Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's Up at UNM?

OK, so I heard last year that the University of New Mexico was having a difficult time, but I didn’t notice it was THIS big of a deal. So, here’s the question: what would you do if one of the faculty members of an MFA program that you taught in showed up in some sort of suggestive sadomasochism photos on a local “meet and greet” website?

Just for the sake of argument, so one can get a better idea of what the offense is, let’s say THIS is the website (adult content!), because, well it was:

PeopleExchangingPower S&M website

What would you do? What should you do?

Now let’s see what they all did:

Here’s the headline: “English professor resigns over administration's actions.” And guess what, it’s NOT the prof you think it is!

By: Maggie Ybarra
Posted: 11/11/08

Creative writing professor Joy Harjo has resigned amid rumors that strife between the department's faculty and senior administrators cannot be resolved.

Harjo, the University's only Joseph Russo Endowed Professor, said her resignation was a result of the administration's decision to retain associate professor Lisa Chavez.

Pictures of Chavez posing with one of her students on a sadomasochism Web site were discovered in spring 2007.

Chavez could not be reached for comment.

Diane Thiel, associate professor in the English department, said Harjo's resignation is an incalculable loss to the University.

"The administration's mishandling of the very serious matter regarding professor Lisa Chavez and apparent ignoring of at least eight formal student letters reporting mistreatment has created a learning and work environment that is untenable for numerous faculty and students," Thiel said. "Faculty and students have resigned and left UNM over this and will likely continue to. The recent resignation of Joy Harjo, arguably the most well-known Native American poet in the world, highlights the seriousness of the situation, many details of which have yet to be reported to the media."

Harjo said Chavez was retained as a University employee because administrators were afraid of a lawsuit and wanted to keep the problem quiet.

Harjo said she could not continue to work in a program "that has been so deeply compromised" and that she didn't trust the University to uphold the rights of its students and faculty.

"The Chavez-and-students sex-site debacle was mishandled," Harjo said. "Because of this, the creative writing program lost face and credibility locally and nationally. Those of us - a majority of the creative writing program - who pushed for a proper ethics investigation based on policies already in place were retaliated against for speaking up. This whole situation could have been handled in a way that was respectful to all parties. As it is, only the rights of one person was considered."

Julie Shigekuni, director of creative writing, did not return phone calls Monday, but on Nov. 3, Shigekuni sent an e-mail to faculty members and creative writing students that said the creative writing faculty "voted to move forward immediately with a job search for a new assistant professor in poetry."

However, the position's job description says candidates seeking employment at UNM as a tenure-track faculty member must be able to start in August of 2009.

The teaching load is two courses per semester, and qualified applicants should have obtained their master's or higher, have experience teaching poetry and possess a significant record of being published.

The job description was drawn up the same week President David Schmidly declared a hiring freeze.

Susan McKinsey, spokeswoman for the University, said the hiring freeze can be broken and exceptions might be made when it comes to certain types of faculty hires.

"There are some positions for every department that are considered crucial," McKinsey said. "So … they ask for an exception from the provost," McKinsey said.

Professor Sharon Warner, former director of creative writing, said Harjo's resignation will leave a huge dent in the already crumbling infrastructure of the department, no matter who is selected to take her place.

Warner resigned from her position as creative writing director in March, and she said she requested a sabbatical because the University's investigation into Chavez's actions was insufficient.

Warner said Harjo is departing for the same reasons.

"The University has made a large number of mistakes in the investigation of this situation," Warner said. "And they've done such a poor job of it that they've now backed themselves into a corner."

Harjo said she did not resign to pursue another job.

She said she requested a severance package because she resigned under duress but that her request was denied.

"I have no plans at this time to join any other University," Harjo said. "In the spirit of the teachings of the Mvskoke people, I will continue forward and carry with me only that which nourishes."

Richard Holder, deputy provost of Academic Affairs, said Harjo did not need a severance package and would be compensated by receiving pay for the spring semester.

"Faculty members are under contract for a nine-month period, and under her standing work agreement, she doesn't teach a class anyway the second half of the first semester and all of the second semester, and so she is keeping her employment with the University until the contract period is over in May of 2009, and so we felt that was sufficient," Holder said.

Harjo said the pay was insufficient.

“I’m suffering a great loss from losing this job. I’m suffering several years of loss,” Harjo said. “It was a hard decision to make when you look at economic times and the strain of being an artist. They didn't give me anything extra. That was nothing extra. That was the year that I was paid for.”

Harjo said she wouldn't have left the University if Chavez had been dismissed.

Holder said the University had no plans to terminate or reinvestigate Chavez.

“Lisa Chavez remains an employee of the University and a professor of the English department where she has tenure, and the University is not planning to contest her tenure in any way, and if that was a part of Joy Harjo’s reason for resigning, I think we regret that,” Holder said. “I think we would like to say that we very much regret her loss. She was a valuable member of our faculty.”

+ + + +

So anyway, THAT seems to be quite the place to be these days. Possible new slogan for their MFA program: Putting the FUN in dysfunction: UNM!

But really. Harjo resigns because the university didn’t fire Chavez? Warner resigns her directorship because the university didn’t fire Chavez?

So what would I do? I’ve no idea. I don’t know the history of these people, but from what I’ve read, I don’t think I’d do much. This barely raises my pulse. Am I jaded?

With all I've read so far, I still can’t figure out why Harjo would take it upon herself to resign over it. If she was really interested in the atmosphere and the students, for instance, then it would seem this would be the last thing she would or should do. Resigning just made it that much bigger of a story. And resigning left her students there without her. And what kind of a workplace is it now for the faculty?

My guess is that Chavez won't be there much longer. A little rebuilding will be underway.

67 Comments:

At 4/26/2009 1:00 PM, Blogger Oliver de la Paz said...

Agreed. Rebuilding is on the way. Holy F*#@! I had no idea that stuff was going on down there!

 
At 4/26/2009 2:50 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Yeah, kinda wacky.

And here's something from me not being my best self: I'm betting Harjo quit because she can't stand someone getting more attention than she's getting.

 
At 4/26/2009 10:26 PM, Blogger Oliver de la Paz said...

Naughty, John. I suspect, though, that there's some other stuff going on, too, as is often the case in such goings on.

I've been in too many English departments to think otherwise.

 
At 4/27/2009 6:47 AM, Anonymous Dana Levin said...

dude, the Russo Chair is my new job! (I am not kidding)

 
At 4/27/2009 6:53 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Dana Levin! That's the best news I could possibly have heard this morning!

Good luck!

 
At 4/27/2009 7:22 AM, Blogger rebmar said...

That IS great news! Welcome Dana Levin! Looking forward to having you here.

 
At 4/27/2009 7:28 AM, Anonymous Dana Levin said...

Thanks! Hoping to infuse love of poetry (and smarts about it) in ABQ...

 
At 4/27/2009 7:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to in any way censor the site, nor Professor Chavez' participation in the site. However, any sexual activity with a student should definitely be a reason to investigate further. Eight letters of complaint and unfair treatment of students, if substantiated, should lead to termination of the professor. I don't think this has any bearing on S/M between equals. I think it directly relates to the appearance of sexual harassment, based on the policies already in place at that university.

I agree with Harjo's decision. She knows the effect of this on the program better than we do.

 
At 4/27/2009 7:57 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Anon,

You know more about the specifics than I do, in regards both Chavez and Harjo, and the nature of the complaints (as none of them were from the student involved in the picture or pictures), so I'm aware I could be off base here (and doubtless you'll think I am), but it seems to me that if there is something that is hurting students that Chavez is a part of (or causing), the last thing Harjo should have done would be to leave them to her.

I imagine, though, that leaving might have been the best thing for Harjo, thinking of her own mental health.

But that's all in the past (except if one thinks that Chavez is continuing to create a hostile atmosphere).

And now, next year they get Dana Levin, who I've heard nothing but good things about (Hi Dana!), and who seems, from the above comments, ready to jump in.

 
At 4/27/2009 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment about Dana Levin, who I think is wonderful.

I can see your point about Professor Harjo, as well. I really think, considering the multitude of other professors' resignations/transfers, something else is going on, with which Harjo doesn't want to be associated.

The website allegedly includes photos that detail Ms. Chavez in the role of a "stern teacher" who's meting out severe
"punishment" to one of her students, who is sporting a gag. That sets up a paradigm that is very uncomfortable for any future student-teacher dialogue, even if no student is sexually harassed or coerced by Chavez.

 
At 4/27/2009 9:44 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

"stern teacher"!

Oh, that's funny. That's really, really funny. If I were a graduate student, I could imagine that it would mess with the tone of a class I might take with her. I'd be making silly dom comments under my breath the whole time.

Like this for instance. My word verification for this comment is:

squeekin

And so many leather-clad jokes come to mind. I imagine UNM is going to have a bumpy go of it for a while.

 
At 4/27/2009 10:10 AM, Blogger Pris said...

Whatever anyone's feelings are about sexual activities between consenting adults, that same activity between prof and student should have zero tolerance. I couldn't work in a university that condoned it by taking no action, either.

Found this through Silliman's blog.

 
At 4/27/2009 10:26 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Pris,

I'm ambivalent about this. Every university I've ever been at has at least one person in the department who is in a relationship with or married to a former student. And then come all those conversations about "when" and "where" about the relationship. And different levels of punishment (ahem) for the level of infraction . . .

And then the Chavez thing. It seems to be right at the line . . . the way they're pitching it is that it was a theatrical, fun thing, and it wasn't sexual between them in any way. I guess somethign like dressing up for a Renaissance Fair or something.

What I might think of all that aside, I can see where a state univeristy would be hard pressed to, well, uncover the truth.

 
At 4/27/2009 10:38 AM, Anonymous SB said...

Seems to me the issue is professor/student sex. That's a clear issue when the prof is male and the student female. Why would this be any different?

So, just based on that, it seems to me that Harjo is right -- the prof should have been disciplined (hmmm) according to the University policies.

Sounds like a major f*ckup all round.

(found on Facebook, via Pris)

 
At 4/27/2009 10:42 AM, Blogger Pris said...

Hi John,
I was a female who went to the Ph.D. level in a profession that was male dominated at the time (clinical psychology) and most profs in undergrad and grad school were still male. Yes, I saw it all of the time, too, and got hit on more than I cared to count. It's pretty tricky trying to make your way through, not get a prof on your back, so to speak, and yet get involved in turning down (or accepting) an intimate relationship. I'm just curious. Why did students complain if this was a dress up game? And why THIS dress up game? Many so much more interesting.

 
At 4/27/2009 10:44 AM, Blogger Pris said...

I posted a link to your post at Facebook. Hope you don't mind. I like your blog. Have added it to my feed on my own.

 
At 4/27/2009 10:47 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Pris,

Apparently there were three students involved. Two former grad students and one current grad student. None of them have complained.

The complaints were from other students saying (I'm kind of guessing here) that this having happened compromises them in some way.

No *actual* sex has been accused.

It's such a difficult world. Ah, desire!

 
At 4/27/2009 10:51 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Pris,

I don't mind at all.

And something funny happened at UNM back around 2007. I can't believe it was just this website (which is sooooo tame it could only make me laugh). Somethign else must have happened to make Warner resign her directorship and Harjo resign from the university. And then the chair of the department apparently as well?

Chavez must have done something else no one's talking about.

 
At 4/27/2009 11:06 AM, Blogger Pris said...

I guess we never do know the real story, do we??

 
At 4/27/2009 8:16 PM, Anonymous Kerry O'Keefe said...

Hi John, I just saw a poem James Arthur's on Agni, that lead me to ggole him, that lead me to your site...and here I am reading about S&M in New Mexico, one of my favorite states.

It is nice to see poets behaving...poorly for a change, instead of polishing their haloes and hoping for tenure...so as to take the family to Provence in summer...I am glad no students got hurt. I will DEFINITELY be returning to this website and am now heading for Facebook...I have also been a musician as well as a poet. NIce to find this uproarious blog. Best, Kerry O'Keefe

 
At 4/28/2009 5:31 AM, Blogger sophie klahr said...

sigh !! guess i might not be applying to UNM after all, darn it.

 
At 4/28/2009 5:37 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Sophie,

It depends on why you were thinking about going there. In my opinion, Dana Levin would be a much better teacher than Joy Harjo. So for my money, I'd be more interested in going there now, rather than less.

But if you're thinking about the tone of the department . . . I see your point. Or if you just think you won't have the proper, um, attire . . .

 
At 4/28/2009 7:14 AM, Blogger Justin Evans said...

I, for one, am happy that I don't have any such decision to make regarding my career. My school district has its own set of so-called scandals, as does any, but on a personal level, I feel somewhat free from the sort of problems which carry weight beyond an institution's own borders.

In the world of academia, I am sure that a certain amount of ridicule is reserved for high school teachers, where professors and instructors alike look at high school teachers with a mix of disdain and amazement. "How can they put up with that?" or, "If they really were good at what they did, they'd have a Ph.D. and be teaching college" or even the sympathetic, "Thank god somebody's willing to do it."

All that taken in, I am still jealous on one level of the academic level of the college class and the voluntary nature of students, but I must admit my decision to teach high school has something to do with a job security one rarely finds in the university/college system. Joy Harjo's decision seems to me to be an agonizing situation. I don't know if I could be either as rash or as strong to make such a decision (and I think it is a bit of both) as to leave the security of a job at any time, let alone at this time.

On the other hand, I look in amazement myself at the itinerant professor/poet and sigh my relief at the job security I have. At 40, I make more money than most college instructors in my area, and more money than quite a few tenured professors. I will never match the salary of a high profile writer because I will never be a high profile writer, but then, I am not a teacher because of the money, and I know where I will be teaching year after year.

I am a teacher who happens to write poetry, and I'm okay with that. When I finish NaPoWriMo, I will be a poetry god, and I will be okay with that, too.

Harjo's decision makes me nervous. I am not the one making it, but I feel as if it reinforces the notion that poets are wanderers and must constantly make statements which require turning their own lives upside-down in order to make a statement.

Stop me before I start to develop an idea

 
At 4/28/2009 7:32 AM, Anonymous Dana Levin said...

Sophie,

If you were seriously considering UNM I think you should apply. And pay a visit! I think the vibe is moving to the good.

 
At 4/28/2009 8:35 AM, Blogger William said...

Will Dana Levin be solely teaching in the creative writing program or within the PhD program? I'm applying to PhD programs and would love to find a program with a great younger poet. If Levin is working with PhD candidates, I'd absolutely apply.

 
At 4/28/2009 9:14 AM, Blogger Pris said...

It's amazing how the post and on down the thread, the tone has changed from a predominate feeling that this is inappropriate for a faculty member to do all the way to if she's teaching, I'll go there. Any clues why the change in latitude and attitude??

 
At 4/28/2009 9:24 AM, Anonymous Dana Levin said...

Hi Pris! I will be new to UNM this Fall and have not been affiliated with UNM before this; I think the teaching questions down the thread are about my coming on?

William: what I know so far about my position is that I will be working with grad students and will be working with 3-5 dissertation students (but do not know what this means in detail as yet). The position is for 09-10, with possiblity of renewal for 10-11 and 11-12. If you have real questions about it, I'd contact The ENG dept over there.

 
At 4/28/2009 9:51 AM, Blogger William said...

I was just excited when I saw Dana Levin's name because she's a really interesting and dynamic newer poet, and I'm attracted to the idea of working with a younger generation of mentors/faculty. I hadn't realized it was Dana Levin herself talking because I was just breezing through the thread. The whole other business about the professor and Harjo and the s&m web site is of no concern.

 
At 4/28/2009 10:05 AM, Anonymous Dana Levin said...

I know, it IS a little weird to find comments regarding oneself on a thread to which one is contributing! (and thanks for all the nice comments re: me, folks)(I found this thread through the blog Avoid the Muse, which I check pretty regularly)(while avoiding the muse)(the UNM connection of course caught my attention)---but, William, I'm with you: forward into teaching and loving poetry!

 
At 4/28/2009 11:09 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Pris,

I think you've had your question answered, but to clarify:

The poet Lisa Chavez was the one people were talking about in regards the s&m website.

Joy Harjo is the one who quit, apparently to protest the fact that Chavez was not fired.

Dana Levin is the one who has just been hired.

Dana: aw, shucks, you found this post through C. Dale's blog! Argh, and here I thought you were a regular reader. I take back all the nice things I said about you.

Ha!

 
At 4/28/2009 12:15 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Justin,

I don't think it's written anywhere in the poet handbook that one must turn one's life upside down to either make a point or write poems. Banish the thought, or else I'll quit in a huff!

 
At 4/28/2009 1:25 PM, Anonymous Dana Levin said...

oh dude, of COURSE I have visited your blog before! (C. Dale just took me to this particular thread)

;)

d

 
At 4/28/2009 3:48 PM, Blogger Justin Evans said...

John:

It's not written in our handbook, but it's what we have to do if anyone is going to pay attention.

 
At 4/28/2009 3:58 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Oh, goodness, I hope not. That sounds like attention for all the wrong reasons.

 
At 4/28/2009 4:25 PM, Blogger Justin Evans said...

When was the last time you heard of anyone outside the poetry world sitting up and paying attention to a poet?

 
At 4/28/2009 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The very fact that readers became so confused in this thread that one reader now thought Dana Levin was the person on the S+M websites shows how this kind of behavior by Lisa Chavez contaminates the whole program. People (or at least most) don't want to be associated with a university that has condoned a professor's doing sex work for money with her students and posting images acting out sexual violence on a student. There are, as many readers note, many other things going on in this story, as one might imagine. But think about it – a professor who thinks there is nothing wrong with encouraging her students to do S+M sex work and posts ads of herself carrying out "posed" sexual violence on a student (on many sex websites), soliciting the public for money. In fact, it's just a small part of the problem, but a pretty telling one.

 
At 4/28/2009 5:55 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Justin:

Good thing, too. If people paid attention to poets, I'd know we were in the end times.

Hey, you know, poetry is even less interesting than jazz to most Americans, true. However, I don't think that means anything has to change. I'm fine with being ignored. If suddenly poets were noticed, they'd be noticed like all others who are noticed are noticed, which is, on EXTRA, or something. Ick.

But you know, poets ARE noticed. There's a poet laureate. Poetry gets a corner on the radio.

That's a terrible answer, but these are terrible times.

Anon:

You are right. Such things do contaminate programs. That doesn't mean they are legally actionable.

WV: squid

(Hiding in its own ink!)

 
At 4/29/2009 8:55 AM, Blogger Connie said...

congrats dana--good for you and good for UNM.

 
At 4/29/2009 11:21 AM, Blogger Kaltica said...

Who will remain if they fire every professor who dresses funny?

-o-

 
At 4/29/2009 11:54 AM, Blogger Louise said...

i feel like such a prude for saying this, but i do think more should have been done. lord knows I have nothing against alternative sexuality. but the student/prof involvement, even if there wasn't actual sexual activity involves still violates an important psychological boundary, IMHO. In the corporate world, imagine a boss getting away with posing in such a manner w/ someone he supervises. I also think it's a clear double standard. I simply can't imagine a male professor getting away with the same.

I'm very happy for you Dana, and I am sure you will bring positive vibes and many good things to UNM.

 
At 4/29/2009 12:33 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Louise,

You don't sound like a prude, saying that. It's certainly disruptive. Even if there's not much legally a state university could do about it. Still, they probably could have done a bit more than nothing.

I agree about the double standard. When I pitched the scenario to people with a male example, the reactions were much stronger . . .

WV: preeys

Enough said.

 
At 4/29/2009 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ever heard about prostitutes in germany teaching students in 7th grade the basics about sex?
real prostitutes who usually charge people for having sex with them volunteer for this job.
&, the parents of the students appreciate it.
sounds strange?
maybe for people in the usa who get already excited when a professor gets pictures taken but never actually does anything except posing.
very likely this whole thing wouldn't be worth one line in any news paper in europe//// but hey, that's america.... :-)

 
At 4/30/2009 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point is the ethics of the profession and abiding by the policies of a workplace. Professors are in a position of power over students. It's not all about what is legal. (I wouldn't want my 18 year old consenting adult daughter drawn into doing S+M sex work for money by her professor. That's not what she's going there to study). Again, it's not just a question of legality. That is why there are policies. UNM also has policies on outside employment, conflict of interest, relationships between professors and students, all of which were violated, but the university was trying to shove things under the rug in this matter. Administration denied faculty (the 15 who requested) a Faculty Ethics Investigation. So it's also a matter of removing faculty governance in this matter.

 
At 4/30/2009 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

apparently it was just an odd coincidence that both persons were working for the same company. so obviously the student wasn't "drawn" into something she didn't wanted. what's the professor supposed to say?
"sorry, I'm the professor, you're the student & only one of us can work for this company, so you're outta here." ?

about the ethics: if there wouldn't be a demand by quite a few good-money-making people, there wouldn't be an offer like this. I seriously doubt it that ALL this people are unethical.

are there special ethics for unm professors?
what if a surgeon or a vet would do this job on the side? would it be ok? & if so, would the conclusion be right, that there ethics then are lower?
or would only be regular surgeons considered low ethical but a heart surgeon who's moon lightning for just the fun of it not?
people do a job, so what?

so it took the two persons who quit their job because of this professor two years to make up their mind that they can't stand it to work with this person?
slow, very slow.
& sad too.
which student wants a teacher who is sooooo slow in decision finding/making....?
maybe not the worst thing that those two left.

 
At 4/30/2009 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The profession has an ethical conduct code. You can read it at American Association for University Professors. Professors are in a position of power over their students. Abuse of that power is what we are talking about.
If the professor was abiding by UNM's outside employment policy, and conflict of interest policy, she wouldn't have been doing sex work for $ on the side, let alone doing it with her students.
But a coincidence??? No. Hard evidence to the contrary. (Kind of a ridiculous assertion though, given all the advertisement photos with professor enacting sexual violence on her student.)
"Oh, how coincidental! Is this my student I'm using this whip on and giving an enema to?"
But as others have said, all this is only a small piece of the story.

 
At 5/01/2009 6:36 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

People who seem close to UNM keep saying there is more to this story than what we know, which seems reasonable, as there is always more to a story.

All the rest of us can do is react very generally to the situation. Beyond that, there's not much else I can say at this point. Apparently.

 
At 5/01/2009 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish more people would consider the damage that Warner has done to the student and the program. I wish that others who have had encounters with Warner would step forward. What people aren't talking about is her divisive behavior.

Here's an article by the student involved:

BDSM faculty-student relationships higher education Lisa Chavez Liz Derrington sex sex work sexuality
Submitted by Elizabeth on 6 April 2008 - 7:25am.

This is the third piece on Sex In The Public Square dealing with the University of New Mexico conflict over the investigation into Professor Lisa Chavez's work for a BDSM fantasy phone service. In the first piece I wrote about questions I thought the case raised based on very early media coverage of the story. In the second post, yesterday, Lisa Chavez herself took the time to answer questions about the story. It is important for her voice to be heard. The comments on that thread show what a serious discussion of the issues can look like.

Today we add another voice. Liz Derrington wrote to me yesterday sharing her part in the story. She is the graduate student referred to in yesterday's piece, and listening to her voice is as important as listening to Professor Chavez's. For one thing, their stories so clearly support one other that it seems all the more evidence that the initial university investigation produced the right outcome (though as Michael Goodyear points out here we can't know if they did so by following due process because as far as we know there have been no reports about the investigation released to the public). Liz Derrington's story is important for its own sake, too, of course. For one thing, it provides a window into a part of the sex industry that we often forget to look at. I am especially touched, though by the way that she clearly and openly explains just how damaging have been the actions of people who claimed to be concerned for her. It is a reminder of how harmful is the paternalism with which we often approach the issue of sex work, especially when combined with the stigma already attached to that work. I'm grateful to Liz for telling her story here:

~~~

Liz Derrington writes:

I am the graduate student referred to in the Sex in the Public Square post from April 4, entitled "Lisa Chavez speaks out." I wanted to take some time to do some speaking out myself, as I have not done so before now aside from during the official investigation.

I began working for PEP in February 2007. Lisa Chávez and I began taking calls at the same time, but that was entirely a coincidence. I was taking a class with her that semester; it was an elective for me that I opted to take partly because I thought I would learn a lot and it would look good on my CV, but also because I had a great deal of respect for Professor Chávez as a writer and had heard good things about her as a teacher. As was the case with many of my professors in graduate school, I was able to be friends with Professor Chávez outside the classroom while still respecting her authority in the classroom. We never discussed our phone sex work in class, nor did we discuss class during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in. As Elizabeth has pointed out, the pictures we took during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in were entirely staged. Professor Chávez and I were playing characters, essentially: we worked under pseudonyms, along with assumed personas. As Professor Chávez has said in the past, it's not like our photos bore captions with our real names and explanations of our connection to UNM, so I think it's a stretch to say our work for PEP could be construed as damaging to the reputation of UNM, the English department, or the Creative Writing division.

While PEP as an organization is close-knit and supportive, each woman works independently, taking calls from her home, by herself. Professor Chávez and I were friends, and PSOs (phone sex operators) working for the same organization, but we had neither a sexual nor a romantic relationship. As far as I was concerned, our relationship remained well within the bounds of propriety.

As Lisa said, though, in July an "anonymous" letter arrived in the English department, "outing" Professor Chávez as a PSO. My understanding -- Professor Chávez is the only one who has both seen the letter and talked to me about it -- is that the letter contained photos from the website, some of which included me. Or it might be that the letter referred to the website, and upon viewing the website, other professors recognized me as well as Professor Chávez. At any rate, it came out that the two of us, along with a student who'd graduated in May 2006, were working for this company. At first it seemed like UNM's lawyers didn't see anything wrong with Professor Chávez participating in PEP activities with an adult graduate student, but by the fall an official investigation was underway.

People were ostensibly concerned for me. They wanted to make sure I hadn't been coerced into working for PEP, hadn't been recruited via the University, that my grades hadn't been contingent on my work for PEP, that I didn't feel like I'd been harassed or made uncomfortable, etc. Honestly, though, at this point I have a hard time believing that they want Professor Chávez to be punished, or at least for further investigations or reviews to be made, because they're concerned for students. One reason for my skepticism is that the official investigation was thorough. As the Daily Lobo article points out, the Deputy Provost found that "the graduate students involved 'reported their activities were consensual, and all disclaimed any recruitment, solicitation or coercion.'" And yet the anti-Professor Chávez contingent continues to call for her head.

Another, more pointed (for me) reason for my skepticism is the fact that once word of my involvement with PEP (not to mention the photos) began to spread, many of the professors in the department began to shun me. Most notably, my dissertation advisor at the time refused to work with me anymore, meaning I had to switch advisors less than three months before my dissertation defense. That same professor also told more than one other person that she felt she ought to contact the university where I now work -- I had the job lined up last semester -- to tell them that I'm not morally fit to teach. I hadn't intended to continue doing phone sex work once I started teaching anyway (largely because I found it mentally and emotionally draining), but I ended up having to quit several months sooner than I'd planned because I began to have panic attacks anytime the phone rang -- I was afraid it was someone from the English department calling to check up on me, to accuse me further of engaging in immorality. My credit card balances still show the damage that quitting before I had another job available did to my finances. I sank into depression, not because of anything Professor Chávez did -- indeed, she has never been anything but supportive of me, professionally and personally -- but because I felt betrayed and abandoned by a number of other people in the department whom I had trusted and respected.

Again, many of those people are the ones claiming that their objection to Professor Chávez being called fit to teach comes from a concern for students, but none of them ever asked me what happened; they simply stopped speaking to me.

Furthermore, word reached me at one point that I was being blatantly slandered within the department, that people were being told that Professor Chávez and I were engaging in a sexual relationship, and that we were also engaging in prostitution. PEP does offer in-person domination sessions, and while I appreciate that such sessions tread a very fine legal line as they are sexual in nature without involving actual sex, the fact of the matter is that Professor Chávez and I never participated in such sessions; the work we did was strictly over the phone. I hired an attorney once the official investigation was underway, because I feared being slandered further, and I felt that the English department was doing a poor job of representing my interests. In the end, the only evidence I had of the slander was hearsay, and so I didn't take legal action, but I felt a great deal of hostility directed at me within the department, particularly on the part of many of the same people who would like to see Professor Chávez punished further, if not fired.

When I began working for PEP, I was 27 years old and going through a divorce. I was struggling with issues of self-image and self-acceptance, and, perhaps most importantly, I needed money. The simple truth is that working as a phone sex operator pays a good deal better than waiting tables does. I hope to write (my concentration when I was a grad student was fiction, but I also write nonfiction) about how PEP had a positive effect on my self-image, how I could walk around in skimpy clothing at photo shoots and feel sexy and proud of my body, rather than ashamed of it. I felt like a powerful and talented woman, rather than a Jezebel who wanted more than her share and had divorced a perfectly good man as a result. I could revel in my identity as a bi switch and feel accepted, rather than shamed for not being able to make up my mind, for being a freak. And there was anger when I felt like people who had no business knowing about my sex work judged me, and projected their shame onto me.

I graduated in December, and am now working as an adjunct instructor. I want to focus now on my teaching and writing, on trying to establish my career, but this scandal continues to occupy my thoughts, and not just because I consider Professor Chávez a good friend and it upsets me to see her being treated the way she's being treated. I still have concerns about my professional future: I know that there are a number of faculty members at the University of New Mexico who would give me a strong recommendation if asked. However, I also fear that there are faculty members who, if asked about me, would give me a negative evaluation based not on the work I actually did at UNM, but on their disapproval of my work as a phone sex operator. I dislike feeling like I have to keep looking over my shoulder, so to speak, every time I put UNM down as a former employer. I'm not foolish enough to put the professors who have clear objections to my behavior down as references, but my fear is that if another department were to take it upon themselves to do an exceptionally thorough background check on me, the aforementioned professors would be all too willing to bring up subjects that would be inappropriate in that context. My hope is that by speaking out, I will, if nothing else, be able to control the narrative being told about me, at least to a certain extent.

 
At 5/01/2009 5:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interview with Chavez on the matter:

Lisa Chavez has graciously agreed to talk to us about her work for PEP, the situation at UNM, about relationships between faculty and students, about misconceptions of BDSM and the difficulty some people have distinguishing between fantasy and reality, and about and the impact this is having on her life and the lives of some of the other gay, lesbian and bisexual faculty in the department. I am grateful that she agreed to talk with me about her story:

What happened that brought this incident to the attention of the university?

My department chair received an anonymous letter purportedly from “appalled parents.” I don’t know who wrote the letter, but I believe it may have been someone who had a grudge against me.

How did you get involved with PEP?

I had directed the dissertation of a very talented writer who’d been a sex worker for several years, who worked for PEP, and who wrote about sex work. Through her I’d heard of PEP and met some of the other women who worked there.

What kinds of involvement did you have and why? Was it primarily about a second job? Was it a community you wanted to be involved in anyway?

I started working for PEP originally because I needed another job. I initially began working at the office only, doing data entry, then moved on to taking calls.

I began working as a phone counselor for several reasons. One, I was very curious about what actually went on during the calls, and I hoped to write about it, mostly in fiction. Also, taking calls pays well, and I needed the money. I thought it was a perfect job, since I could do it from home.

While I was interested in the dynamics of BDSM relationships, and while I have always been interested and supportive of any type of “alternative” sexualities, I was not involved in the BDSM lifestyle myself.

How long were you involved before the storm at the university started?

I had begun working at PEP in February 2007, and the anonymous letter arrived in July.

The news coverage makes it sound like the colleagues who are upset are upset because of impropriety with students. The deputy provost found no such impropriety yet those colleagues are still upset. What is the source of their objection?

I’m not sure, because people are claiming they don’t have problems with me on the web site, but they have problems with me on the website with a student. I don’t really believe that--I believe they would have found a way to go after me even if a student hadn’t been involved. Frankly, I’m a victim of other people imposing their morality on me.

How much do you think that adult students need to be “protected" from faculty, and are there any benefits to students from close relationships with faculty? I wonder sometimes if we haven't separated faculty and students too much in our reaction to issues of harassment, etc.

I suppose this is part of what other faculty are angry about; however, I was not in a relationship with the student in the photos--other than the relationship between co-workers at PEP and as friends.

I do not think adult students need to be protected from faculty. Of course I believe sexual harassment and any coercion are wrong, but I don’t believe consensual relationships are wrong. In fact, there are cases of such relationships in my department, but they have always been heterosexual. There are also cases of true harassment, which have not been pursued. I believe I am being treated this way partially because the purported relationship was between two women, and also because they see a certain “luridness” in what some in my department called the “sex trade.”

I do think students and faculty both can benefit from close relationships--not sexual relationships per se, but friendships--and this is especially true in my field of creative writing. I have become friends with a number of the students I’ve worked with (and, for the record, I have never had a sexual relationship with a student, though I do not mean to condemn all such relationships), and I believe that the friendship helps us work better together. Creating writing is often a sort of soul-baring, and I believe that to work well together, we need to build up a mutual trust, which is something that goes beyond a formal student/teacher distance.

I believe part of the attacks on me stem from my good relations with graduate students. I have been told in the past that I should not be friends with students, something I utterly reject. Not only because I believe such friendships enhance our working relationship, but because as an unmarried woman in a department of married people with families, I often find I have more in common with the graduate students than I do with my colleagues. I have never had a problem with graduates students understanding the boundaries of our friendships—i.e. my friendships have never influenced me in terms of grades or treatment of students, nor have they expected it to.

It sounds like you and the student were simply working for the same organization and that the photos were taken in the context of advertising PEP’s services. Why do you think people seem unable tell the difference between fantasy, performance, and reality? Do you think those of us who do understand that difference have an obligation to educate others about it? Presumably you've been trying to explain this difference to colleagues and they don't understand. What seem to be the biggest roadbloacks?

I am continually surprised how my well-educated colleagues seem unable to tell the difference between performance (i.e. the photos) and real-life sex. This is particularly ironic in an English department. Recently, I was very publicly accused of participating in violent and coercive pornographic acts with students. This shows a profound (and I believe willful) ignorance of both the nature of the photos (i.e. advertisements) and of BDSM itself.

As most people would guess, PEP’s photos are staged. PEP is in the business of fantasy conversation and support for the BDSM community, and the founder of PEP, Nancy Ava Miller, is quite clear on what is legally deemed “pornographic” and none of the PEP photos fall into that category. Photos are meant to be suggestive, but that is all they are.

It also speaks to an ignorance about the BDSM community, a community that I have profound respect for. I think about the terms we use: “scene” and “play” for example. Just those words indicate the nature of BDSM, as they imply both fantasy and the consensual nature of the acts. Safe, sane, and consensual is a commonly used phrase in the community, which to me says it all. I think about how the photos I was in were really no more risqué than ads in fashion magazines, and it makes me wonder if people really believe those photos are reality, or if they simply choose to say so to damage my reputation.

While I would like the opportunity to educate people further about these issues, I have been shunned and excluded and not allowed to speak, so I have not had an opportunity to try to explain what actually happened. In that way, I have been recreated as the classic minority subject: the brown women/whore who has no voice.

But I have not lost my voice; I’ve simply learned something about discretion. This situation has radicalized me: I am firmly in support of other sex workers, and of sexual minorities. And I intend to speak out about that, and to write about it.

Regarding the economics of sex work (and academia), I imagine there are people who would be surprised to learn that a college professor needed to supplement her income. Can you talk a bit about the disconnection of pay and prestige both in academia and sex work as you see it?

You’ve struck at the heart of the issue for me. I see this as a class issue, as well as an issue of gender and sexuality. I know people are surprised I needed another job, and I think if they knew how much many professors make they would be surprised. I was raised by a single, working class mother, and the answer to financial difficulties has always been to get another job. I tried other jobs first, but they didn’t pay enough. One of the ironies of this situation is I told my mother what I was doing (i.e. working at PEP) and at first she had the expected motherly concerns, but the next she said was “how much does it pay?” and when I told her $40 an hour, she agreed that it was a good job, especially since I did nothing more than talk on the phone. As a girl, I was surrounded by single women who took any job they could--often more than one--to raise their families. Years ago, one of my mother’s friends was a former call-girl, and my mother did not seem to make any judgment about that.

What I really think I am “guilty” of is not making moral judgments, and of thinking of sex work as simply another viable form of employment, and one that has the potential to be quite lucrative.

Had you been "out" about belonging to any alternative sexual community prior to this incident? (Had you been involved in an alternative sexual community before then?) Do you think it would be safe for a faculty member at your university to be out about being involved in a BDSM community or a sex worker community?

In terms of being “out” in alternative sexual community, I’ve been open about being bisexual, but I haven’t been part of any other communities per se. I absolutely do not believe that it would be safe for any faculty member in my department to be out in terms of being a member of a sex worker community or a BDSM community. In fact, the effect of this has been chilling: the few gay and lesbian members of our department feel that the environment is hostile enough that one is reluctant to teach a class on Queer literature again.

What do you think are the most important things the rest of us should be talking about/thinking about when we look at your case?

Class issues are the first thing that come to mind, as I outlined above. People seem to be completely ignoring the fact that this was, in fact, a job, and a legal and legitimate one. But more importantly, I see this as an attack on sex work and alternative sexualities. I have learned so much about sex work since I began working at PEP. Even with all the hell I’ve been put through, I do not at all regret working for the company. I learned so much, and the ladies of PEP have been incredibly supportive. I’m 46 and not in particularly good shape--hardly the stereotype of the hot young sex worker. Many callers wanted an older woman. Most callers wanted a dominant woman. I found this incredibly empowering--first in that older women were valued for their sexuality, and that I was able to explore my own dominance. I also learned to be even less judgmental than I had been before about other people’s sexual choices. So many callers had felt years of shame for their particular interests, and often it was a relief for them simply to be able to talk without being judged.

So when I hear all the condemnation, I think that first, many of the people who are harassing me know nothing about the realities and the wide variety of types of sex work. So many people hold onto the idea that women must be coerced into it, or that something “happened” to them in the past, implying that no “normal” woman would be a sex worker. It’s another aspect of the virgin/whore dichotomy.

They also know nothing about BDSM. I’ve often thought that we should all adopt some of the tenets of the BDSM world: the idea of discussing consent and what will and won’t happen sexually before starting, i.e. safe, sane and consensual.

Finally, I’m really struck by how fearful people seem to be of sexuality, as if it is dangerous, something to be controlled and reined in. People are trying to shame me for being sexual, and for making money doing it. I reject that shame.

What is going on right now in terms of action around this case? And assuming that no disciplinary action is taken against you, will the environment be too hostile to stay? Are you involved in any action that would discipline others for harassing you? What are the issues there, to the degree you can talk about them.

The administration of the university has not taken disciplinary action against me nor will they as far as I can tell. Is the environment hostile? Incredibly so, and it continues to get worse, as the people who are harassing me get more vocal all the time. I am pursuing legal action, but can’t say more than that at this time. The university itself has not made any attempts to stop the constant harassment of me.

Regarding Sharon Warner’s Resignation as CW director: Sharon Warner has done a lot for the creative writing program, and I think everyone at UNM recognizes that. I do think it is, however, time for a change in leadership in CW. I also find it very unfortunate that she has used her resignation as a way to continue her attack on me.

 
At 5/01/2009 8:41 PM, Anonymous dankprofessor said...

The dankprofessor blog has pesented detailed coverage of the Lisa Chavez UNM controversy. To view all the dankprofessor posts on Chavez and UNM, click-
http://dankprofessor.wordpress.com/category/lisa-chavez/

 
At 5/05/2009 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not the dank professor and sex in the public square again. Dank has nothing to do with UNM, but loves (loves!) this story because it makes any other kind of sexual interaction with students seem tame. (If a professor can do sex work for $ with her students, soliciting the public, and post images and ads of herself with a strap on dildo -- using gags, whips etc. on her student – it sets a pretty scary precedent.) Dank often quotes from "sex in the public square" -- the oh so fine venue for the publications of Prof. Lisa Chavez and Lecturer, Marisa Clark, and one student quoted above -- the unfortunate Liz Derrington. Liz's source of info about other professors was Chavez, so Liz's head was filled with that version.

FACT: UNM administration has eight (probably more) letters from students, reporting serious problems. One letter is over twenty-five pages long. None of these were addressed. Several students dropped out of the program over this. New students have entered the program without knowing what mess they are entering. So students continue to leave the program. Obviously.

Liz is not the only student involved. Obviously. I know faculty feel quite bad for her that she was in the Chavez and students clique that did the sex work together, etc. (I knew Liz before, and she did not enter the English Dept. to go into sex work with her professor and the sexwork clique). And regardless of how her friendship with Chavez affected what she said in that interview-- there are other injured parties. There are many injured parties. Obviously.
But students and faculty were denied the proper procedure to address this serious issue. So the serious issue(s) remain.

 
At 5/06/2009 6:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon,

You are suggesting that Lisa Chavez coerced Liz into sex work. Not true and shame on you for perpetuating this lie.

Students dropped out of the program because of this? What concerns did they have? As with Harjo's leaving, it doesn't add up. If one or two people left because--what? they were afraid that they'd call a sex hotline by accident?--then they're idiots. Perhaps, someone got them worked up into a frenzy.

The argument that people make against Chavez is always made through insinuation. "There must be more to it" and "Complaints by students." What complaints? What's the "more to it"?

What I know is that MFA students have wanted to drop out of the program because faculty member who are leading this witch hunt are snubbing supporters of Lisa Chavez, refusing to work with them.

Just because the university didn't come to the same conclusion as YOU doesn't mean that they didn't investigate. They did not break the law or university policy. Period.

Clearly, you are motivated by some moral issue. You write, "Dank often quotes from "sex in the public square" -- the oh so fine venue for the publications of Prof. Lisa Chavez and Lecturer, Marisa Clark, and one student quoted above -- the unfortunate Liz Derrington." What does Marisa Clark have to do with this? What are you insinuating about their characters? You are trying to attack their credibility based on the subject matter of the the site but you don't address what they are really saying.

Finally, you write, "(If a professor can do sex work for $ with her students, soliciting the public, and post images and ads of herself with a strap on dildo -- using gags, whips etc. on her student – it sets a pretty scary precedent.)"

Please stop with your bullshit slippery slope argument. What exactly are you suggesting that this will lead to?

All you've proven to readers here is that you can incriminate through insinuation and that you are adept at using logical fallacies. Your argumentation sounds so much like that used by our former President and his party. "If you knew what we knew, then you wouldn't be questioning our decision to go to war, to torture, to...." "If we allow gay marriage, then we're setting up a precedent. What next? A marriage between a person and an animal?" "We must protect the institution of marriage." Neither UNM nor the students need protection from Lisa Chavez.

What do you have to say about Warner threatening to contact Liz' new place of employment? What do you have to say about her refusing to chair Liz' defense? I can't wait to hear.

 
At 5/06/2009 6:57 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I've stopped commenting on this post because of just this sort of "there is more to it than you know" argument. It's a conversation ender, which is what it's intended to be.

There's obviously more to it than I know, otherwise people wouldn't be acting the way they are. The actions by Chavez that I've seen reported don't rise to the level of the reaction people there are having to them. Something is up, but what it is, I haven't a clue.

 
At 5/06/2009 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a person at UNM but not in the English dept. I'm pretty miffed by the situation. Professors have private lives. It's obvious that the person who originally "outed" the Professor and her student (who we have heard from regarding the complete coincidence of her employment there at the same time) is in the employ of a witch hunt against persons whose activities do not follow some rigid "moral"standard.

If Prof. Chavez and her student were posing theatrically with guns and ammo, crosses and wings, or swords and even heaving corseted bosoms , I think this crusade would take a much different tone, if it even happened at all. As has been stated, sexuality is scaring to some people, even moreso than violence. I find it ironic that this is happening in the English Dept. however. . . literature is rife with writers and characters whose different morals and vices are much celebrated and almost the source of their creativity. UNM is much poorer for the fact that this has become a scandal and it would influence my decision to join such a program simply by knowing that there are such narrow people therein.

 
At 5/07/2009 3:56 PM, Blogger Joy said...

There's been much tossed back and forth about the situation at UNM, much of it based on untruths or unknowing. I quit a near perfect job situation because of an injustice that grew into a mountain of injustices. The job situation changed. I suffered retaliation because I spoke my truth. Attention has nothing to do with it. There are many roots to the situation and much denial going on about the truth of the matter. Sharon Warner who had an impeccable record as the creative writing program director has been hurt more than anyone over the series of events. She continues to be maligned. Resignation was the last thing I wanted. I have a long history with UNM and it was home for me. And we all know the economic crisis of these times. To leave was a huge decision. I was prompted to look at this site and was appalled at the general ignorance of the situation and how people keep feeding it. The situation still needs to be put right but it is no longer my say.

 
At 5/07/2009 4:28 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hi Joy,

You're right, I know nearly nothing about the situation at UNM. But no one does outside of, apparently, a very small group of people. So what are we to think? We're only able to respond to what we read in the newspapers.

Clearly there is a lot of healing that has to happen. I've gotten some emails from others at UNM who disagree with you. They feel equally hurt. They feel equally wronged.

 
At 10/20/2009 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this touchy feely situation has me in stitches. What a bunch of pansies! "Boo hoo, my feelings are hurt, I'm quitting, give me a severance package!" "Boo hoo, my feelings are hurt, I'm suing". Give me a break, these whining little bi#$%s need to grow up and get a life!

I propose this question; who was actually damaged by this? The two consenting adults who were engaged in a part time job? The two whining professors who were so disparaged by the fact that the individual did not get fired? There are no actual damages here, the whining professors quit on their own accord therefore, they were not damaged.

BTW, only in a country like this could a poet get a steady paying job on the citizens dime! Anywhere else she would starve to death!

 
At 10/22/2009 5:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I love that people don't seem to understand power dynamics. If you are a professor, you have power over your students. This means that if you are grading someone and simultaneously posing beating them and advertising as a local prof beating a student, you are abusing your power. And in her case, oh hell yes she was abusing her power. And not just by advertising as the sexual 'owner' of her student, which is what you're doing when you advertise as someone's dominant.

Here is the lawsuit PDF. This is so very not about BDSM, that's just what gets people's attention about this fucking debacle. I'm pretty disgusted by the way this has been pitched as 'in the bedroom'. This is not about orientation, nor is it about kinkiness.

It's about a woman trying to ruin the careers of people at the college because she wanted to. If you read the lawsuit, you'll see some of the things that making this about kink is trying to hide.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2009/10/06/NMBondage.pdf

 
At 10/22/2009 6:59 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

What a terrible situation.

I hope that things get better.

 
At 10/23/2009 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So lets see...

Professor is an adult, who was not acting as an official of the university.

Graduate students were adults not acting as graduate students.

"Outraged parents" who were adults acting on the behalf of adults.

Tell me again why this lawsuit is warranted?

Emotional damages, give me a break. I have no sympathy for this whining ex-professor who WILLINGLY quit her job and now wants the PUBLIC (UNM) to finance her retirement because she received so much emotional distress that she couldn't work.

If that happened in the real word, that professor would starve to death. Once again, it is tragic that people can live their entire adult lives within the walls of a university.

I feel sorry for the professor who was defamed by her peers for having a part time job that was far too much for her PRUDE peers to handle. I would support her if she decided to sue both professors.

 
At 10/23/2009 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and power dynamics...

This is college. Let's not forget this one fact.

The university is a service brokerage.

The student PAYS for a service (education).

The professor delivers the service. According to the complaint, the professor provided adequate service to the customer. In fact, the level of service was not questioned by the university.

Ultimately, the professor has no power over the customer. If the student passes or fails it is based on a tangible exchange of instruction and work returned from the student.

I am sure the professor was able to prove this.

The real issue is a professor who placed her nose where it should not have been. She involved herself in a situation where she had no business being. When she made demands, and they were not met she became angry and quit.

Hardly reason to sue...

 
At 10/25/2009 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feel free to read the lawsuit before you decide that this is about kink and consenting adults. It might help you figure out some of the things that are wrong here.

 
At 10/26/2009 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please explain the complexities of this lawsuit to me...

This appears to be a case of hurt feelings more than anything.

Once again, I do not see where "professor Sharon" has a reason to sue!

 
At 10/26/2009 6:51 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It seems to me that a lot of mistakes were made by a lot of people. I wish there would have been someone there to keep this from happening, years ago. It seems like, up and down, a department that was in need of help, with no one there to help.

But that was a couple years ago. Maybe things are better now?

 
At 11/30/2009 10:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John: No. It's worse. The students who wrote letters have been hung out in the breeze by the new administration. We were told during the new director's first official meeting that it was 'over', and then told a story about how it's the student's fault for not having control of their sexuality when a professor grabs and fondles them. Oh, and then there's the fighting. And the fact that Chavez has been spreading vicious rumors about any student she thinks wrote letters. Half the staff isn't talking to one another, some of the professors have left, some of the students have left, and if it got to be more of a clusterfucktastrophe, there'd need to be a documentary film crew following us around.

So no. No better. Read the college newspaper.

 
At 3/09/2010 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone familiar w/ the Warners would not find this situation surprising in the least. Both have track records of creating melodramas around themselves and of constantly looking for ways to shore up their fragile egos.

Here, they have raised havoc on their own precious child, the creative writing program, to assuage said egos. If New Mexico is having the same kinds of budget issues other states are suffering, this debacle could be the basis for shutting the whole creative writing program down--period. That would be quite a legacy by these noisily "concerned" professors.

Yuck. I would never set foot in such a program, much less that English dept., which seems to be filled w/ people easily duped by the Warners' melodramatic and self-serving shenanigans.

 
At 3/12/2010 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh brother, the Warners did not create this problem. The professor who thought it was just fine to post photos/ads of sexual violence on a student. Now that be the problem. But it has bred even more problems-- not surprising, when Prof. Chavez can get away scot-free with ads publically stating a student is being trained to cocksuck in public. The new Director, Julie Shigekuni, has been a terribly destructive force on the program too, trying to blame Sharon Warner and others for the mess. Unfortunately, the creative writing program has been pretty much destroyed, because the administration did a FAKE investigation. (They called it one thing -- it was really another.) Thank you, Sharon Warner, for filing a lawsuit – to expose the corruption! It will all come out!

 
At 3/08/2011 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Harjo, just because people like Ms. Lisa Chavez can live their lives openly doesn't mean people like you can impose your pollyanna ideals on she and the rest of the public. I know that many professors at UNM talk and it is a mutual understanding that the private lives we lead stays private. How comes it that nobody has ever dug into YOUR background and lifestyle? Is there something in your own upbringing or life that you can't stand about yourself? Usually, a person who points fingers is actually pointing a finger at what he or she hates about he or herself. Sounds like your way too self absorbed in your own dank world to consider higher causes. Sure your poetry is a good read but you also write about the debauchery and immoral lives of Native Americans - including your own participation in promiscuity and alcoholism. I champion people like Ms. Lisa Chavez in standing up to bullies like you and Ms. Sharon Warner. This is a Witch Hunt.

 

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