Power point

October 6, 2006

In her discussion of what Mary Beard calls the "erotic charge" that sometimes occurred between students and their tutors in the 1960s and 1970s ("Scholar fires sex harassment row", August 18), Susan Bassnett (Working Knowledge, September 29) follows the line of thought typical of female academics. She writes: "The student-lecturer relationship is one of uneven power" and that "grading essays, marking exams and supervising dissertations all involve the more powerful figure determining the fate of the less powerful". But in any decently run university, all of these activities are subject to internal moderation and to external evaluation. No individual lecturer has the power to decide the fate of anybody.

Female academics seem incapable of accepting that, as often occurs in the world outside the university, young women might be attracted to qualities in older men such as intelligence, a sense of humour, worldliness - perhaps it is also just possible that some of the students find these older men still physically attractive. It is staggeringly uncharitable and misguided to insist that the student-teacher relationship revolves solely around the issue of "power".

Kevin McCarron.

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