Wednesday, March 19, 2008
OK, I have seen some pretty crazy stories in my day while blogging in these parts, but this just might take the cake. What makes it even more interesting is that the story is related to us by the Dank Professor, who describes himself as someone who "openly engaged in propinquitous dating, dating students and having many wonderful friendships with many of my students and their families."
In any event, on to the sadomasochism:
The Albuquerque Journal reported yesterday that University of New Mexico professor of English Lisa Chavez was found fit to teach by the UNM Deputy Provost Richard Holder. Provost Holder reported to the English department faculty that he determined that the faculty member had posed on a sadomasochism website with at least one of her graduate students, and that Professor Chvez should not have to face a faculty ethics inquiry.
In a March 10 letter to English department faculty, Deputy Provost Richard Holder said he thinks associate professor Lisa Chavez used poor judgment in participating in the Web site’s activities with one of her students.
But, Holder goes on to say, “In my mind this participation did not rise to the level of calling into question her ‘unfitness for duty.’ ”
Okay. What then does qualify? The Provost says that it appears the conduct was consensual between adults away from campus, but what type of power does a professor have over graduate students in this type of situation? In the consensual university student relationship context, I have argued in a law review article previously that if a professor has supervisory authority over the student, we should look askance over whether the university should normally permit such a relationship.
And I wasn't talking about sadomasochistic relationships.
For his part, the Dank Professor concludes:
Findings of no undue influence, no hostile environment, no use of university facilities means in the dankprofessor’s opinion, that there is no case against the professor. Bravo to the University of New Mexico administration for doing the right thing.
But given the upset reaction of members of the English Department ("Scharnhorst said none of his colleagues are angry that [the professor in question]] posed on the Web site. “What everyone finds troublesome is the fact that she was involved with graduate students,” he said.), I think an appeal of the Provost decision is a safe best and given the lurid subject matter, this is not the last we have heard of this case for sure.