisa is exiled or excommunicated from UNM. 

Adding melodrama to the story is Professor Warner’s resignation as Writing Director.  She just couldn’t handle Lisa Chavez not being punished by the UNM administration and she could not handle her colleague returning from sabbatical still in good university standing.  So she resigns in protest. The dankprofessor’s reaction is “big deal”.  Such was a symbolic protest with no substance; she did not resign as a tenured English professor; hardly anything as an academic really changes for her.

Professor Warner has promised to continue to campaign for the university censuring of Professor Chavez; she indicates that she will take this to the desk of Governor Richardson if such becomes necessary.  Not boding well for Professor Chavez is none of her English faculty colleagues have publicly indicated any kind of support for her while 13 of her colleagues have signed a petition asking for further university evaluation of her actions.  The dankprofessor estimates that there are 43 tenured faculty, including faculty who may be untenured but are on a tenure track in the UNM English department. Even if the UNM administration maintains its position as to not punish Professor Chavez, Chavez could very well find upon her return a very hostile and non-welcoming English faculty.  The fact is that bullying of academics by fellow academics is rife in the academic world; in this context, do checkout the website bulliedacademics.blogspot.com

Academic bullying can range from outright shunning to verbal hostility to a myriad of false charges having nothing to do with the original charge to the assignment of particularly unattractive teaching schedules to never getting another sabbatical leave to never getting promoted.  Of course, the intent is to punish the bullied and to make life so difficult that the bullied “chooses” to resign.  I call this a definite example of power abuse!  Nothing consensual about this, my point being that Professor Chavez engaged in a consensual SM performance.  Those trying to get rid of Chavez or bullying of her in the future, if such be the case, do not give a damn about consent and are the ones engaging in power abuse.

To date the administration of the University of New Mexico has been exemplary as to how they have dealt with this situation.  They merit the support of academics who truly take academic freedom seriously.  Unquestionably their power is and will be continued to be challenged.  Let us hope that they do not capitulate.

—–
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 5, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, nudity, pornography, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, Uncategorized, University of New Mexico | 7 Comments

University of Chicago law prof ignores civil liberties of student and professor couples

Professor Martha Nussbaum has continued her posting re the the Spitzer case on the University of Chicago Law School Faculty blog. Her latest post deals with the question “Is Sex Special?” and it is in this context that towards the end of the post she comments on issues relating to student and professor consensual sexual relationships.

Professor Nussbaum ends up conflating sexual harassment and student professor consensual dating since in her terms such relationships may start up as consensual ones but “…may evolve in a way that puts undue pressure on the weaker party.” Such would be similar to arguing that heterosexual intercourse should be banned because some of the time it may end up in a rape situation. Or that marriage should be banned since ultimately it may put one party to a relationship being the weaker party. Such is often the case in a myriad of relationships. If one wants to regulate situations of sexual harassment one could do so without banning consensual relationships.

Of course, once these policies come into being it does not matter whether there is sexual harassment. Such is the case since a third party informant can then bring down the consenting couple and trump all concerns about privacy and consent. Professor Nussbaum is obviously naïve about such situations. On the other hand, she may look up to persons such as Linda Tripp when she informed on her “friend” Monica. Does Professor Nussbaum believe that such was a righteous informing since as a White House intern, Monica was the “weaker” party in the relationship?

Naivete also enters when Nussbaum states that Professor Lande’s future need not have been compromised in the context of his dating a particular student. She states: “He could simply have arranged things so that he did not supervise this particular graduate student’s work. That happens all the time.” I do not know that it happens all of the time, but I do know that it is not simple when it does happen. Terming this situation simple obscures the fact that almost always this involves the violation of the student’s privacy, and puts her educational fate in hands of professors and university bureaucrats who now see her as the girlfriend of so and so. Does Professor Nussbaum really think this situations helps the student?

Professor Nussbaum indicates that the aforementioned situation may be impossible

“and suppose Landes had indeed been deterred by the existence of such policies: then, as he says, “I would have been a big loser.” Nonetheless, as Landes himself acknowledges, it is still possible that the overall benefits of such policies (Landes mentions “reducing coercion by men”) exceed their costs.”

Well, it may not have been only Professor Landes who ends up being a big loser; the student could have ended up even being a bigger loser. And there is no escaping the coercion factor. In the Landes scenario both he and the student could very well end up being coerced by the university sexual police which may very well have no interest in civil liberties and due process and in their framework other legal niceties.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 26, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, University of Chicago | Leave a comment

Colorado College students protest suspension for “sexual misconduct”

The Gazette of Colorado Springs reports that two Colorado College hockey players – Cody Lampl and Derek Patrosso – suspended in December for unexplained reasons told The Gazette that the penalties were for sexual misconduct and lying. 

Excerpts from this article follow. This Colorado College case provides insight as to how colleges handle issues relating to “sexual misconduct” which “bypass” formal involvement of the criminal justice system. The impact on students affected by this process is clearly given in this article. Readers are encouraged to click the article link and scroll down the article and review reader input.

Lampl and Patrosso said they are innocent of sexual misconduct. Lampl was suspended until 2009. Patrosso returned to school and the hockey team March 12.

Patrosso will try to help CC win a national title. Lampl plans to return to school but is angry that the college’s handling of his suspension has wrongly branded him a “rapist.”

“That’s not who I am and what I did,” Lampl told The Gazette. Friends and family wrote affidavits in support of Lampl when he unsuccessfully appealed the suspension.

The Pathfinder, CC’s student handbook, gives school President Dick Celeste and school administrators wide latitude in punishing students for conduct they deem contrary to the best interests of the school.

The handbook says, in part, “Colorado College reserves the right to suspend or dismiss any student whose conduct is regarded as being in conflict with the best interests of the college or in violation of its Code of Conduct.”

That doesn’t mean interested parties always agree with the college’s decisions, and Lampl said he thought his punishment was unfair given his version of the events.

Lampl, 21, said he, an 18-year-old recruit and a 19-year-old female CC student engaged in consensual sex after a party Nov. 18.

The woman could not be reached for comment. She has not filed a complaint with Colorado Springs police. Her parents said she was unavailable and they would all like to move on. The Gazette usually does not name people who might have been victims of sexual assault without their consent.

The recruit declined comment on the incident, except to say he had the woman’s consent. “Yes, definitely,” he said. The Gazette is not naming the recruit because he is not a CC student and not subject to CC discipline.
A few hours after the threesome, Patrosso and the woman had consensual sex, Patrosso said.When CC officials learned of the episode, Lampl said, they summoned Lampl and Patrosso for a meeting with Celeste. According to Lampl, Celeste said: “What you guys did is wrong. This isn’t what we do at CC.”

Initially, Lampl said, he and Patrosso tried to keep the recruit out of the discussion. That eventually led to the accusation of lying.

Subsequently, Lampl said, he, Patrosso and the woman scheduled a second meeting with Celeste to try to refute the suggestion that the woman did not consent to sex. Lampl said that when they arrived, Celeste was not there. CC attorney Chris Melcher and CC’s sexual assault response coordinator Heather Horton met the three students.
Lampl said Melcher and Horton insisted on meeting with the students individually.

Lampl said he, Patrosso and the woman talked after the three individual meetings. Lampl said the woman told him that Melcher and Horton asked her if she consented to sex and she told them she had.

Asked by The Gazette to describe the conversation with the woman and the recruit in which consent was given, Lampl said, “We were talking. She was like, ‘I really want to hook up with you.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, my friend’s here with me.’ And she’s like, ‘No, no. I want him to stay,’ and stuff like that.”

No charges have been filed with the Colorado Springs Police Department, but Detective Payton Patterson spoke with CC administrators to check on rumors of sexual assault involving student athletes.

…on page 54 of The Pathfinder, in the section on sexual misconduct, the policy says, “The college reserves the right to take whatever measures it deems necessary and appropriate to respond to a charge of sexual misconduct in order to protect students’ safety, physical and mental wellbeing, and individual rights. Such measures include, but are not limited to, immediate modification of living arrangements, summary removal from campus pending a hearing, and reporting to the local police.”

CC’s Turnis declined to explain why the school did not invoke its right to report the information in this case to police.

Patterson recorded his phone conversation with Melcher and then wrote in his report that Melcher told him there was not a problem.

“Chris Melcher told me that there is nothing to hide here,” Patterson wrote. “No one has claimed and no one has brought to his attention that the alleged crime occurred. . . . Chris Melcher said he will assure me and the folks that I will be talking to that no one has brought any information to their attention that indicates or even suggests (inaudible segment) and if that changes, ‘I will call you or I won’t call you. I’ll tell the student to file a complaint.'”

Horton said the school’s general policy has “three classes of behavior” that could be deemed inappropriate and applies to all members of the CC community.

“The first one is just unwanted sexual contact,” Horton said. “That can obviously be a fairly broad range of things, from unwanted touch all the way up to unwanted intercourse. The second class of behavior is behavior of a sexual nature that does not involve physical contact, so that might be things like lewd or harassing kinds of sexual statements or Peeping Tom kind of behavior, those kinds of things. And then, the third class of behavior is called intimate partner violence. So, that’s violence that occurs within the context of a couple relationship.”
Horton and the school’s handbook stress the issue of “active consent.”

The school’s sexual misconduct policy states in part that, “all sexual contact between students must be with each person’s active consent. ‘Active consent’ means that each person involved in sexual contact not only agrees to the sexual activity but also agrees to such activity freely and knowingly. A person who has been threatened or whose judgment is substantially impaired by drugs or alcohol or by other physical or mental impairment cannot, by definition, give consent to sexual contact. It is the responsibility of the initiator of sexual contact to obtain consent from the other person and to determine whether such consent is freely and knowingly given.”

Lampl said he had been drinking at the party, but he said he thought the woman was coherent when the key conversation occurred. Eight people who attended the party signed affidavits in support of Lampl. The eight included Lampl’s parents, five CC friends (including two women) and a non-CC friend. He said all of them attested to the woman’s behavior and level of coherence the night of the party.

Lampl said school leaders did not want to accept that the woman would willingly consent to, much less suggest, sex with multiple partners.

“I’m not going to apologize for that because then it looks like I did something,” Lampl said in the interview with The Gazette. “Why would I do that? I would rather not come back here. I’m not going to bite the bullet when it comes to being perceived as a rapist. Even though they said, ‘There’s no rape here’ – but the words they use imply that. That’s scum of the earth to me. That’s not who I am and what I did.”
Prior to the suspension, Lampl was on track to graduate with degrees in history and education.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 21, 2008 Posted by | Colorado College, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, rape, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics | 1 Comment

U of Chicago law and ethics prof Martha Nussbaum speaks out on prostitution and the Spitzer case

University of Chicago Law Professor Martha Nussbaum has published an interesting essay on societal attitudes toward prostitution and the Spitzer case. A succinct version of the essay appears below. The dankprofessor’s only quibble with Nussbaum is that she fails to recognize that many people, including myself, feel that the Spitzer resignation was appropriate since Spitzer was a zealous advocate of law reform in which the client or john is penalized for partaking in acts of prostitution. I call this dishonest, hypocritical and unethical. This is almost equivalent to “our” president Bush pre-election commitment to not taking part in overseas nation building. Of course, the dankprofessor would like to welcome Bush’s resignation, but would not look forward to welcoming Cheney as the “new” president.

Trading on America’s puritanical streak  Prostitution laws mean-spirited, penalize women

By Martha Nussbaum

Eliot Spitzer, one of the nation’s most gifted and dedicated
politicians, was hounded into resignation by a Puritanism and
mean-spiritedness that are quintessentially American.

My European colleagues (I write from an academic conference in
Belgium) have a hard time understanding what happened, but they know
that it is one of those things that could only happen in America,
where the topic of sex drives otherwise reasonable people insane. In
Germany and the Netherlands, prostitution is legal and regulated by
public health authorities. A man who did what Spitzer did would have a
lot to discuss with his wife and family, but he would have broken no
laws, and it would be laughable to accuse him of a betrayal of the
public trust. This is as it should be. If Spitzer broke any laws, they
were bad laws, laws that should never have existed.

Why are there laws against prostitution? All of us, with the exception
of the independently wealthy and the unemployed, take money for the
use of our body. Professors, factory workers, opera singers, sex
workers, doctors, legislators – all do things with parts of their
bodies for which others offer them a fee. Some people get good wages
and some do not; some have a relatively high degree of control over
their working conditions and some have little control; some have many
employment options and some have very few. And some are socially
stigmatized and some are not. However, the difference between the sex
worker and the professor – who takes money for the use of a
particularly intimate part of her body, namely her mind – is not the
difference between a “good woman” and a “bad woman.” It is, usually,
the difference between a prosperous well-educated woman and a poor
woman with few employment options.

The sliding stigma scale

Many types of bodily wage labor used to be socially stigmatized. In
the Middle Ages it was widely thought base to take money for the use
of one’s scholarly services. Adam Smith, in “The Wealth of Nations,”
tells us there are “some very agreeable and beautiful talents” that
are admirable so long as no pay is taken for them, “but of which the
exercise for the sake of gain is considered, whether from reason or
prejudice, as a sort of publick prostitution.” For this reason, he
continues, opera singers, actors and dancers must be paid an
“exorbitant” wage, to compensate them for the stigma involved in using
their talents “as the means of subsistence.” His discussion is
revealing for what it shows us about stigma. Today few professions are
more honored than that of opera singer; and yet only 200 years ago,
that public use of one’s body for pay was taken to be a kind of
prostitution.

Some of the stigma attached to opera singers was a general stigma
about wage labor. Wealthy elites have always preferred genteel
amateurism. But the fact that passion was being expressed publicly
with the body – particularly the female body – made singers, dancers
and actors nonrespectable in polite society until very recently. Now
they are respectable, but women who take money for sexual services are
still thought to be doing something that is not only nonrespectable
but so bad that it should remain illegal.

What should really trouble us about sex work? That it is sex that
these women do, with many customers, should not in and of itself
trouble us, from the point of view of legality, even if we personally
don’t share the woman’s values. Nonetheless, it is this one fact that
still-Puritan America finds utterly intolerable. (Note, however, that
we no longer allow a woman’s sexual history to be used in a rape trial
because we know that the fact that a woman may have had sex with many
men does not mean that she has become a debased character who cannot
be raped.)

Exploitation the sordid part

What should trouble us are things like this: The working conditions
for most women in sex work are extremely unhealthy. They are exploited
by pimps, and they enjoy little control over which clients they will
accept. Police harass them and extort sexual favors from them. Some of
these bad features (unhealthiness, little control) sex work shares
with other job options for low-income women, such as factory work of
many kinds. Other bad features (police extortion) are the natural
result of illegality itself.

In general we should be worried about poverty and lack of education.
We should be worried that women have too few decent employment options
and too little health and safety regulation in those that they do
have. And we should be worried if men force women to do things
sexually that they do not want to do. All these things are worth
worrying about, and it is these things that sensible nations do worry
about. But the idea that we ought to penalize women with few choices
by removing one of the ones they do have is grotesque, the
unmistakable fruit of the all-too-American thought that women who
choose to have sex with many men are tainted, vile things who must be
punished.

Spitzer’s offense was an offense against his family. It was not an
offense against the public. If he broke any laws, these are laws that
never should have existed and that have been repudiated by sensible
nations. The hue and cry that has ruined one of the nation’s most
committed political careers shows our country to itself in a very ugly
light.

• Martha Nussbaum is a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, prostitution, sex, sex workers, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights | Leave a comment

Saudi psychology professor chained, beaten and to receive lashing and jail time for having “coffee” with a female “student”

A Saudi professor of psychology at UMM al-Qra University in the city of Mecca has been arrested, chained, beaten, and convicted for meeting in a public café where he supposedly engaged in having coffee with a woman who had claimed to be his student. He has been sentenced to eight months in prison and 180 lashes. However, it is reported that almost everyone believes that the professor is innocent and that he was set-up by the Saudi religious police. Religious police aka mutaween, patrol public places looking for persons in violation of the prohibition of contact between unrelated men and women.

Abdullah Al-Sanousi, the academic’s lawyer, told local newspapers that his client had drawn the ire of some of the Commission’s staffers for speaking at length during a training session about how important it was for them to be polite to the public. Some of the trainees also wanted revenge because they had failed the course while others were not happy with their examination results.

Ruzaiz is said to have received a call from a girl purporting to be one of his students who asked to meet to discuss a problem that she did not want to talk about over the phone. The professor agreed to meet at a family cafe, provided she brought her brother along as a chaperone.

When he arrived, he was surprised to find the girl alone, and was promptly surrounded by religious policemen who handcuffed him and hauled him into custody. He was accused of being in a state of khulwa – seclusion – with an unrelated woman.

His lawyer insisted that because the two met in a public place frequented by hundreds of families, the question of khulwa, or illegal seclusion, never arose. The commission, however, insists that the family sections at coffee shops and restaurants are meant only for families and close relatives.

The professor is said to have taped a later conversation with the girl in which she admitted that she had been sent to the cafe by the religious police. The professor is relying on an appeals court to overturn the verdict. His lawyer has urged local human rights associations to back his plea for reviewing the case.

A local paper, Al-Madina Arabic published a detailed account of his defence. The academic in his account to Al-Madina Arabic daily, persisted with his charge that staffers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had framed him. Following are key excerpts from this article.

He claimed that he was the victim of a plot engineered by the staffers in revenge for issues he had raised with them during a 2006 training course…

The professor told the paper that he had seven pieces of circumstantial evidence that would prove his innocence. Besides, he said, he has another piece of evidence that would upset the entire course of the investigations but this he would reveal only when the time comes.

The professor claimed that the Commission had masterminded the incident in which he was seen meeting a lone and unrelated woman in the family section of a hotel.

The paper carried a narrative by the professor of his version of what had transpired.

The academic said while he was lecturing at the 2006 training course for men, a man handed him a sealed envelop containing a message from a woman, which claimed that she had a problem with her husband and wanted the academic’s help in solving it.

The message contained the woman’s telephone number.

At the bottom of the message was the woman’s telephone number.

“I called her for more details,” the professor told the paper, “and I requested her to tell her husband to contact me. This was so that I may hear his side of the story as well -since it has been my habit to listen to both sides.

“She told me that her husband was angry with her and had walked out. So I told her that a Mehram (a male relative) should come along with her to talk to me.”

“Thus, someone called me telling me that he was her brother. He asked me to come to the house to help his sister in solving her problem.

“But I apologized saying that I don’t call on people in their homes unless all the conflicting parties are present.

However, “Owing to his insistence and pressure, which was tantamount to pleading, we agreed to meet at a place to be determined later.

“The very next day he called after Dhuhr prayers and said that due to unforeseen circumstances he wanted me to see him after half an hour in a public restaurant that serves luncheon meals to families. He told me that the meeting would not last more than half an hour.

“In view of his circumstance and since I was on my way home after finishing from a training course which was close to the restaurant, I went to the restaurant.

“I stepped through the door into the restaurant and started looking for the person who had made me understand that he would be there waiting for me.

“But I was taken aback when a veiled woman appeared before me, asking for my name. I answered her, saying that I was the man she was expecting and that I had expected her to be with her brother.

In reply, she introduced herself, saying that she was the one seeking my help.

“Amazed, I asked her about her brother who had asked to see me. She replied that he was on his way.

“I spontaneously walked out to wait for the so-called person but was stunned when two of the Commission’s staffers tried to forcibly arrest me.

“One of them was in police uniform. They overpowered me and led me outside the restaurant where they forcibly seized all my personal belongings -papers, ID, mobile phone, keys, money and other things. Then they handcuffed me and pushed me to their van after they covered my face with my Ghutra.”

The professor said he was driven to the Commission’s detention centre and held for more than three hours during which he was exposed to all kinds of mental and psychological pressure.

For example, he said, they handcuffed him from the time of arrest until he was sent to police custody -more than three hours in all with the exception of five minutes when they removed the chain.

“They used all methods of deception and eventually made me sign some papers the contents of which I did not realize then because of my poor health and psychological condition. Not only this, but they also mocked and made fun of me and some of them offended me. They didn’t care about my health condition, that I am a diabetic.

“Because of their inhumane treatment, I suffered from hypoglycemia and developed sugar-coma more than once during that period.

“One of them dressed in a police uniform stood close overbearingly. He humiliated me and brutally treated me.

“After several pleas he agreed to give me water to quench my thirst and alleviate my suffering. The very same person had refused to unchain me when I needed to go to the toilet, which affected my bladder. I am still suffering from pain in my bladder.

They questioned in a manner characterized by deception, threat and cunning…

“In addition, they overpowered me and forcibly took my car’s keys and searched my papers. They seized my laptop and tampered with its contents. They also forcibly seized my cellular phone and also tampered with its contents.

“Thus, they encroached on my privacy as a human being.”

The professor went on to make his defence, listing point by point, his arguments.

“I would like to acquaint the readers with a dangerous violation committed by the commission’s staffers,” he said, “as manifested in the Ministry of Interior’s circular dated 2-7-2007 based on the Royal Order dated 3-12-81, which clearly states that the role of the Commission ends upon arresting a person and directly handing him to the police.

“The circular also strictly prohibits transfer of any person, female or male, to the Commission’s centres regardless of the circumstances.”

“And any staffer found sending the arrested person to any of the Commission’s centres shall be immediately stopped from working and also be referred for interrogation,” he said, citing the circular.

“The staffers who appeared before the judge admitted that they had interrogated me as well as the woman. Doubtless, this dangerous attitude explicitly shows that they adamantly ignored the instruction, which therefore nullifies all their actions on the basis of the legal principle that ‘What is based on falsehood is false.'”

The academic then narrated part of the testimony of the staffers before the judge, which was recorded in the charge sheet.

According to the academic, the testimony says: “We received a call from a keenly religious person reporting a man in illegal seclusion with a woman who is not her guardian, sitting in the family section of a restaurant … in a compromising position.

The academic said the charge sheet also said that “the man entered from one door and the woman entered from another door.”

The academic claimed that the testimony proves premeditated intention, an engineered plot to defame him.

The professor then raised several questions that can be reviewed at the paper’s website.

The paper also published the The Woman’s Alleged Letter Pleading for Help

This is the letter that was allegedly sent in a sealed envelope to the professor through a messenger. It was published by the Arabic daily Al-Madina. To His Excellency Dr ……..

After greetings

I am writing my problem to you hoping to find a solution for it.

Sir, I am a married woman aged 24. I am married to a businessman and I have a girl child who is the light of my dark life.

My marriage was a traditional one; thus I didn’t see my husband or talk to him until the marriage, which took place in haste.

But after the marriage I discovered that he was not the man I had dreamt of, nor did he have the qualities I was looking for. I didn’t find in him a warm heart that I was dreaming of, who would be close to me or lend an ear to my pains. In addition, he frequently travels abroad because of the nature of his business. How this made me feel miserable and sad. This has created a huge vacuum in my broken heart. This is why I go out a lot, roaming the markets and amusement parks and attending all wedding parties.

I made a lot of spontaneous friendships and became addicted to chatting on the phone in order to fill the vacuum caused by my husband’s absences. I am suffering from pain in my ears due excessive use of the mobile phone, which compounds my pains.

Despite all my suffering, I am still missing the warm company of my husband, which consoles me and takes me away from my illusions. He never ever enquires about my pains, delusions or even about the family affairs.

This made me suspect that my husband has dubious relations and affairs with other women. I sat with him several times to find a solution to this peculiar situation but all my attempts were in vain.

Sir, I want you to guide me in order to save my life from destruction.

With all my due respect and appreciation.

The dankprofessor will attempt to find out how persons living in the West can support the professor. Of course, public support could hurt the professor by inciting the religious police. So if such occurs, it must be done with great care.

For more details on the case do click on the link to the Al-Madina Arabic article.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 15, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, Islamic law, Saudi Arabia, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics | Leave a comment

Review of ROMANCE IN THE IVORY TOWER

Out of the Campus Closet: Student Professor Consensual Sexual Relationships

Review of Paul R. Abramson: Romance in the Ivory Tower: The Rights and Liberty of Conscience, MIT Press, 2007, 176 pp

Reviewed by Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor

The original publication of this review is located at www.springerlink.com

doi:10.1007/s12119-007-9016-4

http://springerlink.com/content/h0p31881164gx627/?p=6a5651624c114ad6a292692d97422be2&pi=0

Forthcoming in SEXUALITY AND CULTURE, Vol. 12 #1, March 2008, pp. 68-70

Might one be engaging in utopian thinking if one believes that universities, particularly American universities, are places where matters relating to conscience and liberty and freedom of association are taken very seriously? The answer is unequivocally yes since most American universities are no longer a refuge for persons believing in and wanting to act on these values, values which have been integrally linked to the American ethos. Rather than being a refuge for these values, American universities have embraced authoritarianism with a vengeance, discarding freedoms that have been held by many as taken for granted freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

Nowhere have these constitutional rights been more flagrantly violated than on American campuses where there have been concerted efforts, and generally successful efforts, to formally ban intimate sexual and romantic relationships between students and professors. Hardly any of the campus advocates for these bans have given any credence or recognition to the possibility that their agendas represent violations of civil liberties in any form. They have effectively disguised their attack on basic freedoms as a form of protectionism with their feminist engendered slogan that differential power precludes consent, which comes to be equated with the idea that students, particularly female students, are unable to consent to any form of sexual relationship with almost any professor since professors always are in a higher power position. Even if a female student should protest that her consent was given freely, the campus authoritarians believe that they know the mind of the student better than the student does, and that their will must replace the will of the incapacitated student.

The disputation of such views has not facilitated an open and polite exchange of ideas. Rather dissenters have been usually viewed as lecherous professors, whether they are male or female, who wish to have free rein for their alleged predatory behavior. In one way or the other campus sexual code dissenters are considered to be morally suspect while the sexual code advocators and promulgators are held to be above suspicion. Or, to put it in other terms, sexual banning supporters are held to be academic insiders while the banning dissenters are held to be dissident outsiders, outside of the post-modern, feminist ideologies of the day.

With the authorship of Romance in The Ivory Tower: The Rights and Liberty of Conscience, UCLA psychology professor, Paul R. Abramson, has fully entered into this fray as an outsider holding that campus predation has run amok in the form of academics discarding basic constitutional guarantees in their quest to “protect” and control both students and professors. Professor Abramson argues that the control they want is to prevent adults on university campuses from choosing whom they date, whom they love, whom they choose as romantic partners. In his words, “Choosing who we love, even on a university campus, is no less a fundamental part of choosing how we live.” And such is a choice that cannot in principle be taken away by university authorities since the power to make the choice resides in the parties directly engaging in the choosing. He notes that “For all intents and purposes, many universities throughout the United States have determined that the power is theirs to wield. This book challenges that assumption, arguing instead that the power is unquestionably within the province of the individual…”

For Abramson, taking away the individual rights of conscience is a direct attack on the autonomy of the individual. Rights of conscience go beyond matters of religion and “…can be extended to all matters of substance that require serious deliberations about right and wrong, consensual sex and romance included.” In Abramson’s view, this individual right of conscience should protect the “…right to make romantic choices without interference or refutation by governmental and institutional authorities.” And very importantly, the author argues that this right is embedded in the Constitution in the form of the Ninth Amendment which holds that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” And Abramson holds that the right to romance is one such important right that is protected by the Ninth Amendment. For those who might argue that the right to romance does not reach the level of importance meriting constitutional protection, he responds in the following terms: “Romance…is a quintessential right retained by the people. It is no less essential to our well-being and happiness, I assert than freedom of speech. It is hard to imagine liberty without either right. Furthermore the right to choose a romantic partner is a prerequisite right to romance itself. Romantic choice is therefore the vehicle via which we exercise romantic freedom.”

In terms of defending this interpretation of the Ninth Amendment, Abramson heavily relies on the writings of our nation’s founders, particularly Jefferson and Madison with the greatest emphasis put on Madison. For Madison, the protection of unenumerated rights of the people via the Ninth Amendment is of crucial import. If such was not the case, the governmental authorities can do just about anything to their subjects unless such was specifically forbidden by the Constitution. And for Madison and Abramson and for this reviewer, the people should not be subject to the unrestrained arbitrary impositions of a government without constitutional authority. In essence, Abramson takes seriously the notion that citizens are not subjects to be experimented upon, that their will to decide, reject or consent cannot be removed from above. And throughout this volume, the author is ethically engaged as he hopes that the citizenry in general be ethically engaged since for him it becomes axiomatic that an ethic imposed from above is a form of authoritarianism and such authoritarianism should not be employed to mandate what people believe or how people act.

Nor does Abramson hold that matters of individual liberty and autonomy are without ethical and legal constraints. Conduct harmful to others is not protected conduct. Abramson embraces John Stuart Mill’s perspective “…that society should only protect its citizens from harms that violate rights. Liberty prevails until someone’s rights have been violated.” Abramson does recognize that the boundaries defining what behaviors actually represent harmful behavior in the Millsian sense can be quite ambiguous. But for Abramson when it comes down to the issue at hand, there is no question that dating, including, of course, dating between students and professors is a “fundamental life choice.” And that “Most serious romantic relationships, in fact, begin with a date. It is therefore a necessary prerequisite to the intimate side of life.”

Of course, no matter how elegant he is in the presentation of this viewpoint, and in this reviewer’s opinion, he is quite elegant, almost all persons advocating banning student professor sexual relationships will not be impressed since generally they are not impressed by any sort of intellectual dissenters from their ordained truth. What Abramson is facing when it comes to this issue are many persons who are on a moral crusade, and will attempt to deal with him not simply by trashing his ideas but by trashing his very personage. The Chronicle of Higher Education was one of the first media sources to provide pre-publication coverage of the Abramson book and presented an interview with Abramson which functioned on the whole to provide an accurate depiction of his forthcoming book. But what the CHE also did was to publish an adjacent full-page picture of Professor Abramson. Initially I was perplexed as to why the CHE devoted so much space to Abramson’s picture; after all, Abramson was not a celebrity, much less an academic celebrity. But then I learned what I believed to be the reasons for the picture publication, and my learning was based on the reader forum that followed said publication in which so many readers were not concerned with the content of the interview but rather were concerned with the picture of Abramson which came to represent for them Abramson as a predatory and lecherous professor or as one reader commented “…looks like a letch right out of central casting.” This photo was enough for all too many of the CHE readers to simply dismiss Abramson and whatever he had to say. Unfortunately, appearances do count when they should not, and all too often trump the possibility of intellectual analysis and critical thinking.

Pre-publication dismissals of Abramson’s book have generally not reflected any careful scrutiny of the issue, but rather have generally been based on snap judgments and intensely visceral reactions. For example, one blogger wrote that Abramson will apparently do everything to justify sex between students and professors. “Thus, man will do everything to rationalize, normalize, legalize, and excuse everything; such as having sex with a professor…He (the professor) does not want to be told that sex between a student and an adult are wrong.” Of course, Abramson is not telling anyone that sex between and adult and child is right, morally or legally. However, the dilemma facing Abramson is that many persons in the general population and in universities will engage in a default assumption translating student into child, professor into adult and therefore feel that they are dealing with sex that cannot be consensual, since one party to the “relationship” is always a child; no matter what the age, student is equated with child. Such thinking most likely goes back into childhood when the teacher is always the adult and the student is always the child. Many persons just cannot get beyond this framework. This is also reflected by the tendency of some professors and some administrators referring to students as “kids” or “my kids,” regardless of age.

Abramson is aware of the stereotype of the student professor sexual relationship as representing “the lecherous male professor seducing gullible female undergraduates.” He is also aware of the writings and influence of Catherine Mackinnon and her thinking that all workplace romantic relationships represent sexual harassment. What Abramson does fail to represent is that the notion of the female student unable to provide consent was originally popularized by Billie Dziech and Linda Weiner in their 1984 book The Lecherous Professor: Sexual Harassment on Campus. It was this book that became the sacred book for campus feminists and part of the often repeated rant that differential power precludes consent. It was in this context that campus feminists fueled the banning movement in the framework of repeatedly infantilizing female students and presenting female students as victims in the same sense that children are victims of adult male predators. It was this feminist vision that fueled the banning movement and was ultimately combined with the assertion that when professors teach or supervise a student and engage in a sexual relationship with a student then it becomes a conflict of interest.

Abramson does attempt to deal with the conflict of interest issue in the context of the professor engaging in impartial grading of a student with whom he has a sexual involvement. In order to preserve the appearance of impartial grading, Professor Abramson suggests that a colleague may be asked to intervene to provide a third party evaluation of the student. I consider third party evaluation to be problematic since the sexually involved student ends up being treated differently than all other students who are graded by the same professor. In principle, in terms of the course requirements and course process, students should not be treated in any way differentially based on their relationship, sexual or otherwise, with the professor. Invoking matters of appearances is not an adequate rationale for differential treatment. Also, in many cases the usage of a third party evaluator is an impossibility since grading is often in part based on what happens in class, such as class participation, in-class projects, etc. Abramson does not go beyond suggesting third party involvement. As Professor Abramson indicates, some universities operate under a coercive disclose and dispose policy which means that the professor must inform the appropriate administrator of the situation, and said administrator then disposes of the situation with absolutely no consideration given to the privacy and the right of the student to non-disclosure.

But conflicts of interest issues are not the core fueling the banning movement. Professor Abramson knows that professors in general are not wracked out over conflict of interest issues. Professor Abramson also indicates that professors engage in myriad forms of favoritism that are not at all emotionally tinged. For example, students enrolled in a professor’s class may be a daughter or son of a colleague or even one’s own son or daughter or a friend or a relative of a friend, or a professor may preach feminist sister solidarity or racial solidarity while grading students who are not part of his or her group or a professor may engage in out of class political demonstrations with likeminded students and prejudicial grading hardly ever becomes an issue. Professors emotionally committed to banning student professor relationships are not conflict of interests obsessed; they are sexually obsessed; obsessed with stopping other professors from engaging in what they consider to be sexual abuse of female students/children. And therefore all of the good legal and historical analysis by Professor Abramson becomes an irrelevancy for them because they see the subjects of these professors as being in an incapacitated state, a state where consent is an impossibility, a state where the subjects must be removed from the power of the offending professor and taken out of the classroom and where the demand is that the lecherous offending professor be removed from all classrooms.

Professor Abramson bemoans the fact that so few professors have spoken out against such sexual banning, particularly the lack of public professorial critiques of the impending UC policy which was passed in 2003, and banned romantic relationships by professors with students who they supervise (teach) and students who are in academic areas in which there is some likelihood that the professor may be their teacher at some future time. Abramson in his 2003 Los Angeles Times Op Ed piece was one of the few UC professors publicly speaking against the impending policy. Abramson notes that student and faculty protest against the UC policy did not even occur at UC Berkeley where protests are almost a fact of everyday life. However, he does fail to note that UC Berkeley Professor of English Catharine Gallagher did initiate a protest of this policy after its passage and was joined by other UC Berkeley faculty in petitioning the UC Berkeley Provost, but the Gallagher protest and petition was too little and too late.

Professor Abramson understands that one of the major reasons there were so few faculty voices raised in protest is that “dissenting” professors are on the whole afraid, afraid of being treated as suspect, afraid of being treated in sexually objectified terms in the manner similar to how Professor Abramson has been treated. And, in fact, I believe that untenured professors at UCLA or at whatever university, whether it be an elite or not so elite university, are extremely unlikely to speak out. Even as a tenured professor and as professor who has strongly spoken out against these sexual bans, Abramson still has some trepidation about being presently identified as a sexual code violator as indicated by his publicly stating that he is out of the dating game, that he leads a staid married life and that at one time, 20 or so years ago, he did have a couple of relationships with students, but now he is beyond that, therefore he is OK. If Abramson takes his ideas seriously, he would be eager to state I am OK now and I was OK then. And I do understand the dilemma that if a UCLA professor wrote a book of the sort of book Abramson wrote and he stated that he presently dated students and such was OK, he would then end up being investigated and probably charged with violation of the UC sexual code.

However, even if there has been minimal response by academics critiquing these fraternization policies, and few persons doing empirical research on faculty student sexual/romantic dyads, Professor Abramson should still have done a more thorough review of this literature and reported on the highlights of this literature and indicated what he considers to be most germane to his concerns. For example, in the area of research on faculty student relationships, he could have cited two important empirical studies of student professor relationships (Bellas and Gossett 2001; Skeen 1983) as well as citing numerous scholarly critiques (Dank and Alberquerque 1998; Dank and Fulda 1998; Hooks 1996; Kincaid 1999, 2000; McWilliam 1996; Nehring 2001; Olivero 1994; Patai 1998, 2002; Pellegrini 1999; Pichaske 1995; Refinetti 2001; Tittle 1998).

Abramson rejects the notion that at the core of the movement to prohibit professor/student relationships is an emotional sexual dynamic which is fueled by an underlying child, adult sexual predator imagery. Rather Abramson embraces the idea that “The real reason for these prohibitions…is that universities want to further reduce their liability in civil lawsuits-no sex and romance means no negligence.” Such represents the idea that this movement to ban student professor relationships simply is an instrumental, rational based policy to save universities money. I do not deny that some academics support the banning policy for this reason, but the supporters of banning at UC have not cited any case in which UC was sued in whole or in part relating to a consensual relationship between a student and a professor. And Abramson does not cite such a case. And as Professor Abramson indicates the case employed by ban supporters to get this policy adopted dealt with an off campus sexual assault against a student by the dean of the UC Boalt law school. The invocation of the UC Boalt law school case demonstrates the mental gymnastics that UC ban supporters had to go through to implement their policy; as Abramson notes there were sexual assault laws on the books in California via which the dean could have been prosecuted. The bitter reality is that to get this policy implemented, the supporters had to assault the idea that sexual consensual relationships between adults and sexual assaults are not interchangeable.

For academia as a whole and for the population as a whole, if one takes the sexual out of this anti-sexual policy, interest in the policy would become just about nil. But the sexual component cannot be taken out of this policy. Sexual meddlers and crusaders would not tolerate it. Just as the prohibition of prostitution has never been about the state saving money, nor the prohibition of homosexual acts between consenting adults has ever been about the State saving money, the prohibition of student professor relationships has never been just about universities saving money.

Ultimately the issue is what can save our universities from the moral crusaders, no matter what causes and ideologies the crusaders may embrace. In his book, Professor Abramson has taken an important initial step in terms of elucidating the importance of adhering to basic constitutionally guaranteed sexual civil liberties and sexual rights in American universities. Vigilance in the area of civil rights and liberties is crucial if authoritarian interventionists are to be prevented from controlling the most intimate aspects of persons’ lives. But such vigilance must also be combined with an understanding of the social psychological dynamics propelling true believers to seek to control the sexual lives of others. If we are to succeed in affirming and protecting the value of conscience and liberty, those opposing these values cannot be allowed to pass themselves off as feminists just trying to protect those who supposedly cannot protect themselves, or university administrators just engaging in fiscal savings; they must be confronted and critiqued at every possible opportunity and exposed as authoritarians whose power and control agendas are antithetical to the ideals of higher education.

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References
Bellas, M. L., & Gossett, J. M. (2001). Love or the lecherous professor: Consensual sexual relationships between professors and students. The Sociological Quarterly, 42, 529-558.

Dank, B. M., & Alberquerque, K. (1998). Banning sexual asymmetry. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 1.

Dank, B. M., & Fulda, J. S. (1998). Forbidden love: Student-professor romances. Sexuality and Culture, 1, 107-130.

Hooks, B. (1996). Passionate pedagogy: Erotic student/faculty relationships. Z Magazine, Mar 1996 (pp. 45-51).

Kincaid, J. (1999). Power, bliss, jane and me. Critical Inquiry, 25(3), 610-616.

Kincaid, J. (2000). Critical response. Critical Inquiry, 26(3), 615-618.

McWilliam, E. (1996). Touchy subjects: A risky inquiry into pedagogical pleasure. British Educational Research, June 1996 (pp. 305-307).

Nehring, C. (2001). The higher yearning: Bringing eros back to academe. Harper’s Magazine, Sept 2001.

Oliviero, T. H. (1994). Strange bedfellows, thoughts on the bans against faculty-student relations and how they can hurt us. Radical Teacher, Winter 1994.

Patai D. (1998). Heterophobia: sexual harassment and the future of feminism. Lanham: Rowan and Littlefield.

Patai, D. (2002). Academic affairs. Sexuality and Culture, 6, 65-96.

Pellegrini, A. (1999). Pedagogy’s turn: Observations on students, teachers and transference-love. Critical Inquiry, 25(3), 617-625.

Pichaske, D. (1995). When students make sexual advances. Chronicle of Higher Education, 24 Feb 1995 (pp. B1-B2).

Refinetti, R. (2001). Sexual correctness in academia: The case of the professor. Sexuality and Culture, 5(2), 91-94.

Skeen, R. E., & Nielsen, J. M. (1983). Student-faculty sexual relationships. Qualitative Sociology, 6(2), 99-117.

Tittle, P. (1998). On prohibiting relationships between professors and students. Sexuality and Culture, 1, 131-149.

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If you wish, you can write to me directly at bdank22@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 2, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, fraternization, higher education, ivory tower romance, reviews, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student-prof dating | 4 Comments

Female student speaks of her relationship with a professor

Returning to the University of Southern Maine student newspaper story about student professor consensual sexual relationships, the story focused on the experiences of Rebecca, a student, who is in a four year relationship with a professor.

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“When I walked into class, it was like, ‘this guy is my teacher,’ and it’s different than outside,” she said. “He never gave me preference, and since I was very good at the subject anyway, I knew, and it was obvious to everyone else, that I earned my grades.”

Her relationship, which began four years ago, has gone unreported to anyone of supervisory power over the professor, because by the time their friendship had evolved into something bigger, the couple saw no need for the ‘mediation’ provided by the university’s policy-they had already established boundaries for themselves, and she was no longer his student.

While she says that the relationship is great, she still struggles, because she has been forced to lie about it for so long: “It sucks to connect something I’m so uncomfortable about to something that makes me happy.”

It has affected her friendships and family relationships, because she is never able to be fully open about her life – even her two best friends don’t know about it.

“My time with him and the rest of my life are completely separate realities,” she says, “When they cross, it’s really uncomfortable, and I get paranoid.” She has also come to realize the affect it has had on her college experience, removing her from the social situations that most students traditionally become a part of.

The secrets have been painful. Her friendships, old and potential, have suffered, and there’s a constant paranoia ­­– for his sake — that it will somehow come out.

“But at the same time,” she says, “I’ve had a blast! You think about it, he’s my boyfriend. I love him. And four years! That’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had.”

Rebecca puts a knuckle between her teeth and tugs at her collar with the other hand, looking at me with a sideways glance that is almost coy, “I was just sort of taken by him, his looks, and his intelligence – sometimes I think the bad outweighs the good, but, I’m still with him. I mean, he’s awesome, he’s the best!”

She pauses and smiles, straightening her neck. After a minute, she begins again, “The biggest thing is that I still have a lot of respect for professors – if anything, it has made me realize that really, they have the same issues everyone else has, they’re just people.”

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What the dankprofessor finds most disturbing about this relationship is the secrecy. Neither the professor nor the student feel they have the option of integrating this relationship into the rest of their lives. Possibly, they are misjudging the reactions of others. During my 35 year career as a professor I dated many students and former students, and I met many of these students’ parents and siblings. And never did I find that parents were not accepting of their daughter’s relationship with me. Such was the case even when there was a significant age differential. Not one parent objected to the fact that their daughter was dating a professor. In fact, the reaction was just the opposite to rejection, it was enthusiastic acceptance. The reality was that I often found myself dating a very interesting woman and befriending her very interesting parents. It was a plus plus situation.

But universities which have these problems are not interested in hearing about parental acceptance. Advocates of these relationships do not want them to exist and if they do, they want them to be in the closet.

At the University of Southern Maine, an administrative apparatus has been set up which investigates complaints relating to student professor dating. As reported in this article: “Any concerns about sexual harassment or preferential treatment stemming from student-faculty romance are taken to the Office of Campus Diversity and Equity, which investigates all discriminatory complaints at USM. For the past couple years, the office has not received any complaints of this nature. The 2004-05 school year saw three complaints, and in 2003-04 there was only one.”

Obviously the parties to these relationships do not report to the appropriate authorities since it is likely that both parties to these relationships do not feel they need administrative regulation and do not feel that the administration is their to help them navigate thru the terrain of university life.

However, USM administrator Daryl McIlwain disagrees with my analysis, according to him “probably most issues are not reported, for fear of the grade or because they don’t want to cause problems for the faculty member or draw embarrassing attention to themselves.”

However, the dankprofessor believes it is the fear of administrators such as Daryl McIlwain which leads couples not to report. And based on the input I have received from couples around the nation, I would advise couples never to report. Better to deny than to report to the campus authoritarians. I have heard too many stories of couples feeling utterly betrayed by the powers that be who end up violating the confidentiality of the relationship and often demean both the student and professor.

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If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 14, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, student-prof dating, Uncategorized, University of Southern Maine | 3 Comments

Gradedigging or romance at the University of Southern Maine

The University of Southern Maine student newspaper, the Free Press, had a February 11 article on student professor dating. What differentiated this article from the run of the mill student newspaper articles on this subject is that there was an interview with a female student who reports to be in a relationship with a university professor. Also included was an interview with a third party student observer. Of course, the article did not omit input from the relevant university administrators.

There were a number of statements worth noting in this article and the one that got the immediate attention of the dankprofessor came from student third party observer, Jeremy Knee, a USM senior. Mr. Knee reported on his suspicions that an unnamed female student was in a relationship with an unnamed male professor. As for his being uncomfortable if such a relationship was in fact occurring, he stated- “While it wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable because they were involved, the faculty was limited in his availability to other students. And I had the thought that if I was a girl who looked like her, I’d be getting a better grade.”

Of course, the reason invoked by Mr. Knee are the same reasons often invoked by university administrators for the banning of such relationships, that they threaten the integrity of the grading process, that they undermine academic integrity. Of course, Mr. Knee’s student reaction is the same old same old student reaction when another student gets a higher grade than oneself, ones lower grade becomes the fault of the professor or of the favored student; the distraught student denies that ones grade can accurately reflect ones course work. It’s called copping out or, if you will, scapegoating. Of course, there is an additional innuendo in this situation and that is that the female student may be prostituting herself for a high grade or in more general terms, the female student is just another gradedigger.

But Mr.Knee had more on his mind when he stated: “If I had the ability to manipulate someone who had power over me, I might.” So this is it. It is all about the manipulation of power, not about love, or romance, or closeness or even passion. It is just about premeditated manipulation by a gradedigging female student. Of course, this view is not unique to Mr. Knee. The dankprofessor regards it as representing hardcore cynicism, and in a weird way it represents the thinking of cynical feminists but in an inverse manner. The cynical campus feminist regards the male professor as being the predatory power manipulator of the female student; the male observing student regards the female student as being the predator manipulating the male professor. So here one can easily pick the most psychologically suitable stereotype.

And when it comes down to university administrators, too many pick a stereotype, and we know the one that is usually picked is the stereotype of the cynical campus feminist as well as the one that states that student professor relationships undermine academic integrity, and their evidence for this belief are persons of the genre of Mr. Knee. How sad! How sad that they embrace the view that represents thinking the worst of people, which represents hardcore cynicism. Does such thinking become a necessary outcome of being a university administrator? Is such thinking indicative of embracing a police cynicism where everyone is suspect, no one is to be trusted since everyone has their con?

Or maybe it is the dankprofessor who has a major problem? Might it be that I suffer from a romantic view of the world that censors out the omnipresence of cynical manipulators? Might I suffer from a naivete when I profess that student professor couples should be just left alone, that it is more harmful to intrude into the lives of these couples than to do nothing?

More to come on this article in future postings.

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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 12, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, fraternization, grading, higher education, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, University of Southern Maine | Leave a comment

Middlebury College Update

The Burlington Free Press published an article entitled “Academic Affairs Rile Middlebury”( February 10) which deals with the ongoing consideration of a new student professor consenting sexual relationship policy. The dankprofessor has published a number of prior posts on the Middlebury situation.The headline of the article “Academic Affairs Rile Middlebury” was a misnomer since there was no academic affair of any sort mentioned in the article, and the dankprofessor has been unable to find any mention of any academic affair at any time of any kind, riling or otherwise, at Middlebury College. The fact of the matter is that the current Middlebury College policy discouraging such relationships has worked.

What riled up the Middlebury campus community was the visit of Ann Lane this past September to Middlebury College in the context of her presentation of a talk entitled “Consensual Relations in the Academy: Gender, Power and Sexuality”. The Burlington Free Press article stated: “Her speech lent some perspective to a discussion Middlebury’s faculty was beginning to have about one of academia’s thornier issues: faculty-student “amorous relationships” and what to do about them.” Of course, no where in the article was it demonstrated that the need had come up in the past at Middlebury to do anything about them.

However, Professor Lane did not see it that way. She stated in the Free Press article: “What struck me about my presentation at Middlebury were the number of students who attended, particularly the male students, probably half and half,” Lane wrote in an e-mail, “and the interest they showed in questions. I was impressed….At dinner that evening with administrators, faculty and students, what was interesting was that the faculty and administrators, thanking me for my talk, then went on to say how such relationships are rare or non-existent in their school. The students made eye contact and began to talk about several such relationships they all knew of, not naming anyone.”

So the good Professor Lane simply discards professorial input that these relationships are rare or non-existent at Middlebury and rather cites student scuttlebutt to support her position. Of course, the issue becomes whether gossip, and rumor should ever be the basis of any academic policy. Professor Lane or the Free Press did not report that any of these students have testified or are planning to testify concerning any such affairs. I think it is fair to say that at this point such affairs are simply a part of Lane’s fertile imagination.

In contrast to Professor Lane’s perception that there is great student interest in this issue, the Free Press reported the following student input:

“Among Middlebury students, by one account, this is not exactly a hot issue. Sarah Franco, a senior who writes Midd Blog, said she has “broached the subject of faculty/student relationships at least twice” but received no comments. “I stopped writing about it,” she said in an e-mail, “because students do not seem interested. I can only speculate as to why. For one thing, students speak up only if they fervently disagree with something and no student is going to openly advocate to have a relationship with a professor.”

Yes, I agree with Ms. Franco that no student is likely to advocate for student professor relationships and no professor is likely to engage in a similar advocacy. At Middlebury any such relationships if they have occurred remain out of sight
and out of mind, and this is as it should be if we respect the privacy rights of those engaging in intimate relationships.

What I find to be most depressing is the absence of any student or professor advocating for the right of any student or any professor to have a consensual relationship. Nowhere in the article is a rights perspective included or alluded to. If the Free Press writer had done his homework he would have found that over the last six months there has been much attention given in the media to a civil liberties perspective, particularly by UCLA professor Paul R. Abramson in his book ROMANCE IN THE IVORY TOWER: THE RIGHTS OF LIBERTY AND CONSCIENCE.  In fact, the Boston Globe recently carried an excellent op ed piece by Abramson which was totally ignored in the Free Press piece.

For example, the Free Press writer fails to understand the civil liberties implication when the opinion of feminist Bernice Sandler is cited: “A better option, Sandler said, citing an approach adopted at the University of Michigan, is a policy that requires disclosure. Such a policy “handles it without prohibiting,” she said, “but it gets at the professional issues involved.” After disclosure, a professor’s duties with respect to the student in question are assigned to someone else.”

What the article fails to note is that the student’s privacy is violated by a policy that would force the professor to reveal her identity to college authorities with the consequence that she is forcibly removed from the classroom. This seems like a pretty major omission, but never does Bernice Sandler in her media interviews state how this policy directly impacts on female students. The amazing thing is that for a feminist such as Sandler female students are invisible.

Another place where the article did not get it right was in the interview with Frank Vinik , a lawyer and risk manager for United Educators. The Free Press article reported:

“We think having no policy is a mistake,” said Frank Vinik, a lawyer and risk manager for United Educators, an insurance co-op with 800 college and university members. Vinik cited as an example the University of California, where a law school dean resigned in 2002 after engaging in an affair that he termed “consensual” and that the student deemed “harassment.” After that, Vinik said, the university formulated a consensual-relationships policy to go along with its harassment policy.”

One of the problems with the Vinik statement is that the law dean and the law student never had an affair. The length of their knowing each other was for a couple of hours. They met at a bar/restaurant in the context of a dining and drinking celebration of other students recent achievements. The student became inebriated; the dean drove her home, and while at her home while she was asleep the dean was reported to have assaulted her. How could one characterize such as representing an affair? How could one argue that this incident had any relevance to the current policy evaluation at Middlebury? Vinik must know that UC had a sexual harassment policy at that time that was applicable to the dean’s actions. The dean quickly resigned in the context of an impending sexual harassment charge. In fact, Frank Vinik engages in the same misstatement of the facts of this situation in a report on WCBV-TV Boston. If Mr. Vinik believes the dankprofessor has misrepresented him, I would welcome his input on this matter and if he wishes, I would publish his response on the dankprofessor blog.

The writer of the Free Press article, Tim Johnson, characterized this issue as being one of “academia’s thornier issues”. If such be the case, one would have been led to believe that the article would have made some attempt to bring forth the
conflicting perspectives on the student professor consenting sexual relationships issue. Such was not the case.
I had expected more from one of Vermont’s leading newspapers, a newspaper which is well known for its concern with civil liberty issues.

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If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 11, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, fraternization, higher education, Middlebury College, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

University of Iowa to extend its dragnet

The dankprofessor has previously reported on the University of Iowa policy prohibiting consensual sexual relationships between professors and students. And after some reevaluation of this policy, the powers that be at UI are concerned that some consenting couples may escape from the UI dragnet due to ambiguous wording.

And as reported in the UI campus newspaper, actions are being taken to correct this oversight-

“The UI is looking to revamp its policy on consensual relationships involving students after unclear definitions of a student and an instructor and a case involving the fuzzy identifications.

At today’s UI Faculty Senate meeting, the group is predicted to vote unanimously in favor of adopting the revised policy that uses clearer language to identify “instructor” and “student,” said Steve McGuire, a UI professor of curriculum and instruction.

The current definition of an instructor – updated in 2001 – only requires couples to report a relationship between a “faculty member” and a “student.” The policy was ambiguous on whether “faculty” included teaching assistants, academic advisers, coaches, permanent dorm staff, or other instructional personnel. Under the revised policy, all would be required to report a relationship with a student.

“Gaps were identified in the policy and protections, and this is an attempt to fix that,” said Craig Porter, a UI clinical professor of pediatric academic administration.

The UI Dispute Resolution Committee requested to review the policy in January 2007 after an incident where the definition of “student” was blurry. Porter said the committee also recognized that in a number of places on campus, the policy was not effective or useful.

A student is defined as those “who have matriculated” the educational program at the UI, postdoctoral fellows, medical residents, and minors served by outreach summer programs and camps.

Porter said that a handful of instructor-student relationships are reported to the UI Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity each year. He added, however, that some become complaints of sexual harassment.

Regardless of who initiates the relationship, the instructor is responsible for following the policy.

“We also have reason to believe more are going on that are not reported,” Porter said.

Romantic relationships are prohibited in an instructional context, or when an instructor is directly or indirectly instructing, evaluating, or supervising a student’s academic work or participation in a UI program. When the policy is violated, an instructor is usually punished and sometimes terminated, Porter said.

McGuire said he doesn’t expect much debate today because the policy “made a lot of sense.”

Two weeks ago at the UI Faculty Council meeting, the group voted unanimously in favor of the policy.

“Any policy needs to be reviewed regularly,” McGuire said. The consensual relationship policy “is consistent with the goals and current time.”

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If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 6, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, fraternization, higher education, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Arbitration Board Reinstates Bird

The Canadian Press reported today that an arbitration board has ordered the reinstatement of Gregory Bird, a psychology teacher and general studies program leader at Lethbridge College in the province of Alberta.

Mr. Bird admitted to having sex with three female students and an internal investigation held by the college found him guilty of “inappropriate relationships with students” and dismissed him from the college. The arbitration board consisted of an arbitrator, two college representatives and a faculty association representative; they ordered that Bird be reinstated by May 1.

The Canadian Press also reported that all three students were consenting adults, none of the students claimed to have received preferential treatment from the professor. The professor testified that two of the women he had known prior to their becoming Lethbridge students and two of the women took classes from him while he was dating them. Investigation of the professor was initiated by a complaint from a former student. It was unclear whether the complaining student was one of the three involved students. The complaint led to an investigation and Bird’s firing.

Mr. Bird argued that he could not be fired because the college did not have a rule banning student professor intimacies.  The Board ruled that “Employees should not lose their jobs for breaking unwritten rules in areas where the line between right and wrong can be ambiguous. ” The college argued that Bird’s actions were a violation of the college’s sexual harassment policy. As for the college lacking a policy on consensual dating, Lethbridge College Vice President stated:
“Why would you write a policy that presupposes faculty might sleep with students?”

The college has yet to make a determination as to whether to appeal the arbitrator’s decision. Arbitrator’s decisions can be appealed on the grounds that the arbitrator violated the terms of the arbitration. Appealing the arbitration even if ultimately unsuccessful can significantly delay the return of the professor to the classroom.

The Canadian Press reported: “If Mr. Bird does return in May, he will do so without back pay and will be subject to conditions set out by the arbitrator. They include not being allowed to date or have sex with any student at the college and having to inform his supervisor if he dates a former student who has been out of the college for less than a year. He must also notify the college if one of his future students is someone with whom he has had a close relationship.”

Presently, Lethbridge College is developing a policy on student professor relationships.

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If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

January 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Lethbridge College, litigation, sexual policing, sexual rights, student professor dating | 2 Comments

Getting rid of attractive students

The dankprofessor has argued that at the core of banning student professor sexual relationships is an anti sexual dynamic, a dynamic that is often stated in rather stark terms which puts such relationships in a child molestation framework with the professor being the sexual predator and the student being the innocent child or childlike female student. Some times the framework is closer to a rape framework with the professor being an adult rapist and the student an adult or near adult rape victim. Whatever be the specifics of the framework, the outcome is the same- the female student is unable to give consent. This sounds pretty outlandishly anti-sexual . However, some have argued that this sexual banning really is not anti-sexual, and that the reason for such bans is to protect the grading process, to eliminate the possibility that the enamored professor will prejudicially grade the loved one. To put the argument in a nutshell, professors are committed to non-prejudicial grading and sacrificing the rights of students and professors from loving each other in a grading context is a necessary sacrifice. On the surface this sounds like a reasonable argument. However, the overwhelming predominant academic reality is that professors provide only lip service to the sacredness of the grading process; lip service since professors generally do not emotionally invest themselves in grading; “good” grading does not help one get hired, promoted or tenured. Investing oneself in good grading, emphasizing how one is a committed non-prejudicial grader will not help one advance in academia. At whatever university and in whatever discipline, valued and remembered professors will be remembered as good teachers or good researchers or good scholars and not as outstanding non-prejudicial graders.

And given the lack of value put on grading, there is little or no emphasis on the prevention of prejudicial grading. There are no workshops on the prevention of prejudicial grading. There is much rhetoric in contemporary academic life about matters relating to race, gender and class, but nothing of a formal or informal nature directed toward professors as to how to avoid race, class and gender biases as such effect the grading process, whether the grading relates to grading a student one likes or one dislikes. One can politically and ideologically bond with students, one can fight and demonstrate with students to take back the night, but hardly anyone argues that one cannot grade these same students. Of course, students frequently complain that professors engage in prejudicial grading, that so and so students received a high grade because the professor liked him or her. But such talk is seen by almost all professors as just talk, certainly no talk that would lead one to take some sort of action or to lead the talked about to take a self-inventory.

If professors were really concerned about prejudicial grading, they would overtly demand that faculty deal with what heretofore has been unmentionable- that faculty, both male and female faculty, both married and unmarried faculty, both feminist and sexist professors are sexually attracted and sometimes very sexually attracted to some of their students some of the time. Every person who has ever professed knows this to be true and every professor know that being differentially attracted to students can lead to differential grading to some degree based on said attractiveness. Of course, we all know that the the physically attractive, the beautiful people are advantaged in just about all sectors of everyday life.

Robert Cialdini, in Influence: Science and Practice, summarizes the dynamic in these terms-

“Research has shown that we automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence (for a review of this evidence, see Eagly, Ashmore, Makhijani, & Longo, 1991). Furthermore, we make these judgments without being aware that physical attractiveness plays a role in the process. Some consequences of this unconscious assumption that “good-looking equals good” scare me. For example, a study of the 1974 Canadian federal elections found that attractive candidates received more than two and a half times as many votes as unattractive candidates (Efran & Patterson, 1976). Despite such evidence of favoritism toward handsome politicians, follow-up research demonstrated that voters did not realize their bias. In fact, 73 percent of Canadian voters surveyed denied in the strongest possible terms that their votes had been influenced by physical appearance; only 14 percent even allowed for the possibility of such influence (Efran & Patterson, 1976). Voters can deny the impact of attractiveness on electability all they want, but evidence has continued to confirm its troubling presence (Budesheim & DePaola, 1994).

A similar effect has been found in hiring situations. In one study, good grooming of applicants in a simulated employment interview accounted for more favorable hiring decisions than did job qualifications – this, even though the interviewers claimed that appearance played a small role in their choices (Mack & Rainey, 1990). The advantage given to attractive workers extends past hiring day to payday. Economists examining U.S. and Canadian samples have found that attractive individuals get paid an average of 12-14 percent more than their unattractive coworkers (Hammermesh & Biddle, 1994).

Equally unsettling research indicates that our judicial process is similarly susceptible to the influences of body dimensions and bone structure. It now appears that good-looking people are likely to receive highly favorable treatment in the legal system (see Castellow, Wuensch, & Moore, 1991; and Downs & Lyons, 1990, for reviews). For example, in a Pennsylvania study (Stewart, 1980), researchers rated the physical attractiveness of 74 separate male defendants at the start of their criminal trials. When, much later, the researchers checked court records for the results of these cases, they found that the handsome men had received significantly lighter sentences. In fact, attractive defendants were twice as likely to avoid jail as unattractive defendants. In another study – this one on the damages awarded in a staged negligence trial – a defendant who was better looking than his victim was assessed an average amount of $5,623; but when the victim was the more attractive of the two, the average compensation was $10,051. What’s more, both male and female jurors exhibited the attractiveness-based favoritism (Kulka & Kessler, 1978).

Other experiments have demonstrated that attractive people are more likely to obtain help when in need (Benson, Karabenic, & Lerner, 1976) and are more persuasive in changing the opinions of an audience (Chaiken, 1979)…”

And the dankprofessor asks, are there any believers that such is different in the academic world, that physical attractiveness plays no role in grading and in academic gamesmanship in general?

If professors were really honest about this dynamic and at the same time committed to non-prejudicial grading, what might they do to minimize prejudicial grading? Might they recuse themselves from grading attractive students? Not possible. Might the university have dual classes, one class for the attractive and the other for the non-attractive? No way. But what about bringing about what had been not a rarity in the past in academia and that is the introduction of a student dress code. And the dress code would be that students dress in an absolutely uniform and bland manner, and that code be strictly enforced by administrators who have been specially trained to create and enforce dress codes. Unquestionably, there would be misdirected faculty and students who would hold such a code to be in violation of student civil liberties and rights. But the sacrifice of such rights would be a small sacrifice to make in the pursuit of fair and non-prejudicial grading. And, of course, students and professors have been asked (demanded) that they sacrifice the right to have sex with each other, the right to romance each other, the right to love each other all in the supposed name of protecting fair and non-prejudicial grading. And if as has been pointed out by banning advocates that students have not fully developed the ability to consent in sexual matters why would one assume that these same students have developed the ability to decide how to dress on an everyday basis? Better to let the specially trained to decide how you dress as long as you are a student at our university.

OK, for the distraught students who believe that they just can’t accept a dress code, they better get with the code or they will get a public dressing down. And remember Big Brother and Big Sister loves all students equally in all their surface blandness and sameness. No need to fret about the physically attractive getting an unfair better deal. Right?

More to follow in upcoming posts.

—–
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

January 18, 2008 Posted by | attractive students, consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, fraternization, grading, higher education, love, recusal, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | Leave a comment

A passionate defense of student professor consensual sexual relationships

One of the very best and also the most passionate defenses of student professor sexual relationships has been by
Cristina Nehring, “The Higher Yearning; Bringing eros back to academe,” HARPER’S MAGAZINE, September 1, 2001.
Unfortunately, there is no full text copy available of this article online. It merits reading by all persons seriously interested
in issues relating to student professor fraternization. This is a lengthy article, and following is what I consider to be the
key excerpts from this article. Do get the full text copy of this article. And do savor the forthcoming excerpts. Do keep in mind that this writing is writing that the advocates of banning student professor sexual relationships do not want you to read. It is NEVER cited by these advocates. I will comment on aspects of this article in upcoming posts.Following are the article excerpts-

…Teacher-student chemistry is what sparks much of the best work that goes on at universities, today as always. It need not be reckless; it need not be realized. It need not even be articulated, or mutual. In most cases, in fact, it is none of these. In most cases, academic eros works from behind the scenes. It lingers behind the curtain and ensures that the production onstage is strong. It ensures that the work in the classroom is charged, ambitious, and vigorous. In most cases, it would be counterproductive for it to emerge, itself, into the limelight. That said, it occasionally does. And when it does, it must not be criminalized. For the university campus on which the erotic impulse between teachers and students is criminalized is the campus on which the pedagogical enterprise is deflated. It is the campus on which pedagogy is gutted and gored. This, unfortunately, is the scenario that confronts us today.

My own success would have been perfect had I elected in the last few years to sue my fiance, a professor at the university where I am completing a doctorate, for our relationship. In fact, the suit was very nearly made on my behalf, and against my will. When his superiors learned of our relationship, the wheels of justice and punishment began, immediately, to turn. No matter that I had never taken a class with him, or that I worked in a different department; no matter that we had met off-campus, or, most importantly, that I did not feel in any shape or form harassed by him. Nobody cared. My view of the matter was declared “irrelevant.” As a graduate student, I was presumably too “disempowered” to judge of my own abuse. Deans wrote letters; chairs made calls; hiring committees were warned of the “seriousness of the offense”; jobs were threatened–and I went unconsulted.

…In our enlightened contemporary university, men walk on eggshells and women run from shadows. Every gesture is suspect: if a colleague compliments you on your dress, it smacks of sexism; if a professor is friendly, he is readying you for future sexual abuse. There is no kindness so innocent that women educated in the “patterns” of harassment cannot recognize it as an instance of the newly identified activity experts refer to as “grooming” the victim for the kill. Academic encouragement, easy jesting, an affectionate epithet–all of what used to be the currency of good fellowship as well as teaching–have become cause for vigilance, fodder for complaint, the stuff of suits.

Were the rhetoric of the sexual-harassment authorities pursued with any consistency, it would deepen the rift between classes and between races just as fast as it has, in effect, restored the rift between the sexes. For what is the main trope of university harassment discourse? “Power differential.” Under no circumstances, we hear with metronomic regularity, may we countenance a “power differential” in intimate relationships. A teaching assistant not only should not but cannot give consent to a union with an assistant professor, suggests Billie Dziech, speaking for the consensus of harassment experts in the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy (1999)…

The crackdown on power differentials in student-professor (or senior colleague-junior colleague) relationships presupposes a power-balance in non-pedagogic relationships that is completely fictitious. Where, one might ask, are the symmetrical relationships? If a student falls in love with a lawyer, is that more symmetrical? Should we outlaw relationships between students and nonstudents too? What about between good students and bad students? Rich students and poor students? Were we honest about our disdain for power imbalance we would have to legislate as emphatically against discrepancies in cultural, economic, and racial clout (to give a few examples) as against those in professional clout. It would be well-nigh impossible because of the endless and conflicting ways in which power manifests itself once we relinquish a simplistic model. (If there is “power” in academic rank, for instance, there is power in youth too–in physical attractiveness, in energy. There is power, even, in yet-to-be-fulfilled promise–power in time.) To the extent that such legislation succeeded, it would be a disaster–a reactionary dystopia, a hierarchical hell to which the way had been paved with liberal intentions.

One of the astonishing strengths of love and sex is that it can make boundaries between people so easy to break. It can glide, smiling, around social, vocational, and linguistic roadblocks; it can disarm difference, banish history, slice through power divides. It can ease the passage into another culture, mind, generation, or world. As was discovered by Jane Gallop–who seduced her professors as a student and her students as a professor (for which she was accused of sexual harassment in 1992 with far more reason than most)–sex is a great “leveler.” As suspect as Gallop may be in her egotism and promiscuity, in this she is right. Sex is a great leveler, and not just in the bedroom. The most surprising thing you learn when you fall in love with a sage or a student, a prince or a pauper, is not that you can sleep with him but that you can talk with him. This is something understood–unexpectedly, perhaps–by Philip Roth. The highly cultured hero of his new campus novel, The Dying Animal, may have been “inaccessible to [his student lover] in every other arena” but the sexual when they first met–so he says, and, given his general misanthropy, this is probably true. But for all the ways in which their liaison is compromised, what the mannerly Cuban coed and the transgressive Jewish pundit discover is that they can actually talk to each other. The same is true of the cleaning woman in Roth’s previous novel, The Human Stain, who discovers that she can arouse the college dean mentally as much as physically. He can confide in her more than he ever could in his yuppie kids and bookish colleagues. She finds in the privileged, overeducated septuagenarian her first playmate, the first person she can tease and trust.

Legend has it that love is blind. And lust is blind. Just sometimes, though, they are clairvoyant. They take the glaze from our eyes. They prompt us to look through the odd, unfamiliar exterior of our neighbors and detect a familiar soul, a soul with which, to our surprise, we can communicate. Indifference and industry have made more men blind than eros. If Cupid wears a blindfold now and then, Mammon wears a hood.

One of the least disputed objections to classroom erotics is that they constitute, in the words of harassment author Leslie Pickering Francis, a “distraction from teaching, learning, and research.” Nothing could be further from the truth. To say that chemistry between a student and a teacher distracts from learning is like saying that color distracts from seeing. It does not distract; it enlivens, enhances, intensifies: it fixes the gaze. It gives teeth to the eyes, a digestive tract to the brain.

I will go out on a limb and admit that if crushes between students and teachers could have been prevented when I was in college, I would never have made it through. The fact that I graduated summa cum laude is testimony to the number of crushes that sustained me, that kept me edgy, and eager, and engaged. At the beginnings of quarters I shopped around for teachers to have a crush on, and it was a sad term, a long term, when I found none. I tried. I fanned the flame of minor lights–knowing full well that if I could not generate at least a little heat my mind would freeze.

I do not advocate making a habit of sleeping with professors, but then I would not advocate making a habit of sleeping with plumbers, or realtors, or artists either. I do advocate the exception. If a professor and student fall in love mutually–and let us admit that there are more occasions for this to occur than exist for a professor and a plumber–then there should not be a law or code or set of mores to stop them from giving that love an opportunity to succeed. It may not: as the new campus moralists observe, “the vast majority of students who enter into affairs with their lecturers … do not subsequently report that they were glad to have had the experience. Quite the contrary.” Most relationships don’t succeed–most non-faculty-student relationships don’t succeed, if by success we mean that they go on forever. And when people come out of them, they unfortunately do not often “report that they were glad to have had the experience” either–at least not right afterward. Divorce courts are full of people who say the opposite. We do not, therefore, outlaw marriage.

I learned about more than Renaissance literature from the man I loved as a freshman. Contrary to popular opinion, the relationship did not reinforce my student sense of inferiority; it eliminated it. As much as I admired my teacher, I also found I could talk with him; I had something to offer him that had nothing to do with the old cliches of youth and beauty. Or if it had to do with them, then long live mixed motives, for they certainly were not the most important or lasting cause of our understanding–an understanding that has grown over the last decade and sparked a vivid and voluble literary correspondence. The relationship enfranchised me intellectually; it gave me a voice, and faith in it. And it did this even though, at the outset, it also drew me into the goofiest excesses of adolescent adoration. It drew me to abandon my slot at a top university in order to trek across the country to an obscure one, at which my teaching assistant had just accepted his first professorship. It prompted me to fake an interest in that school’s religious affiliations while working a job as a live lingerie model in a shady local bar to pay my increased private-school dues. It also led me to flee the lightest coffee invitation from my idol. It was not until I returned home (my funds ran out; my talents as a model were limited) that our conversations really began. But even this–the experience of following my heart, however on the surface, vainly–was good for me. It made the love poems I was reading real, immediate, and practical. It was the laboratory component of the Amorous Theory I was assimilating.

All is fair in love and war; people must take their chances, and students are no exception. University students are not children, and women are not children, though to hear harassment officers talk one would think so. They are also not desireless deadwood; they do not drift about aimlessly until angled by a “Lecherous Professor.” They are perfectly capable of finding a professor themselves and seducing him–in fact, I would guess, on the basis of admittedly anecdotal evidence, that this happens far more frequently than the reverse.

Harassment specialists seem unable to believe that female students have the desire or enterprise of an Alcibiades. They do. And the position that they do not–albeit held, as it often is, by bedrock feminists–seems strangely sexist. Why should Greek men have initiative and eros, and American women none? Why should contemporary coeds emerge from a romantic encounter with a teacher–even, as a textbook on the subject tells us, “the most `consensual’ appearing”–with “devastation … real and intense” and “self-esteem” so shattered it demands “years of therapy and reconstructing,” when nobody thinks for one moment that young men like Alcibiades or Agathon sustain incurable wounds? It is only women’s experience that is assumed to be traumatic beyond comprehension or repair. It is only women who are taken to be as frail and faltering as they are devoid of lust and luster. Sexism can be paternalistic as well as aggressive (historically, it more often was), and this is sexism writ large, no matter who’s spreading it.

And it is bad for pedagogy. It’s one thing to disarm a certain type of old-school professor who thought that his students’ bodies (as well as their research and briefcase-toting services) were his birthright. It’s one thing to discourage gross sexist speech and to counsel caution in the initiation of student-teacher relationships. But it is another to stamp out playful and affectionate discourse just because it carries a sexual innuendo and may even, on occasion, make us “uncomfortable.” It is quite another, also, to try to ban professor-student relationships altogether. Knowledge is unremittingly personal: the best students fall in love with teachers; the most engaged teachers respond strongly–and variously–to students. The campus on which the chance of sexual harassment–of sexual “impropriety” between teachers and students–is eliminated is the campus on which pedagogy is eviscerated. It is the campus on which pedagogy is dead.

It is a part of our safety-obsessed culture that we try. In a country where we give children crash helmets with their tricycles (and kneepads with their strollers), perhaps it is no wonder that we give them The Lecherous Professor with their college admissions. Perhaps it is no surprise that we lament, with Leslie Pickering Francis, the possibility that they may not prove “rational consumers of romantic relationships in the way they might be rational consumers of products”; and that we consequently forbid them any romance with a teacher in which they are, to quote David Archard, another expert, “unlikely to be able to determine, for instance, how long it lasts”–as though one were ever able to “determine” how long a relationship lasts; as though lovers were supposed to be “rational consumers.” Love is not commerce; a relationship is not a safety-tested Tonka toy–and any attempt to make it such is bound to be catastrophic. It leads, among other things, to the bizarre situation of our contemporary American society, in which we are in principle forbidden to have relationships not merely with our students (if we are teachers) and our teachers (if we are students) but also with our doctors, lawyers, counselors, therapists, deans, co-workers, clients, employees, or employers–virtually anyone, in fact, with whom we might come into natural contact in the course of everyday life. The result? We find ourselves driven in numbers to dating services and singles clubs, where we spend large amounts of money to meet normal people in abnormal and usually highly stressful contexts. We join volunteer organizations that feel like meat markets, as a majority of members look out more vigilantly for the available bachelor than for the nominal cause of the day. Artificial contexts provoke artificial behavior: we make ill-informed and hasty choices–dating, after all, is such a chore this way–and end up in marriages from which we soon ache to escape. If this is an overstatement, it is less of one than those we hear regularly from the sexual-harassment police.

Should we have forbidden Camille Claudel and Rodin? Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger? Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud? Allan Bloom and his student lovers? Professor bell hooks and her student boyfriend? Heloise and Abelard? To be sure, not one of these relationships, each initially pedagogic, was perfect (which is?), but all were spectacularly productive, revelatory, heated, and formative for both parties–in several cases, formative for Western culture and philosophy. The most beautiful and authentic and complex love poems I know were written by a teacher to his student. They were written by John Donne, in the early seventeenth century, to his employer’s niece, with whom he eloped, and for whom he suffered loss of reputation, money, and career for the next quarter century. Not long after Donne penned these poems, John Milton–whose marriage sustained no similar power differential–drafted “The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.”

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

January 16, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, fraternization, higher education, love, secrecy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 55 Comments

The official Ohio State University policy on student professor consensual sexual relationships

After a 1 1/2 years of  consideration, evaluation and debate the OSU issued its formal policy on consensual sexual relationships between students and professors on July 1, 2006; the policy can be viewed here.  And a myriad of OSU documents relating to the process leading to adoption can be viewed here.

What ended up in the final policy was essentially proposed in the Work Group Report.  And it appears that the Work Group report was not criticized by anyone or any entity associated with OSU.  The dankprofessor believes that it has been only on the dankprofessor blog that the work of the Work Group has ever been directly criticized.  The reality was that the work of the Work Group was accepted as the final word.  A lot of huffing and puffing occurred when the Task Force released its report to the OSU community, and the changes that did occur were not ultimately of a substantive nature.  And last but not least the consensual policy became a subpart of  the sexual harassment policy of  Ohio State University.  

So now in 2008, faculty and students entering OSU can internalize the OSU sexual norms in a bureaucratized and dehumanized framework. No romance; no passion; no love.  If there be passion, love and romance between a student and a professor, it must be a secret love.  And as I am sure we all know, love will survive and is surviving at OSU.  Such came to be at OSU and so many other universities by the usage of fear tactics, fear tactics that included  farcical beliefs that the permitting of student professor sexual relationships has in some way undermined the quality of academic life.  The quality of academic life was never undermined by allowing for student professor sexual relationships at OSU or any other university.  What has been  diminished is the quality of life since freedom and consent and choice have been diminished and authoritarian thinking has formally replaced independent thinking, and an authoritarian  institutional bureaucratic “ethic” has replaced a personal ethical engagement.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

January 9, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Ohio State University, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating | 2 Comments

The Final Chapter: The dissection of the Ohio State University Task Force Report

The Dankprofessor will continue to plow thru the OSU Task Force on Consensual Relationships; it is important for persons interested in determining how a university arrives at a point in time at which a formal prohibition on student professor consensual relationships is adopted.  For the prior post on OSU and relevant documents click hereFollowing is a section of the Task Force Report that merits our attention.
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“The Task Force was apprised of the variety of harms caused by sexual relationships between faculty and students. Apparently, a familiar pattern involves a faculty member who initiates a sexual relationship with a student, often a student in the same department with whom the faculty member frequently interacts. Initially, the student may be flattered by the attention and may give little thought to the power dynamics in the relationship. When the relationship ends or turns sour, however, the effect on the student changes sharply: the student then experiences hurt, guilt, shame and a lack of connection with her peers as a result of the relationship and worries about the effect of the relationship on her career, particularly if she feels that the faculty member is in a position to influence her future. The Task Force heard reports of faculty members who were known to have had multiple relationships with students, suggesting a propensity to misuse their power as professors.”
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     Note the overt dehumanizing rhetoric employed in this excerpt.  Now we have THE student and THE faculty member presented in completely homogenous terms.  Such is illustrative of the I-it I-thou framework put forth by Martin Buber.  Here, we only have the I-it.  In such a depersonalized world there is only THE student, The professor, THE homosexual, THE Jew.  Once one knows who is who then one
knows the script and therefore without any personal knowledge of any particular student or any particular professor, one already knows how THE student and THE professor will act; what will happen to them once they cross into the forbidden territory of sexuality.  In this fiction as presented by the Task Force, “the student then experiences hurt, guilt and shame…”; no ifs here; such is Her fate.  And what happens to the faculty member? What about “his” experiencing hurt, guilt and shame?  Nothing here; absolutely nothing.  Haven’t we all heard this sort of muckraking?  Didn’t we hear it as children from parents warning us about sex or homosexuality or dating interracially or …?  Do we not know what this sort of rhetoric is all about, that this is about fear and possibly hysteria and ultimately obedience?  In the dankprofessor’s opinion, persons who engage in such rhetoric would be likely candidates for speech writers in the Bush administration.  However, it is hard for me to accept that engaging in this rhetoric  is compatible with being an academic.  What a sorrowful state we are in!
   Unfortunately, there is more from the Task Force illustrating academia’s sorrowful state
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“The Task Force also discussed the third-party and reputational effects of faculty/student consensual relationships. We were told of a notorious case in which the fallout from a sexual relationship in the department caused the student in the relationship and other graduate students in the department to seek counseling and to consider transferring to other universities to complete their degrees. Persons in the department expressed their belief that the reputation of the department suffered as a result.”

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Is this what it boils down to, reputational effects?  Since something supposedly hurts the reputation of some persons or some entity then the liberty to fraternize is suspended.  Reputations of departments vary from department to department and in the same department over time.  Selecting out student and professors in a sexual relationship who generally just want to be left alone for responsibility for the “reputational” effects is just other worldly!  In any case, the extreme effects of the particular case highlighted by the Task Force may just be academic gossip.  And if the case was so notorious, why didn’t the Task Force specifically name names?

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 And the Task Force continues-

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Regardless of the scope of any new rule, Task Force members were strongly of the view that little would change if the new policy did not have “teeth” or if persons were unaware of the restrictions. To be effective, there must be a duty placed on the faculty member to disclose the existence of any sexual relationship with a student – current or in the past – and to cooperate in making alternative arrangements for the supervision, teaching, grading, advising, counseling or other responsibility relating to the student. Additionally, any supervisor notified of such a relationship or who becomes aware of such a relationship should have a duty to take immediate action to provide an acceptable alternative arrangement. The Task Force was mindful of the potential hazards with requiring disclosure, particularly in cases of same-sex relationships or other socially disapproved relationships. For this reason, the supervisor should take all feasible steps to maintain the confidentiality of such information. Finally, to insure against multiple offenders escaping notice, any action taken in response to a report of a consensual sexual relationship or alternative arrangements made as a result should be reported to Human Resources. The Task Force agreed that policy and procedure for regulating consensual sexual relationships should remain as part of the University’s policy against sexual harassment.”

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 So the Task Force wants to give this policy “teeth”.   And what better way to give it teeth than to bring third parties into the scenarios; informers in the genre of the Linda Tripps; informers who really care about the Monica Lewinskys of the world and have no agenda, emotional or otherwise, concerning presidents and professors of the world.  And in this world of third party informants, the good administrator (police) will take immediate action to correct the so-called problem, no need for for acting in a slow and cautious manner.  Here academic justice and sidewalk justice become one. 

And in a true Orwellian fashion the Task Force urges supervisors to maintain confidentiality of all information.  But if confidentiality mattered, if the privacy of the couple mattered, if one granted even minimal rights to those in the closet, then there would no third party informants.  The truth is as the Task Force apparently does not know that once the couple is compromised there is no confidentiality; confidentiality is history.  The Task Force is engaging in delusional thinking unless what they meant by confidentiality is secrecy and therefore the ability of the so- called supervisors to act knowing that their acts will not be in public view.  So the administrators are given their secrecy and the involved students and professors are stripped of their secrecy.  No sexcrecy(my word); no secret love.  Fortunately there were some OSU professors who saw thru this game at an OSU forum on the Task Force report.  The campus newspaper, The Lantern, reported

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“Faculty at the meeting voiced concerns on the notification clause in the policy change. Originally, the revised policy required that human resources be notified if a faculty member entered into any consensual relationship with a student, even in cases where the faculty member was not in a supervisory position. Some faculty were concerned with this central reporting mechanism and with the creation of records of the relationships within human resources. In response to these concerns, human resources has revised the policy to require faculty to report the relationships only to their department chairs. No notification of human resources is required and no central records will be kept.With the adoption of the anonymous reporting line on March 1, T.K. Daniels, chair of the faculty council of the University Senate, expressed concerns that third-party reporting would be encouraged in instances of consensual relationships between faculty and students.”It’s a romantic police state,” Daniels said. “It’s even more so a police state because it can be reported anonymously.”Lewellen said the policy needs to be revised to discourage third-party reporting and that he believes this is a matter of professional ethics.”

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 We shall see whether  third party reporting was modified when we look at the policy as adopted.   But suffice to state at this point that Professor Daniels understands what it takes to create an effective police state, it takes informers and more informers, and it takes the true believing ideologues to help the informers rationalize that they are doing the right thing.

  Of course, the Task Force recommended that there be a prohibition on faculty student professor relationships.  We will terminate this post with their summary of their recommendations.

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“In summary, the Task Force recommends:

(1) That the OSU policy be revised to prohibit consensual sexual relationships between faculty and students or between university employees and students, whenever the faculty member or employee has supervisory, teaching, evaluation, advisory, coaching or counseling responsibilities for the student or would otherwise be likely to be asked to take on such a role in the future.

(a) That OSU implement the consensual relationship policy to impose a duty on faculty and staff to report and disclose any sexual relationship with a student encompassed within (1) above, either to their supervisor or to Human Resources and to cooperate in making acceptable alternative arrangements. The policy should also impose a duty on supervisors to notify Human Resources of any such relationships reported to them or that come to their knowledge and to take immediate steps to provide acceptable alternative arrangements.

(b) That the OSU consensual relationship policy contain a clear statement that disciplinary action will be taken against faculty or staff who violate the policy, either by entering into or engaging in a sexual relationship with a student encompassed with (1) above, or by failing to report such relationship or cooperate in making alternative arrangements.”

—–
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

 

January 5, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Ohio State University, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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