Opinions

A Letter to the Editors: A Response to A Philosophy Professor’s Response

Clara Gibson ’21

Guest Writer

If I get the right idea from your letter, the gist seems to be “he didn’t rape her, so what’s the big deal? Let me, a female student, explain. I am 5’4”, 125 pounds, and autistic. Even among college-age women, I am at extreme risk of sexual harassment, assault, and violence. There is no way for me to explain to a man how terrified I would be if a grown man in a position of power over me started stalking me to my job. I would feel profoundly threatened, unsafe, and scared. 

You seem to be offended by the posters in Stein warning students about the Professor. They may violate your standards of decorum or “truth-seeking.” But how else are students –particularly young female students–supposed to protect ourselves? If we make up anonymous posters, we’re gossipy shrews. If we go to a journalist, we’re histrionic harpies ruining a good man’s life for nothing. We have to do something, because you and your colleagues are clearly not going to do it for us.  I am currently nine hours away from my home in Arlington, Virginia. My parents pay you to educate me, and they entrust me to you because they expect you to keep me safe, not cover your own (and your friends’) posteriors. 

Implying that the scenario is overblown because there was no rape or fondling is an insult to the intelligence of every person on this campus. We, as students, reserve the right to hold our interactions with professors to a higher standard than “not rape.” You are professionals, and expecting you to act as such is not too much to ask. It’s common knowledge that you shouldn’t ask out a colleague due to possible complications. Why on earth would it be acceptable to ask out a student considering the power differential? Implying that the malfeasance of the Professor is negligible because the dates never happened is being deliberately obtuse. 

Stalking and other jealous and possessive behaviors are unacceptable. They are not minor offenses. They are an intrusive and entitled attempts to place an unreasonable stake on our time, energy, attention, and bodies. We are here to get an education, not to stroke your egos or provide you with eye candy. I have high expectations for the school and its faculty because Holy Cross markets itself as a school that adheres to high ethical, academic, and moral standards. Student here run themselves ragged trying to impress their professors. The least we expect in return is for you to take our safety and dignity as seriously as you take Stein’s interior decor.If you are unwilling to take responsibility for your power, your inaction, and your privilege, maybe it’d be better for everyone if you did your “truth-seeking” solo. I will not be bullied into accepting the poor behavior of some of the instructors here, nor the lukewarm response of the administration. More stringent standards may make advising meetings less flirty and fun, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for feeling safe on my campus.

Addendum: My parents met at the Evergreen State College. My father is now a professor at George Mason University where he works diligently to protect his students from predators and rid the campus of the influence of Koch money. My mother is a former economics lecturer and current high school personal finance teacher who works with teenagers with disabilities, mental health problems, and those who do not speak English, including refugees. As for that dig at the end, Evergreen may be crunchy-granola and “politically correct,” but it shares with Holy Cross a belief in the values of a small, interdisciplinary liberal arts education. Of course, it is public and much less expensive, but other than that, I fail to see why anyone should be so horrified by the comparison.

Salutations,

Clara Joy Gibson

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