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Pokey Chatman Update

March 14, 2007, 3:35 am

Thank heaven for the anonymous comment function. A report just in from Baton Rouge (I think — the writer seems familiar enough with the campus) adds nuance to the picture of the Pokey Chatman resignation. This short essay was originally posted to the comments section of my previous article, but it has enough of a new perspective to deserve a more prominent place on the blog. Tiger321 writes:

“Along with remembering that most of what’s been reported is based on rumor, we should also keep in mind that the media doesn’t (and perhaps can’t) give the whole story. One aspect that’s been mostly left out in the coverage of this saga is that there are in fact people who are supporting Pokey. LSU’s campus newspaper today included an article in which a former player (who remains anonymous) does–however tactfully–defend Chatman. Also in the news today, Sylvia Fowles’s comments to the press following the NCAA Selection Show last night were nothing if not supportive of Pokey. And Fowles and the anonymous former player are joined by numerous fans, at LSU and in Baton Rouge in general, who have no direct contact with the media and so, naturally, wouldn’t be included in the coverage.

“The other thing that seems to be (completely) absent from the issues raised by the media and blogging communities like this one is that, should the rumors prove to be true, there is still no basis for LSU ‘forcing’ Pokey to resign. If her resignation was indeed of her own accord, fine–that is a separate issue. But, if her resignation was, as the rumor goes, the result of the report of her having a sexual relationship with a player and the subsequent investigation, then a different problem arises. I’m not going to jump in on the debate over the ethics of sex with students/players. I will, however, point out that LSU does not have a non-fraternization policy (though they are now working on creating one). I know of university professors here who have had ‘relations’ with both graduate and undergraduate students. I also know of LSU graduate TAs who have had sexual relationships with undergraduates. While these relationships are all ‘frowned upon’ by the university, they are not prohibited. I’ve looked, fruitlessly thus far, for an NCAA policy prohibiting fraternization, which could, in a pinch, explain (logically) LSU’s handling of the matter. But without such an excuse, I’m inclined to believe the ‘conspiracy theory’-esque lines of thinking that Pokey is no longer at LSU because she is a woman, or because she is black, or because she is gay, or perhaps all three.”

Let me say too that this Radical has always been against policies that prohibit fraternization (a fabulous euphemism) for two reasons. The first is I am against policing in situations that are not inherently criminal: because a relationship *could* harm someone is not a reason to prohibit it, particularly when everyone involved is sexually mature and the pleasure in the relationship is mutual. People are routinely harmed by being married to the wrong person…oh don’t worry. I won’t start again. But I think it is one of the bad lessons of feminism that power imbalance in a relationship makes the person of lesser power inherently incapable of previous knowledge about the situation s/he is entering into, choice or reasonable consent. Or that the heartbreak suffered at the end of the relationship is inherently more painful and damaging than in a relationship where equality reigns.

But the other, more important, reason is: research shows that overwhelmingly, those who are disciplined under such regulations are lesbians and black men, and that the regulations themselves become as great a site of injustice and inequity as the relationships they are supposed to discourage. So putting such regulations in place creates yet another arena for letting another, possibly more pernicious, set of power relationships to play out, with permanent consequences for livelihoods and reputations.

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Relevant update on my Atlanta bed and breakfast: I was discussing the Chatman situation last night with the gang at the inn as an alternative to talking about history and/or the President. And the innkeeper, a woman who is nearly sixty, told me that she had an affair with her dissertation advisor thirty years ago. Subsequently they were married, but they continue to live in separate houses to this day. Hence, the former dissertation director was not there to explain his torrid past.

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