Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Univ of Iowa prof raises havoc in response to Republicans “coming out”

When we speak of people coming out, I think such generally implies that one is coming out of some sort of “closet”.  One has been closeted since one fears that being known would lead to one being hurt in some sense.

Apparently Republicans at the University of University of Iowa have been living in fear and have been closeted.  So some UI Republicans have called for a coming out on campus at specific times and places via sending a coming out announcement to all university personnel.

Such has raised quite a ruckus at the University of Iowa.  Even a UI Women’s Studies professor engaged in some very foul language regarding the coming out announcement.  Even the President of UI has issued a statement on the issue.

Following is a detailed report as to the situation at UI and Iowa City.

A University of Iowa professor who studies same-sex relationships was so upset by a mass email from a campus Republican group promoting “Conservative Coming Out Week” that she fired off a vulgarity aimed at all Republicans.

Ellen Lewin, a professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, responded to the email by writing, “F*** YOU, REPUBLICANS” from her official University of Iowa email account.

Lewin’s message prompted a flurry of e-mails in response, all of which were published on The Iowa Republican, a GOP news website.

UI student and Chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans Natalie Ginty demanded an apology from Lewin’s supervisors.

“We understand that as a faculty member she has the right to express her political opinion, but by leaving her credentials at the bottom of the email she was representing the University of Iowa, not herself alone,” Ginty wrote to James Enloe, the head of the Department of Anthropology.

“Vile responses like Ellen’s need to end. Demonizing the other party through name-calling only further entrenches feelings of disdain for the other side. I am sure you understand that nothing is ever accomplished by aimless screams of attack,” Ginty wrote.

Lewin later wrote back to explain, “This is a time when political passions are inflamed, and when I received your unsolicited email, I had just finished reading some newspaper accounts of fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government. I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities. I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times.”

In a later email to the group, Lewin wrote the following:

“I should note that several things in the original message were extremely offensive, nearly rising to the level of obscenity. Despite the Republicans’ general disdain for LGBT rights you called your upcoming event ‘conservative coming out day,’ appropriating the language of the LGBT right movement. Your reference to the Wisconsin protests suggested that they were frivolous attempts to avoid work. And the ‘Animal Rights BBQ’ is extremely insensitive to those who consider animal rights an important cause. Then, in the email that Ms. Ginty sent complaining about my language, she referred to me as Ellen, not Professor Lewin, which is the correct way for a student to address a faculty member, or indeed, for anyone to refer to an adult with whom they are not acquainted. I do apologize for my intemperate language, but the message you all sent out was extremely disturbing and offensive.”

UI President Sally Mason responded in an email to the university community:

“Dear Members of the University Community:

The University of Iowa encourages freedom of expression, opposing viewpoints, and civil debate about those opposing viewpoints. This is clearly articulated in our core values of Diversity and Respect. Because diversity, broadly defined, advances its mission of teaching, research, and service, the University is dedicated to an inclusive community in which people of different cultural, national, individual, and academic backgrounds encounter one another in a spirit of cooperation, openness, and shared appreciation.

The University also strongly encourages student engagement in such discussions and supports students acting on their viewpoints. Student organizations are sometimes formed along political lines and act on their political beliefs. Even if we personally disagree with those viewpoints, we must be respectful of those viewpoints in every way. Intolerant and disrespectful discord is not acceptable behavior.

Sally Mason

The original e-mail from the College Republicans was sent out under the university’s mass email policy, in which campus groups can e-mail all or parts of campus so long as the message is approved by UI Student Services:

From: UI College Republicans

Subject: [NonAcadStudorg] Conservative Coming Out Week

Conservatives in Iowa City it is now time to come out of the closet!

I know at times it feels like you are the only person that disagrees with this liberal town, but you are not alone! We are asking all Republicans, Independents leaning right, or just anyone slightly frustrated with the current one party controlling every level of Johnson County, and some levels of Iowa and U.S. government to STAND UP!

Conservative Coming Out Week will be April 18th – April 22nd. Here is the schedule of events that will be going on throughout the week:

Monday: Whose Conservative Anyway? Guess which athletes, movie stars, and performing artists are Republican. 11-1 on Kautz Plaza off of the T. Anne Cleary Walkway.

Tuesday: Red vs. Blue Blood Drive from 2 to 6pm at the Carnival Room in Burge. Competition between the Republicans and Democrats for a good cause!

-College Republican meeting that night at 8pm in 71 Schaeffer Hall with showing of “Journey’s with George” in honor of President George W. Bush.

Wednesday: Come pick up your Doctors’ Notice to miss class for “sick of being stress”, just like the Wisconsin public employees during the union protests from 11 to 1 on the Pentacrest.

Thursday: Red vs Blue games! Beat the UDems in kickball and flag football from 4-6 in Hubbard Park. Wear your respective political parties color!

Stick around for a Animal Rights BBQ at 6 p.m.

Friday: Wear RED Day! Come out of the closet and show your true colors!

Should be a great week! Lets come out!

April 21, 2011 Posted by | feminism, higher education, sexual politics, Uncategorized, University of Iowa | 1 Comment

Daily Iowan gets it right

The dankprofessor is in awe re the Daily Iowan’s editorial of February 26 on the response of the UI administration to the UI sexual harassment problem.  Following are the two key paragraphs from said editorial

But the nature of this particular resource (sexual harassmnt training) is foundationally suspect. It lends itself more to calming the ripples of an upset image and hand-hidden gossip caused by the accusations, and subsequent suicides, of Arthur Miller and Mark Weiger, and not the more latent problem of harassment itself. As a reaction to general publicity of sexual harassment, the university is setting up this “training” program, which changes neither the effectiveness nor application of existing policy but merely draws attention to the problem and some of its potential solutions. The program is disingenuous because all it manages to accomplish is a heightened atmosphere of what could be called paranoia, in the sense that the main thrust of the university is to scrub away the blemishes left by the “scandals” themselves and not the root causes: ignorance and disrespect.

Students need ready options for this kind of education, but the tactic of pure “brochure-ism” is not working. A forum of discussion and support could provide the groundwork for a solid system for counteracting harassment, involving all tiers of academic society. In fact, this might resolve into a culture of safety instead of one of apparent vanity. Reiterating and drawing attention to policy will not affect its success. We need a more efficient method of creating a safe, educational environment, not merely reactive measures of highlighting previously existing programs while ignoring their faults.

February 26, 2009 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Writing out University of Iowa buffoonery

In terms of the recent faculty sexual harassment cases and faculty suicides at the University of Iowa, the dankprofessor believes it would be fair to state that things are not going well at UI.  But such is not the view of the UI administration.

UI officials are now touting progress in their fight against faculty sexual harassment and suicide. UI Provost Wallace Loh says that “extraordinary progress'” is occurring at UI since the university has put 4,800 faculty and staff and teaching assistants thru their sexual harassment education program.  Note that the program is now called education and not training.  So in one foul swoop the UI administration is now playing both a numbers game and a name game.  Their stated goal is for 17,800 faculty, staff and TAs to become educated in the ins and outs of sexual harassment.

To argue that so-called educational progress is reflected in these numbers is ludicrous.  Such would be similar to arguing that police training in “cultural sensitivity” means that more police are more sensitive on the beat.  Outcomes and program numbers are not one in the same, whether it be on the beat or in the classroom.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of faculty and staff and TAs who have gone thru said education or training or indoctrination believe that such does not reflect so-called progress but are more likely to believe it is simply an attempt to avoid the University of Iowa becoming involved in legal entanglements.

The dankprofessor  believes that UI communications studies professor Steve Duck who recently completed the UI program got it right when

he said the program is an ineffective public relations move and …many faculty members want to know what (President) Mason will do if another accusation arises.

“Sally Mason’s requirement that all faculty take a mandatory course, which I passed at a level that won me a badge and a free plastic cup, was an ineffective response that does little more than attract bad publicity,” Duck said.

“In fact most faculty, TAs and students have a greater deal of common sense than she recognizes, and her required course doesn’t solve the problem either,” he said.

Handing out a badge and a cup to those who complete this so-called education is downright insulting and patronizing.   Such “gestures” show how little regard, show how little respect the UI administrators have for faculty and students.

What a simple world it would be if we could solve harassment and suicide problems through some pseudo education and the awarding of a badge and a cup.  Or to put it in more blunt terms- the aforementioned represents a form of pablum designed for the simple-minded.

Obviously, the major problem at UI is that the UI President Sally Mason and her administrator underlings do not take these problems seriously.  If they took the problems seriously they would stop treating their faculty as children who they order around while playing mindless word games. 

THE problem at UI and at many other universities is essentially one of authoritarianism. Authoritarians love to give out rewards to those who obey them; obedience is always their game.   However, when the authoritarians also embrace buffoonery over and over again, one ends up with a bad comedy with no one taking anything seriously.  Obviously, the University of Iowa needs some new script writers who will write out these clowns and replace them with persons engaging each other on the serious problems of the day.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Saving lives at the University of Iowa

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a major story today on the suicides of two University of Iowa professors who were charged with sexual harassment and then committed suicide.  The two cases were unrelated to each other.  Both professors committed suicide days after the sexual harassment charges became public.  Professor Mark Weiger committed suicide three months after the suicide of Professor Arthur Miller.

The CHE reported that after Professor Miller was banished from his classroom by the University that UI President, Sally Mason

“issued a statement saying she would not tolerate the kind of conduct Mr. Miller had been accused of. She also said the case had prompted her to make sexual-harassment -awareness training mandatory for all professors. And while she said that “every person is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” she then went on to “applaud the courage of the student victims in coming forward” to charge Mr. Miller.

President Mason declined to answer questions about her statement, but Ms. (Dean) Maxson defends it, saying the president had to take a tough stand because Mr. Miller had been “accused of a very serious infraction of behavioral and legal rules.” To the professor, his wife, and some of his colleagues, however, it felt like the president was pronouncing him guilty before he had even had a chance to defend himself.

Of course, in the dankprofessor’s opinion, President Sally Mason was pronouncing Professor Miller guilty. She not only suspended him from the classroom, but ordered that all faculty go thru sexual harassment training as well as applauding the courage of student victims coming forward.

Maybe Mason should have drawn on some of her own courage to publicly call for the adherence of to the principle of the presumption of innocence.  But such was not the case.  And three months later when Professor Weiger’s situation became public, Weiger knew what to expect and obviously could not deal with this kind of public degradation.

What boggles the mind of the dankprofessor is that President Mason instead of calling for mandating suicide prevention training after these two suicides, she mandates sexual harassment training.  Certainly this gives insight into the values of the President.   Sexual harassment trumps suicide in her hierarchy of values.  The lethality of suicide simply is not as weighty as the effects of being sexually harassed.

In the CHE article, the UI administration stated that UI stays neutral in these sorts of cases.  I guess neutrality means giving short shrift to having any sort of reaching out to the charged professors that would help them psychologically get thru these travails.  I guess this would be considered to be coddling the sexual predator professor.  Of course, one does not coddle the guilty, only the innocent.  And it is obvious that the UI administration did not honor the presumption of innocence.

Helping those who are held to be victimized is expected.  The UI is not neutral in such matters, they  attempt to psychologically help the student victim but not the professor who they de facto treat as an offender.

For example, in December the Daily Iowan reported on the programs that were being implemented at the UI to help student victims of sexual misconduct-

To establish one point of contact for victims, the UI hired Monique DiCarlo from the Women’s Resource Action Center to act as the school’s coordinator for sexual-misconduct response.

Each school would also establish new victim-advocate positions. DiCarlo will assign a victim-advocate to each sexual-assault report.

“Having an advocate on hand at all times is crucial for any victim,” said Cathlene Argento, a Women’s Resource and Action Center volunteer. “It’s great that victims can form a relationship with someone to help them through that event in their lives.”

The mother of the alleged UI sexual-assault victim complained in a letter to UI President Sally Mason that she felt there were too few UI officials looking out for her daughter.

Parrott said the UI will now strongly encourage victims to take their sexual-assault allegations to the police as well as the UI.

Employing the rhetoric of Cathlene Agento, the Women’s Resources and Action Center volunteer, wouldn’t it be great if faculty and others so charged be able to “…form a relationship with someone to help them through that event in their lives.”  And if such a policy had been applied to the charged faculty at UI during the past year, maybe, just maybe, two faculty lives could have been saved.

February 16, 2009 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sex offenders, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

2008 dankprofessor blog review and awards

Here are the five 2008 posts which received the most views along with the number of views. 
Harvard coeds to go nude                                                            5,106
University students engage in public sex                                  2,652
A passionate defense of student professor relationships       2,210
UNM Prof Lisa Chavez speaks out                                             1,991
Sadomasochistic posing professor found fit to teach             1,761

And the story that received the most views was Lisa Chavez and the University of New Mexico– 7,754

And the dankprofessor awards for 2008

to the university having the worst record in dealing with sexual civil liberties issues- the University of Iowa and UC, Irvine

to the university demonstrating the best record in protecting the sexual rights of students and professors- the University of New Mexico

to the professor demonstrating the greatest fortitude in the context of sexual intrusion and the attempted diminution of ones sexual rights- Lisa Chavez of the University of New Mexico

to the academic who most consistently and vehemently attacked the sexual rights and privacy of a fellow academic- Professor Sharon Warner of the University of New Mexico

and to the person in the popular culture who most impressed the dankprofessor in terms of speaking out for sexual rights- Keith Olbermann of MS-NBC

January 1, 2009 Posted by | 2008, awards, UC Irvine, University of Iowa, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Shame on the University of Iowa

The Daily Iowan, the student newspaper of the University of Iowa, reported on Monday that new policy recommendations relating to sexual assault and sexual harassment have been unveiled by all three University of Iowa campuses and have been forwarded to the Board of Regents for their consideration at tomorrow’s meeting of the Board.

UI representative Steve Parrott said there are key elements to the UI’s new policy that will change the way officials handle all cases.

The elements that peaked the dankprofessor’s attention follow.

To establish one point of contact for victims, the UI hired Monique DiCarlo from the Women’s Resource Action Center to act as the school’s coordinator for sexual-misconduct response.

Each school would also establish new victim-advocate positions. DiCarlo will assign a victim-advocate to each sexual-assault report.

“Having an advocate on hand at all times is crucial for any victim,” said Cathlene Argento, a Women’s Resource and Action Center volunteer. “It’s great that victims can form a relationship with someone to help them through that event in their lives.”

The mother of the alleged UI sexual-assault victim complained in a letter to UI President Sally Mason that she felt there were too few UI officials looking out for her daughter.

Parrott said the UI will now strongly encourage victims to take their sexual-assault allegations to the police as well as the UI.

Now the dankprofessor is not adverse to universities developing resources for alleged victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.  But given that there have been two recent suicides at the University of Iowa by faculty members charged with sexual harassment, one would hope that there would be some consideration given to the well being and rights of those charged with sexual offenses on campus.

Employing the rhetoric of Cathlene Agento, the Women’s Resources and Action Center volunteer, wouldn’t it be great that faculty and others so charged be able to “…form a relationship with someone to help them through that event in their lives.”  And if such a policy had been applied to charged faculty at UI during the past year, maybe, just maybe, two faculty lives could have been saved.

The fact that the UI ignored these recent events in the promulgation of these policies is indicative of an utter callousness of the UI administration.  Maybe the callousness is part and parcel of an avoidance and denial syndrome by the UI administration. Or might it represent a revenge mentality that has been prevalent among too many campus feminists in the area of sexual harassment. 

Of course, in the larger society and criminal justice system, it is the desire for revenge particularly at in the context of a police state mentality that has led to the implementation of due process which puts restraints on police and civilians seeking quick “justice”.  Due process protections are not put forth to facilitate efficient police work; due process reflects barriers which police should have to handle with care.

At the University of Iowa, and I expect many others Americans universities, the response to due process concerns reflects a feeling that universities may end up coddling male sex offenders, and rather the coddling should be directed toward their student victims (always the victims not the alleged victims).  But in the dankprofessor’s opinion these policies may help to save the lives of accused faculty.  If  this is considered to be coddling, the dankprofessor believes that such is a necessary coddling.

Shame on the University of Iowa administration for its callousness and avoidance and denial.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sex offenders, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, shame, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

Faculty sexual harassment training trumps suicide prevention training at UI

Presented below is a copy of an email from the University of Iowa Crisis Center which was distributed on campus on December 1 announcing that suicide prevention training is being offered to interested UI students.  The dankprofessor notes that no suicide prevention training is being offered to UI faculty.

And it becomes particularly noteworthy that after the suicide of Professor Arthur Miller last August the university mandated sexual harassment training for all faculty.  No suicide prevention training for faculty then or now. Such represents the priorities of the administration of the University of Iowa.  Shame on the University of Iowa administration for viewing sexual harassment by faculty as meriting more intervention than for faculty killing themselves!
From: Crisis Center [sarah-benson@uiowa.edu]
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2008 1:40 PM
Subject: [NonAcadStudorg] Suicide Prevention Training on Campus

The Crisis Center is providing free training on suicide prevention to interested students. The trainings cover four basic aspects of suicide prevention:

1. Recognizing the warning signs of suicide
2. Asking someone if they are suicidal
3. Persuading someone who is suicidal to get help
4. Referring a suicidal person to appropriate resources

There are two upcoming training dates:
Thursday, December 4, 6:00-8:00pm in 104 EPB
Tuesday, December 9, 6:00-8:00pm in 104 EPB

SPACE IS LIMITED, SO REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. To register, email Sarah Benson Witry at sarah-benson@uiowa.edu with the session you want to attend.

This training is meant for people who have no prior education in this topic, although anyone is welcome. The training will not make attendees “experts” on suicide, but will help them intervene in situations where someone may be considering suicide. The trainer is certified in suicide prevention training, but is not a licensed professional.

If you are thinking about suicide, please seek help. The following is a short list of possible resources:
University Counseling Service (for students): 335-7294
Faculty & Staff Services (for staff/faculty): 335-2085
Crisis Center Crisis Line (24-hours): 351-0140

Distribution of this message was approved by the VP for Student Services. Neither your name nor e-mail address was released to the sender. The policy and guidelines for the UI Mass Mail service, including information on how to filter messages, are available at:

December 1, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Suicide and its aftermath

After the suicide  this past August of  University of Iowa  political science professor Arthur Miller, the President of UI mandated sexual harassment training for all faculty.  In a sexually obsessed culture, such is to be expected.  What President Sally Mason should have considered is the mandating of suicide prevention training and the creation of campus suicide prevention hotlines.  If the University of Iowa had such a program in place, maybe the recent suicide of Professor Mark Weiger could have been prevented.

Of course, we will never know what could have been, but what we do know is that the University of Iowa administration valued suicide prevention training as having lesser value than sexual harassment training.
As reported by The Daily Iowan of November 19:

While more than 50 universities have received a federal grant to set up suicide-prevention training, the University of Iowa likely won’t apply for the funding because of a lack of time and resources.

The UI considered the grant in past years but hasn’t applied because of the extensive time commitment in the proposal process, said Sam Cochran, the director of University Counseling Service.

“We struggle to fulfill student demand for appointments on a daily basis,” he said. “That grant-proposal process would require a part-time or full-time position to [handle], which just can’t happen right now. Our priority is serving the students lining up at our door.”

Such is the case of the University of Iowa even though “…suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students in the United States. Ten percent of college students report having seriously considered killing themselves, according to the American College Health Association.”

No data or attention is given to the prevention of suicide by suicide prevention programs for university faculty.

The fact that the UI administration response to a faculty suicide was to order faculty sexual harassment training is surreal.  Someone at the UI needs to try to get the University of Iowa beyond its present sexual myopia.  In the dankprofessor’s opinion, a good starting point would be the resignation of UI President Sally Mason.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa | 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

Shame and suicide at the University of Iowa

I have had communications from some UI faculty as to the situation of the recent faculty suicides in the context of sexual harassment charges.  I present below one of those communications and I do so without any name attached which is at the request of the writer.

I think that it can’t be dumb coincidence that the UI should have an epidemic of suicidal professors within a single semester. It defies plausibility. And on the rule that if one person asks a question, ten people have the same question, then presumably there are a lot more people in the same situation we simply don’t know about. So what about the University of Iowa in particular makes it epidemically miserable, when virtually all universities have comparable anti- harassment and anti-fraternization policies?


I have an hypothesis to which I think I can lend a certain amount of evidence and plausibility. It’s a perception that the UI (being an Upper Midwestern institution heavily servicing angst-ridden Germanic populations) is more of a shame culture than a guilt culture, although of course we have formal “guilt culture” institutional mechanisms of social control such as policies, procedures, investigations, and sanctions. People here will be influenced much more by self-policing (shame, fear of social stigma, etc.) long before they will be influenced by fear of formal reprisals, and will tend to police their actions to a greater extent than any policy actually stipulates – for instance, if it’s wrong to harass, then we will interpret it as wrong to talk about sex at all; or, if it is wrong to go out on a date, we will ban conversations in coffee shops; etc. and so forth. The result will be a culture in which almost any informal interaction (even of the innocent sort) between students and faculty will be so massively stigmatized that it is unlikely that any such interactions can occur without all parties (both concerned and unconcerned) believing they are inappropriate, and pro-actively signaling avoidance and/or disapproval.


I think I can lend plausibility to this. If you look at the first comment on the “Inside Higher Ed” article, you will see that it came from a student of the University of Iowa probably circa the 80s (it references a certain Professor Forell, who was head of the department of religious studies). It shows that a certain complex of attitudes about fraternization – a sense of its obvious impropriety combined with smug self-satisfaction about this prudery – was an element of the culture long predating the institution of formal mechanisms of social control. (And is it a coincidence that the UI has the first formal mechanism of this kind ever imposed in US higher education? No – what you appear to have is a perfect storm of Upper Midwestern shame culture/repression of sexuality combined with the elements you have everywhere else too, like fear of sexual harassment lawsuits and the usual neo-feminist academic Puritanism). The difference is that we have the usual academic Puritanism, but in the context of a shame culture. When do the people involved kill themselves? When they are outed – exposed to massive social shame – before any institutional finding of wrong-doing has actually been made. No one is afraid of what the institution may do to them formally, at least not to the extent of suicide. They are afraid of social stigma.


And the Weiger situation is doubly bad. If you look at the Inside Higher Ed article’s summary of the lawsuit, apparently a major part of the aggrieved student’s strategy to show hostile environment sexual harassment is that some sexual banter happened and that there was a consensual relationship between Weiger (who was single) and a student. It is not clear that the student is claiming actual, personal harassment, as opposed to having to endure an environment where fraternization could occur. Surely these aren’t the same thing.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, shame, suicide, Uncategorized, University of Iowa | 1 Comment

University of Iowa avoidance and denial in faculty suicides

The University of Iowa is attempting to come up with some new ideas as to how to prevent faculty suicides which occur in the context of sexual harassment charges lodged against faculty members.

One idea that is being emphasized is the involvement of the UI Ombudsman Office.  The following was reported on the Ombuds Blog

A UI professor accused of sexual harassment apparently committed suicide Wednesday afternoon, prompting university officials to reiterate the availability of resources to avoid such incidents. UI spokesperson Steve Parrott said faculty accused of misconduct can go to the Office of the Ombudsperson and have confidential conversations to determine how to protect their reputation and resolve the problem. Coincidentally, the UI Ombuds Office made a presentation to the Graduate Student Senate the same afternoon as the professor’s death.

The dankprofessor considers this proposal to be surreal and leads to avoidance and denial when it comes to basic and elementary steps that UI could have taken and can still take in cases such as that of Professor Mark Weiger.

Simply stated the UI can do the same things they do for professors that they already do for students and others who allege sexual harassment.  In the case of the accuser, the accuser’s identity is confidential and is shielded from public view.  If such was applied to the accused, the reputation of the accused is protected and the accused is not subject to a public stigmatization.  Such does not mean that the accused cannot be suspended with pay.  But what this does mean is that the university attempts to minimize punishment without trial and honor the presumption of innocence.

As a result of the Duke University lacrosse team fiasco, university administrations throughout the nation know of the possible dangerous consequences of  the rush to judgment.  By not rushing to judgment and protecting the confidentiality of the accused, universities such as the University of Iowa could save lives.  But universities such as UI are unlikely to implement these sorts of polices.  The dankprofessor asks why is this the case.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, rape, secrecy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

Victims and victimization at the University of Iowa

The University of Iowa student newspaper the Daily Iowan reported on the campus reaction on the suicide of Professor Weiger.  One of the more bizarre and insensitive reactions was by Karla Miller, director of the Rape-Victim Advocacy Program.

Karla Miller…declined to comment specifically about Weiger, but she said after such apparent suicides, it could emotionally affect the victim who reported the harassment.

“It would be only natural to wonder why an individual would do this,” she said. “Unfortunately, what can happen is the response that some people make is to blame the victims, and that’s inappropriate.

“The victims are never to blame.”

A right-on response to this comment was by the False Rape Society blog; their letter to the editor of the Daily Iowan follows-

In your story, “Accused U. Iowa music professor victim of apparent suicide” (Nov. 13), you report on the tragic death of Professor Mark Weiger from an apparent suicide following an accusation of sexual harassment. One of the persons you interviewed properly noted that “sexual-harassment lawsuits frequently result from false accusations.”

However, you also quote Karla Miller, the director of the Rape-Victim Advocacy Program, who refused to speak about Prof. Weiger specifically but used the occasion of his tragic death to implicitly assume the guilt of every person accused of sexual harassment. Specifically, she said that the suicide of a person so accused “could emotionally affect the victim who reported the harassment.” She makes sure to add that after such a suicide, “some people . . . blame the victims, and that’s inappropriate. The victims are never to blame.”

Did you get that? Before a single scrap of evidence is admitted at trial, the person who reported the sex offense is declared the “victim” who is “never” to blame for a tragedy such as Prof. Weiger’s suicide — the facts, the evidence, and due process itself be damned. While Ms. Miller’s comments were not directed specifically at Prof. Weiger, it is difficult to see how he could not be included in her rush to judgment that improperly assumes the guilt of every person accused of a sex offense.

The dankprofessor gets it.  The dankprofessor also gets the fact that the sexual harassment training ordered by UI in response to these so-called harassment suicide cases probably does not communicate anything about due process and presumption of innocence.  And if such material is included in their training, it apparently has had no effect on Karla Miller.  Unquestionably Miller is in need of some training, and it is in the areas of sensitivity and legal due process training.

November 14, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, rape, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

Suicide and sexual harassment at the University of Iowa

Inside Higher Education reports that University of Iowa music professor Mark Weiger has killed himself one week after he was accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit.

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. According to the suit, the university conducted its own investigation of the situation last year, found Weiger had violated policies against sexual harassment, and then resolved the issue “informally.” He was found in his car, dead from carbon monoxide poisoning, with the garage door at his home closed. Authorities said he left a note.

This was not the first suicide by a UI professor who had been accused of sexual harassment.  “This past August UI professor Arthur H. Miller “was arrested on bribery charges and accused of telling female students that he would give them higher grades if they let him fondle their breasts. In one case, he is alleged to have grabbed and sucked on a student’s breast and then sent her an e-mail telling her that she had earned an A+. He then shot himself in a local park”.

Michael W. O’Hara, president of the Faculty Senate at Iowa and a professor of psychology, called the two deaths “a horrible coincidence.” He added that “sometimes in the great big wide world, events converge that are totally coincidental yet you begin to wonder if there is a pattern, and my view is that this is like having our 500-year flood. It seems inexplicable but it happened.”

When Miller was arrested in August the university announced that all faculty members would undergo sexual harassment training.  Such appeared to be a rather draconian move by the university targeting all professors in the context of only one professor being involved in the Miller sexual harassment case.

What concerned and perplexed the dankprofessor occurred when the University of Iowa did not order mandatory suicide prevention training for all of the UI faculty after Miller’s suicide.  Now that another professor has committed suicide in the context of a sexual harassment charges, the University of Iowa administration remains silent as to the need of suicide prevention training for its faculty.

If the UI administration is truly concerned about the well being of its faculty and believes that sexual harassment training will diminish that problem for its faculty, I think it is fair to ask why the administration does not order suicide prevention training for its faculty which ideally would function to diminish a problem that is a much more lethal problem than sexual harassment

However the university did do something as a consequence of the Weiger suicide when “Sally Mason, president of the university, on Thursday issued a statement expressing condolences to Weiger’s family and friends, and letting people know of the availability of counseling services. She also urged people “to refrain from speculation about this event, but to support all who need assistance.”

But the dankprofessor must ask why would President Mason assume that faculty have the ability to determine which faculty are in need of assistance?  Advocates of mandatory sexual harassment training argue that those trained become skilled in determining when sexual harassment has occurred or is likely to occur and therefore the trained are more likely to report to the appropriate campus authorities the existence of sexual harassers and potential sexual harassers.

Obviously, there is a double standard here, and it is the dankprofessor’s opinion that the double standard is related to the fact that sexual harassment involves sex and and American universities are well known for being sexphobic and then, of course, there is the money issue.  Faculty mandated sexual harassment training functions to diminish the probability of sexual harassment lawsuits being successfully promulgated against universities, at least such is the belief of many university administrators.  

And, of course, such does not mean that sexual harassment training is effective in diminishing sexual harassment on campus.  The dankprofessor believes that almost all faculty and university administrators know this.  And almost all academics know this and go along with the myth that sexual harassment training functions to prevent or diminish sexual harassment on campus.  And when a faculty member refuses to go along with this charade, and attempts to undermine the notion that sexual harassment training is effective, he or she is threatened with sanctions, as in the case of UCI professor Alexander McPherson.

Unfortunately, most universities have become money making playgrounds for those associated with the sexual harassment industry, including sexual harassment chasing lawyers.  

For most universities in both good and bad economic times, universities are predominantly interested in saving money rather than in spending money to save faculty lives.

So the end result in most American universities is that faculty problems relating to matters such as suicide receive only incidental attention, e.g., condolences are sent to the family of the suicide victim.  And as far as sexual harassment is concerned, the response of sexual harassment training is a money draining charade.  The dankprofessor is suggesting that this is not simply his opinion, but is the opinion of 99.9% of those who are knowledgeable about said training.  Such of course excludes those people and organizations that profit from the sexual harassment industry.

November 14, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, UC Irvine, University of Iowa | 1 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.”

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

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

Sexual policing and sexual abuse

No matter what ones position may be on the prohibition of consensual relationships between students and professors, I would hope that any person who takes the teaching learning enterprise seriously would be offended by the the University of Iowa’s presentation of its rationale of said policy.  I do not think it is an overstatement to characterize that presentation as drivel.  It does not reflect any serious engagement of the issue.  The idea that relationships between human beings are complex, that sexual relationships between human beings are complex and multidimensional is given no recognition in the University of Iowa statement. In spite of the fact that I have read many similar statements of other universities, I still find it mind boggling that any institution of higher education would publicly embrace such verbiage.  I would expect that any student or professor would be embarrassed to be associated with this statement.  My impression is that the statement is the sort that is directed to children with the hope that it would scare children to be good. It is certainly not the kind of statement that would facilitate independent and critical thinking.

Ultimately the persons who write such statements do not want independent and critical thinking.  They want what all authoritarians want and that is obedience.  No matter that such is occurring at a university, the game remains the same with the game winners getting obedience of their professor subjects and of their student subjects.  This authoritarian framework is consistent with the notion of treating adults as children who cannot decide for themselves, think for themselves, consent for themselves.  Of course, in the present case, it is female students who are held to be unable to think or consent for themselves, and are in an incapacitated state as a result of predator professors.  Of course, it is the administrator powers that be which wishes to assume the power position over the power incapacitated and childlike female student.

The power dynamic is never publicly recognized by these administrators even as they take control of others and force them to do what they want them to do.  Maybe the power dynamic would have a greater chance of recognition if we stopped referring to them in bureaucratic terms and addressed them for what they are- sexual police, for sexual policing is what these policies and their promulgators are all about. 

We know that what police in general do not want in relation to performing their jobs, and that is to be hamstrung by the alleged civil liberties and civil rights of those subject to their enforcement.  No wonder that in the statements of the genre of the University of Iowa statement that no mention, no allusion,no credence, no recognition is given to issues concerning civil liberties and civil rights.  Such concerns are simply of no import to the promulgators and enforcers of these sexual codes.  Of course, when it comes to sexual regulation and sexual oppression, history has shown that the sexual police wish to pursue the  sexual perverts and purveyors unrestrained by the niceties of polite society. 

In the university, the problem has been not only the capitulation to the sexual police as is presently  happening at Middlebury College, but also in the polite rhetoric embraced by those opposing the sexual policing.  In this area the dankprofessor believes it is time to call a spade a spade, to accurately refer to persons who enforce these codes as sexual police who engage in sexual policing are violators of basic civil liberties and rights and who in their authoritarian pursuits force persons to attend indoctrination sessions in which if successful they are brainwashed to believe and to obey. 

And last but not least, it must also be pointed out that these sexual police like all sexual abusers prefer to operate in secret, out of the public purview, with said secrecy justified in doublethink terms- “these are confidential personnel matters”.

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

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2007


November 28, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Fear and loathing at the University of Iowa

I am going to present the University of Iowa student professor consensual dating policy.   And engage in a critique of said policy. University policies in the area of sexual regulation once established are very seldom critiqued.  I speculate that why such is the case is that people fear that if they criticize they will become suspect. Such is regrettable since universities are often held to be the environments where critical analysis of social policies should flourish.  In any case, I will present the policy and within the text of the policy I will present my comments. The text of the policy will be highlighted.


The integrity of the University’s educational mission is promoted by professionalism that derives from mutual trust and respect in faculty-student relationships. Similarly, the University is committed to the principle of protecting the integrity and objectivity of its staff members in the performance of their University duties. It is therefore fundamental to the University’s overall mission that the professional responsibilities of its faculty and staff be carried out in an atmosphere that is free of conflicts of interest that compromise these principles.

This opening statement is on the whole laudatory and vague.  Who could possibly be opposed to mutual trust and respect in faculty student relationships or for that matter any set of relationships?  I would trust that all of the present Democrats and Republicans campaigning for the presidential nomination in Iowa would absolutely agree.  I would also agree with the last part of the opening paragraph that faculty student and staff relationships “be carried out in an atmosphere that is free of conflicts of interest that compromise these principles.” Of course, such would apply to the entire university, even to the President and to the UIOWA’S Board of Trustees.  In any case this would be an OK introduction for an across the board conflict of interest policy.

Romantic and/or sexual relationships where one member of the University community has supervisory or other evaluative responsibility for the other create conflicts of interest and perceptions of undue advantage. 

OK, the prior paragraph was not an intro to a general conflict of interest policy.  If conflicts of interest are inevitably created in such relationships, why would not a conflict of interest policy be sufficient to deal with such conflicts?  And why is it assumed that such relationships inevitably create perceptions of undue advantage?  Are all relationships the same?  Once you see one relationship, you have seen them all!  Are not some relationships conducted in a more private manner than other relationships?  If they so desire, is it not quite possible that the parties of such relationships can simply closet themselves and avoid being perceived as being involved in a relationship?  Of course, passing has a long history in the sexual arena, homosexuals passing as straight, even engaging in heterosexual marriage in order to have the appropriate front for the dominant society.  However, there is another element here, and that is some professors who are not sexually engaged in a romance with a student but have close relationships with students may be perceived as being too close to any particular student, and along with this perception there may also be an imputation of sexual involvement.  In any case, I would hold that in almost all universities, including Iowa, that perceptions of undue advantage by some students regarding other students run rampant, and having this policy will not make one iota of difference as to perceptions of undue advantage.

There are also special risks in any sexual or romantic relationship between individuals in inherently unequal positions of power (such as teacher and student, supervisor and employee). Such relationships may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided, and the trust inherent particularly in the student-faculty relationship. They may, moreover, be less consensual than the individual whose position confers power believes. The relationship is likely to be perceived in different ways by each of the parties to it, especially in retrospect.

Yes, the relationship may be perceived in different ways by the parties of the relationships.  But so what. Is this not the case in almost all relationships?  Are husband and wives ever in complete agreement as to how the marital relationship is perceived?  In fact, I would argue that hardly ever do faculty completely agree with each other about anything.  Are faculty of one mind?  Are students of one mind? 

And, as far as the part about their being so-called special risks  faced by individuals in differential power positions, such risks are not all that special.  In all relationships romantic there are always risks that uniquely apply to each relationship. For example, the risk of venereal disease, the risk of experiencing hurt. etc. etc  How would it be possible for anyone to argue that there are no risks that particularly relate to love and marriage?  Of course the statement implies that power differentiated relationships (asymmetric relationships) are more risky than non-power differentiated relationships (symmetric relationships).  Of course stating such is the case does not make it so.  The Iowa policy does not present any evidence that asymmetric relationships are more risky than symmetric ones.  And what the policy fails to note is that one component of heterosexual attraction is a power component.  To a degree, part of the dynamic fueling these bans is an anti-heterosexuality perspective which comes to symbolize for academic feminists male power over women, and such symbolism becomes more potent for them when you have the older male prof and young female student.  This is the asymmetry that so offends so many academics.  Of course, the question is whether feeling of offense should be a basis for regulating sexual behavior.

Then the policy goes on to state such relationships “may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided, and the trust inherent particularly in the student-faculty relationship.”  On the other hand, such relationships may not undermine said integrity; it may simply have no effect in regards to trust.  And it could be that said relationships could even have a positive effect.  The burden is on the shoulders of the University to demonstrate empirically that such undermining is likely to occur.  What is of course ignored in the prior paragraph and ignored throughout the policy is that there can be positive effects for the student and professor couple.  One of the positive effects may be the love and caring.  To fail to recognize the importance of love between two persons is irresponsible.  To ignore the possible positive effects is absurd.  To ignore that such relationships can continue in love and merge into marriage and even parenthood should be beyond the pale of any educated and not so educated person.  And I would expect that persons who profess to be so knowledgeable about these relationships know that at times what binds these couples together is a love of knowledge which leads to a knowledge of love.  For example, can such advocates simply discard the relationship between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger as being without value?

Moreover, such relationships may harm or injure others in the academic or work environment. Relationships in which one party is in a position to review the work or influence the career of the other may provide grounds for complaint when that relationship gives, or creates the appearance of, undue access or advantage to the person involved in the relationship, or when it restricts opportunities or creates a hostile environment for others.

Again as to harming or injuring others, such relationships may not harm others.  The writers of this policy simply cannot comprehend the possibility that there may not be any harm.  I suppose that the writers were lawyers who view the world in terms of harm and injury and lawsuits.  For them, love does not make the world go around, it makes them want to stop the world by offing love.

Such relationships also have the potential for other adverse consequences, including the filing of charges of sexual harassment and/or retaliation under the University’s Policy on Sexual Harassment (II-4) if, for example, one party to the relationship wishes to terminate the relationship to the other party’s objection. In those circumstances when sexual harassment is alleged as the result of a romantic and/or sexual relationship, the existence of the relationship is not a per se violation of the Policy on Sexual Harassment. However, the apparent consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect due to the fundamental asymmetry of power in the relationship and it thus may be difficult to establish consent as a defense to such a charge. Even when both parties consented at the outset to a romantic involvement, this past consent does not remove grounds for or preclude a charge or subsequent finding of sexual harassment based upon subsequent unwelcome conduct.

As noted and agreed upon such relationships can have adverse consequences.  However, the writers of this prohibition fail to note that such relationships may have positive consequences, not only on the parties to the relationships, but to parents, relatives, friends and fellow students who share in the joy of love.  The writers of these policies see no joy.  It may be that they project their joylessness, their feelings of being unloved and of hurt and of being victimized on to others, and end up attempting to do to innocent others what had been done unto to them before they lost their innocence.

This policy applies to consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between individuals of the same sex or of the opposite sex.


For the foregoing reasons, all romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty and students in the instructional context are prohibited at The University of Iowa. [Note: This policy applies only to relationships involving students. However, romantic and/or sexual relationships in other contexts — between faculty members, between faculty and staff, or between staff members, where one person supervises the other — also may be problematic, and are governed by III-8 Conflict of Interest in Employment.]

If these are all the foregoing justifying reasons, the university has not built a case.  And in building their non-case, they avoid dealing with tough issues such as freedom of association, the right to sexual privacy, etc., etc.  For them rights are irrelevant; they feel they can write whatever they want to do in their quest to right wrongs.  They follow in the “tradition” of Bush/Cheney in the righting of wrongs. 

No faculty member shall have a romantic and/or sexual relationship, consensual or otherwise, with a student who is enrolled in a course being taught by the faculty member or whose academic work is being supervised, directly or indirectly, by the faculty member.

For definitions of “faculty” and “instructional context,” please refer to II-5.5 below.


In light of the potential for apparent and actual conflicts of interest, the following relationships are strongly discouraged at The University of Iowa; where such relationships arise, however, they are required to be disclosed and managed as indicated below:

      (1) Outside of the instructional context, a faculty member (including graduate students with teaching responsibilities) who engages in a romantic or sexual relationship with a student must promptly disclose the existence of the relationship to his or her immediate supervisor if there exists a reasonable possibility that a conflict of interest may arise. When a conflict of interest exists or is likely to arise, such relationships appear to others to be exploitative of or create apparent advantage for the student, and may later develop into conflicts of interest prohibited by II-5.2 above in situations that cannot be anticipated fully.
      (2) A potential conflict of interest exists when the student is a graduate student in the same department or academic program as the faculty member, or is an undergraduate student and is majoring or minoring in the same department as the faculty member. A conflict of interest also may arise if the student is studying in a department separate from the faculty member. When a potential conflict of interest exists or is reasonably likely to arise, the faculty member must promptly disclose the relationship to his or her supervisor. (3) Once the relationship is disclosed, the immediate supervisor will evaluate the situation to determine whether an actual conflict of interest exists or is likely to arise and will develop a management plan to address the potential conflict of interest. The faculty member has the professional and ethical responsibility to remove himself or herself from any decisions that may reward or penalize the student involved and otherwise adhere to the management plan. Of course, this disclosure policy is a flagrant violation of the student’s right to privacy.  Such a disclosure policy to be an ethical one must adhere to what is apparently an alien notion to these policymakers that students have rights and that students have a right not to consent.  Said disclosure policy reveals these policies to be a sham, a sham in that they do not protect students, a sham in that institutional power is used to force professors to reveal their sexual and heretofore private lives to administrators.  b. Between staff members and students. Romantic and/or sexual relationships between staff members and students employed under their supervision are governed by the University of Iowa Policy on Conflict of Interest in Employment (III-8). It may sometimes be difficult to determine whether the staff-student relationship exists in an employment or in an instructional context. Where such an ambiguity exists, the context will be assumed to be instructional and the relationship subject to the prohibition set forth in II-5.2 above.
  • a. Between faculty and students.


      (1) Student B is in a class taught by Professor A. The Consensual Relationships Policy prohibits a romantic or sexual relationship between these two parties in the instructional context. When the class has concluded and Professor A has submitted the final grades, this policy may continue to prohibit Professor A from engaging in a romantic or sexual relationship with Student B, or may discourage such a relationship, depending upon the academic affiliation of Student B and the likelihood that a conflict of interest may arise. (2) Professor A and Student B, a graduate student in Professor A’s department, are involved in a romantic relationship. This policy prohibits Professor A from teaching and supervising Student B, and mandates disclosure and management of any potential conflict of interest. (3) The partner of Professor A enrolls in an academic program at the University offered by the same college in which Professor A’s department is located. If the partner enrolls in the same academic program or department as Professor A, this policy requires Professor A to disclose the relationship and that any potential conflict of interest be managed to ensure that Professor A does not teach or supervise the partner, or involve himself or herself in any decision that may reward or penalize the partner. If the partner’s academic program operates independently of Professor A’s department, Professor A would not be required to disclose the relationship unless the potential for a conflict of interest might arise. (4) Graduate Student C and Graduate Student D are married and enrolled in the same academic program. This policy prohibits D from enrolling in a class taught by C (as instructor, teaching assistant, or grader) and vice-versa. If C (or D) were to complete his or her graduate program and acquire the status of faculty member (such as adjunct professor, visiting professor, or assistant professor) in the same department, this policy would apply as in paragraph (2) above. Former Graduate Student C would be required to disclose the relationship to the DEO and remove himself or herself from any decisions that may reward or penalize Graduate Student D.
  • a. The following examples are provided for illustrative purposes only. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of situations in which this policy applies. b. These examples illustrate the application of this policy which applies only to relationships involving students. However, romantic and/or sexual relationships in other contexts may also be problematic, and are governed by III-8 Conflict of Interest in Employment.

    What these examples reveal is the totalizing nature of this policy.  The havoc that administrators can wreak under this policy is limitless.  And the havoc will occur in the context of these administrators who are now functioning as the sexual police will be put forth in secrecy under the mantel of privacy and confidentiality.  “I am sorry, but I cannot comment on this confidential personnel matter.”  And I am sorry for all those professors and students at the University of Iowa who just don’t get it, who just don’t get that these policies do not empower them but only empower administrators who are free to do whatever they essentially want to do as the sexual police of University of Iowa.  And I believe that one of the things they want to do is to simply cast off, dismiss any critique of their work, of their policies. One can test this notion if they dare.  At the next consensual relationship (sexual harassment) workshop you are forced to attend, raise the sort of criticisms raised here and see what happens. And feel free to report back to the dankprofessor.  And if you want to do this but are unable to do so, it is because you feel the fear, and your silence affirms the victory of the fear mongers…
    If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
    Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.
    Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
    © Copyright 2007

November 24, 2007 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, secrecy, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, University of Iowa | 2 Comments


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