BEYOND COFFEE: WHAT IF…?

As I assumed it would happen, someone asks me what happens if during coffee with the teacher something else comes up. Actually she tells me her own story with an ex-teacher, now her romantic partner. This is my answer… the public one, the private is for her eyes only.

I was once a member of a very short-lived research project, Pedagogías alternativas en la enseñanza de la literatura y el arte, directed by Prof. Manuel Asensi, of the Universitat de València. We read René Schérer’s controversial La pedagogía pervertida (published in Spain in 1983) with the aim of responding to it in a collective volume. I ended up writing “Leyendo a René Schérer desde la óptica de la educación superior: Ambigüedades y silencios en la perversión de la pedagogía universitaria española” (https://ddd.uab.cat/record/113503?ln=ca). This remained unpublished after the group’s sudden ending and I never got around to choosing an academic journal to publish it. Pedagogy is not my field and I decided the article would not be welcome by the experts. Hence self-publication. Have a look, if you please.

Schérer defends the idea that pedagogy has been perverted by the politically correct readings that demonise as sexual all emotional contact between teachers and students. I extrapolated this to the Spanish university, a context which, in general, keeps silent about these matters. I argued in the article that I agree with Schérer as regards the need to find and maintain an emotional connection between teachers and students, beset as this inevitably is by power issues (I grade you, I have power over you).

However, as I wrote in my previous post, I totally detest the idea that teachers (usually male) may take advantage of that power to coerce students (usually female) into having sex with them. The additional problem with consensual sex in the university, the typical case of the 20-year-old pretty girl and the 45-year-old ageing male teacher, is that it may well turn out to be exploitative, without the girl (who’s no longer a minor) being really aware of the man’s serial abuse of his position for purposes which are purely sexual. Of course, the opposite case, the young girl who is a serial seducer of male teachers, is also well known though, to be honest, I couldn’t name one. And I’m thinking of a particular male colleague of mine, very popular among the ladies, who, poor thing, simply cannot ask any student for coffee as gossip would be impossible to manage –no matter how clear he made his position as a devoted family man.

But what if romance blossoms and it is in earnest? Let me begin with sex: adults should face the consequences of their acts and also be honest about them. If it happens, it happens but if there is any reason for it to happen beyond pleasure (say higher grades), then it is corrupt –not in the sexual but in the academic sense of the word. I insist that if a teacher realises he (em, she?) likes a student and this student requites, then the academic bond must be severed at once. As publicly as possible, for in these cases there is nothing worse than secrecy.

Let me continue with romance. At one point there were in my Department four male teachers married to female ex-students. First lesson: serious, long-lasting romance does happen but mostly on the basis of the clichéd May-December age gap, with no female teachers that I know of marrying (or living with) male ex students. And, mind you, the age gap needn’t be that big. Think Shakira (35), 10 years older than Piqué. But, then, she’s a very pretty, famous singer which is fine by younger men, it seems, a taste not extended to female teachers apparently. Or, perhaps one thing I’ll discover after writing this post is that there are indeed some Shakira-Piqué pairings in the Spanish university, though my impression is that the Flavio Briatore-Elisabetta Gregoraci model is more common (without the tons of money, I must say, but with the intellectual cachet).

I understand that every case is singular and that relationships that may seem perverse from the outside may be truthful and committed from the inside, no matter the age gap and the original setting of the first encounter. I’m not vindicated here, either, for God’s sake, female teachers’ ‘right’ to bed or marry their male students, for this can never be a ‘right’. I’m just wondering why both inside and outside the university the age/gender pattern of couples still remains so unchanged.

And, a final piece of advice, teachers don’t ask students for coffee if you smell trouble. Students: don’t accept coffee if unsure of the consequences. Or do it… for what is life if not trouble? Just please, please, please separate your new friendship or romance from your academic bonds and obligations as quickly as you can. Honesty, as in all, is the best policy.

Hey, this was fun to write. Now for the gossip…

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2 thoughts on “BEYOND COFFEE: WHAT IF…?

  1. You’re a freethinker, Sara, that’s for sure. I liked the last line about this being fun to write. It’s also interesting to read, and the issues are quite relevant, althought they have to do with a tiny percentage of cases. Most teachers and students tend to play it safe and avoid any friendly or personal encounters altogether. Although I suppose there are lots of secretes around as well, and the tiny minority of cases of serious romance which do get to be known are indeed relevant—as quite often they result in active promotion of the student in question to the ranks of the teachers… quite the contrary of persecution of offenders! As you say, there’s a handful of cases in every faculty. There may be many stories of unfair treatment there too, and stories of risk-taking as well, if only one knew them from the inside.

  2. Freethinker? Um, I think I’m just pragmatic. What bothers me is the silence, particularly compared to the very vocal English-language campus novel in which so much is told about the matter at hand. In the article I mention a research group which has worked on gender abuse in universities, but what they actually mean is abuse suffered by women students and not necessarily (quite the opposite, from teachers). In my own Facultat I’ve heard all kinds of gossip and rumour but in the end no big scandal… that we know of, that is. Who knows about what really goes on?
    Sara

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