The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

I read today's article about the controversial professor-student dating policy at the Univeristy of South Florida, and how it contributed to a sexual harassment case against Professor James A. Inman by grad student Julia Makosky, with only slight attention. It was interesting, but not enough for me to devote my full concentration on it.

However, despite the focus on the Inman-Makosky episode, I was surprised that the general presentation throughout the article assumed that such instances of teacher-student relationships occurred only between male professors and female students. Couldn't they find at least a couple of examples of female professors getting involved with male students? Or even of same-sex relationships developing out of such circumstances?

For the Tampa Bay area, it's particularly odd, since one of the recent "hot" stories in the headlines has been about Debra Lafave, a middle-school teacher who's been accused of having sex with a 14-year-old male student.

I can understand why variations from the old man professor/young girl student mold might be hard to come by. Male students are probably much less likely to take action, due to societal pressures and general belief that their case would fare badly. Homosexual interaction would probably raise a huge circus-like atmosphere if things soured between teacher and student. No doubt, the old man/young woman dalliances are the norm.

Still, I think the Svengali-like assumptions are a little outdated. The power dynamics of the classroom setting make teacher-student dating a bad idea anyway, regardless of gender specifics. But it's odd to read an account that presumes a decades-old stereotype.