Romance in the Ivory Tower

Romance in the Ivory Tower: The Rights and Liberty of Conscience

Paul R. Abramson
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vjrcx
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  • Book Info
    Romance in the Ivory Tower
    Book Description:

    Allen Ginsberg once declared that "the best teaching is done in bed," but most university administrators would presumably disagree. Many universities prohibit romantic relationships between faculty members and students, and professors who transgress are usually out of a job. In Romance in the Ivory Tower, Paul Abramson takes aim at university policies that forbid relationships between faculty members and students. He argues provocatively that the issue of faculty-student romances transcends the seemingly trivial matter of who sleeps with whom and engages our fundamental constitutional rights. By what authority, Abramson asks, did the university become the arbiter of romantic etiquette among consenting adults? Do we, as consenting adults, have a constitutional right to make intimate choices as long as they do not cause harm? Abramson contends that we do, and bases this claim on two arguments. He suggests that the Ninth Amendment (which states that the Constitution's enumeration of certain rights should not be construed to deny others) protects the "right to romance." And, more provocatively, he argues that the "right to romance" is a fundamental right of conscience--as are freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Campus romances happen. The important question is not whether they should be encouraged or prohibited but whether the choice to engage in such a relationship should be protected or precluded. Abramson argues ringingly that our freedom to make choices--to worship, make a political speech, or fall in love--is fundamental. Rules forbidding faculty-student romances are not only unconstitutional but set dangerous precedents for further intrusion into rights of privacy and conscience.Paul R. Abramson is Professor of Psychology at UCLA. He is the author or coauthor of many books, including Sarah: A Sexual Biography, With Pleasure: Thoughts on the Nature of Human Sexuality (with Steve Pinkerton), and Sexual Rights in America: The Ninth Amendment and the Pursuit of Happiness (with Steve Pinkerton and Mark Huppin).

    eISBN: 978-0-262-26673-4
    Subjects: Education, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    “I believe the best teaching is done in bed,” Allen Ginsberg declared.

    “Are you serious?” asked theWashington Postreporter.

    “I’m totally serious…. It’s healthy and appropriate for the student and teacher to have a love relationship whenever possible. Obviously the teacher can’t have a love relationship with everyone in the class and the student can’t have a love relationship with everyone of the teachers, because this is strictly human business where some people are attracted to others, but where there is that possibility, I think it should be institutionally encouraged.”¹

    Whether apocryphal or not, Ginsberg’s perspective reflects a certain...

  5. 1 The Romantic Conscience
    (pp. 25-80)

    Returning to the subject matter of this book, it is useful at this point to briefly define the word conscience. As noted previously, the question underlying the fate of romance in the ivory tower is “where does the power to make the choice reside?” For all intents and purposes, many universities throughout the United States have determined that the power is theirs to wield. This book challenges that assumption, arguing instead that the power is unquestionably within the province of the individual—the aforementioned conscience, in particular. Though generally associated with religion, one’s conscience, as indicated earlier, is no less...

  6. 2 Liberty of Conscience
    (pp. 81-120)

    There are three essential components to the theory presented thus far. First, that the rights of conscience are a constituent part of the bedrock of our constitutional heritage (the First and Ninth Amendments in particular). Second, the rights of conscience are distinct from and ultimately supersede the freedoms associated with religion. Lastly, the rights of conscience can be extended to all matters of substance that require serious deliberations about right and wrong, consensual sex and romance included.

    To answer the question posed at the beginning of this book—Where does the power to make the choice about romance reside?—I...

  7. 3 Liberty of Conscience and the U.S. Constitutional Archives
    (pp. 121-154)

    To reiterate, the first chapter argued that the rights of conscience are an essential part of our constitutional heritage, are distinct from the freedom of religion, and extend to all matters of substance, sex and romance included, with faculty-student romance being a prototypical example of such.

    In the second chapter, the concept of the liberty of conscience was separated into its constituent parts—liberty and conscience—and examined in relation to the perspective proposed within. The separate parts and their combination (the liberty of conscience), it was noted, are all consistent with the manner in which it is being applied...

  8. Conclusion: All We Need Is Love (Love Is All We Need)
    (pp. 155-158)

    There is a scene in the movieMiss Congenialityin which beauty pageant contestants must make a speech. In doing so, each contestant dutifully praises “world peace,” garnering instant applause from the audience. When, however, it is Sandra Bullock’s turn, she instead rails about criminal injustice, which stuns the audience into silence. Beating a hasty retreat, Bullock extols world peace, whereupon the audience, sufficiently pleased, bursts into applause.

    The wordreligion, paradoxically, has the same power on the Supreme Court. The Court, too, inevitably bursts into applause when the word is revealed. Mention a strongly held belief, follow it with...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 159-166)
  10. Index
    (pp. 167-172)