A support group to help the wives of philandering academics and to press for tighter rules on staff/student relationships has met "widespread interest" in the few weeks since its birth, its founder said this week, writes Phil Baty.
The group was set up by Jean Norris, whose estranged husband Paul, a lecturer at Southampton Institute, was disciplined for an affair with a student in 1992 and has now been linked to a second student at the institute.
Several women in similar situations have come forward to offer the group administrative support, and an email discussion group is to be established.
The group, which will offer support and advice to wives jilted by husbands for students, has vowed to lobby for change. It believes the problem is endemic in higher education and is compromising academic standards.
"There has been widespread interest in the group," said Mrs Norris, "which indicates that there are profound problems that need to be addressed and dealt with. In the past there have been attempts to achieve change, but there is such an entrenched reluctance within higher education establishments, from management downwards, to consider the full implications of illicit affairs beyond the personal issues of consensual relationships.
"Matters are trivialised and brushed under the carpet. My contact with the people who pay the highest price for lax standards shows that until radical changes are made, the same anger and feelings of injustice will continue to surface. This issue cannot be suppressed or intimidated out of existence.
"My intention with the group is to provide a voice for and support to those people who suffer because of these practices."
Details about the group can be obtained via email by contacting: Jeannorris@hotmail.com