The Thai Cave Rescue, in Cartoons

DhtPvMvUwAITGdDNow that the 12 young soccer players and their coach have been rescued from the Tham Luang cave, it has sparked all sorts of celebrations.

One such celebration involves cartoons, which add a whimsical joy to the celebration. I am not an expert on Asian cartooning practices, but the childlike exuberance of the images certainly catch the spirit of a rescue.

Note — I do not have permission to run any of these and will give credit as I am aware. If you know of any other photos or can provide credit information, I’ll be glad to add it. (I do not make any income from this blog.)
















The Power of the Professor

A University of Texas English professor and his sexual harassment of female graduate students got the Dan Solomon/Jessica Luther treatment on the Splinter News site. (Click and read here before you get much further down my piece; I’ll wait.)

That a male English professor would use his power over female students in that way is yet another chapter within a disturbing #MeToo time of reckoning. What makes this chapter even creepier is the perceived lack of enthusiasm displayed by those who supervised Coleman Hutchinson (many of them women) to discipline him.

The article details the reason why. There’s the defense of tenure stuff, yeah, and college faculty can circle the wagons as reflexively as any other profession.

But there is also a chilling thread that seeks to indulge the professor-student relationship, in particular at the graduate level. One essayist wondered if “erotic longings between professor and student” were “unavoidable.” Graduated to the community of advanced scholars, some speculate that sexual fireworks ignite intellectual curiosity–a needed component for graduate students.

And academics wonder why the rest of society thinks we’re crazy.

Call me stuffy and puritanical, but to me, any relationship that gives an inch to such a natural impulse is asking for a mile’s worth of problems. It would be comically clumsy if it didn’t leave so many exploited, damaged souls on the outskirts of a career they had dreamed of pursuing.

As a professor, whether dealing with graduate students or undergraduate students, I start from a basic assumption: I operate from a position of power and authority over them and they know it. Thus, I need to be careful not to exert that power in a way that unnecessarily hurts them, particularly to indulge myself.

That power might be emotional power, academic power, social power and, yes, even sexual power. But the instructor has no right to wield it in a way that hurts a student.

There are reasons for boundaries between the professional and personal. Of course we expect certain benefits from our romantic relationships. But when any professional seeks those benefits from a working relationship, it’s almost certain to turn out badly.

And when a professor projects any such expectations–romance or friendship–onto students, it’s can unfairly put them into an awkward situation within which they have little power.

A working relationship does provide personal benefits, and college students are awesome to work with, but those benefits are limited. The professor who flirts with students is as inappropriate as the professor who exults in the intended compliment, “You’re just like a fellow student.” (My response is, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”) By projecting peer benefit needs onto students to fulfill, the professor is putting unfair pressure on those students to be something to him/her that they are not intended to be. Friends and acquaintances, yes; peers, no.

In a balanced life, we draw benefit from a variety of sources — work, friendship, family and faith, for many. When life is unbalanced (and the academic life is the champion of unbalance), we look for friendship, acceptance and love in all the wrong places.

Policies that limit romantic relationships between faculty and students do not limit academic freedom and certainly do not endanger the academic process.

Those in a position of power also have a responsibility to protect those in a position of weakness, and that is our duty toward our students. Yes, the classroom is a place of great enjoyment and in so many ways, students bring joy to our task.

That’s a benefit, yes. But it’s not their responsibility, nor is it the students’ function.

The Foy Fix

Auburn folks believe in honoring the legacy of Dean of Students James Foy, if response to my blog post on the topic is any indication. Both readership and comments reflected respect and affection for the Auburn icon.

With that in mind, I wanted to do more than complain (as much as that seems to be the SOP for someone my age). So here are some ideas on how the Foy Sportsmanship Trophy ceremony–and other things on campus–can reflect the man who served for 28 years as an advocate for students on campus.

1/Put ODK, not SGA, in charge. The two schools’ SGA leadership inserted themselves into the event after it was started by Omicron Delta Kappa, the senior leadership honorary that was so important to Dean Foy during his years at Auburn.

Not surprisingly, this also coincided with the addition of president speeches and the singing of the fight song, and the degeneration of the event into a rude boo-fest.

Glenn Richey, a faculty member in the Harbert College of Business, witnessed it firsthand when he served as ODK faculty secretary at Alabama. “I remember being on the court with Dean Foy and enduring a group of fans in Coleman Coliseum booing heavily during the trophy presentation,” he told me in an email exchange.

Auburn fans responded the same way in the most recent “ceremony,” even with a Foy family member present.

Returning it to ODK leadership would be the first step in restoring the ceremony’s original focus–honoring a man who graduated at Alabama, led Auburn’s student affairs office for nearly three decades and sought to keep the rivalry from, well, what it has become.

2/A film tribute to Dean Foy. Rather than speeches and a fight song, use the time for a film tribute. As with many Auburn traditions, my guess is that the students don’t know who Dean Foy is and what he stood for, and the SGA president speeches have done little to inform them.

When Auburn honors a former athlete, they often do so with a brief film that incorporates highlights of the athlete’s career.  Certainly a similar informative film could be produced to let viewers know about what Dean Foy means to Auburn.

That would also set an appropriate tone for such an observance, compared to the current conduct at the ceremony.  “It became an big enough issue that the Alabama Athletic Department and Coach Saban became very unhappy as they considered it poor sportsmanship to put the Auburn students on the spot,” Richey said. “They even suggested the event be moved to A-Day or the team not attending the event at all.”

To avoid that happening, Richey said, the two SGAs compromised, and the “tradition” of the other SGA president leading the singing of the fight song was eliminated. So while Auburn’s SGA president handled the singing correctly, it symbolized a program that has spiraled far from its original intent.

3/Keep it simple. After the film, the ODK representatives of the school that did not win the Iron Bowl presents the Sportsmanship Trophy to the ODK chapter of the school that won, with the Foy family representative accepting it on behalf of the school. The winning school can perform its own cheer.

And we’re done.

A simple ceremony, with a touch of school spirit but centering on an individual’s legacy at rival schools.

And since we’re on the subject, let me add one final talking point:

4/Once and for all, can we name the Student Center for Dean Foy? That requires too many sub-points to explain here, but it’s always worth mentioning.

He deserves it.