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As satisfying as it was to see CU–Boulder duly spanked, that resulted in an infuriating amount of rank-closing and defensiveness.
Sure, every now and then, a Colin Mc Ginn type does something high-profile enough to cost him his job—but that’s rare.
“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?She is an 18-year-old freshman, starry eyed and entranced by her teacher's apparent brilliance and sensitivity. Faculty members at the University of Virginia recently voted to prohibit sexual relationships between professors and the students they supervise. Are they two consenting adults in love, or is it sexual harassment and exploitation?This is not just icky—it is highly damaging to the profession.For despite the handful of happy families that result from professor/grad student couplings, the practice has an overwhelmingly deleterious effect on the academic community.
Institutional policies that forbid such relationships? Many universities have these already, and they rarely seem to matter.