Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What's The Big Deal? Part 2

I majored in acting at Illinois State University. We had a lovable acting professor named Patrick. Patrick's greatest tool as a teacher was his passion. Passion for the work. Passion for acting. Passion for the students.

He wasn't a bad drinking buddy either.

Well, Patrick has gotten himself into some trouble. Seems he's gone and kissed a student. A male student. You can read the article here.

When I attended, this would not have surprised me much. I never felt threatened, but it happened. There were some occasions when a complaint went to the head of the department, or the dean. Usually I thought this an overreaction.

College friends have written about it. You can read some here, here, here and here. Some feel that Patrick has been wronged. Some think if the student's feelings had been brought to Patrick's attention he would have stopped. Some argue, well, it is a theatre department. Behavior as a norm is a little more experimental. All, go on record as his friend.

I can't help but think that these are excuses that friends make for another friend. That if the victim had been a women and the Professor less lovable, we wouldn't hesitate to call it harassment. Even in this case, some who knew Patrick, feel he crossed the line years ago.

I made fun of Mark Foley, who I'm not sure did anything illegal, here myself and I'm embarrassed by another Congressional cover-up. I don't think we enabled a sexual predator in Patrick, but I think I should be consistent.

He's a friend.

I think his behavior was inappropriate and unprofessional.

I'd still go drinking with him anytime.


Flannery Alden said...

Ah the theater department, full of rogues and divas. And you're right, it is a very experiemental place.

I'm sorry to hear about this blight on your friend's record. I agree with you that it was inappropriate and unprofessional behavior.

It's good that you stood up and said so, too. If I recall correctly from my days in college theater, if one displayed any modesty or a somewhat conservative stance on sex, one was ripe for mocking. Well, that was my experience, anyway. Maybe my college theater was full of jerks.

I digress...

Patrick has a friend in you, I see. He'll probably need one.

Flannery Alden said...

I meant, it's brave of you to call his behavior inappropriate and unprofessional, as it could cause some people to call you a prude or close-minded.

This is not about experiementation. When it's a teacher and a student, it's about power. And it's wrong.

(sorry...I'm kind of fuzzy this morning, but, hey, you got two commments out of the deal!)

lulu said...

My gut reaction as a teacher is that he crossed the line. He is in a position of power; no matter how close he is to his students, that inequality is always going to be there. And you are right, if he were kissing female students, or was a less likeable guy, the shit would have hit the fan a long time ago.

I read a comment that someone made about the kid involved being a “wimp” for complaining. And yes, I know that the real world of theater is filled with all sorts of politics and harassment, but so what? Just because it is filled with harassment doesn’t make the harassment right. Plus, this isn’t the real world, it’s school. The kid should be able to go to school without being made to feel uncomfortable.

A lot of academic departments become big clubs, and the only way to survive is to be a member of the club and buy into the party line. Theater departments are notorious for this, as are women’s studies departments. I started out as a women’s studies major, but switched to English because I couldn’t deal with the whole political agenda. There was so little real academic work being done, and so much posturing and spouting of the party line. From the comments I read it sounds as if a similar thing is happening at ISU. “If you don’t like the way the department behaves maybe you shouldn’t be part of the department”, instead of acknowledging the validity of the kid’s complaints. You also have to wonder how many kids didn’t complain for fear of rocking the boat.

vikkitikkitavi said...

I was a theatre major in 3 different departments, and they all had their letches. One in particular, a male professor of mine, glommed onto me, and I even had the misfortune of having to perform a love scene in a play with him.

I was most definitely NOT attracted to him, and finding a way to assert myself without alienating him completely was a challenge.

I think the situation made me a stronger person, but I also think that it was really unfair to expect me to be the one to manage it. But that was in the days before Thomas & Hill, and no one even knew what sexual harassment was. It never occured to me that I had a choice other than to find a way to manage it.

It's important to remember, though, that the line between student and teacher is pretty blurry in theatre departments, and I can understand why some teachers might think they have the right to pursue their romantic interests, wherever they lie, just like anyone else there.

Let's also remember that although this guy was a teacher, his students are adults, and deserve to be treated as adults, so I think everyone should take it easy on the "predator" stuff. Is it sexual harassment? Yes. Does the guy need to be educated? Yes. Will he learn from that education? My guess is probably no, since it sounds as if this subject has been broached with him previously and he did not change his behavior. Maybe this action was just what was needed to wake him up. If it also ends his career, well, no one can say he wasn't warned.

Grant Miller, Esq. said...

He probably knew better.

Phil said...

Thanks for commenting and reading my blog everyone.

Rather then support or debate anyones comment I'll just leave my post as it stands.