• November 23, 2014

In Professor-Dominatrix Scandal, U. of New Mexico Feels the Pain

In Professor-Dominatrix Scandal, U. of New Mexico Feels the Pain 1

Mark Holm for The Chronicle

Lisa D. Chávez, an associate professor who moonlighted as a phone-sex worker, was not found to have violated any university policies. She remains at the center of a controversy over faculty governance and professors' obligations to protect students.

Enlarge Image
close In Professor-Dominatrix Scandal, U. of New Mexico Feels the Pain 1

Mark Holm for The Chronicle

Lisa D. Chávez, an associate professor who moonlighted as a phone-sex worker, was not found to have violated any university policies. She remains at the center of a controversy over faculty governance and professors' obligations to protect students.

In some ways, working as a phone-sex dominatrix is a lot simpler than being on a college faculty. Your relationship with others is clearly defined, no one formally complains about anything you say to them, and you stand little risk of getting caught up in messy struggles over power.

It gets complicated, however, if you try to do both jobs.

Life has become extremely complex in the University of New Mexico's English department in the three years since Lisa D. Chávez, a tenured associate professor, was discovered moonlighting as the phone-sex dominatrix "Mistress Jade," and posing in promotional pictures sexually dominating one of her own graduate students.

Although she quickly quit the phone-sex job, admitted to a serious lapse of judgment, and was not found by the university's administration to have violated any law or policy, Ms. Chávez remains at the center of a bitter controversy that has raised questions about faculty governance, the obligations of professors to protect students, and the exact definition of a hostile workplace in an environment of shifting sexual mores.

Several members of the English department accuse Ms. Chávez of abusing her power over students, and allege that the administration retaliated against professors who complained about her extracurricular activities. They also say that the university administration violated a basic principle of shared governance by not entrusting the investigation of Ms. Chávez to a faculty ethics committee.

For her part, Ms. Chávez has accused her accusers, in complaints to the university and the state, of discriminating against her because she is bisexual and Hispanic.

The department has been riven by resignations, as well as by three faculty members' lawsuits, still pending, that stem from the controversy. Many faculty members complain that they now work in a deteriorating atmosphere, which is taking its toll on students.

Gaining Experience

Graduate students in the department were the first to take on phone-sex work, about five years ago. They found it locally at People Exchanging Power, an Albuquerque-based company that offers people with various sexual fetishes a support network, phone-sex services, and opportunities to rendezvous with some of its employees in real life.

The students found it easy to talk about such work with Ms. Chávez. The professor, 48, takes pride in having close friendships with graduate students, often inviting them to her house for parties students characterize as fairly raucous. "I have been told repeatedly since all of this happened that I am stepping over boundaries by being friends with students," Ms. Chávez says. "And I don't think that is true—especially in creative writing, where we end up knowing students so well just through their writing."

When students brought up phone-sex work in her classes, Ms. Chávez, who describes herself as "a pro-sex feminist," spoke approvingly of how empowering such jobs were, of how the students had found a great way to gain outside income and life experience they could draw upon as writers.

In February 2007, Ms. Chávez quietly took a job herself at People Exchanging Power. She says she had just gotten divorced, was having trouble making her mortgage payments, and viewed working for the service, which paid more than $40 per hour, as a great way to earn money in her spare time and gather material for her fiction. Working under the Mistress Jade pseudonym, she fielded calls dispatched to her home but, she says, did not meet personally with clients. Her advertisement on the company's Web site asked potential callers: "Do you want a biker bitch, an imperious goddess, or a stern teacher ready to punish unruly students?"

Liz Derrington, a 27-year-old graduate student in the creative-writing program who was going through a divorce herself, went to work for People Exchanging Power at about the same time. "The pay was good—it was far better than waiting tables or anything like that," she says.

Ms. Chávez and Ms. Derrington ran into each other at the service and agreed to be photographed simulating sadomasochistic sex acts. A former New Mexico graduate student employed there also appeared in the photos, which were accompanied by captions that used vulgar and degrading terms.

In the meantime, a few of Ms. Chávez's students complained to other faculty members in the department that they felt uncomfortable about the sexually charged conversations in her class. One professor, Diane M. Thiel, says she took these concerns to David R. Jones, then the English-department chairman, but he "seemed unconcerned." (Mr. Jones has categorically denied Ms. Thiel's allegations over his handling of the matter.)

In July 2007, some of the photos of Ms. Chávez landed on the desk of Mr. Jones, attached to a note signed "appalled parents." He asked Sharon Oard Warner, a professor of English and Ms. Chávez's boss as the creative-writing program's director, to check the People Exchanging Power site on her home computer to determine if any of the program's students were involved.

Accusing Accusers

In fact, there were several current or former students pictured on the Web site. Among them was Carrie Cutler, a 33-year-old graduate student who had worked for the company before Ms. Chávez took a job there. Ms. Cutler, who remains in the creative-writing program, says she had hoped that taking phone-sex work, which she had heard Ms. Chávez praise in class, would not only help her pay bills but help her remedy Ms. Chávez's complaints that her writing was not dark or edgy enough. She says she quit after growing tired of being on the phone at all hours and dealing with prank callers or people who asked for things she felt uncomfortable providing.

Ms. Warner says she passed information about the student and faculty involvement in the company to Mr. Jones. When Mr. Jones then confronted Ms. Chávez, she told him she had considered the outside work partially as research for her writing. But she nonetheless quit the outside job and asked the company to remove her photos from its Web site.

In a document filed in connection with one of her own discrimination complaints, which have been dismissed, Ms. Chávez says Mr. Jones told her that Ms. Cutler was the origin of the accusations against her. The document shows Ms. Chávez raised concerns at that time about Ms. Cutler's mental stability, telling others that "the student who originally started all this had serious mental-health issues, was actively trying to hurt me and my career, and was, perhaps, a danger to me and others." But, her discrimination complaint continued, no one at the university took her concerns seriously.

Several faculty members and students in the program say Ms. Chávez later spread word that Ms. Cutler had had a psychotic breakdown that fall and had been threatening to murder fellow students. Ms. Derrington, for one, appeared to take these warnings about her fellow graduate student seriously. She requested that an armed university police officer be present in the room when she defended her dissertation.

Ms. Cutler denies ever having had any sort of breakdown, and several students and faculty members who knew her during this period say she appeared fine. Ms. Chávez, in an e-mail, declined to comment on her interactions with Ms. Cutler.

Widened Scrutiny

Soon after the "appalled parent" letter arrived, the university began to look into the matter, first to see if Ms. Chávez had crossed any lines, but then to see if her colleagues had been out of line in their dealings with her.

The investigation started with the university's Office of Equal Opportunity, which asked various people involved if Ms. Chávez had created a hostile learning environment for her students.

But in a confidential e-mail sent to Ms. Warner in early October 2007, Mr. Jones said that the university's president, David J. Schmidly, had decided to call off that investigation, and to hire an outside lawyer to conduct a different one altogether. The subject was not Ms. Chávez's treatment of graduate students, but the conduct of people in the English department as a whole. Ms. Chávez, it appeared, had gone on the offensive, threatening defamation lawsuits against faculty members who, she alleged, were falsely accusing her of engaging in outright prostitution and being romantically involved with a student, Ms. Derrington. She filed a discrimination complaint with the university in which she accused Ms. Warner of having it out for her because she is Hispanic.

In late November 2007, university administrators announced the completion of the investigation. It concluded that Ms. Chávez had exercised bad judgment but did not find her guilty of allegations of maintaining a hostile learning environment, sexual harassment, or other illegal activity or violations of policy that suggested she was unfit for her job. Faculty members who had raised concerns about Ms. Chávez were urged by administrators to enter into mediation with her.

One of them was Gregory Martin, an associate professor of English. In a court document, Mr. Martin says Brenda Claiborne, dean of the university's College of Arts and Sciences, subsequently warned faculty members that if they continued to demand action be taken against Ms. Chávez, they could face negative consequences, including lawsuits for slander or a decision by the university to abolish the entire creative-writing program.

The warning did not deter them. In February 2008, 14 tenured faculty members in the English department signed a letter to Richard Holder, the university's deputy provost for academic affairs, urging the administration to let a faculty committee investigate Ms. Chávez's conduct. The signers, who included Mr. Martin and Ms. Warner, said her actions raised "serious ethical questions" regarding "abuse of academic freedom and the professional ethics that must govern the relationship of a professor and her student." It said the creative-writing program "has been harmed and continues to be harmed."

Soon after, Ms. Chávez filed a discrimination complaint with the state alleging that the accusations against her stemmed from bias based on her being Hispanic and bisexual.

Refusals to Surrender

Provost Holder refused to hand the matter over to a faculty panel for adjudication. In a letter to those who request he do so, he characterized the investigation of Ms. Chávez as thorough, and said he had heard from many other faculty members who attributed the deteriorating atmosphere in the creative-writing program "not to the underlying situation but to the persistence of some in pursuing this matter."

And there was persistence. The faculty members appealed Mr. Holder's decision to President Schmidly and the acting provost, Viola Florez, but they stood behind Mr. Holder.

Then came the reaction: Resignation and lawsuits. Joy Harjo, a prominent American Indian poet who had signed the letter to Mr. Holder, quit the faculty, saying she did not feel comfortable working where she could not protect her students. Ms. Warner resigned as the creative-writing program's director, saying she already been implicitly stripped of her authority and her job had become "untenable." Her resignation letter said, "Evidently, university administrators are more concerned about spurious threats of litigation than about protecting the learning and working environment."

Ms. Warner filed a lawsuit against the university last year. She claims that her efforts to pursue complaints against Ms. Chávez led to her being subjected to administrative threats and various acts of administrative retaliation, including an unusual financial audit of a writing conference she oversees and rejection when she later sought to become chair of the English department. Her lawsuit accuses Mr. Jones of keeping those investigating Ms. Chávez in the dark by failing to pass on to them the incriminating photos from People Exchanging Power's Web site.

A separate lawsuit has been filed by Ms. Warner's husband, Teddy D. Warner, a psychologist at the university's medical school. He contends that he suffered a pay cut and was denied a promised private office in retaliation for his wife's activities. The university had denied the couple's allegations.

A third lawsuit was filed by Ms. Thiel, the creative-writing professor whose work relationship with Ms. Chávez had been poor even before the phone-sex imbroglio. Ms. Thiel alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment by Mr. Jones, Ms. Chávez, and other faculty members in connection with the whole controversy. The university has asked the court to dismiss Ms. Thiel's lawsuit on technical grounds, saying it was filed in the wrong venue because she lives in a different judicial district.

The conduct of Mr. Jones factors heavily in the lawsuits filed by Ms. Warner and Ms. Thiel, even though the university as a whole is the named defendant. In an e-mail, he defended his conduct. "I stand by all my actions in that troubled time, actions intended to protect the rights and safety of a number of students and faculty members, including Warner and Thiel, when we all found ourselves in an extraordinary situation."

Although Ms. Chávez also is not named as a defendant in the lawsuits, she says she seems "to be the target of those in a lot of ways," given how they focus on the university's refusal to punish her. Although she continues to teach and advise students, she says the stress she has suffered as a result of the controversy "has put a real damper on my writing."

Julie Y. Shigekuni, a professor of English who now directs the creative-writing program, says she is trying to keep the program on course despite the controversy. "It becomes complicated, because I think that lawsuits, and the kind of climate of antagonism and fear that is brought by lawsuits, creates unpredictability," she says. "Students are uncertain about how the program is functioning and about the future of the program."

Ms. Derrington, who has graduated from the program, likewise would like to put the whole controversy behind her—not because she feels any shame for her phone-sex work, but because people misunderstand what it involved, and she fears she will have trouble finding academic work as a result of it. In the Internet age, however, she is not optimistic about escaping this chapter of her past.

"If you Google me," she says, "this whole issue is the first thing that comes up."

Comments

1. saluki87 - September 13, 2010 at 10:57 am

Wow. You can't make this stuff up. Only at a university could something like that occur yet no one is let go.

2. pedromartinez - September 13, 2010 at 11:40 am

This makes an excellent case study for qualitative research. I am wondering what the emergent hypothesis would be?
PLM

3. emily_shaft - September 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm

It sounds like maybe the University could have avoided all these problems by paying the Professor and the graduate students enough to live on.

4. uofnewmexico - September 14, 2010 at 09:53 pm

While I certainly agree that English professors and grad students could and should be paid more, the previous comment is really off the mark. An associate professor makes about five times as much as a graduate student. Since when is $60,000+ not a living wage? This matter is about seriously unprofessional behavior towards students and colleagues, and sure seems to be unethical by AAUP's guidelines. And the administration's refusal to allow it to be examined by the Faculty Ethics Committee is pretty telling.

5. 11237289 - September 15, 2010 at 03:47 pm

English assistant professors do *not* make 60k my friend, at least not in my experience at two universities. You're thinking of economics profs. However, the larger problem is clearly grad student pay.

6. uofnewmexico - September 15, 2010 at 05:42 pm

Please read the article, my friend. She is an associate professor. And she makes about $60,000. Salaries are public record at UNM. The larger issue is about a hell of a lot more than what her salary is. (Ie: Do you know other underpaid English associate professors posting photos acting out sexual violence on a student to solicit the public and make some extra money? And then accusing students (who she thought complained about her behavior) of being mentally unstable and making threats of murder?

7. truckzter - September 15, 2010 at 09:43 pm

As a grad student in the UNM English department, I can tell you this has been a trial for us all.

I wish the writer would have made some connections here to spur the university to quickly solve this problem. We're already in a hellish crisis with funding cuts; with this ongoing scandal, it makes life at the English department complicated, frustrating, and, oftentimes, hellish.

There is still retaliation occuring for CW students who refuse to let this quietly fade away. Those students who have been unfairly accused by Lisa Chavez of potentially-violent behavior, indecent sexual relationships, etc., deserve reparation.

8. supertatie - September 16, 2010 at 06:23 am

It is a sign of the times we live in, when firing this person is not even an option at this point. "Bad judgment"? Are you kidding me? This behavior is beyond inappropriate! Being a phone sex worker is bad enough, but had she kept that to herself, that would be one thing; everything about it spilled into her "work" in the classroom! Having sexually-charged conversations in the classroom, praising phone-sex in class as a bona fide way to earn extra money, soliciting your graduate students to "work" in this area - particularly to make their writing "darker" and "edgier," and then photographing yourself with them in sex poses? Oh, yes - and then accusing one of these students of having mental problems? This is what passes for the qualifications to teach writing?

Anyone with a brain knows who has the mental problems in this story. And trotting out "I'm Hispanic" and (gotta go it one better, of course), "bisexual" (news to her ex-husband?) is nothing more than a litigation ploy. Would she have been treated differently if she had been a heterosexual white guy? (Actually, yeah, she would have; she would have been FIRED by now.)

And to add to all of this, the faculty who are trying to maintain some kind of standards in that department are threatened, and forced to resign?

Since this is the major state university, am I further safe in assuming that all of this crap is happening on the taxpayer dime? More reason why people are clamoring for change in our higher education institutions, and why FOR-PROFIT colleges are popping up like mushrooms.

Pathetic. If this is the way UNM's creative writing program is run, it deserves to land in the dustbin of budget cuts.

9. pterodactyl123 - September 16, 2010 at 07:08 am

"If you Google me," Liz Derrington says in the article, "this whole issue is the first thing that comes up."

No kidding, you don't say? Could that be because Liz Derrington wrote to a blogger to share her story (and her real name) back in 2008?
http://sexinthepublicsquare.org/ElizabethsBlog/another-important-voice

Previous to this act of outting, Derrington had only been referred to as "the graduate student" in the controversy. But of course, once you take the step to identify yourself on the Internet, you're famous forever. Nice going, Liz.

Needless to say, this story makes the University of New Mexico administration and its phone-sex faculty sound fairly dysfunctional and idiotic.

10. grzgrz - September 16, 2010 at 07:55 am

This is nothing. Two tenured colleagues of mine traded sex for grades with several of their female students, and were not fired. They admitted it, and still teach. (The administrators are cowards and windbags.) Meanwhile, two others, who are excellent teachers, were not given tenure because the volume of their publications was judged not to be high enough. Both were brilliant academics with sterling records of teaching and service. The best are fired, and the scum are rewarded. No wonder higher education is under attack! Tenure is broken!

11. kali_bhairavi - September 16, 2010 at 08:04 am

@ comment#8: "Anyone with a brain knows who has the mental problems in this story. And trotting out "I'm Hispanic" and (gotta go it one better, of course), "bisexual" (news to her ex-husband?)"

Why do you snidely assume this would be news to her ex-husband? You seem to be assuming that a person's sexual orientation, so long as it is other than heterosexual, is something that must surely be a secret to her/his loved ones or partners and part of some scandal to have it revealed? Or are you just relying on what you assume must be "everyone's" distaste for bisexuality to beef up your assertions that this is such an obviously scandal that such a person should keep her job?

Your bigoted allusions aside -- this is a messy and disheartening situation for all involved. And that is an assertion that can be made without the stereotyping and derision you choose to heap on some people's sexual orientation.

12. feudi - September 16, 2010 at 08:09 am

All tenure agreements have a morals clause in them. The fact that this "professor" still has a job speaks volumes about what is wrong with academia today. [Edited for name-calling. -moderator]  This woman is a sick individual who is poisoning our children. She should be in jail, not in a classroom.

13. coldbluebutterlies - September 16, 2010 at 08:16 am

I agree with the poster above that casting aspersions at Chavez's sexual orientation, bisexual or otherwise, is bigoted and unnecessary. Chavez's judgement and actions can be critiqued without recourse to ad hominem attacks like that.

Chavez should have been fired. Her judgement and teaching were surely compromised the moment she brought her outside sex-work into her classroom as a standard against which she judged student attitude and work. Lines were crossed that should never have been. And the university's administration acted so cowardly they created a bigger mess out of what should have been a localised scandal swiftly dealt with.

14. dpn33 - September 16, 2010 at 08:41 am

saluki87 -- actually, this happens in politics, too, not just academe.

Alternate sexuality, including bisexuality and phone sex users, are just that: alternate. They aren't sick or bad. The problem for Chavez was bringing this into the classroom and even encouraging it for others as part of their professional development. Surely there are other less controversial options than sex work -- watching horror movies or reading dark novels or, for that matter, working in a homeless shelter. Chavez definitely got carried away and probably deserves censure, but ad hominem attacks are not going to improve the departmental climate.

15. davi2665 - September 16, 2010 at 08:51 am

This is political correctness run amok. Only in academia could such egregious behavior be considered acceptable, with additional attacks on the people who dared to question the appropriateness of this behavior. Had this been a caucasian male, he would have been instantly fired for cause, probably prosecuted for inappropriate conduct with a student, and become the posterchild for "we will not tolerate this kind of behavior....". This type of event is almost predictable in a culture where virtually anything goes, where there are not standards of right and wrong or appropriate and inappropriate, and where cowardly administrators hide behind their endless blatherings about inclusiveness, tolerance, etc.

16. astoria09_ny - September 16, 2010 at 08:58 am

Gosh, remember the days when professors were supposed to be role models for their students?
I really am a dinosaur.

17. coldbluebutterlies - September 16, 2010 at 09:01 am

For those who keep claiming a white male would have been pilloried for this, I beg to differ. Only a few years ago, at one ivy league graduate institution, a white male professor was found to have bound, gagged and molested a graduate student (he said it was consentual, the grad student begged to differ). The student was offered funding to hush up and nothing much was done about the prof. Many complained, some resigned, but such is the nature of tenure. It's tenure that's the issue here, not 'political correctness run amok' or any such nonsense that gets trotted out when a non-wite, non-male gets let off on the same technicalities and nonsense that others have used to their advantage for so long.

18. goldenrae9 - September 16, 2010 at 09:15 am

If everything was consensual, why is this even an issue?

19. beulah - September 16, 2010 at 09:38 am

The problem is not tenure. The problem is administrators too cowardly to create the necessary paper trail that will lead to disciplinary actions. Tenure protects intellectual freedom, not egregious abuses of power.

20. washingtonwarrior - September 16, 2010 at 09:39 am

Talk about creative writing... I think this might be the first time a University has gone to bat for a faculty member in this position (obviously afraid of getting sued for wrongful terminiation based on ethnicity and sexual orientation). Sad story.

21. physicsprof - September 16, 2010 at 09:43 am

http://chronicle.com/article/Dominatrix-Emerita/65406/

For some reason English teachers seem to be attracted to a job of dominatrix.

22. cwinton - September 16, 2010 at 09:46 am

Bottom line, whatever her personal proclivities, Ms. Chavez crossed the line (by a lot) in her dealings with students. We usually do, and should, hold the professoriate to a higher standard of behavior. The shocking thing about this entire fiasco is how poorly the UNM administration handled it. If things are as they have been portrayed, Ms. Chavez should have been fired, and apparently a few in the administration along with her.

23. gcwaters - September 16, 2010 at 09:50 am

$60K for an econ professor? In what universe?

24. msrobinson - September 16, 2010 at 09:52 am

There is no evidence (and plenty contrary) that a man would have been fired. At my university, a tenured prof shot a polieceman at point blank range. (This was well covered in the newspapers at the time). To fire him, as he was tenured, required the agreement of the President and a sub committee of the faculty senate. He was not fired because the faculty senate sub committee deemed that a) this happened off campus and b) it was not university business so therefore c) it had nothing to do with his employment and tenure at the university. Presumably they were trying to protect faculty privacy.

25. mmcknight - September 16, 2010 at 10:13 am

re: astoria09_ny -- yes, weren't those the days when professors smoked in classrooms and had open affairs with students? before there were rules against such things? when all professors were men? ah, nostalgia.

26. uofnewmexico - September 16, 2010 at 10:33 am

The truly absurd thing is that not only was she not fired, she received no corrective action at all -- rather an early sabbatical semester and an extra bonus of travel money. Meanwhile, the objecting students and faculty have been dragged through the mud, overtly encouraged to leave or resign, etc--because they wouldn't be silent.

27. dank48 - September 16, 2010 at 10:35 am

Does anyone else remember Siskel and Ebert's review of "Half Moon Street," based on "Dr. Slaughter" by Paul Theroux, when Ebert explained the concept of The Idiot Plot? Basically, if you can swallow the crazy idea that Dr. Lauren Slaughter (Sigourney Weaver), multilingual brilliant academic who works at a spiffy international institute in London needs to work for an escort service to make ends meet and that she'd never look in that closet to see if there was a video camera, then you will probably enjoy the movie. But you have to be able to swallow TIP. The thing is, Weaver and Michael Caine and good writing and directing pulled it off.

Twenty or so years later, life catches up with art. I bet the movie won't be half so good as "Half Moon Street," though.

28. fredgarvin - September 16, 2010 at 10:36 am

Does anyone have her phone number by chance?

29. 11245928 - September 16, 2010 at 10:51 am

I cannot believe that Professor Chavez got permission to engage in this kind of outside employment when she disclosed it. If she didn't disclose it, she was probably in violation of her contract with a state institution. If she was engaged in research, she was in violation of all kinds of IRB regulations and should have been sanctioned for that. I am amazed at the administration at UNM.

30. smencil - September 16, 2010 at 10:54 am

Shouldn't professors be able to study sex? If she was doing research for her writing, it makes sense that she talked about in her writing class.

31. tribblek - September 16, 2010 at 10:55 am

@fredgarvin: HA! After reading through all of these serious comments, yours made me laugh out loud. Maybe it's the juvenile in me... but THANKS!

32. der_gadfly - September 16, 2010 at 11:04 am

Had the activity not been with active students, I see no harm in it. Given that students were involved however, makes it reprehensible. Using this 'research' in class to stimulate discussion is not really all that out of line, but had it been legitimate research, I agree that any student involved should have had to sign an IRB release, preferably notarized.

33. kajohnson - September 16, 2010 at 11:29 am

So sad that professors have to moonlight but clearly, this was not a good choice. As a student, I opted for waiting tables and made more than I did teaching my first three years. Also, a sad statement but clearly a better choice than the grad students who took the $40 per hour to verbally prostitute themselves.

34. shirley77 - September 16, 2010 at 11:36 am

What a bunch of prudes. Should anyone really care that she was involved in the phone sex trade? It wasn't illegal, and by the way, graduate students are adults, not five-year old children that require protection from predatory adults.

35. more_cowbell - September 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

I wonder what Dr. Chavez studies? We had a dominatrix in my old dept. The secret got out after she asked a student to "assist" her in some related activities. That prof happened to make her career studying Victorian sexuality and power relationship, using Foucaudian analysis, of course. She's still teaching.

36. musclememory - September 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

I think she resorted to defending herself from this absurd overreaction on grounds of being hispanic and bisexual because for some absurd reason, being consensually kinky is still a fireable offense. Those saying that she should have been fired for working in the sex trade really need to investigate their own perceptions of where the line between law and aesthetics is, for indeed this is not a question of morality but aesthetics.

And the professors who signed and sued? They're as much a problem as any unprofessional behavior on her part in bringing this into the classroom. Good for the university for not letting this become a witchhunt.

37. fluoride - September 16, 2010 at 11:42 am

Anyone ever heard of the first ammendment. What the prof does on her own time is her own business. The university doesn't own her 24 hours a day - especially since slavery was outlawed.

38. elayy - September 16, 2010 at 11:49 am


@supertatie (comment #8):
"Pathetic. If this is the way UNM's creative writing program is run, it deserves to land in the dustbin of budget cuts."

Riiiiight...because the whole department should suffer because of one faculty member who made a poor choice. Let's punish the department (including the students) by cutting the budget. That solves everything!


@kajohnson (#35)
Should we all stand up and give you a round of applause for being a typical student-waiter? So you made a small fortune waiting tables, that's not the case for everyone. The judgment seeping from your comment is trite and beneath all of us.

@fluoride (#39)
Thank you! Couldn't have said it better myself. Kudos to you!

39. coldbluebutterlies - September 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

@ usc158 -- I was a new grad student at the time and, as I recall, it did not make it to the papers. You can either say the administration was highly effective in hushing it all up, or nefarious. But either way, it greatly effected how I viewed my studies at the institution and the way I viewed the academic world I was about to enter. But while it was not a media sensation, I do believe someone in the creative writing department wrote a book about it... how ironic.

40. 11276026 - September 16, 2010 at 11:55 am

Lisa Chavez was engaged in a constitutionally protected activity, off campus and on her own time. The "students" were not fragile 17 year olds, but mature women beyond the age of consent, one of whom was involved on the web site before Chavez. A faculty ethics committe is not a star chamber that helps offended faculty pillory a hated colleague, but rather a group that determines whether the accused was treated fairly. Chavez could have invoked the ethics committee, but not those who were so offenced by her actions. I would have thought more faculty would support freedome of expression and association, instead of joining in the witch hunt. No public university has the obligation to shield adults from being offended. UNM (not NMSU) behaved responsibly.

41. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I always find it hard to believe that professionals in any field cannot spot the power discrepancies implicit in their workplace, but in case you need it spelled out, here you go:

http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/09/standing-in-crossroads.html#disqus_thread

42. duchess_of_malfi - September 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Chavez's life and the university's situation did not become "extremely complex" mainly because she had a side job moonlighting as a legal sex worker. Things became complicated mainly because she created a hostile learning environment for students and retaliated against them when accused of doing so, and because the university has made a bad situation worse by refusing to honor its policies. What is the point of having a faculty ethics committee if it is not permitted to deal with faculty ethics issues? And the administration's threats against faculty--don't these people know any history? It's seldom the scandal that does the most damage--it's the cover-up.

43. gplm2000 - September 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Interesting that Chavez can disrupt an entire English Dept, as well as bring negative publicity to the university, and no one does anything but blame the complainers about her behaviors. Yet, let a sexy female reporter receive some comments in the NYJets locker room and all hell breaks loose.

44. uofnewmexico - September 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm

It is pretty clear that Chavez-buddies have now begun posting, all at once , in fact.

Anyone who really thinks prudishness is the issue probably needs to re-read the article. A workplace has policies and our profession has ethical responsibilities.
One day, Chavez claimed she was doing "research," and the next, she said she needed to pay some extra bills. The next, she filed formal complaints that she was being discriminated against because she was Hispanic and bisexual. Meanwhile, Native American poet Joy Harjo resigned because she can't protect students. (Not to make a big deal of this in connection with Chavez's claims, but Harjo, one of the main objectors to Chavez's behavior, has a female partner.) All of the faculty and students who complained have written about sex. Come on...prudishness?

45. whm3113 - September 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

My biggest concern with this story is that the creative writing professor requires the work submitted by the students to be "dark and edgy". Whose creativity is it supposed to be? Hers or the student's? What if the student doesn't live a dark and edgy life?

46. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm

uofnewmexico: *cough* Some of us complaining students have female partners, as well.

I find it really annoying that, when presented with a situation that has the word 'sex' in it somewhere, half the audience gets so hung up on it that they stop listening.

47. uofnewmexico - September 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

The link noted above takes one to a UNM student's voice, one of the most injured by this. Very compelling part of this story.

http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/09/standing-in-crossroads.html#disqus_thread

48. tolerantly - September 16, 2010 at 01:08 pm

This is absolutely my favorite part:

"For her part, Ms. Chávez has accused her accusers, in complaints to the university and the state, of discriminating against her because she is bisexual and Hispanic."

You know, it was the first thing I thought when I read the lead and saw the photos -- she's gonna play the race card! -- but then I thought, Nah, too far-fetched, esp. when I read about the pic with the grad student. But no, it's even better -- the race card *and* the sexuality card. Thank you, academe, for another good morning laugh.

49. interface - September 16, 2010 at 01:14 pm

Yes, straight while male professors are about a gazillion percent more likely to get away with much worse behavior - a wrist slap, hidden files, no publicity, victims hushed or bought off.

Chavez is wrong -- not for having her own sexual proclivities or orientation and not even for being an insensitive clod, but for not understanding and respecting the fact that one's students are NEVER one's friends, much less partners in any kind sexual practice. If you hold any power over them as their teacher, you must draw and hold certain lines and I don't mean leashes. Her failure to do so has caused a great many people a whole lot of unnecessary pain.



50. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 01:20 pm

interface: THANK YOU. And what's more, there's a damn sight of difference in between professional friendliness, which means things like asking how someone is doing, checking that they're not to overloaded and generally being pleasant in the commission of your duties, and getting 'raccous' (drunk as all hell) with your students and/or using them in sexual practice. Even starting a business with your students is iffy, because it interferes with your ability to objectively measure their progress.

It's one thing if the student has graduated and is no longer, in any way, professionally obliged to you. It's another thing entirely if they aren't.

51. beauchamp - September 16, 2010 at 01:36 pm

Public institutions have greater morale (not moral) problems because they ignore or lag in dealing with interpersonal conflict. Character assassination of students by profs ought not to be tolerated.

52. 22172282 - September 16, 2010 at 01:58 pm

Re: Comment #12: "This woman is a sick individual who is poisoning our children."

Since when are 27 and 33-yeard old graduate students "our children"????

53. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 02:00 pm

Re: 22172282

Since she also teaches undergrad courses, I'm not entirely sure the concern is unfounded.

54. interface - September 16, 2010 at 02:08 pm

Sorry for the misspellings and dropped words in my post. I swear I type correctly and some gremlin at the Chronicle tinkers with my submission.

55. newyorkyankees - September 16, 2010 at 02:13 pm

I'd be very hapy to submit to, I mean, register for her class...

56. nativepoet - September 16, 2010 at 02:13 pm

This indigenous poet is truly put off by the other's actions.

57. coldbluebutterlies - September 16, 2010 at 02:18 pm

@ g3kycarrie: "Since she also teaches undergrad courses, I'm not entirely sure the concern is unfounded."

I am. 'Slippery slope' & 'but what about the vulnerable children' arguments are this century's 'last refuge of the scoundrel'.

58. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 02:36 pm

Have you taught undergrads? Many of them are in thier teens still, are naive as they could possibly be, and are accustomed to adult guidance and supervision.

It's not as if they aren't also a vulnerable population.

59. jscariano7 - September 16, 2010 at 02:54 pm

As UNM faculty for the last 21 years, I can affirm that there is no shred of recognizable accountability we expect from UNM main campus administration. If David Schmidly is litigation-shy, then why is our $750,000 football coach (1-13 record so far) who was sued once and is being sued again hanging on? It's time for Schmidly and Locksley to pack up and get out of town.

60. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 02:57 pm

jscariano7- I'd like to point out here that this isn't Schmidly's first encounter with scandal and litigation. He had a history at OU and Texas Tech of scandal, lawsuits, bullying and shady dealing.

I've been told some of the people at OU have created bumper stickers about his tenure there: Scmidt happens.

61. coldbluebutterlies - September 16, 2010 at 03:02 pm

@ g33kycarrie - "It's not as if they aren't also a vulnerable population."

Yes, I have taught undergrads. I have also taught high school. That isn't the point. Your argument is just not actually an argument at all. 'But what about the children' is a statement made to cut an argument short and silence dissent. There simply is no evidence that Chavez dealt improperly with undergraduates and the arguments about her behaviour with graduate students has been debated. Rather than deal with those facts, you and others want us to slide down your slippery slope to 'but oh if we cannot pin this on her remember she could harm the wee children' -- as argumentative fodder, that is simply unworthy.

62. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 03:11 pm

coldbluebutterlies- No, there's no proof she dealt that way with undergrads mentioned in this article. Do not mistake that for a lack of proof in general. It would help to think of this article as 'what the reporter can mention without possibly being sued.'

However, someone who made up death threats in retaliation for feeling found out, something you should note is not being debated by either Chavez herself (who chose not to comment) or by any other person mentioned in the article, is more than capable of having a serious failure of professional judgment in any number of other arenas. The point here is that students are a vulnerable population to professors, teachers and anyone in a position of authority, and her undebated actions here constitute a pattern.

And that is something the law tends to agree on as well, which is one of the reasons for the harassment training we are obligated to take. You may not like the places the argument has been used, and I'm with you, many times this argument is meant to stymie debate, but in this case, it's not a nonsequitor.

63. eryx1959 - September 16, 2010 at 03:41 pm

Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute.

Brilliant Dan Ackroyd character. Next best to Irving Maimway.

64. duchess_of_malfi - September 16, 2010 at 03:42 pm

The university's trustees must be fans of the president. Three years and counting with lawsuits, money spent on outside legal help to investigate the accusers, damage to the administration-faculty relationship, a resignation, negative publicity--he must be something special to keep his job through this.

65. 22250655 - September 16, 2010 at 03:54 pm

If the university has established procedures for handling situations like this and then ignores them, then the administrators responsible for the decision are asking for trouble and deserve any grief they get. In addition to Ms. Chavez, it sounds like the dept. head and the provost are equally at fault.

66. procrustes - September 16, 2010 at 03:58 pm

Pity the poor satirist. How can anyone make fun of this society by exaggerating its evils? The Chronicle and its commenters make Tom Sharpe look tame!

67. jscariano7 - September 16, 2010 at 04:24 pm

@ g33kycarrie
Thanks for the information. Is there anything on record? I'd be inetersted in Schmidly's past.

68. angustias - September 16, 2010 at 04:32 pm

As a once low-paid grad student I just have to say it - no one HAS to take outside work as a phone sex provider to make ends meet. It's a choice. Dress it up all you want as research, or feminism, or a statement for "alternate sexuality" but it's sleazy and preys on people. And yes, I ambeing judgmental- it's called having morals.
And Ms Derrington ought to be worried. I hope she enjoyed the attention and has kept her phone skills fresh b/c I think it unlikely that she will get hired. Although, as her mentor has kept her job, who knows?

69. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 04:48 pm

jscariano7-

IT scandal at OU-- http://www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/OK_STATE/O040709M.pdf

result of scandal: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2004-07-08-osu-software-flap_x.htm

copy of lawsuit filed against him at Texas Tech-- http://www.orgs.ttu.edu/ttuaaup/reports/floyd.htm

article on lawsuit: http://www.law.com/jsp/law/LawArticleFriendly.jsp?id=1052440761122

Journal article: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/metro/537714metro02-13-07.htm

Schmidly's website says Floyd's lawsuit was dismissed, but I still think, as did many people quoted in the Journal article about his visit to UNM, that it seems awful fishy. It isn't as if it is easy to file against someone.

70. mason62 - September 16, 2010 at 05:00 pm

I read this article a few times, and though there is much to be shocked about, these five points of the story seem the most outrageous to me:
1. Prof. Lisa Chavez posts advertisements of herself simulating sadomasochistic sex acts with a student in her class to make some extra cash, and then also calls it research. Prior to and during this behavior, Chavez has been encouraging such sex work in her classes and tells students it would be empowering.
2. Students and faculty formally complain about this (and related) behavior. After the President's outside investigation (following an anonymous letter) finds no illegal behavior, over 14 faculty request a Faculty Ethics Committee investigation of the matter. This channel of shared governance is repeatedly denied by the Provost's office and the President.
3. Chavez files formal complaints with both the university and the state that faculty are objecting to her behavior because she is Hispanic and bisexual. (Chavez's complaints are subsequently dismissed). Chavez, in her own complaint, also accuses the student who she thinks reported the matter, stating that the student is "mentally unstable" and "a danger to herself and others." Chavez tells students and faculty that this student has made threats of murder. (None of Chavez's accusations regarding this student are found to have any validity).
4. After writing and signing several letters attempting to have UNM deal with the matter, Joy Harjo, famous Native American poet, resigns because UNM will not take measures to protect the work and learning environment. Three other well-published professors file lawsuits based on retaliation, hostile work environment, and other claims in direct connection with this matter.
5. UNM retaliates against the objectors in numerous ways, repeatedly trying to silence them.

What is going on at UNM that they are willing to allow not only such over-the-line behavior as Chavez's sex work and S+M photos/ads with a student...but also allow Chavez to make such slander and false accusations about students and faculty who have complained?
And it really makes you shake your head, the way the objectors to this outrageous behavior have been treated by UNM, while Chavez, who received no corrective action, bemoans that the matter has put a "real damper" on her writing.

71. interface - September 16, 2010 at 05:19 pm

You all may not have noticed, but a substantial number of higher ed administrators have their heads up their asses.

72. professormiller - September 16, 2010 at 05:31 pm

An absolute shame and embarassment to the department and the university. According to the rules of the university regarding faculty, "(xi) Any other acts or omissions which affect adversely the University's educational function, disrupt community living on campus, interfere with the rights of others to the pursuit of their education, or affect adversely the processes of he University."

First, once students know that their professor is moonlighting as the phone-sex dominatrix, how could this knowledge not "affect adversely the processes of the university?" You have hormone filled students that would, at least in some cases, be distratec in class by thoughts that their professor is really a phone-sex dominatrix.

How would anyone know whether or not one of her late-night customers was not one of her own students!!?? Is this not a legitimate question? There are other jobs she could work at to earn extra money. Why not, say, pursue a new research project?

This is most certainly "conduct unbecoming" a professional that is supposed to mentor and be a role model for students. She is free to be a phone sex dominatrix but not while serving as a professor. She should be immediately dismissed. Tenure is not automatic lifetime employment and there are instances when the behavior of faculty should lead to their dismissal.

What a sad affair. Dismissal is certainly called for. More than an embarassment. People know right and wrong when they see it. This is wrong. It has nothing to do with "discrimination" but how it impacts the students.

Dismissal. Immediately. She can pursue her fantasies full time, then.

I make no secret that I am a devout Catholic and am happily teaching at a Catholic university. Everyone here believes in "freedom of expression," yes? Well, regarding this professors bisexual/homosexual tendencies the Church clearly states:

“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed to those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.”

Her orientation is, as Pope John Paul II said, ."...it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

It certainly can cause disorder amongst her students even though "disorder" is not what Pope John Paul II meant.

I am sure, of course, that rather that quoting Pope John Paul II, many will attack the Church, in general, due to recent scandals. Nevertheless, what an individual human being chooses to do, Catholic or not, is that persons choice. This professor chooses, of her own volition, to act both immorally and in a manner that is possibly hurtful to her students.

Dismissal is appropriate.

Professor Miller

73. professormiller - September 16, 2010 at 05:46 pm

[Off-topic comment removed by moderator.]

74. professormiller - September 16, 2010 at 05:54 pm

And, yes, one can be a Catholic, a philosopher, a scholar, without any contradiction. I think there are certain jobs a professor can hold, outside of their campus duties, that do not bode well for the students of that professor. It isn't just her. There are many professors that not only are immoral but break the rules, such as having sexual relations with students.
What if one of her callers was a student of hers? How would this be interpreted when it comes to "having sex with a student?" I'm not President Clinton so I'm not going to try and define what "sex" is but I think we can agree that IF this were to happen, that is, a student engaging in phone sex with his/her professor is wrong.

She should be dismissed.

75. shirley77 - September 16, 2010 at 06:14 pm

Professormiller's argument comes down to this:

YOU don't like her behavior; ergo, she should be dismissed.

Further, your speculations are factually irrelevant. In the final analysis, your comments are not about HER, but about YOU and your own offended sense of morality.

76. nextstep77 - September 16, 2010 at 06:16 pm

I love the fact that the above professor states that "You have hormone filled students that would, at least in some cases, be distratec in class by thoughts that their professor is really a phone-sex dominatrix.", so this basically implies that people have NO control over their desires and urges. Your the type that would demand that women where long dresses, heavy sweaters and a burka if need be to keep a man from raping a woman.

We are a civilized society professor, we as individuals can control our own desires. I personally went to school with a teacher who was previously a porn star and made some wonderful films in her time. She decided to pursue higher education and became a professor of Mathematics. She is a genius, and I excelled in her class with full knowledge that she was in her past a porn star. YES, at times did I fantasize; of course, I am contradiction to you, human. But unlike monkeys, I controlled my urges and I graduated school in 1998 with a 3.89 GPA. Her class alone I was at a perfect 4.0.

Your presumption that we cannot control our desires knowing full well that she is or was a phone sex operator is preposterous, disgusting actually. I personally after reading this and understanding your responses hope she wins, not just winning, but devastating you and your kind.

I am also finding it equally disturbing by the fact that as soon as a woman who is pro sex and a feminist she is instantly chastised and vilified for her choices. This is America, if she wants to sleep with a student, go ahead, just make sure he or she is over 18. They are adults, if they can pick up a weapon and kill someone in the name of their government then they have to the same power to choose their sexual partners. We should not look down on this but applaud her for her choices, not chastise her and force her to quit.

77. uofnewmexico - September 16, 2010 at 06:16 pm

Please, readers, recognize the few previous comments for what they are -- and do not be drawn into this Trick to sidetrack the conversation into a defense of homosexuality. This is not what the matter is about. At all. Never was.
Don't fall for it.

78. shirley77 - September 16, 2010 at 06:17 pm

My goodness, professormiller quotes from the Catholic Church, of all places, about sexual morality. Are YOU SERIOUS!!!!!

79. blue_state_academic - September 16, 2010 at 06:18 pm

Professor Miller,

The Catholic doctrine you're spouting here has no relevance on this case, which takes place at a public university. Believe it or not, the university and its employees - including Professor Chávez - are governed by the laws of the United States and New Mexico, and any contractual arrangements between the university and the professor. Catholic doctrine has no bearing on this case, regardless of whether or not Professor Chávez is a Catholic, so kindly leave it out of the discussion. I for one, find it offensive.

80. uofnewmexico - September 16, 2010 at 06:19 pm

Please, readers, recognize the few previous comments for what they are -- and do not be drawn into this Trick to sidetrack the conversation into a defense of homosexuality. This is not what the matter is about. At all. Never was.
DON'T FALL FOR IT. Read the article.

81. uofnewmexico - September 16, 2010 at 06:21 pm

It bears repeating -- DON'T FALL FOR IT!

82. rettorishun - September 16, 2010 at 06:24 pm

I'm a grad student in the UNM English department. In addition to the Chavez (situation? debacle? scandal?), in March two members of our department, a professor and a grad student, were murdered. The last few years here have been difficult and surreally weird.

I think it's important to add, though, that through all of this the faculty members I work with have been professional and caring, and my fellow grad students supportive and generally excellent. Even though I know these things are tearing the department apart, I don't feel that the work I'm doing is compromised. I'm glad and proud to be here.

83. uncgrad - September 16, 2010 at 06:29 pm

1. Let her have whatever job she wants (unless it's a contract violation to hold another position).

2. There's nothing wrong with talking about sex in class. Even the "deviant" kind.

3. If students are being discriminiated against based on who is or isn't sexually "edgy," that's an issue. If they're being rewarded for their sexual preferences, practices, employment, etc. that's an issue. If accused of this, the faculty member should get to respond.

4. There is obviously something wrong with responding to concerns or frustrations or problems with lies that a student is mentally ill. That's not about academic freedom. That's against the discriminiation policies of most Universities. And even if it's not -- and actually, even if it's true -- it's a serious boundary problem that puts the University at risk. Even if (and I'm by no means saying it is) the student complained unfairly or behaved badly, there are channels for it, and that's not one of them. UNM should be shamed for not doing more to help protect its students.

"Ms. Chávez says Mr. Jones told her that Ms. Cutler was the origin of the accusations against her. The document shows Ms. Chávez raised concerns at that time about Ms. Cutler's mental stability, telling others that "the student who originally started all this had serious mental-health issues, was actively trying to hurt me and my career, and was, perhaps, a danger to me and others."

Also, Ms. Chavez says Mr. Jones told her that Ms. Cutler... and now it's on file in an unspecified "document" that includes unsubstantiated accusations is never a good sign.

84. fredgarvin - September 16, 2010 at 06:33 pm

Testing one, two. Is this mic on?

85. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 06:46 pm

uncgrad: If she had only been talking about sex in literature, in class, I don't think anyone would be upset. I can only speak for myself and the people I've talked to about it, but none of us were upset because we object to sex discussions.

But there's a damn large difference between talking about sex as a subject and telling students they should take up sex work. There's also a damn large difference between a discussion of the subject and a discussion of the practice.

I'm with you, any time you respond to being upset by asserting that the other person is trying to kill everyone, there's a really serious problem.

86. 12052592 - September 16, 2010 at 06:46 pm

"white" is so yesterday. At least in California they are refered to as: "white non-hispanic"

87. fredgarvin - September 16, 2010 at 06:55 pm

Top Ten Commenter Profiles on CHE

1. Those who throw their heads back and say, "Only in Academia..." and blame tenure.

2. Those who constantly whine, "If this were a man..."

3. Those who sarcastically respond, "ohhh yeah, it was so much better when men ruled the academy and none of this nonsense ever happened..." Right, now you're the jerks.

4. The advanced graduate student who has finally realized that the world sucks... everywhere, and is soon to join the rest of us on the list.

5. The moralist (Left and Right) who never misses an opportunity to stick it to the infidels and serenade us with their scripted gospel. Yes, you're so bright, righteous, and adept in the latest Po-Mo lingo.

6. The peacock who feels obligated to critique nearly every response with a treatise on their flaws in logic and reason. She of course cuts through it all with her penetrating genius.

7. Those who lament the plight of everyday academics - "If only were we taken seriously and paid more..."

8. The... well, everyone who blames the evil administration, Darth Provost and all.

9. The occasional reader who actually says something intelligent but is ignored.

10. The annoying cynic who uses ellipses and if they were...

88. lothlorien - September 16, 2010 at 07:03 pm

I believe one of mason62's points lies at the heart of this manner. While the details are rather exotic, this mess is a mess because of the poor academic governance of this institution, or at least this particular college. I may be incorrect, but from reading this article, it would appear that this was not handled though shared governance, but rather with what, apparently to a number of folks in the department, appeared to be an arbitrary manner. Perhaps professor Chavez should keep her job, perhaps not. That is up to the univeristy. But it would appear that there was not a clear process to discuss this. Whatever the complaints, there should have been some sort of hearing that followed some sort of process. If that needed to be private from other faculty, then such a procedure needs to be clearly spelled out in writing.

89. g33kycarrie - September 16, 2010 at 07:05 pm

fredgarvin: All we needed was a sufficient injection of cynicism and sarcasm. That will definitely put all of us in our place.

I assume that's back to being silent about mistreatment?

I mean, my god, we actually think we're having conversations on here.

90. navydad - September 16, 2010 at 07:09 pm

Professor Miller's comments are hilarious. A celibate old man who wears dresses, who was a member of the Hitler Youth, and who has protected pedophiles lectures us on sexual morality and deviance. Now that's a hoot. It also, as has been pointed out, is completely irrelevant to this topic.

91. fredgarvin - September 16, 2010 at 07:11 pm

"I mean, my god, we actually think we're having conversations on here."

exactly! Carry on...

92. leludallas - September 16, 2010 at 07:14 pm

The contentious atmosphere of the English department at UNM has been in place for a long time. The infighting and bitchiness of the faculty is really incredible, and graduate students suffered the most when I was earning my PhD. Multiple complaints to department heads about certain professors went ignored year after year, despite written documentation from multiple sources. It was like dealing with rival cliques in high school...students had to be careful who they worked with so as not to offend other professors they were working with (the literature vs. comp/rhetoric faculty in particular). Infighting, power-struggles and favoritism were rampant. Frankly, I wasn't surprised when this scandal broke several years ago, and I've been counseling students to stay away from the graduate English programs for years now.

93. ejjohnson - September 16, 2010 at 07:15 pm

First, this story is a hoot. Second, who would want that woman slobbering over you. Third, darn baby...what'd you do with your hair? It looks like you have been dominating Barney.

94. professormiller - September 16, 2010 at 07:35 pm

To #81: You state, "I for one, find it offensive." Whatever happened to that wonderful concept of "freedom of thought and speech?" Rhetorical questions. You're only offended at the religious quotes I utilize. Be offended. It is your choice.
There is one question that those who posted after me fail to answer. So, answer it now: Would you consider it wrong and in conflict with the rules of the university regarding faculty misconduct, IF it was one of this professor's students that she was having a "delightful talk" with one night? Would this not strike you as "wrong?"
This is the heart of my posts and why I think she should be fired. It isn't because of her sexucal orientation.
I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton's remark that, "People have lost the power of astonishment of their own actions."
Just as everyone has a right to state their views against Catholicism, conservatism, and other things that go against their worldview, I, too, have that right. You need not agree. However, when I quote the doctring of the Church, it is as true to me as any truth is to you.
By quoting the Church, I am using law that is higher than positive law. One could say, "natural law." When this professor's behavior sinks into the abyss of immoral sexual behavior and, (don't forget nor avoid this issue), possibly impact her own students if she were to talk to them during one of her phone sex conversations, it does deserve a response. Anyone that thinks this is not, in some manner, a moral issue, is incorrect.
She can be whatever she wants: phone sex expert, homosexual, a clown, but not a professor. People are turning a moral issue into a politically correct "anti-woman" argument. I would imagine if you could speak to, say, Mother Theresa if she was still alive, I doubt she would say, "Oh my, yes! This professor is a shining example of what educators ought to be like."
You cannot separate human actions and decisions from morality/ethics. You can try but we are, by nature, instilled with a sense of what is "right" and "wrong."
You believe what you wish. You have every right to disagree. I am not disrespecting anyone. I am merely stating my opinion which, I dare say, I have a right to do on this forum.

Back to the issue: What if some of her customers were her students?

Answer this. Tell me how this can be justified per the rules of the university?

Regarding the issue of homosexuality, I firmly stand by the teachings of the Church, as it is immoral behavior. I need not justify my opinions to anyone. If you can have an opinion here (regardless of how much I disagree with it), you can express it. But, so can I.
I am a Catholic and at my institution there would be absolutely no question what the consequences would be for this misguided professesor.

Before berating me...answer the question I asked you to ponder.

PAX,

Professor Miller

95. navydad - September 16, 2010 at 07:50 pm

"However, when I quote the doctring of the Church, it is as true to me as any truth is to you."

So what? A paranoid schizophrenic's belief that the CIA is sending him messages through his radio is as true to him as your religious fantasies are to you. What in the world does religious doctrine have to do with how a public university handled this situation?

My own reaction to this whole story is twofold: Chavez exhibited remarkably poor judgment, at the least, and I feel for the decent folks at UNM who have to deal with all this.

96. fredgarvin - September 16, 2010 at 07:55 pm

I'm on my third popcorn, the Mike and Ikes are dwindling fast, and I hoping this turns into a Peter Jackson trilogy. Right-wing religion, Left-wing oppression, and a dominatrix from New Mexico.

Let's see, "Two Mules for Twisted Sister"?

97. uncgrad - September 16, 2010 at 08:24 pm

@g33kycarrie: I think there may be room, in some theory courses especially, for discussion of various sex acts. That's complicated. But no recruiting. Especially no coercive recruiting. And no posing for pictures with students. And the mental illness stuff (and all that followed) is just horrific. I'm in the middle of dealing with having the mentally ill card (and some others, needing to be expelled, etc.) thrown at me because of a situation that got out of hand in baffling ways, and this mobbing checklist has really helped me keep it in perspective (http://arts.uwaterloo.ca/~kwesthue/checklist.htm), for whatever it's worth. Good luck. And also, obviously **** tenure and some of the monsters who use it to take liberties that have nothing to do with academic freedom.

98. gadget - September 16, 2010 at 08:54 pm

I am surprised that people cannot seem to distinguish between discussing sex in the classroom in an academic context and promoting and recruiting students for a job as a sex worker. But then I didn't work in the sex industry to give me that dark and edgy depth, I worked in it at the age of 19 because I had no other skills to sell. By then I'd been through enough of the dark and edgy experiences of real life to want to get out as soon as I could. I wasn't a tourist on the wrong side of life, I was born there. She would have to be a damn fantastic writer to grasp that versimilitude as a tourist.

Anyone who has taken a class where the professor's verbal and non-verbal behavior towards students is inappropriate knows the discomfort it causes. Anyone who takes a class where the professor has out-of-school relationships with students cannot help but wonder how that will affect his or her grades, amount of attention received, and in-class dynamics. That poisons the classroom climate and hence the learning environment. When those relationships are inherently connected to sexual activities, the tension is only elevated. It's not like sharing an interest in recipes and cooking.

Why was the professor not disciplined for discussing a student's mental health in ways that are way outside the scope of allowable information sharing under FERPA? That is illegal and a violation of the student's rights to privacy.

99. professormiller - September 16, 2010 at 09:03 pm

<Comment removed by moderator>

100. gadget - September 16, 2010 at 09:09 pm

Yes, I would.

101. uofnewmexico - September 16, 2010 at 09:10 pm

@gadget
Thank you for your understanding. The complaining students and faculty pointed out FERPA, HIPA, outside employment policy, the Arts and Sciences Policy on Faculty/Student Relationships, and several other policies that seemed to have been violated, as well as AAUP ethical guidelines. Administration basically ignored it all.

102. diana_young - September 16, 2010 at 11:50 pm

@fredgarvin

You are a genius. I've been laughing my a** off at your comments. Thanks for weeding through the crap (left and right).

Diana

103. seasalt25a - September 17, 2010 at 01:57 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

104. baracoa - September 17, 2010 at 07:43 am

The Mexicans were in the territory of New Mexico before it became war booty, thus so much seasalt25a for "they claim to be here from Mexico because they want the rule of law."

So many policies were violated by Dr. Chávez's behavior, it does not merit repeating.

I had a colleague who sprinkled cocktail recipes throughout a textbook and make salacious remarks about non-US dark-skinned women, as well as belittle war tragedy, and the university did nothing b/c s/he packed students in the classroom.

Latinoness or bisexuality have nothing to do with the Chávez debacle. If some students took on the phone-sex work to bring an edginess into their creating writing, and others did not (the Prof. knew who did what), then we have unequal opportunities. Therein is a violation of a basic tenet of teaching: Equal Opportunity.

Dr. Chávez used her position of power unevenly, and I won't even mention the posing with the female graduate student. This is bad judgement. Can we all agree on this?

105. coldbluebutterlies - September 17, 2010 at 08:44 am

"Latinoness or bisexuality have nothing to do with the Chávez debacle... Dr. Chávez used her position of power unevenly... Can we all agree on this?"


I agree with you.

106. teacherspaddle - September 17, 2010 at 09:14 am

Did other students verify the claim that she told students to do sex work to make their fiction edgier, or verify the claim that those who performed sex work were rewarded with better grades or more favorable treatment? Where is the evidence that she created a hostile work environment?

One student's perception that she felt pressure to make her fiction edgier is not evidence. A lot of posters seem to be using this as a basis for judgment. I can't tell if the article left out what has been documented elsewhere, or if this is the flimsy evidence for violating ethics in the classroom.



107. kali_bhairavi - September 17, 2010 at 09:59 am

You're right in that the article here and the calls for Chavez's firing and pillorying presume that the allegations against Chavez are true and that there was no proper investigation done.

I suppose it would be good to know what evidence for any side in this debacle has been put forward vs. what is rumoured to have happened, or to have been said, or to have been written.

108. professormiller - September 17, 2010 at 10:09 am

Nothing surprises me any longer. Ms. Chávez did, as #108 states, use "her position of power unevenly." I agree. She deserves to be dismissed. This, however, will not happen. We live in a society of fear due to the concept of being "politically correct." Yet, we live in a society that, despite its gross insensitivity (though technically not illegal...still a vile smack in the face to survivors and family members) of building a Mosque near the World Trade Center sight.

So, allowing Ms. Chavez to stay is nothing surprising. Too many people are afraid of being blamed a "rascist" when race has nothing at all to do with this sad situation at the University of New Mexico. "Mistress Jade" will continue, proabably more popular than ever, due to having this issue discussed here.

PAX

109. drjeff - September 17, 2010 at 10:20 am

FredGarvin - Did you ever poke a hornet's nest just to see what would happen? Jus' sayin'.

ProfessorMiller - Jesuit, right? It comes through loud and clear.

Everyone - could you PLEASE lay off the Catholic-bashing? It's tiresome, puerile, and doesn't make you look smart. My scroll-down finger's getting tired skipping through all that, ahem, stuff.

Full disclosure: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Catholic (or any related or terribly similar) church.

110. mason62 - September 17, 2010 at 10:25 am

One poster said:
"It would help to think of this article as "what the reporter can mention without possibly being sued."

Did others notice that the reporter was careful to use Chavez's own words -- for instance, from Chavez's own documents accusing the student of being mentally unstable. (Such documents are now public record) And it's public record that Chavez accused her accusers of attacking her because she is bisexual and Hispanic. (also public record that Chavez's compaints of such were found to be unfounded. Surprise.) It has also been reported numerous times in other places that many students wrote letters of complaint about what was going on in Chavez's class, etc. to administration. Some of these were long. It was reported elsewhere that one letter was even 27 pages long.

The administration really messed this one up, on so many levels.

111. mgoodyear - September 17, 2010 at 10:38 am

We wrote at length about the issues raised here at the time they first appeared because we thought that they addressed important questions about academic life not covered in the popular and professional press. Nothing that we have seen since would incline us to change the position that we took at that time.

We would hope for constructive dialogue here in the tradtion of critical thinking, addressing the issues, and not ad femina.

Michael Goodyear
Dalhousie University
Sex in the Public Square

see:
http://sexinthepublicsquare.org/ElizabethsBlog/academic-freedom-free-speech-due-process

http://sexinthepublicsquare.org/ElizabethsBlog/another-important-voice

http://sexinthepublicsquare.org/ElizabethsBlog/Lisa-Chavez-speaks-out

http://sexinthepublicsquare.org/ElizabethsBlog/when-is-it-okay-for-faculty-and-students-to-be-sexual-in-the-same-place

http://sexinthepublicsquare.org/MichaelsBlog/moving-forward-in-New-Mexico

http://sexinthepublicsquare.org/MichaelsBlog/conflict-or-collaboration%3F

http://sexinthepublicsquare.org/MichaelsBlog/conflict-and-responsibility

112. navydad - September 17, 2010 at 11:23 am

"Not a single person answered my key question: If one of
This person's students was one of her late night sex calls, would
You consider this inappropriate and unethical? Rather than show
Yourself a dullard, just answer the question. Afraid you can't logically
defend it. Come on...it's a hoot to read your childish rants. "

I find her behavior (as reported and not only your hypothetical) inappropriate and unethical and my opinion has nothing to do with Catholic or any other religious doctrine. My main concern has to do with boundary violations, not with Ms. Chavez's sexual orientation or her work on a phone sex line per se. In any case, Prof Miller, you aren't suggesting that moral judgments must be based on religious doctrine, are you? My point about your posts, which I will not repeat after this one, is that your interpretation of religious doctrine has absolutely no relevance to this topic. This seems to be a very messy and complex situation with too many victims and plenty of blame to go around. Throwing moldy old religious cant into the mix is a distraction at best.

113. mason62 - September 17, 2010 at 11:47 am

Thanks to a previous poster for the following link, which talks quite clearly about solicitation in and out of the classroom, which so many UNM students complained about:

The link noted above takes one to a UNM student's voice, one of the most injured by this. Very compelling part of this story.

http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/09/standing-in-crossroads.html#disqus_thread

114. tolerantly - September 17, 2010 at 11:56 am

coldbluebutterflies writes: 'But what about the children' is a statement made to cut an argument short and silence dissent."

I used to say that too. And then I had a kid, and got schooled. "But what about the children" is a statement made as a plea to 20-to-50something childless nincompoops that children are not mini adults, are more fragile than we are, may not have the experience and resources necessary to hold powerful things apart from themselves or understand them well, are not understanding of or hardened to adult sexuality and violence, and are still working hard at figuring out what they mean by "grownup" and how they mean to be grownups. It's also a plea -- useless, of course -- to those same nincompoops to recall that once upon a time, people protected them and made allowances for them, because they were still growing up, and to extend the same consideration to other generations.

The alternative, of course, is for the children-pleaders to stop trying to engage you in reason, and do what they can to make sure your ass winds up on the street, so that they can carry on raising the kids well without post-adolescent interference. Don't think they won't do it. You really don't want to screw with Mom.

115. professormiller - September 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm

[Off-topic comment removed by moderator.]

116. kali_bhairavi - September 17, 2010 at 01:05 pm

@ tolerantly "I used to say that too. And then I had a kid, and got schooled. "But what about the children" is a statement made as a plea to 20-to-50something childless nincompoops.... You really don't want to screw with Mom."

Oh cut the crap and the presumptions about whom you are speaking to. I am a 40-something mother of 3 children under 16, so don't give me that nonsense about us-good-moms-in-the-know vs. them-darn-childless-nincompoops. It's an attempt to force compliance to a way of thinking by using emotive arguments rather than basing your arguments on evidence or facts. You darn well know that in today's climate of abuse scandals and hyper vigilance that all you need to do to tar someone is raise the spectre that they 'may' be a danger to 'the children' and no evidence needs to be presented, the person can then be eviscerated at will -- no other pitchforks need be brandished. How economical of you. It's the cutting edge of moralising mob mentality.

And for a poster above to blithely follow my concerns with 'the fact that there is no evidence that someone has done wrong is not the same thing as that person not having done wrong' -- with no irony or shame at such an attempt at fear-mongering and manipulation is itself frightening.

To echo you, you don't want to mess with this Mom. I am also raising children in this world and will be damned if it will be the kind of world where logic, argument and dissent is silenced by a moralising few who wish to silence all of those who dare raise a point in potential disagreement with their stances.



117. coldbluebutterlies - September 17, 2010 at 01:09 pm

Sorry -- I was logged in under my partner's name. The above rant at 120 was mine, not KB's. So if you want to have a go, address your return rants to me.

118. 11232004 - September 17, 2010 at 01:33 pm

What's really, really sad about these comments, is that no one payed any attention to the graduate student, #7's comment. And everyone proceeded to pass judgement on everything else. Aren't students what we're supposed to be here for?

I feel very bad students in the CW program at New Mexico. Hang in there, it will eventually get better. A very sad welcome to the world of academia!

119. mrsdillie - September 17, 2010 at 01:54 pm



How did she get hired?

120. mrsdillie - September 17, 2010 at 01:56 pm

oops--Considering she doesn't have PhD, was tenure track at Rochester (she does have an MFA, but she was in the MA program at Rochester after that), and has published some poetry. How does the phone sex work count as research?

121. shaper - September 17, 2010 at 02:15 pm

An early poster pointed out that the student Liz Derrington sure seems to regret revealing her name (since prior to that 2008 interview (do you wonder who encouraged that?) she had been an anonymous student).
And there have been MANY injured parties in this whole mess. Why do you think so many students wrote letters of complaint? And you think it's fun (or easy) to go so far as to have to file lawsuits?
By the way, the Human Rights office found Probable Cause in the cases of the objecting professors -- being subjected to retaliation and hostile work environment.
Lisa Chavez's finding for her complaints was...drumroll please...No Probable Cause.
This matter is about way way more than phone sex, even phone sex with students. The fact that some Chavez-supporters still think there is nothing wrong, given all the additional info revealed (her accusations about students making threats of murder, filing charges against people based on race, bisexuality, etc.) in this article is pretty darn telling.
Fact is, there was no real investigation of the situation, just a canceling of the proper one, then a covert, and then suddenly closed investigation, commissioned by Pres. Schmidly. An objective Faculty Ethics Committee examination of the matter was denied by the Provost and President. (That is what faculty, and students too, were asking for. A proper examination of the situation and the issues.)
A pretty striking example of shared governance being denied. Weird one. But striking.

122. dank48 - September 17, 2010 at 02:35 pm

MGoodYear, "ad femina" is a witless refinement, dragging gender distinction back in after half a century of getting it out of where it doesn't belong.

"Ad hominem" = "to/at the person/human being"; gender neutral.

123. dank48 - September 17, 2010 at 02:36 pm

And it would be "ad feminam" (and "ad virem") anyway, unless I've lost something in the forty-some years since Mrs. Hughey.

124. unmjew - September 17, 2010 at 02:45 pm

Easily the best scandal at UNM since the Norm Ellenberger/Basketball Crimewave scandals of the 80s.

125. truckzter - September 17, 2010 at 04:03 pm

Thank you, 11232004.

It's not just CW students who are being hurt. I'm not in CW, and when I entered the program in 2008, our graduate director let all the new students know what was going on because factions had formed between CW, Lit, and R&W faculty and students. As a TA/GA, I know that this is causing extreme stress for the dept., and with the murder of Prof. Hector Torres, along with our budget cuts (we had to cut most of our phone lines), the English dept. is an unhappy place. Sure, we all try to keep our chins up, but I keep wondering when the next scandal/tragedy will strike.

A friend of mine asked me why Dr. Jones and the university covered up the students' and parents' complaints; she wondered if Lisa has "dirt" on other faculty or administrators. It's a good question.

As I've said before, this isn't an isolated incident. Just last semester Lisa started spreading rumors that another CW student (an older woman) was dangerous (apparently this student didn't want Lisa on her committee anymore), so this student was banned from campus. As Carrie Cutler said in her blog post (http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/09/standing-in-crossroads.html#disqus_thread), in light of the murder of our Dr. Torres, and other senseless murders across the nation, we have to take these threats seriously. But neither of these CW students (Carrie or the other) would murder anyone, or had plans to murder anyone.

My question is this: What is the deliverable / "so what?" to this article? For those non-CW grad students I've spoken to, they feel like this article did us no service. Where is the push to get this solved? Hopefully, this article (Newsweek Education pick-up this article, too) will create such bad press that the university is forced to deal with it.

As goes with most people in the Humanities, we're not prudes, and Carrie most certainly isn't. This isn't an issue of BDSM and sex work. Whatever -- people can do what they want. The issue is when students complain and are retaliated against.

I just want to see UNM do something right for a change.

For another perspective, you can read a copy of Dr. Sharon Warner's lawsuit here:

http://dankprofessor.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/copy-of-the-sharon-warner-vs-unm-lawsuit/

126. bread_pirate_naan - September 17, 2010 at 05:15 pm

Truckzster,
Could you elaborate on the retaliation against students?

Did any of the students file formal complaints at the university level? What is the grievance procedure for students? Everything regarding classroom conduct in the document is hearsay. Are there any documented, first person accounts by students supporting the allegations in the lawsuit?

Also, the lawsuit states that there was a breach of prohibitions on sexual relationships. Is fetish modeling a sexual relationship, or a grey area?

How many of the machinations related to infighting among "CW, Lit, and R&W faculty and students" are reflected by the requests to alter committees described in the lawsuit?

This is all interesting information linked above, but it seems to me that the author of post #94 has set this story in a context where the deeply toxic dysfunction of the faculty/department *as a whole* has been ignored and covered up, and the reason this is dynamic is making news is because it is salacious.

Life and literature teach us there is no better scapegoat for everything that is wrong with a toxic community than the one whose embodiment of that dysfunction is sexual.

***

Fred Garvin, keep up the good work. The CHE needs heroes like you.

127. profperf - September 17, 2010 at 06:03 pm

While I don't particularly find the "sex-work" something I'd recommend as a way to make extra money (some of us taught overload sections when we needed to pay off debts), that's her decision, it seems to me. Questions of coercion and so forth are difficult to determine. But what does seem to me absolutely unforgivable and actionable is her resorting to the "student was mentally ill," followed by another student requesting an armed guard in the room at her dissertation defense (granted, I've seen some defenses get vicious, but not in a physical way). This smacks of a kind of a McCarthyism and is no more supportable when performed by a leftist than by a right-wing person. It is also extremely irresponsible, unless Ms. Chavez has also earned credentials as a mental health worker. Next thing, they'll be saying they see witches whenever Ms. Cutler is in the room. It's a cheap, cowardly way out--much more morally reprehensible to me than sex-work (which in this case was perfectly legal, it sounds like) could ever be.

128. bread_pirate_naan - September 17, 2010 at 07:15 pm

If the allegations regarding defamation by way of mental health and death threats by proxy were true, the student would have grounds for a suit and several witnesses; yet the article reports the administration encouraged faculty, presumably those Chavez alleged were spreading rumours of prostitution and romantic laiasions with students, to enter mediation because of the risk of slander suits. That's fishy, or it's telling.

Among many possibilities, that suggests the students are grievously disempowered and unsupported by administration to the point they lack the sense to take logical steps toward self preservation; and/or Chavez may have stronger grounds for a slander suit than the student.

The posts suggesting there were violations of FERPA/HIPA are not relevant unless the student had documented mental health accommodations of which Chavez was aware. Whether the allegations are true are not is relevant, as well as the context of those disclosures. There is no non-disclosure agreement between gossiping faculty and student oversharers. It's immature, tacky, and unprofessional, not criminal -- unless it's slanderous. Also, profperf is confused about the ethical responsibilitities of mental health professionals. If Chavez were a credentialed mental health professional, disclosing diagnoses and/or diagnosing students outside of a professional context would be extremely unethical and a violation of HIPA.

How does the allegation a professor was slandering students end up with the former program director and her husband being the only players who lawyered-up, or filed suit?

129. mason62 - September 17, 2010 at 07:42 pm

I wish a commenter taking such a strong position would read the article carefully enough to note that there are 3 lawsuits. It is hard and very expensive to embark on the path of a lawsuit. (The taxpayers are paying UNM's bills but I'm pretty sure the profs are footing their own bill.) The students sure seem to have a strong case, but they are also the most vulnerable, with the least $. And they have witnessed how famous writers like Joy Harjo have been utterly dragged through the mud by UNM. Is it any surprise students are fearful of taking their complaints further?

130. bread_pirate_naan - September 17, 2010 at 09:28 pm

Raising relevant questions, addressing flawed thinking, and harmful assumptions around hotbutton topics doesn't absolve any party of responsibility for their actions. The lack of supporting evidence around many of the allegations which form the basis of the suit linked above is truly remarkable.

Similarly, the complete absence of actions by students independent of faculty involvement is quite stunning. I am interested to know if UNM policies prevented students from going higher than or circumventing departmental faculty with their complaints. Perhaps some of the students were discussing their expereince in session with campus counselors or psychologists who would have had a legal obligation to report the allegations described in the court documents.

As a product of a toxic program with an abusive faculty member who had it in for me personally, I am more than comfortable with the strength of my position.

"Is it any surprise students are fearful of taking their complaints further?"

Yes. Especially when the most visible student espouses a pedagogy of "passion and rebellion."
http://standingstoneretreat.com/Afternoon_Classes.html
I personally would have no problem going after someone who slandered me with rumours I made death threats, if, as the article states, there were multiple faculty members and students on record as witnesses.

Since Warner has claimed her human rights were violated, it seems natural that there would be some pro-bono recourse for the aggrieved students, should they have sought legal counsel or non-departmental channels to address the alleged retaliation and harassment.

There are insufficient details available to understand the relationship of the other lawsuit to these events, as the article framed it in terms and in a timeframe of infighting occuring prior to the sexual dimension of the scandal. Also, according to the article, all three of the lawsuits are directed towards another party, and all of the allegations regarding abusive behaviors in the documents available are second hand and third hand accounts.

Lastly, I don't see what Harjo has to do with your point, when there seem to be so many witnesses and interviews, but no documentation. Nor do I know whether her conflicts with UNM are exclusively related to this matter. Is there relevant information you can provide?

131. anddean7 - September 17, 2010 at 09:51 pm

Faculty who are not mental or physical health providers or employees of UNM clinics or UNMH hospital are not HIPAA responsible, but all faculty are FERPA responsible for not revealing academic or personal information about their students. In addition, professional codes of conduct prohibit such as do UNM written policies. Not to mention having common sense and sensitivity toward other people.

Graduate students do not tend to file lawsuits simply because it is very expensive and they are poor. Quite simple. Even faculty suffer tremendous financial burdens by suing - literally, many tens of thousands of dollars at a minimum without going to trial, which itself would entail several tens of thousands more. No attorneys in NM have come forward with pro bono offers to graduate students.

It is easy for someone who has not gone through a major lawsuit to say they would certainly sue. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of aggrieved individuals in the world elect not to sue. The emotional burden alone can be truly overwhelming for even strong and healthy mature adults.

In addition, it is very threatening and distressful to sue ones own academic institution whether as a graduate student or as a faculty member. Few people can withstand the pressure of suing a large university or employer where they intend to keeping studying or working. Lawyers know this very well.

The statements in the Chronicle article certainly have documented evidence behind them from multiple independent sources - that's the way newspapers and such do business to keep from being sued themselves. You can bet on this. There is documentation of student complaints to UNM in writing. These complaints were literally ignored by UNM. Student and faculty accounts of various events in this case are certainly not second and third hand.

UNM provides no apparent normal channel of complaint other than through the normal academic chain of command for students and faculty - chair, dean, vice provost, provost, president. And these are the individuals in this case who tried to stifle complaints. The UNM ethics committee cannot accept complaints from faculty or students without the UNM administration first authorizing the committee to hear the complaints - see the faculty handbook - so it is no option for any faculty or student.

132. shaper - September 17, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Thank you anddean7. Your post was much appreciated.
It has been reported plenty of times that over eight students wrote detailed letters of compliant that were ignored. Their reporting was correct procedure. But Ignored by UNM along with everything else.
The earlier suggestion of no documentation is ironic to students and faculty who are drowning in documentation they wish they didn't have to have. It seems like the reporter was very careful to use documentation. I'm sure there is plenty more for the courtroom.
Re the other lawsuit, the article states "hostile work environment." That lawsuit was reported elsewhere as receiving Probable Cause of such and also for retaliation, after a Human Rights investigation. The timing is all connected.
Since the previous poster seems to ignore the financial reality of lawsuits, perhaps s/he would like to get in touch with students and contribute to a legal defense fund. There is still the emotional cost, but they will be thrilled to recieve your help.

133. 22277257 - September 18, 2010 at 01:18 am

I have been blogging for some time on the Lisa Chavez controversy. To gain some needed perspective on this matter, see all my posts by clicking-
http://dankprofessor.wordpress.com/category/lisa-chavez/

134. bread_pirate_naan - September 18, 2010 at 01:19 am

anddean7,
Thanks for addressing some of the questions in my first post, all of which were ignored by others. I would hope there were people couretous enough to answer institutionally specific questions for those who have no vested interest in reading the UNM faculty handbook to discern the details of how their dirty laundry ended up getting aired in this manner.

What distinguishes my post from many others is that my replies are not based in assumptions, but awareness of inadequate information.

shaper,

"It has been reported plenty of times that over eight students"

Believe it or not, some people have not been following this story for years and the absence of reference to the process in the links and the article above are the reason why specific questions were raised. The student who posted and who are my peers, did not respond to the simple questions which are easily answered by anyone close to the case, or who has been following it.

As far as the students' defense fund, they do not stand accused. Should you choose to condescend on such matters, be intelligent about it.

Generally the expense of a lawsuit is not the only major inhibiting factor, but the career ending nature of the action. Still, if rights have been violated to the degree faculty have grounds for human rights based legal action, it is entirely possible the students' interests come under the missions of groups like these:
http://www.aclu.org/
http://www.amnesty.org/
The presence of human rights based legal action on the part of Full Professors is a bit offensive to some, and certainly prejudicial information in the context of the information provided here.

Thanks for filling in a few of the blanks.

135. g33kycarrie - September 18, 2010 at 03:58 am

See what happens when I get busy at work?

I'd like to respond to 'why didn't we see this before' from several posters. One of the problems, when you're being harassed, is that it is truly depressing. It destabilizes your world, because we tend to like to assume that people are rational, the world makes sense and the proceedures given us to resolve problems will somehow safeguard us from problems.

And then you find out that they don't.

I've spent the last few years alternating between fear for my ability to stay in the department, fear of losing the ability to have a career, fear about the welfare of students around me and soul-crushing depression (caused by the situation.) I came to graduate school to do what anyone does--to become a professional in a field I care about. Instead, I found all this.

I'm still afraid I will never find work. If, as another poster mentioned, this wasn't happening again to someone else, I'm not sure I would have allowed the reporter to interview me. I've already turned down reporters from several of the local newspapers. Repeatedly.

As far as what I did and didn't do, let me list for you the offical channels I went through: I filed an OEO complaint, tried to get an appointment at the President's office, went to five lawyers around town, went to the Dean of Students, went to the interim head of the English Dept at the time and tried to organize other letter writers so that we could go enmasse to the administration.

Down the list: the OEO told me what I experienced was 'an isolated incident,' the President refused to see me and I got a ten second phone call from his office telling me to drop it because they were never going to investigate it again (I had no idea what they were talking about at the time), the Dean of Students told me there'd already been an investigation, so why was I bothering them, the then-interm head literally refused to look at the documentation I bought with me and told me to get out of his office and the lawyers refused to take the university (which has a local reputation for being difficult) on pro-bono. And the other letter writers?

The other letter writers are PETRIFIED of being booted from the university. They've seen what happened to me and most don't want to risk it. To have worked up the courage to report and to be, as many of us were, told by the OEO that we cannot speak about what has happened for fear of being accused of making a hostile work environment for complaining, and to watch the professor in question make tenure during the investigation makes you feel absolutely gutted.

When she made tenure, she was also given grant money to travel to Haiti. She sent an email to the listserv, bragging that she had gotten funding and was going to Haiti, and wasn't it funny. As in, she sent out a group email everyone in the dept.

You may not know this, but once someone has accused you of being mentally ill, it doesn't have to be true. People are often uneasy around you, just because that's what they've been told. I am not the only student she's accused of mental illness, I'm just the only one so far willing to be vocal about it.

And it's costing me. I'm risking whether I'm employable, in one of the nastiest economic climates likely in my lifetime. You might ask yourself why anyone would do that.

I'm my case, it's because every official channel I can use has been exhausted, but the problems are ongoing. The other student most recently accused is in worse shape than I am--the accusation stripped her of her funding, and she was told not to come back onto campus or use businesses near the campus.

No matter how 'passionate and rebellious' you are, it is mind-bogglingly difficult to tackle an institution which is so obviously going out of the way to discourage you from standing up for yourself. When she feels up to it, I'll ask her if she's interested in talking. And, like the rebellious person I am, I'll keep talking to some of the letter writers.

Trust me, these have not, despite my being incredibly depressed, uneventful years. I have to work and write in there, somewhere.

136. g33kycarrie - September 18, 2010 at 04:35 am

Although, just so we're clear, here's some local bloggers and news on the admin here and the dept. There are several students other than myself quoted in them:

http://www.dailylobo.com/index.php/article/2008/09/department_struggles_to_get_past_controversy

http://www.unm.edu/news/08AprilNewsClips/02warner.htm

http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/2009/11/unm-today-rudderless-ship-in-night-who.html

http://www.unm.edu/~market/cgi-bin/archives/003678.html

137. overton_park - September 18, 2010 at 08:33 am

While this debacle may have started with the irresponsible and unethical actions of Lisa Chavez, this is just as much a failure of governance. I couldn't care less about Chavez' sex and/or sexual orientation but her actions display a disregard for professional standards that should have resulted in termination or, at the very least, her being severely reprimanded. Students do not have power equal to that of their teachers and, in a case like this in which a professor was engaging in behavior that some (or many) students found unacceptable and even offensive, it would be easy to see how those students that refused to participate in her extracurricular activities and received anything less than the highest marks could claim that their grades were adversely affected as a result. As offensive as Chavez and her actions might be, the cowards at the top of the administrative pyramid demonstrated an abdication of their responsibility by refusing to discipline Chavez and act as leaders with the responsibility of maintaining a professional and productive environment for teachers and students. The fact that (more than) 14 tenured faculty have expressed no confidence in the university leaders in question speaks volumes about the extent to which the university is adrift with unqualified persons at the helm (and then there are the lawsuits from noted present and former faculty members). At this point and as the administrators at UNM cannot seem to get their own house in order, Governor Richardson should clean house and ensure that leadership and confidence are restored as soon as possible. If Chavez had a shred of decency she would remove herself from the university and go find another place and persons more akin to her ilk.

138. mason62 - September 18, 2010 at 11:22 am

What is ironic is that Lisa Chavez and President Schmidly (who received an unprecedented no-confidence vote of 329-106 from UNM university faculty last year) are on the same side in this. (Regent Jaime Koch's received no-confidence vote from faculty of 482-7, and was then reappointed by Richardson anyway). Chavez(and her buddies) publically cite Schmidly's "investigation" as some sort of proof she has done no wrong. Are you all getting the picture? I sure am.

139. duchess_of_malfi - September 18, 2010 at 05:59 pm

The information that Chavez received tenure after she had attempted to use mental-illness stigmatization and claims of violent threats to discredit a student helps it all make sense. If the faculty ethics committee was bypassed and a consultant hired to discredit other faculty WHILE she received tenure, then the provost and president probably see no way out. They have to stick by her. To do otherwise is to admit their own wrongdoing. This is a classic plot and it usually does not work out well for the people who stick by it, but they harm many bystanders before it ends.

140. adelphioracle - September 20, 2010 at 10:59 am

Seems to me that the idea that working in the phone sex industry is against the law, or somehow harmful to the students or faculty, is an argument based on faulty assumptions. The fact that someone thinks a photograph of a woman posing as a dominatrix is in in itself a display of anything incriminating is inexcusably lazy thinking on the part of that academic. It is not against the law to dress up as a "dominatrix." It is not even immoral. I challenge that it is unethical. I've seen profs with pix on websites of them out on the ocean, in diving suits, at archaeological digs wearing hardhats, or any number of environments. This prof is showing herself in an environmental portrait just as the field archeologists, biologists, etc show themselves. Some of us don't like the mining industry, but I bet every mining department in the US has someone depicted in a hard hat in conjunction with some mine or other. What this is about, however, is the idea of different sexual tastes. You charge that the professor suggested to students that they give the phone-sex business a try as employer. Where is the harm in that? Does the business professor refrain from making recommendations to business students on their life-plans? Does the music department refrain from helping musicians succeed economically with gigs and referrals to other musicians? Creative writing can not be done in a vacuum. Open-mindedness about sexuality is no longer the stuff of crisis. Your faculty, or some of them, want to edit the other faculty member's minds, and the minds of the students; you want to censor them for daring to be different. The university knows that it can not fire someone on the basis of a photo on a website, or a part-time job doing phone-sex. No harm, no foul. Except the foul seems to me to be that of attacking an associate professor for having a part time job, and for suggesting to her students that they experience the world.

141. jfarmar - September 20, 2010 at 05:16 pm

To g33kycarrie:
You will find work again and it will be better than what you have.
I've been there in a miserable work environment and I expect I'll be there again.
You've had an education but not the one you signed up for. What you learned is the nature of your institution. It is toxic.
You brought talent and a willingness to work when you arrived. For whatever reasons, your institution's representatives now place less value on what is important to you and what it previously claimed to be important for them.
Don't try to figure them out. You know your values and theirs don't match. Your options are: you can find some way to change them; you can find some way to accomodate them; or you can leave. My experience is that the first is not possible, the second will destroy you and the third is only very hard.
Start to use as much of your time and talent as you can to get out. There are better places to work.
When I was in a similar work situation, I tried everything except standing on my head to make things work. I spent more and more of my time trying to save my position. I was spending less and less time doing the work that brought me there and the work I enjoyed doing. Life was indeed miserable.
In the end, I lost. They ended my position.
But the world did not end for me. I found another position and then another. I'll likely have to find others.
But life is too short to work for miserable people.
In addition to family, friends, and faith, what kept my head up during the tough times was not to give them what they really wanted: for you to become like them.
Good luck and keep the faith.

142. nextstep77 - September 21, 2010 at 06:34 am

Professor Miller, to answer your question would it be unethical or immoral or wrong if one of her "late night customers" for phone sex were a student of hers? In my opinion, NO. Because if the student is over 18, and she is in that capacity a phone sex operator even pretending to be a teacher, then absolutely no. Immoral, unethical, no not a chance. She isn't protituting herself, she isn't representing herself in the name of the school and both people are over the age of consent. As far as I am concerned, this is a null issue, there is nothing to discuss. Her private affairs are her own, her private life are her own and the only people making a deal of this are those who want to discredit a professor, those who want to keep her from getting tenor and those who consider themselves so holy it is rediculous. If a person who is over 18 wants to sleep with a teacher, let them. If the teacher doesn't use it to influence her decision on grading, then more power to them. Your holy crusade going after this person is morally repugnate in the name of god.

Ethics and morals have changed and you consider what we did centuries ago a standard for today, but it is NOT! If that was the case, I would have full permission to slap you across the face for getting out of line and we would put you in stocks because of any immoral behavior.

For the record, I am no longer shocked by anything we do. We have been pent up for thousands of years for the bonds of a god that at best if he does exist is an absentee father. We're tired of the hate that religeon brings, the bonds of slavery to a book that no one gives a crap about and for people like yourself that oppose the very desires that during our evolutionary process helped bring about a better species. If you don't believe in evolution (as most christians don't) then I would be glad to post some evolutionary data and species that are transforming naturally now.

143. gabrielledean - September 21, 2010 at 10:09 am

One aspect of this story that we are not attending to as much as we should is that it takes place in the Creative Writing wing of an English department. While a "guild" mentality (apprentice-journeyman-master) still dominates graduate schools in general, that power structure is particularly fraught in the arts. It is sustained by an emphasis on craftmanship; the assumption is that beginners have a lot to learn from advanced practitioners in a setting that is inherently subjective: students often apply to a specific program in order to work with a specific practitioner. It is also sustained by the fact that in the "competitive marketplace" of prizes and publications, young writers need the explicit support of famous mentors to get anywhere. At the same time, most of the "masters" have democratic beliefs that make them uncomfortable in the master role. They also subscribe to a doctrine of originality that works against the "mastery of craftsmanship" model. And they try to generate a classroom atmosphere that is intense and unconventional--where power dynamics are often in flux--because 1) they believe that's what the students need to be productive, and 2) they know that their students and the administration expect it--that's how CW programs are sold.

There's an interesting analysis of the history of the CW program in -The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing- by Mark McGurl. And here is a mostly critical review (not so much of the book, but of the phenomenon it documents) by Elif Batuman in the London Review of Books: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n18/elif-batuman/get-a-real-degree

144. mgoodyear - September 22, 2010 at 09:23 am

While appreciating the passions that this matter arises on all sides whereever it is raised, it is also evident that it is deeply divisive and tending to take on a life of its own. This is an unfortunate consequence of litigation.

What is not clear is how this discussion is helping students, faculty, the CW Program, the department or the university carry out their duties and responsibilities and pursuit of the purpose of a university and university education.

The university did make an attempt to try and get people working together by hiring a mediator, but the continuing rancor undermines this. Which are the more important issues now? Retribution or moving on and learning from past mistakes?

As for Dank48's comments about "ad femina" it was not "witless" but intentional. "Argumentum ad feminam" goes back to at least Joyce's Ulysses (e.g. 15 at 2371), who gives it even earlier attribution. It has been well rooted in feminist philosophy since the 1960s and has has a more extended meaning than "ad hominem", implying that which creates an uncomfortable working space for women.

With regards to the use of "femina" with the preposition "ad", see the Vulgate "facies et feminalia linea ut operiant carnem turpitudinis suae a renibus usque ad femina" (Exodus 28 at 42). While "ad" normally takes the accusative case "feminam" - well that would be objectifying women wouldn't it? The nominative "femina" is more empowering.

145. crazy - September 23, 2010 at 04:13 am

Dear Friends,

Students are NOT Angels and in the case at hand, the student HORES were working at the sex house before Dr. Chavez was. The good Professor is only guilty of being immature. She cleary still thinks she is young and HOT. Heck, so do I at 53. Why fault her for trying to eat some porno muff, late night hairy snackcakes and pretzel. The Chavex mantra is the same as my 100 year old grandfather, "I aint dead yet and I aint got time to die!
\
BYE

146. gloriawalker - September 25, 2010 at 06:45 pm

Get real people. When is it ok for a first job to determine what you do on the second job. Only IRS can do that! I have mostly undergraduate students and they can do whatever they want including telling lies on instructor. They can do just about anything but if an instructor of a diverse background sneeze trouble is lodged. I have had students out of mental institutions, jail and prison, some sell their bodies, some are there to live off welfare checks and some of them are there to learn. MOST HAVE ISSUES WITH THE BEST TEACHER FROM DIVERSE BACKGROUND EVEN IF THE INSTRUCTOR IS MORE EFFECTIVE THAN OTHER TEACHERS IN THE PROGRAM. If a student had a bias against this teacher and another teacher was resenting her too. Dr. Chavez has no chance of being treated fair!

147. movedon - September 27, 2010 at 02:33 pm

From personal experience in the UNM English Department I can attest to the hostility and lack of compassion demonstrated by many leaders in the department. This scenario comes as no surprise to anyone who attended and/or graduated from the department in the last decade. I only hope this unfortunate situation along with the recent, tragic murders of Professor Torres and a graduate student will cause the department to grow in compassion and maturity. It is greatly needed. Peace and grace be with them through all of this.

Add Your Comment

Commenting is closed.

subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.