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Sex, Propaganda, and Higher Education

Inside the Opinion Mill

Over the past few years, college administrators and faculty committees have been tackling a relatively new ethical question raised on campuses across the nation: What about sex between faculty members and students?  Older professors can remember when the answer to that question would have been obvious.  Some can even recall a time when the question would never have been asked.

Today, however, with mixed dorms and mixed roommates, how can the old-fashioned barrier that separates teacher and student be permitted to stand?  After all, if engaging in sex has become a right enjoyed by all consenting adults, then what possible objection can anyone offer to a consenting student and faculty member exercising that right together?  While the academy has not yet reached a consensus on this question, the fact that it has been raised at all is symptomatic of a sea change in higher education, a substantive redefinition of the idea of a university.

For generations, the university was regarded as a free market of ideas, a place where diverse opinions were encouraged and where students learned to think by weighing one point of view against another.  Hence the concept of academic freedom, the doctrine that a professor had a right to express whatever ideas he championed, both in the classroom and in the community at large.  This doctrine was grounded in the assumption that the academy as an institution...

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