This week's Times Higher Education
documents "The Seven Deadly Sins of the Academy." While most of the essays
are either vaguely amusing or vaguely illuminating, one of them is downright horrifying:
Clark Kerr, the president of the University of California from 1958 to 1967, used to describe his job as providing sex for the students, car parking for the faculty and football for the alumni. But what happens when the natural order is disrupted by faculty members who, on parking their cars, head for the students' bedrooms?
The great academic novel of the 19th century was George Eliot's Middlemarch. The great academic novel of the 20th century was Malcolm Bradbury's The History Man. Both books chronicle lust between male scholars and female acolytes, and I expect that the great academic novel of the 21st century will describe more of the same. So, why do universities pullulate with transgressive intercourse?
When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he is famously said to have replied, "because that's where the money is". Equally, the universities are where the male scholars and the female acolytes are. Separate the acolytes from the scholars by prohibiting intimacy between staff and students (thus confirming that sex between them is indeed transgressive - the best sex being transgressive, as any married person will soulfully confirm) and the consequences are inevitable.
The fault lies with the females. The myth is that an affair between a student and her academic lover represents an abuse of his power. What power? Thanks to the accountability imposed by the Quality Assurance Agency and other intrusive bodies, the days are gone when a scholar could trade sex for upgrades. I know of two girls who, in 1982, got firsts in biochemistry from a south-coast university in exchange for favours to a professor, but I know of no later scandals.
But girls fantasise. This was encapsulated by Beverly in Tom Wolfe's novel I Am Charlotte Simmons, who forces herself on to JoJo, the campus sports star, with the explanation that "all girls want sex with heroes". On an English campus, academics can be heroes.
Normal girls - more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos - will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but nonetheless, most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do?
Enjoy her! She's a perk. She doesn't yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife.
Yup, I'm afraid so. As in Stringfellows, you should look but not touch. Be warned by the fates of too many of the protagonists in Middlemarch, The History Man and I Am Charlotte Simmons. And in any case, you should have learnt by now that all cats are grey in the dark.
So, sow your oats while you are young but enjoy the views - and only the views - when you are older.
* Terence Kealey is vice-chancellor, University of Buckingham, and the author of Sex, Science and Profits (2008).
Oh. My. God
This is offensive in so many different ways that it's nearly impossible to know where to start. Okay, first of all, it assumes that university faculty are 1) male, 2) married, and 3) attracted to women. None of the above apply to everybody. Secondly, it seems to be assuming that whenever a female student (but not a male student, apparently) shows interest in her studies, she is 1) not normal and 2) trying to use her sexual charms to extract concessions from her professor. Pardon me while I vomit...and refrain from cracking jokes about intellectual crushes ever, ever
Furthermore, while objectifying female students--"Hey boys, it's okay to look!"--and denigrating married life--"Feel free to fantasize about the booty in class while doing it with your wife!"--the essay's author has the audacity to blame the victim. "The fault lies with the females," he says. Oh? You really think that any professor who believes his female students are there expressly for his own viewing pleasure isn't somehow at fault here? And what about the university president who is encouraging the fantasizing???
There's more, of course. Anyone else feeling outraged enough by this essay to declaim?