Naomi Wolf vs Harold Bloom

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Mycroft_
Naomi Wolf vs Harold Bloom

 

Mycroft_

[url=http://makeashorterlink.com/?N15C26187]I invited him to dinner and he groped me, says Wolf[/url]

quote:

Prof Harold Bloom, she said, put his hand on the inside of her thigh after she invited him to her home for a candlelit dinner 20 years ago.

Wolf wrote that "he was a vortex of power and intellectual charisma", and she was "sick with excitement" at the prospect of being tutored by him. On her invitation the professor agreed to come to supper at her student house and promised to read her poetry.

When her housemates left she said she believed: "Finally! I thought we could discuss our poetry manuscript. He did not look at it."

She said: "He leaned towards me and put his face inches from mine. 'You have the aura of election upon you,' he breathed. I hoped he was talking about my poetry. The next thing I knew, his heavy, boneless hand was hot on my thigh."

"The whole thing had suddenly taken on the quality of a bad horror film. The floor spun. By now my back was against the sink which was as far away as I could get.

"He came at me. I turned away from him toward the sink and found myself vomiting in shock. He disappeared."

She continued: "When he reemerged - from the bedroom with his coat - a moment later, I was still frozen, my back against the sink. He said, 'You are a deeply troubled girl.' Then he went to the table, took the rest of his sherry, corked the bottle, and left." In the article she went on to claim that she had been approached by students across the United States who had experienced similar incidents.


[ 24 February 2004: Message edited by: Mycroft ]

grrril

Isn't the Telegraph a Conrad Black paper?
In the link to the story "feminists at war, the author uses "a leading feminist", Camille Paglia, to bolster his argument.

quote:

Camille Paglia accused Wolf of launching a witch hunt similar to those that swept New England in the 17th century and, in distinctly unfeminist fashion, of exploiting her looks to advance her career.

"It really smacks of the Salem witch hunts and all the accompanying hysteria," Paglia said.

"It really grates on me that Naomi Wolf for her entire life has been batting her eyes and bobbing her boobs in the face of men and made a profession out of courting male attention by flirting and offering her sexual allure."


Yup, sure looks like the witch hunts to me.

Michelle

I'm not sure what to think.

I've never invited a male professor over to my house and manoevered my roommates out so that we could be alone over a wine and candlelight dinner in order to discuss school work. I generally made an appointment at professors' offices, or dropped in during office hours.

It's true that just because you invite someone over for a wine and candlelight supper, it doesn't mean you've consented to sex. But I can understand how a man might misread some signals in a situation like this one and think that perhaps she is interested in him romantically. When he realized he had misread, he left. It's true, he wasn't very gracious about it, but I wouldn't consider what happened to be a sexual assault, since he stopped when he realized she wasn't interested.

What concerns me more about this is his lack of professional judgment in the situation. A professor is in a position of authority over his students, so even if a student is willing to start a sexual relationship and is coming on to him, he should probably have the self-control to say no, or if he wants to say yes, then to sever the student-teacher tie first.

But I don't really see this as a case of a professor sexually assaulting a student, from the brief description in the article. I don't think I've ever met any female student who invited their male professor over for an intimate, romantic dinner in order to discuss school work. If a man invited me to his place and cooked me a beautiful supper, complete with wine and candles, I'd also wonder whether he was interested in something romantic. I wouldn't be positive about it, but the thought would cross my mind as a very distinct possibility.

[ 24 February 2004: Message edited by: Michelle ]

grrril

I don't think Wolf accused the prof of sexual assault. She accused him of sexual harassment. The alleged incident took place 20 years ago, probably before sexual harassment was ever heard of. It was more commonplace for instructors to visit students at home back then. Ya, I could see where she showed poor judgement at inviting the prof over for dinner, and how he read the situation as something else. It was a differnt time and she was likely young and naive.

According to the link, Wolf is writing an article about two decades of sexual harassment at Yale for a New York magazine.

I once put in a complaint against a professor who sexually harassed me-it was closer to a sexual assault.It was quite an eye opener. I was treated like a rape victim gets treated-you get raped once and then again at trial.The profs can access lawyers from their union and the student gets next to nothing.The system is set up to protect the profs. I came away from that endevour with a heavy dose of cynicism.

Michelle

But is it sexual harassment when someone misreads signals that could reasonably be construed to convey interest? I don't know about you, but if someone cooks me a homemade dinner, with candlelight and wine, and gets rid of their roommates in order to be alone with me over said meal, I might reasonably wonder whether the person was romantically interested in me. Most people, when they're first getting to know someone that they're interested in, don't come out and say, "Hi, would you like to come over for dinner and then neck with me for a while afterwards?"

I did say above that as a professor, he shouldn't respond to advances from students in any case. But I can see where a person could come to a reasonable conclusion that this WAS an advance, and not just a student looking for information. How many times in university did you cook candlelight dinners to eat alone at your home with your male professors?

And even if she is using her own case as one example in a paper about decades of sexual harassment at Yale, I think she's doing the subject a disservice by using it, because as a feminist, if I'm sympathizing with the professor and thinking he's been smeared, you can bet the "establishment" is thinking so too. That certainly doesn't help other women, like yourself, with legitimate harassment or assault claims against professors or other students.

[ 24 February 2004: Message edited by: Michelle ]

terra1st

[url=http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20040224.wwente0224/BNSt... [/url]is another article about it... from the Globe and Mail.

It's not a great article, but it does include this passage:

quote:

It's ironic that not so long ago, female students were objecting that the university administration had no business being sex police. My girlfriends would have been insulted by the notion that they couldn't make such decisions for themselves.

edited to add... [img]rolleyes.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 24 February 2004: Message edited by: terra1st ]

skdadl

The zero-tolerance policies that were put in place in many (most?) NAmerican universities from the early eighties on tended to proceed from the assumption that the power imbalance between prof and student meant that a prof would [i]automatically[/i] be exploiting a student he became involved with personally, no matter the provocation, or even the genuine attraction.

I've never felt entirely comfortable with such an absolute position, but there is no question that in the decades preceding, it was common enough for profs to think of students as perks of the job, and there really were no effective sanctions because everyone just smirked at such situations -- and if a student complained, faculty typically closed ranks around the offender, even when they knew he was a jerk. I saw that happen, more than once, although not often, since it would have occurred to so few students to bother complaining.

Maybe it's unfair to take this sentence out of context --

quote:

Wolf wrote that "he was a vortex of power and intellectual charisma", and she was "sick with excitement" at the prospect of being tutored by him.

-- but I snurfled my apple juice when I first read it. Forgive me, but -- have you ever seen or heard or read Harold Bloom? I met him in the late 1970s and sat through a couple of his lectures, and I would have snurfled at that description then. To be fair, Wolf is openly casting herself as naive in the second part of the sentence, but all I can think is, Man oh man, That Is Naive. To me, Bloom was then and still is a vortex of celebrity and ego and privilege and not a hell of a lot more.

If Wolf is feeling meditative, she might do well to wonder about her own earlier self, why she responded to self-satisfied "stars" the way she did back then if the glories of world literature were supposed to be what she really cared about. I'm not criticizing her behaviour then so much as I'm wondering what she thinks she's accomplishing now.

[ 24 February 2004: Message edited by: skdadl ]

skdadl

PS to Mycroft: You should correct the thread title. Wolf is writing about Harold Bloom, the literary critic/theorist, not Alan/Allan (?) Bloom.

Hinterland

quote:


...because everyone just smirked at such situations

That's pretty much what Wente was doing this morning, eh? I mean, why else would she have treated us to an entire, banal paragraph recounting her futile efforts to nail her professors during her undergrad? I knew people like that in Univesity (men and women). They were distracting jerks.

Michelle

I agree with skdadl about the necessity for there to be professional sanction against professors who sleep with students as "perks". And yet, I also share her discomfort with the absolutism of such a position.

Although there is definitely a power imbalance inherent in a professor-student relationship, generally by university everyone involved is an adult, and adult students are as responsible for their behaviour as professors are. In which case, if a female student makes advances on her professor, certainly he would be wrong to accept those advances and would have to take responsibility for his behaviour were he to accept. But if this case of what happened to Wolf is as presented in the article, then she is just as responsible for her inappropriate behaviour (creating a romanticized atmosphere in a relationship that is supposed to be professional) as he was for his.

And I think it's pretty disingenuous of her to cry sexual harassment after sending signals that anyone could be forgiven for misreading. If he hadn't stopped when she made it clear she wasn't interested, that would obviously be a problem. But that doesn't appear to be the case from the article we read - he left.

I think both of them had pretty bad judgment in this case. Both were in the wrong.

lagatta

I'm not surprised to hear this kind of stuff from Naomi Wolf, a very derivative, uninspired thinker who has rehashed other feminists' work (starting out with "The Beauty Myth") and deprived feminism of any radical, life-changing implications.

I don't know about Harold Bloom - is he the one who wrote the right-wing rant about the loss of the Canon, or a different Bloom? but between Naomi Wolf, Camille Paglia, the London Telegraph and Margaret Wente, this sounds like a rogues gallery of those who have done the least to advance women's emancipation and the most to profit from the efforts of committed feminists ....

faith

Just a note on Camille Paglia the 'feminist' that is refuting the articles that Naomi is writing- she has been written off as a sell out by just about every serious writer ,teacher,lecturer and publisher on feminist issues.
I clearly remember her years ago on the front page of Time or Newsweek or something similar being celebrated as one of very few female covers . She was being supported in midair by 2 very muscle bound young men in t- shirts with her low cut top exposing as much cleavage as she could squeeze into the photograph. Camille has always gotten what she wants from the male dominated world of publishing and academia by telling the boys what they want to hear.

Michelle

The article I was going by is the one that started the thread, not Paglia's.

I actually quite enjoyed The Beauty Myth.

Mycroft_

I think Wolf was expecting a bit much from Yale by filing a complaint twenty years after the incident.

Jingles

Professor Bloom might want to stay away from the [url=http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/EdmontonSun/News/2004/02/22/356833.html]Un... of Alberta.[/url]

quote:

Statistics that indicate [b]one in four University of Alberta students currently have a sexually transmitted disease[/b] are "dreadful," says a doctor at the institution. "About a quarter of young people," said health education co-ordinator Judy Hancock, with the University Health Centre. "If you put our population at 30,000, that would come to about 7,500."

Sharon

quote:


... but between Naomi Wolf, Camille Paglia, the London Telegraph and Margaret Wente, this sounds like a rogues gallery of those who have done the least to advance women's emancipation and the most to profit from the efforts of committed feminists ....

Hear! Hear!

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

I might see this differently if I had reason to believe that Wolf treated her female professors to private dinners by candlelight as well.

vickyinottawa

doesn't matter. If a person in a position of authority takes advantage (or attempts to take advantage) of a person over whom they wield authority, it's harassment. Even if she invited him to dinner, he should have recognized the power imbalance and politely refused. The naivete of the victim does not make them any less a victim. What's next? Women shouldn't wear short skirts to class? Did I fall asleep and wake up back in the 80s, when we were fighting this crap on campuses across Canada?

Albireo

I know that this is quite tangential to this discussion, but

quote:

'You have the aura of election upon you,' he breathed.

[img]confused.gif" border="0[/img] [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img] [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img]

Scott Piatkowski Scott Piatkowski's picture

He was slurring his words. He actually said: "You have the aura of my erection upon you."

skdadl

quote:


I don't know about Harold Bloom - is he the one who wrote the right-wing rant about the loss of the Canon

That's him. He does the most conservative, Great Books, Great Men kind of criticism, dressed up a bit in more recent rhetoric but seriously slanted towards personality worship -- see his best-selling book about Shakespeare, where he froths about how important it is that we return to thinking of a genius like Shakespeare as A Genius [img]rolleyes.gif" border="0[/img] , and where he also emphasizes character-creation as Shakespeare's and the plays greatest strength.

vickyinottawa, I mostly agree with you, mostly ... There is something coercive about some of the zero-tolerance policies, though, that continues to bother me. Even if I had been exploited, I'm not sure I would want an extrajudicial body to come clomping into my private life and insisting on making it public, and I think a nineteen- or twenty-year-old should be free to say that, respected enough to make that decision. I also know that the flesh is weak ...

Plus: in most liaisons, is there not a power imbalance? Those of us who are not power-hungry like to try to work against such imbalances, but who is to judge someone else's relationship from the outside? I've seen some that looked pretty strange to me but seemed to make the participants happy.

al-Qa'bong

quote:


Even if she invited him to dinner, he should have recognized the power imbalance and politely refused.

There were, initially, other people there, so perhaps Bloom didn't realize he was entering a situation with power imbalance.

What's a "boneless" hand, by the way? Is she saying Bloom's fat? That's a [i]coup de gras[/i] if I've ever heard one.

skdadl

quote:


That's a coup de gras if I've ever heard one.

[img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

Hey! Today is Mardi Gras, no? lagatta: do your duty! Where is our pancake/crepe thread?

/drift

Hinterland

What's wrong with [i]coup de gras?[/i] Since a lot of people are pronouncing it "koo de grah" anyway, I admire the consistency. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

Mycroft_

I think Bloom acted inappropriately -even if Wolf had a youthful crush on him and even if she might have responded more positively had Bloom acted flirtatiously rather than boorishly (say, recite some poetry instead of trying to cop a feel) - I don't think it's appropriate for a prof to be in a romantic relationship with a student regardless of who initiates it (and I'm not saying Wolf initiated anything).

But I also don't think it's reasonable for Wolf to file a formal complaint with Yale *twenty years after the fact* and expect them to do anything (they dismissed it saying they have a two year statute of limitations on sexual harassment cases). I mean how are you supposed to conduct an investigation on this twenty years later?

She may be correct about Yale not taking sexual harassment seriously but filing a complaint two decades after an incident and then saying *see, Yale doesn't take sexual harassment seriously* when they dismiss the complaint sounds like a bit of a set up.

[ 24 February 2004: Message edited by: Mycroft ]

Mycroft_

I think Bloom acted inappropriately but I also don't think it's reasonable for Wolf to file a formal complaint with Yale *twenty years after the fact* and expect them to do anything (they dismissed it saying they have a two year statute of limitations on sexual harassment cases). I mean how are you supposed to conduct an investigation on this twenty years later?

She may be correct about Yale not taking sexual harassment seriously but filing a complaint two decades after an incident and then saying *see, Yale doesn't take sexual harassment seriously* when they dismiss the complaint sounds like a bit of a set up.

lagatta

Personally, Janet Jackson's exhibit comes to mind. I admit my prejudice, I can't stand Naomi Wolf and the yuppie brand of feminism she represents. Even the Beauty Myth, as I recall, was silent on race and class.

In Italian there is the expression "gattopardismo" as in the leopard changing his spots and the famous book Il Gattopardo (translated as the Leopard) about changing everything (superficial) so nothing changes. Remember, this is the woman who set out to relook Al Gore.

As for crкpes, latkes, tortillas, blini and other pancakes, skdadl, I've been very busy working, so I've just been looking in in a most cursory manner ... No time to look anything up.

Sexual harassment is a serious problem, but Naomi Wolf has a gift of reducing everything to her personal existential crises ...

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

quote:


doesn't matter. If a person in a position of authority takes advantage (or attempts to take advantage) of a person over whom they wield authority, it's harassment.

This is certainly 100% true in situations where one participant is underage, or where the power balance is overwhelming (such as a guard/prisoner), but universities don't necessarily have a policy with regard to adult students and instructors socializing or dating. The university I work at has had some noteworthy student/instructor romances, both Male/female and Female/male.

Interestingly enough, we also have two senior staff members who are married, even though He is subordinate to She. She's his direct manager. If what you say is universally true, they'd either have to divorce, or one of them resign. And yet despite the obvious power imbalance of a spouse who could fire you, they seem to make out OK.

I don't know why, other than opportunism, Wolf decided she needed to "seek justice", but I think if I were Bloom I'd be tempted to say "prove your allegations or see me in court, with your wallet". This smacks far less of a victim seeking justice than it does of an author, grandstanding to make (some) point.

grrril

In this article, weirdly put in the showbiz section

[url=http://makeashorterlink.com/?R2B232387]http://makeashorterlink.com/?R2B2...


quote:

Wolf said she had been asked by Yale to help raise money and said "I felt I had to tell them why I was reluctant to do so."
"I then had many conversations with Yale authorities over a period of recent months, telling my story, hoping for an off-the-record meeting to address my concerns about the school's grievance procedures. I got nowhere," Wolf said.
"Several distinguished women have come forward in my piece to attest to the fact that there is a systemic problem at Yale University," she said.
Wolf said she had been asked by Yale to help raise money and said "I felt I had to tell them why I was reluctant to do so."
"I then had many conversations with Yale authorities over a period of recent months, telling my story, hoping for an off-the-record meeting to address my concerns about the school's grievance procedures. I got nowhere," Wolf said.
"Several distinguished women have come forward in my piece to attest to the fact that there is a systemic problem at Yale University," she said.


Let's see... Yale asks Wolf for help in raising money for them. They in turn refuse an off the record meeting regarding Yale's greivance procedure. I know I'd be telling the university where to go after that treatment. To turn a blind eye to abuses at Yale is the old boy's club way.
There's many ways to receive the short end of the stick in University, especially if you're in an area that is subjective such as the arts. If Wolf sleeps with the prof, she gets an A. A lay for an A. A low grade for refusing the sexual advance. This still goes on. Does it discredit the University when they ignore such allegations? Absolutely. Sexual harassment policies at Universities are no more than a bad joke.

Margaret Wente is talking out her ass, as usual. This was my experience and anyone that had a different experience is obviously moronic is her attitude.

Michelle

Vicky, I would agree with you if the power balance consisted of the student being in a position of vulnerability, or if the professor had made the first move.

But in this case, the student made what could arguably be considered "the first move" by creating a completely inappropriately intimate atmosphere. There is a difference between a professor approaching a student with the first move, and a student approaching the professor. The student is an adult and presumably, as an adult, understands what is appropriate and what is not in a teacher-student relationship. She made the conscious choice to cross that boundary by creating the atmosphere she did, and I think most reasonable people would be able to see where that atmosphere could be mistaken for one of romantic intention.

Inviting a professor over for a cozy twosome over candlelight, wine, and homemade dinner is not the same thing as wearing a short skirt to class, so your analogy is faulty, in my opinion. In the dinner situation, the atmosphere has been created directly for her tete-a-tete with the professor, whereas in the skirt situation, her decision to wear a short skirt is not directed at anyone in particular.

It's true that he also behaved in a way that was unprofessional. But so did she. She created the whole situation, and he went along with what he thought her intention was. He was mistaken, and he should have refused anyhow because you shouldn't get intimate with students. But I don't think there is a consent issue here, and therefore I do not consider it a sexual assault.

Now, if he had approached her first, that would have been harassment. Because in that case, he would have no reason to believe that his advances were wanted, and she might feel pressure to accept them even if she didn't want them. If she had been incapacitated in some way, as for instance a patient might be in a doctor/psychiatrist/psychologist - patient relationship, then sure, even if a woman makes the first move, she cannot be said to be acting from a point of consent. But in a case where a man has reasonable grounds for believing she is interested in him that way, and no reason to believe that he is in a position of power over someone who is incapacitated and therefore is not making the first move out of psychosis or grief or illness, I would say his only mistake was in being unprofessional for engaging, and making an understandable mistake about his reading of her intentions.

Chris Moore

I think it'd be highly hypocritcal of Naomi to raise money for Yale, while turning a blind eye to the sexual harassment going on there. In this story
[url=http://www.observer.com/pages/frontpage7.asp]http://www.observer.com/pag...

quote:

"She is fully aware of what is on the statute, and she had no intention at all of bringing a claim against Harold Bloom."

She was looking for some recognition of the harassment problem at Yale.

When I was at university, a couple of the profs seemed only interested in having their egos stroked. I think they were going through a mid life crisis and the way they acted like horny teenagers was really pathetic. The pretty girls who sucked up and flirted with the profs got good grades, while anyone who challenged the profs got lousy grades. [img]rolleyes.gif" border="0[/img]

vickyinottawa

Michelle, I have to say, I'm pretty disappointed. Sexual harassment is a complex issue - not unlike power relations in general. I don't consider myself in a position to judge what happened in Wolf's particular case (I tend to think it's a bit goofy to try and address a 20-year-old case, but that's as far as I'm going to go). Most likely no one is. Your post sounds an awful lot like victim-blaming to me. If it were a friend of yours and not Naomi Wolf telling the story, and it had just happened recently, not 20 years ago, how would you react?

These kinds of attitudes keep victims of harassment silent. People may not think it's a big deal, but for many victims of harassment it can have lasting effects.

There is a lot of faculty control over university harassment policies, just because of the nature of university governance. While there is not total protection from frivolous or vexatious accusations, victims of harassment do have to go through a lot of hoops, so few of them actually do come forward.

I found a pretty good piece on harassment vs flirting on MUN's website.

[url=http://www.mun.ca/sexualharassment/flirting.html]check it out here[/url]

Faculty are not completely unwilling to address the problem of abuse of power. I got this from the MSVU website:

quote:

A CODE OF ETHICS ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT: MODIFIED GUIDELINES. TAKEN FROM THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN HISTORIANS

I.

a. Sexual harassment within academe is unethical, unprofessional and threatening to academic freedom and an individual's integrity. In the academic context, the term "sexual harassment" may be used to describe a wide range of behaviours. It includes, but is not limited to, the following: generalized sexists remarks or behaviour, whether in or out of the classroom; requests for sexual favours, sexual advances, whether sanction-free, linked to reward, or accompanied by threat of retaliations; the use of authority to emphasize the sexuality or sexual identity of a student or any other member of the university community, in a manner which prevents or impairs that individual's or the employee's right to full enjoyment of education benefits, climates or opportunities; and sexual assaults. Such behaviours are unacceptable because they are forms of unprofessional conduct which seriously undermine the atmosphere of trust essential to the academic enterprise.

b. the potential for sexual harassment is not limited to incidents involving members of the teaching profession and students. Use of asymmetric power by individuals, resulting in sexual harassment of colleagues or staff, is also unethical and unprofessional.

c. Further, it is unprofessional behaviour to condone sexual harassment or to disregard complaints of sexual harassment from students, staff of colleagues. Such actions allow a climate of sexual harassment to exist and seriously undermine the atmosphere of trust essential to the academic enterprise.

II. In addition to sexual harassment, amorous relationships that might be appropriate in other circumstances are inappropriate and should be avoided when they occur between members of the teaching profession and any student for whom he or she has a professional responsibility. Implicit in the idea of professionalism is the recognition by those in positions of authority that in their relationships with students there is always an element of power. It is incumbent upon members of the professional not to abuse, nor seem to abuse, the power with which they are entrusted, since relationships between members of the profession and students are always fundamentally asymmetric in nature. such relationships may have the effect of undermining the atmosphere of trust among students and faculty on which the educational process depends.


lagatta

Vicky, I can only speak for myself, but I think Michelle sees sexual harassment as a very serious issue, as do I. I was sacked from a job as a young lass for refusing to put out, and another leering potential employer attempted to grope me in a most lewd way. But the existence of grave ills such as sexism and racism doesn't preclude certain individuals making use of these for ends unrelated to the emancipation of their race, sex or other human group. A lot of the things in Naomi Wolf's story, and her own personal history, raise many warning flags. But once again, I must admit my personal prejudice as I find she is a poster girl for the most superficial, and to use a horrific lefty clichй "bourgeois" variety of feminism.

Michelle

I do take sexual harassment very seriously. And that's why this annoys me. If the professor had approached her out of the blue, in the context of a working relationship, I would be right there with you condemning him for it. But she made the first approach, in the form of a romantic, candlelit dinner in her home. At her initiation and her invitation, from what I can tell from the article. I think he had a good reason to believe she was interested. He shouldn't have acted upon it. And she shouldn't have created such an inappropriate setting.

I think it's insulting to women's intelligence to claim that an adult woman doesn't have the sense to know what is inappropriate behaviour in a working relationship with a professor. I knew at 20, and I'll bet you did too. And yeah, if it was a friend of mine who told me she had created such an atmosphere in anticipation of an evening spent with a male professor, and then couldn't figure out why he would get the impression that she was interested in him romantically, I would, as gently as possible, tell her to feel her head.

I'm not blaming "the victim" because I don't believe she was a victim based on what we read (and we can speculate all we want on the incidentals not mentioned - I was going by the information we had). I think it looks more like he's the victim of a smear. He's guilty of a lack of judgement and unprofessional conduct. He's not guilty of sexual harassment. Or if he is, then so is she, for creating a sexually-charged work environment for him if she expected him to do his job in such an atmosphere.

Loony Bin

When I was doing my undergrad, there was at least one open secret torrid affair going on between a student and a prof. in my dept. He was married, she was a buxom 19yr. old, very intelligent, very beautiful woman. Everyone knew about it, and we all knew that she was being mislead , and that he was a scumbag who'd find a new doll next year (I can only think that she must have known too). In a scenario like this, I think, yes, he's taking advantage of his power as a prof (part of which is the appeal of the illicit, secret etc.), but she's not exactly being hoodwinked. I don't think you could make a very strong case for sexual assault or harassment in this case. She pursued him as much as he responded to her. They were both adults...etc.

While I was working on my honours thesis, my advisor was a fairly cute male prof, but I always met him either in his office with the door open, or out at a campus coffee shop or something. Even the few times we sat out on the lawn I was really careful to not let on in any way even that I thought he was cute, or to do anything at all remotely ambiguous.

I never ever never would have invited him to my house for anything, never mind a candlelit dinner and sherry. That's just so obviously a come-on that an accusation of sexual assault at this point (given the information we have in the article), is just dumb. Some kind of publicity play or something like that...

Michelle

Well, just to be sure, I do think that a consensual relationship, even one where the student pursues the professor, is unethical. But I wouldn't call it sexual harassment or assault unless the professor used his or her authority to pressure the student into the relationship in the first place.

The reason I think student-professor relationships are unethical is because, even if the student entered into the relationship fully willingly, there is a dynamic there that might make it difficult to sever the relationship if they no longer wish to be in it. And I don't believe there should even be the appearance of impropriety when it comes to evaluation of a student's work. It's just as possible that a professor might not feel he or she can give the student a deserved low mark or a deserved high mark, depending on how the relationship is going.

But there is a difference between being unprofessional and being a rapist or a sexual predator.

Loony Bin

quote:


The reason I think student-professor relationships are unethical is because, even if the student entered into the relationship fully willingly, there is a dynamic there that might make it difficult to sever the relationship if they no longer wish to be in it. And I don't believe there should even be the appearance of impropriety when it comes to evaluation of a student's work. It's just as possible that a professor might not feel he or she can give the student a deserved low mark or a deserved high mark, depending on how the relationship is going.

Definitely. I agree wholeheartedly. I was just trying to show a distinction between the inappropriate and the illegal...

Chris Moore

The magazine article is out. It's 5 pages long.

[url=http://makeashorterlink.com/?N1EB61687]http://makeashorterlink.com/?N1EB...

quote:

Is Harold Bloom a bad man? No. Harold Bloom’s demons are no more demonic than those of any other complex human being’s. Does this complex, brilliant man’s one bad choice make him a monster? No, of course not; nor does this one experience make me a “victim.” But the current discourse of accused and accuser, aggressor and victim is more damaging than constructive.

While reading the article I noticed how people who come forward with sexual harassment accusations are treated much like whistleblowers in organizations.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

quote:


Does this complex, brilliant man’s one bad choice make him a monster?

Good grief. She makes the guy a nice romantic candlelit dinner, he makes the mistake of thinking it's a nice romantic candlelit dinner, he touches her once and leaves, never to touch her again.

Twenty years later she decides to claim (but never prove) this, and write some magazine articles about it, but at she's generous enough to concede that he's [i]not a monster.[/i]

I guess it takes a [i]big person[/i] to still see a spark of non-monster humanity in someone who touched you at your romantic candlelit dinner 20 years ago. [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img]

BleedingHeart

Lots of women have had bad dating experiences or and have gotten over it.

The professor shouldn't have touched her thigh, she probably shouldn't have invited him to dinner.

The thing is she has gone on to be quite successful despite this.

Now if she can give instances of students who were harmed by this professor's behaviour that is different.

Rufus Polson

Is Harold Bloom a bad man? Of course he is. But not because of this. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 26 February 2004: Message edited by: Rufus Polson ]

skdadl

Um. I just read the article. To me, it changes things considerably -- it certainly changes my judgement.

I apologize, vickyinottawa, for not supporting your statement of principle more strongly. These stories, especially those from other women -- [i]named, except for one[/i] -- assaulted or harrassed more recently at Yale illustrate well the need for such principles.

By the time Wolf gets to her conclusion about what needs to be done, she has earned it. I urge everyone to read the entire article.

faith

Excellent article! It is disturbing that a code of silence still permeates our intstitutions in the 21st cenntury. Whatever happened to universitites being avant garde centres of social progress and forward thinking?

weakling willy

Who got the idea of universities as centres of social progress? Progressive academics and intellectuals can play an important role in helping progressive movements move forward, but if you look where the money goes in the university, you will notice that the main point in research is to aid private accumulation -- either through science/engineering/health research (increasingly producing proprietary knowledge for the private organisations funding it) or through training future managers and leaders in business schools. Even a lot of social science is tied to reproducing existing relations of power in economy and society by managing problems.

Universities can provide spaces to aid progressives, but this happens at the margins of an institution whose role is much more tied into developing technologies to aid accumulation and to manage change without upsetting broader relations of power.

faith

There was a time when university debate challenged the status quo. The campus society of the 60's and early 70's held out much hope for change, but then the 80's brought the reactionary backlash, and we've been stuck with it ever since.

Michelle

quote:


Originally posted by skdadl:
[b]Um. I just read the article. To me, it changes things considerably -- it certainly changes my judgement. [/b]

Huh. Me too. They certainly described the situation a lot differently than that original article did. I was FULLY wrong.

quote:

Bloom agreed to meet with me weekly. At my adviser’s suggestion, he wrote me a letter of reference for my Rhodes Scholarship application. Then I could not get a meeting with him. The semester was slipping away. When I saw him on campus, he would promise to go over my poetry manuscript “over a glass of Amontillado.” I’d heard that some faculty met with students at Mory’s, and that Bloom drank often with his male students there. I also knew that there was an atmosphere at Yale in which female students were expected to be sociable with male professors. I had discussed with my friends the pressure to be charming but still seen as serious.

Finally, Bloom suggested that he come to the house I shared with one of his editorial assistants and her boyfriend. At dinnertime. I agreed.

The four of us ate a meal. He had, as promised, brought a bottle of Amontillado, which he drank continually. I also drank. We had set out candles—a grown-up occasion. The others eventually left and—finally!—I thought we could discuss my poetry manuscript. I set it between us. He did not open it. He did not look at it. He leaned toward me and put his face inches from mine. “You have the aura of election upon you,” he breathed.

I hoped he was talking about my poetry. I moved back and took the manuscript and turned it around so he could read.

The next thing I knew, his heavy, boneless hand was hot on my thigh.

I lurched away. “This is not what I meant,” I stammered. The whole thing had suddenly taken on the quality of a bad horror film. The floor spun. By now my back was against the sink, which was as far away as I could get. He moved toward me. I turned away from him toward the sink and found myself vomiting. Bloom disappeared.

When he reemerged—from the bedroom with his coat—a moment later, I was still frozen, my back against the sink. He said: “You are a deeply troubled girl.” Then he went to the table, took the rest of his sherry, corked the bottle, and left.


That's one selective story-telling in the first article in this thread.

grrril

quote:


I had assumed that such cases were all in the distant past, but then I received a call from a lawyer called Cynthia Powell. In 1992, she was an American Studies graduate student and a law student. Powell says that one of her tenured professors assaulted her sexually. The professor asked her to dinner, she said, with himself and a dean. At the last minute, she was told the dean could not come. After dinner, he insisted they have a drink at his pied-а-terre nearby, and she had one glass of wine. He started making advances; she resisted, saying “No, no” several times, but then started experiencing blackouts. When she regained intermittent consciousness, she says, he had removed her clothes and penetrated her.
Deeply traumatized, Powell had her bruises documented at the hospital. She also called the police, but was made to feel there would be no point in bringing a criminal charge against someone she knew. “But I filed a grievance at Yale. Immediately, they brought in the university’s counsel. I was not allowed to have a lawyer there. Because I am an attorney, I understand that their principal concern was litigation. Their attorney said to me several times: ‘We are really glad you are not going to make a crusade about this.’
“The committee said he was tenured, so they couldn’t just terminate him. Off the record, the university’s attorney told me they wanted quietly to push him out. I didn’t know why it had to be ‘quietly.’
“They said he’d been ‘careless,’ ‘reckless.’ They didn’t want to use the word rape.”
Powell says she was never given a copy of the report and was able to read it only by going to a specified room where it was kept in a drawer. A few months later, the professor resigned and was promptly hired by another university. According to Powell, Yale offered her $30,000, which she rejected.


Nothing about the experiences in the article surprises me. It's probably just the tip of the iceberg.I wish the universities would take out of their mission statements the flowery crap about how they value students and believe in treating them with respect blah,blah,blah.

quote:

If a Yale undergraduate came to me today with a bad secret to tell, I still could not urge her to speak up confidently to those tasked with educating, supporting, and mentoring her. I would not direct her to her faculty adviser, the grievance committee, or her dean. Wishing that Bart Giamatti’s beautiful welcoming speech to my class about Yale’s meritocracy were really true, I would, with a heavy heart, advise that young woman, for her own protection, to get a good lawyer.

Michelle

I would be interested in reading Magoo's take on this after reading the passage I quoted from the 5 page article where Wolf's full story was told. Does it change your mind at all, Magoo? It did mine.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

It certainly softens my opinion. I still can't help being a little suspicious of language like "We had set out candles—a grown-up occasion" (kind of sounds like a little revisionism), and it still seems just a bit odd to wait 20 years to tell the story. But yes, it certainly is a different telling than what we got at the start of the week, and it does sound less ambiguous from Bloom's point of view. Speaking of which, that's the only thing still missing. I know he denies touching her, but I'd love to hear his version of whatever events he thinks did transpire. Were there a bunch of old pillar candles lit on the bookshelves, or were there two tapers on the dinner table, for example? What did he believe was happening, and why did he believe that?

Years ago, when we first moved to Toronto so that Mrs. M. could do her M.A. at UofT, she encountered a professor who took a more than unhealthy interest in her. He never touched her, so he still has all of his teeth, but he certainly created a poisoned environment for her.
Informally, she found out that she wasn't the first female student who'd had this experience with this guy. There were many. The school had been made aware of his actions, but since he never crossed any unambiguous lines (such as touching, or inappropriate e-mails or voicemails), nothing ever came of it.

He's also probably the most published Professor in his department, and you don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs just for pooping in the house now and again. [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img]

Michelle

Well, considering that she tried to get the university to start a dialogue for a year before going public with it, I think he's had some opportunity to give his point of view.

P.S. That really sucks what happened to your partner. I didn't notice any philandering between students and professors while I was at Queen's, but then I wouldn't notice because most of the students were a decade younger than me, so I wouldn't have been privy to the grapevine.

[ 27 February 2004: Message edited by: Michelle ]

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