It’s not just a matter of two consenting adults’ hearts wanting what they want.Because not only are these relationships almost always an unacceptable abuse of power, they also affect the dynamics of departments, entire fields, and the very act of academic mentorship altogether.A true solution would be to shun proven student-schtuppers from the discipline. Loverboy to find another equally eminent job and become someone else’s problem—and then keep inviting him to conferences.A professor who sleeps with students should find him- or herself wandering in the professional wilderness for a good long time. Because of this, sex with students should be on par with plagiarism, or fabricating the results of a scientific study.(Just count the times this author uses the word “hero.”) Thus, the master/protégé dynamic cements power differentials that are simply too pronounced to create a healthy relationship, Not to mention the fact that grad-student/faculty relationships literally ruin careers: When a student and faculty member start sleeping together, rarely is it a well-kept secret; often, the student becomes a departmental pariah.Without support from fellow students (and, often, dismissed by the other professors in the department), many of these once-promising grad students wind up out of the discipline entirely.As satisfying as it was to see CU–Boulder duly spanked, that resulted in an infuriating amount of rank-closing and defensiveness.
“It can encourage straight male faculty to favor supervising male students,” explains Eric Wiland, an associate professor of philosophy (and my husband’s colleague) at the University of Missouri–St. This, he explains, is “to avoid problems, rumors, and other foul-ups, sometimes self-inflicted.” He gives the dispiriting example of a female grad student he knows at another school, who now gets “ professional attention, because the male faculty in her department are now scared to socialize with her in the way they socialize with their male students, and in the way they used to socialize with her.” And most upsettingly, Wiland says, “this even extends to semi-social things, like informal workshops and lab meetings.” So what, if anything, can be done?“If a woman co-authors with a more senior man (and notice the heterosexism that we always assume heterosexual relationships),” explains Rachel Mc Kinnon, an assistant professor at the College of Charleston, “some people either explicitly or implicitly suspect that they’re in a romantic relationship, and that the senior scholar only offered to help her publish for romantic interests.This happens even if there’s no truth to it.” And the consequences go far beyond the couple.Usually the “consequences” are little more than behind-the-back whispers and the occasional passive-aggressive slight.(One of my mentors in grad school once stuck a very prominent scholar—who had just left his wife for a 28-year-old graduate student—in a near-unattended 8 a.m.“People ask, with a wink and a nod, what it was like getting that letter of recommendation.” If, the next year, she leaves his letter out, she’s then “asked why the famous professor was not writing for her.Her professor’s behavior,” Fehr explains, has “put her in a position where she just couldn’t win.” .conference slot.) Indeed, most of the time, an accomplished senior scholar can get away with almost any poor sexual decision with a student, and still be respected in the field.Colin Mc Ginn himself is giving a keynote at a high-profile philosophy conference in a few weeks.Lara Hirner, a grad student at Columbia University's Teachers College, has gone on dates to the opera, Central Park and ice cream shops with guys she met on Date My School."The guys place the same priority on education and the same passion for their careers as I do," Hirner said.