Sunday, September 27, 2009
Like A Dog Not Walking On Its Hind Legs
I suspect that I tend towards the more formal end of views about the appropriate standards of staff-student interactions at universities. This is probably partly because of the structure of teaching that I'm most used to; tutorials, sometimes with only one student, make particularly obvious how seedy Terence Kealey, vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham, is when he tries to claim that external regulation of exam grades has eliminated power differentials that would corrupt relationships between students and staff at universities here. Still, one would have to have a remarkably laissez-faire attitude to causal misogyny and leching to think that his attempt to legitimate patriarchal sleaziness through clever-clever irony and literary allusion was not rather exploitative, notwithstanding his willingness to blame if not the victim, at least the more vulnerable of the two parties. For one thing, if this is merely about the tributes that age pays to youth and vice versa, why is the relationship in question explicitly defined as one of male professors and female students? I'm not sure whether academia is any better or worse than society at large, but it certainly suffers from various gendered norms and on occasion outright sexism. No male graduate student of my acquaintance would dress more formally to teach, whereas I know women who do, just as no man I know has been harrassed by one of their colleagues. I suppose, though, if you're the kind of person who thinks that the relevant relationship in The History Man is one of acolyte and academic hero, rather than a gradual bullying into submission, and more, in a position to benefit from doing just that, then you would think that any unwillingness to accept that that sort of thing is really not OK was a bit humourless.