More advice on faculty-student sexual relationships: JUST. DON’T.


Just sayin’

Ugh. Disgusting! As if we need more proof that we need professional standards that prohibit sexual relationships between faculty and students at all levels.  (As in most of life, the solution is just don’t be an a$$hole, isn’t it?  We can avoid so very much trouble in life if we put up this little sampler in our offices, kitchens, and living rooms and obey.)

I’ve made the point here before about how these relationships poison other faculty-student relationships as well as the learning climate in general. But here’s something else that’s ruined when faculty-student sexual relationships are tolerated, something I have direct and sad experience with myself:  the notion that faculty interest in young women’s brains and careers isn’t tainted by sexual motives.

When I read Fernanda Lopez Aguilar’s experiences as an undergraduate student of Thomas Pogge’s at Yale University, I was reminded of something that happened to me as I was finishing college.  What happened to me was much less dramatic, but it was I think very related to the feelings of confusion and humiliation she recounts in the linked Buzzfeed article.

Sadly, although women are now the majority of college students (and have been for two decades at least), young women frequently have their intellectual ambitions questioned and have to wonder about the interest that senior faculty–especially senior male faculty–have in encouraging them.  Lopez Aguilar thought Pogge was interested in supporting her intellectual work, when it turns out his interest was mostly just sexual and prurient: Continue reading

Your annual commencement speaker outrage reminder memo: purity trolls and free speech trolls alike stand down!

First woman U.S. Secretary of State, or "War Criminal?"

First woman U.S. Secretary of State, or “War Criminal?”

Scripps College (the women’s campus of the Claremont Colleges) has invited Madeleine Albright to be their commencement speaker, and some students and faculty don’t like it.  These students and faculty accuse Albright of being a “war criminal.”  I think that’s a ridiculously overblown charge.  My guess is that she’s a proxy receptacle for leftist resentment of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, but the accusation that anyone who complains about a choice of commencement speaker is somehow against free speech or are not “letting her speak” is equally hysterical.  So let’s rehearse:

  • Students who write op-eds for campus newspapers (or any newspapers) aren’t “silencing” anyone. They’re exercising their right to free speech.
  • Faculty who sign letters of protest and/or promise to boycott graduation because they dislike the speaker are not “silencing” anyone. They’re exercising their liberty of speech and association.

Repeat until no longer outraged! Continue reading

Wikipedia in the classroom: check out these new bios of early American women!


A Woman Writing a Letter (1680), by Frans van Mieris (1635-1681)

UPDATED 12:30 p.m. MDT, with details from my syllabus below the original post.

I’m now going to do something I hardly ever do:  I’m going to tell you about something my students have done.  I can’t restrain myself!  I’m so proud of my women’s history students this semester.  Six of them have written biographies of previously unrepresented or under-represented women in early American history, and they’re now published on English-language Wikipedia.  Check them out:

Inés de Bobadilla (ca. 1505-43; first woman governor of Cuba)

Alice Clifton (ca. 1772 – unknown; as an enslaved teenager, she was a defendant in infanticide trial in 1787)

Rebecca Dickinson (1738-1815; American tailor and seamstress in Hadley, Mass.)

Elizabeth Hanson, captive of Native Americans (1684-1737; former Wabanaki captive from Dover, N.H. and the author of God’s Mercy Surmounting Man’s Cruelty, 1728)

Sarah Osborn (1714-96; Evangelical Protestant writer in Newport, R.I. and author of Memoirs of the life of Mrs. Sarah Osborn.)

Rachel of Kittery, Maine (d. 1695; enslaved woman murdered by her master whose case set a legal precedent in New England)

Continue reading

History’s Greatest Monster wins with support of every Dem in South Carolina except white men.

HillaryclintonSOSHillary Clinton had a big win last night. Even the professional Bernie Sanders-fluffers over at MSNBC had to admit it.  It turns out that white men might as well have not showed up to vote!  (And the younger ones didn’t.  Is that why Sanders fans are so dismissive of Clinton voters and our preferences?  Because we’re not white men?)

Hillary Clinton scored an overwhelming victory Saturday on the strength of nearly unified support from African-American and older voters in South Carolina, according to the NBC News Exit Poll. She captured nearly 90 percent among voters age 65 and older and about the same share of the black vote. She even narrowly beat Bernie Sanders among white voters. She ran up huge margins among all education and income groups, liberals, moderates and conservatives, late deciders and those who say they’ve long known who they were going to vote for.

She also ran very strongly among those who attend religious services at least weekly, and among the lowest income voters, both groups with large numbers of African-Americans. Clinton also ran better among women than men, but walloped Sanders among men as well. Only among white men did she fall short of a majority.

Given the thrashing Clinton administered Saturday, it’s hard to find a demographic group that Sanders won. As in earlier contests, Sanders showed some strength among young voters, winning a narrow majority of those under 30. He also edged Clinton among independents. Sanders received more than six in 10 among voters who said this was their first primary election, but this group was a very small share of the electorate (about one in 10). Not surprisingly, he won a majority among voters who want the next president to pursue more liberal policies than President Obama has.

The bottom line here is that Clinton is doing very well among people who actually show up to vote, even if they’re deeply uncool women, African Americans, old, or two or three for three.  Oh, well:  I think Clinton would rather be president than be considered cool in Williamsburg, Madison, or Austin. Continue reading

An exceedingly impolite post against sexual relationships with students. (Why is this still even an issue?)

Do you feel lucky today? Well, do ya, punk?

Do you feel lucky today? Well, do ya, punk?

Via (I believe) David Schoppik at NYU and Twitter, I found this petition against sexual misconduct in academia:

Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct have no place in academia. These kinds of unethical behaviors, which often involve powerful males and their female students or junior colleagues, traumatize the victims, impede equal opportunity in academia, and impoverish the intellectual landscape of our scholarly communities.

As recent highly publicized news reports have made clear, the institutional response to cases of sexual misconduct often contributes to the problem [1-3]. Fear of negative publicity feeds bureaucratic inaction, but as these reports also illustrate, the consequences of institutional indolence can be worse. For the victims of sexual harassment or abuse, it is far worse.

Tough new policies emplaced by universities and professional organizations are welcome, but they will not lead to the needed cultural change without the commensurate commitment of individuals to provide a safe, supportive environment for women and men to learn and work together productively. An individual commitment entails disseminating a message of zero tolerance of sexual misconduct; educating faculty, staff and students about norms of workplace behavior and reporting pathways for their violation; and, most critically, publicly supporting the victims who come forward to report incidences of sexual misconduct. The reporting of misconduct by victims and bystanders should be recognized as courageous actions that are key to making our communities safer and stronger.

Go read the whole thing and sign on if you like–I did.  However, I think it’s offering only weak tea (or “spout water,” really) in its diagnosis and prescription. Continue reading

Happy Valentine’s Day!


You tell me.

Now things are going to get really interesting this election year.

Will the death of Antonin Scalia be enough to get Americans to take this election year seriously?  Will we hear talk about how much fun it would be to “have a beer” with this or that candidate?  Will we hear more about vague plans for “revolution” against the “Washington cartel,” or will we–and our candidates–grow up and join the reality-based community?   Continue reading