Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fear silences people in today's academe

A lot like Mao's China

I’ve been in academe for about a decade now, and the only professors I’ve known who have slept with or dated students were female.

I’m sure plenty more shenanigans were happening out of public view. Absolutely. But I don’t pry. I don’t care, really. I trust my colleagues not to be rapists, and barring severe warning signs I’d never take any interest in their sex lives, even if those sex lives involved relationships of a sort that I’d personally never partake in.

But lately I’ve noticed a marked, very loud silence from these professors and instructors, the ones who dated students. See, there’s a big kerfuffle going on about a female Northwestern professor, Laura Kipnis, who made the mistake of speaking honestly on the internet. She said that blanket bans on teacher-student relationships were dumb and infantilizing. In response, students and colleagues have called for her to be formally censured. And out of the several female professors I’ve known to have engaged in relationships with students, not a one has lent Kipnis a single word of support.

This isn’t an issue of hypocrisy. This is a matter of real, palpable fear. Saying anything that goes against liberal orthodoxy is now grounds for a firin’. Even if you make a reasonable and respectful case, if you so much as cause your liberal students a second of complication or doubt you face the risk of demonstrations, public call-outs, and severe professional consequences. My friends and colleagues might well agree that the student-teacher relationship ban is misguided, but they’re not allowed to say as much in public.



Anonymous said...

So the gutless are now teaching the next generation, where to you think that will get us?


Use the Name, Luke said...

Also notable by its complete absence in that clip (and based on its tone, likely the entire article) is any thought that maybe there are legitimate reasons for such a ban.

Let's face it, professors are in a position of authority and power over their students. It can be huge problem for professors to use that authority to manipulate or coerce students into sexual liaisons that they otherwise would have avoided.

I'm sure that college administrators are well aware of this. After all, would you be willing to send your naive daughter or son away from home to a place where it's okay for professors to prey on them sexually? That would certainly hurt those colleges' budgets if this became openly acceptable!

Bird of Paradise said...

I read in the WORLD BOOK ENCYLOPEDIA its a crime to critizie your nations leader in a Dictatorship

Anonymous said...

I know of a case where a female student decided that she wanted to marry her professor. They have been happily married for many years now. Administrators should be careful about their rules.

Anonymous said...


Then it should be a crime to use your position of power and authority to take advantage of students.

The current law? though is simply a blanket ban that precludes the thought that a natural relationship can develop in that environment and as such is overly broad. In many cases the instructor is only a few years older than the students (grad student teaching a class).

This is like a lot of liberal policies, it sounds good up until you start to examine it more carefully and then you realize it has defects but you can't even begin to suggest ways to fix them without becoming a pariah.

Use the Name, Luke said...


I think your point that a natural relationship is correct. IMHO, that's why a law would be inappropriate. A ban can be set aside by the administration on a case by case basis to allow for genuine relationships. On the other hand, how law works makes defining an appropriate relationship exceedingly difficult leading to an "any relationship should be prosecuted" situation.

Yet the use/abuse of authority can be a significant temptation or issue, even if the person in authority is not consciously taking advantage of that. Therefore, an "anything goes" approach to the issue allows such abuses to run rampant.

IMHO, a ban strikes a good balance between allowing abuses to run rampant and the often crude power and expense of law.