I unequivocally condemn all university policies — including the one at my own workplace, the University of Guam — that seek to legitimize or allow faculty-student sexual relationships.
There’s a sharp power differential that’s unmistakable. Sure, there could be the rare .0001% of cases in which the student isn’t financially subjugated, career-dependent, threatened (implicitly or otherwise), coerced, or expected to serve sexually.
Parents, are you pleased with policies that open your teenaged children up to sexual advances from university professors who could be their grandfathers? In the classroom, or at off-campus parties or other events?
At UOG, this is accepted. Faculty-student sexual relationships are explicitly permitted. To me, this is horrifying. I can only see it as the result of a racist, sexist system entrenched at UOG.
It creates a climate in which the professional relations of faculty and students are constantly being undermined.
In my voyage through academia, multiple colleagues in multiple contexts within the professional work environment have made unwanted, surprise sexual advances toward me. This has created destabilizing, hostile, and unwelcoming environments in which I, as a young woman, have felt objectified and de-professionalized. I did not have any reason to believe that these older men accepted me as a professional colleague, but rather that they viewed as a piece of meat, a sexual target.
I have felt afraid, and alone, and angry.
When I realized that I was inside of a broad U.S. academic environment that (in most colleges and universities) explicitly gave permission for faculty members to initiate relationships with any student they liked, or any junior faculty member, I understood the problem.
Looking at UOG: Our students are, as a whole, very young, right out of high school. They are also overwhelmingly of Asian/Pacific ethnicity. Our faculty are overwhelmingly male and much older and white and wealthier.
It is this exploitation of historic and continuing power imbalances for personal sexual gains that particularly horrifies me.
A university classroom is not a bar or a brothel. A professor is not a candidate on some matchmaking show. We are employed here by the government of Guam to educate our next generation and to act in a professional manner toward our students and colleagues, not to think to exploit them in any way.
Students do not sign up for classes, and they and their parents do not pay thousands of dollars to this institution, to be the target of unwelcome sexual advances by their professors, or to sit in a classroom and watch as a peer goes through a sexual relationship (coerced or with consent) with a far older person who has such power over their college work and potential future careers and lives.
I would ask policymakers and our government legislators to consider the recent example of Harvard University, which changed its policy to forbid faculty-student sexual relationships. I am delighted to hear that such a policy has gone into effect there, because I hope it will inspire other universities to take a careful look at the kind of harm — and legal liabilities — that faculty given sexual access to undergraduates (including in their own classes!) can cause.
I cannot agree that a professor should be allowed to make verbal or physical or other sexual advances toward a student in class or at an off-campus event at all. Can’t we save that for personal time? It creates a very destructive, unprofessional environment in the classroom that nurtures sexual harassment and assault. I, as a professor, do not want a student or a colleague to be allowed to treat me that way either.
We have enough to do to keep ourselves running as an accredited institution, seeking to move from “Good to Great.” This policy is only holding us back in the 1950s — or 1898 — 1668 . . .