Crushes or crushed

June 16, 1995

It is a sign of the times that it should be left to a student, Jennie Bristow (THES, June 2), to launch a welcome and effective attack on the patronising moves afoot to police personal relations between lecturers and students.

Especially welcome is her exposure of the disingenuous "basic premise" of the Association of University Teachers, that "a student is unlikely to consent voluntarily to a relationship with a member of staff". She might have included a recent statement by a university harassment officer that it is "axiomatic" that any such relationship is always instigated by the lecturer.

What is disgraceful about such statements is not that they are false, but that those who make them must know that they are. They themselves may not have been the objects of the "crushes" and seductions, but it is inconceivable that they do not know of colleagues who have been. I am inclined to agree with Ms Bristow that official policies are out of place in this area. What is certain is that no sensible policies will emerge if debate is constrained by the absurd "basic premises" and "axioms" which, it appears, those pressing for action pretend to accept.

David E. Cooper

Department of Philosophy

University of Durham

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