Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Revising consentual sexual relationships with Williams.

The original policy on consensual sexual conduct in Eastern's course catalog:

"[1]Sexual relations (which includes contact of a sexual nature) or requests for sexual relations between students and faculty members with whom they also have a current instructional or evaluative relationship are fraught with the potential for exploitation and must be avoided, and are prohibited. [2]The respect and trust accorded a professor by a student, as well as the power exercised by the professor in an instructional or evaluative role, make voluntary consent by the student suspect. [3]In their relationships with students, members of the faculty are expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism or bias."

I think this whole paragraph exercises what Williams calls "the institutional passive"(39)-- using the passive voice to sound formal and collective. However, I think it's pretty ineffective in this passage and thus should be changed.

My revised version reads:
[1b] Sexual relations (or requests for sexual relations) between faculty members and their current students are prohibited because of the distinct opportunity for exploitation. [2b] A claim of voluntary student consent would be suspect since the instructor is in a position of power and students trust and respect faculty members. [3b] As such, the university expects that faculty members act professionally and responsibly to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism, or bias.

1- This sentence is waaay to long. It uses too many clauses with too many modifiers. The initial idea--sexual relations-- is then defined it two more ways, when at most two of those are necessary (as i rewrote it) and one would likely be sufficient. The next part of this sentence is confusing due to the long list of abstract/modifying words used to describe the teacher/student relationship, "with whom they also have", and then goes off the deep end entirely with the use of "fraught" (this is a policy, you want it to be as accessible as possible!) and the unnecessary and confusing repetition of "must be avoided and are prohibited". Prohibited is clearly sufficient.

2- This sentence has many of the same problems as the one before it. It's passive, and wordy. The actual subject of the sentence, student consent, isn't introduced until the very end of the sentence, which Williams discusses as inappropriate in his discussion of beginnings and endings. So I moved the subject to the beginning, and the new information to the end of the sentence. This cleared up most of the wordyness, as many of the extra words were working tolerate the beginning of the sentence to the end.

3- The original sentence is unnecessarily passive, which makes it confusing. The root of this, I think, is that there is no "character" to do any expecting of faculty, so I gave the verb a do-er, the university. This allowed me re phrase the sentence in more active voice. Williams recommends very careful use of passives, and I think this is a good example of that. (pg 37)

in closing, turgid.

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