Professors dating students in college
But it's not because today's students are too squeamish, too far-left, or too consumerist to appreciate that model.It comes down to two factors: professionalization and (forgive me the academic jargon) changes in the broader societal discourse.As professors have become less powerful as classroom prophets, they’ve grown more so as professional gatekeepers. Kipnis, for her part, seems genuinely confused about how a professor could have power over a student.From the February piece: [S]omehow power seemed a lot less powerful back then.,” in which Emory's Mark Bauerlein laments "college is more about career than ideas" and "paycheck matters more than wisdom." Thus, "students don’t lie in bed mulling over what we said.They have no urge to become disciples.” The Kipnis and Bauerlein essays are, as Kramer notes, "Two different kinds of declension narratives, each yearning to return to a time now past," but fail to connect "the structural undermining of university life "to the cultural shifts toward passivity (Bauerlein) or victimhood (Kipnis) that these articles suggest are at the center of a moral crisis in academia and higher education." Kipnis and Bauerlein also express similar concerns regarding the student-instructor dynamic.Mattress-carrying students protested Kipnis, who, as she details in a more recent essay, faced a Title IX investigation against her based on the convoluted claim that the essay and a related tweet had the potential to make students on campus uncomfortable.
While evidence for a “plague” of this sort of thing remains scant and largely anecdotal, social media–driven identity politics could well have had some impact on the classroom.
The dynamic Schlosser describes, in which “people become more concerned with signaling goodness, usually through semantics and empty gestures, than with actually working to effect change,” is alive and well online, and students accuse one another of “privilege,” so it would indeed be surprising if none of this had any impact on student-instructor relations.
Same, too, regarding Schlosser’s assertion that “seemingly piddling matters of cultural consumption warrant much more emotional outrage than concerns with larger material implications.” That is, I’d agree, a fair critique of liberal politics, and, specifically, of how universities themselves approach issues of inequality.
(Recall that the anonymous unsatisfied undergrad in the Affaire Marquette was also criticizing an instructor from the right.)But the worried-professor think piece is trending, and one absurdity—contra Chait—won't stop it.
As Northwestern’s Michael Kramer has pointed out, Kipnis’s February essay is "worth linking" to a recent op-ed, “What’s the Point of a Professor?