Sadomasochism Sex with Student=Professor Fit to Teach?

sticksandstones_003.jpg[Cross Posted on Workplace Prof Blog]

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 Chvez 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 Chvez 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.

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4 Responses

  1. Seth R. says:

    Sadism isn’t a disqualification for being a law professor. In fact, in many quarters, it’s considered an asset.

  2. I love the prior comment by Seth R.; my only disagreement with him is that he only limits SM application to law profesors, lets not forget all the others profs who are into power and control, particularly those profs who read from their textbooks to a captive audience while at the same time assigning the same text to students as required reading.

    And as for Paul Secunda’s post on the UNM affair,

    in my original dankprofessor blog posting I indicated that it is quite likely that the UNM decision will be appealed at the behest of disgruntled and offended faculty who did not get their way in this matter. But even if there is no appeal or if they appeal and lose, the probability is that the disturbed faculty will wear down this faculty member by bullying and if you will, mobbing. In that context she will be found to have violated just about every university rule and be constantly confronted by hostile colleagues. Such is not a reflection of the dankprofessor being cynical, but is a realistic view of the academia world.

    What is most amirable about the UNM administration is that the administration hired an attorney to investigate the matter prior to their arriving at any decision. The UNM administration refused to apply any a priori assumptions, such as differential power precludes consent.

    According ot the UNM administration,what the investigation found was that the “website involvement of two graduate students preceded the involvement of Professor Chvez, and that both she and a third graduate student learned of the website from the graduate students whose involvement preceded their own. All four of these adult women reported that their activities were consensual, and all disclaimed any recruitment, solicitation, or coercion.”

  3. anonlawprof says:

    I read this and said to myself, it must be that the other person involved was a woman, and given the pc attitudes at universities, the provost wouldn’t punish same-sex sexual activity. Sure enough, all of the participants were women.

  4. Gimme, gimme, gimme more says:

    What is the link to the website? How can we judge what the panel did without viewing the images for ourselves?