Friday, July 18, 2003
The ideologues who think grown men and women are too dumb to make their own sexual decisions and too immature to take responsiblity for their mistakes, who want in particular to protect vulnerable women students from the big bad predatorial men professors who want to exploit them, have got their wish. The University of California now joins Yale, the University of Michigan, and the College of William and Mary in attempting to regulate the private behavior of consenting adults.I recall getting this lecture from my dean my second year of employment at SCSU. It was a "thou shalt not" speech, full of predictions of doom for the relationship and one's employment. My lady friend at that time had just graduated from SCSU, and we had started dating a month before her graduation. She's now my wife, and if you could just see who wears the pants in our family now, you'd have one counter-example to this power differential hypothesis.
...In general, I think it's wise for faculty not to get involved with their students. It creates a conflict of interest; it is unfair to other students, who assume that the Chosen One is getting special treatment; and such relationships are rarely undertaken on equal grounds--often, the power differential between the student and the professor shapes the relationship in ways that are far from healthy for either one. This is particularly true when the student is much younger than the professor with whom he or she is involved.
At the same time, I object strongly to policies that seek to monitor and regulate the sexual activities of grown men and women. It's not just that this is infantilizing, intrusive, and insulting (at some schools, for example, faculty members are expected to report any involvements with any students, anywhere in the university, to their local dean: as if the private, consensual activities of grown adults is the administration's business, as if profs and students have such poor erotic judgment that their private lives simply must be policed).