The writer Susan Sontag, as a 17-year-old sophomore at the University of Chicago, married Philip Rieff, then a lecturer there. Atlas recalled that in the 1940's and 50's, Bennington, in Vermont, was legendary for freewheeling sex that shattered faculty families.'' They don't have to legislate it at William and Mary,'' Mr. Kashner's confessional essay, depicting the instructor as defenseless against the onslaught of overheated students. Kashner, who is married to a tenured professor at William and Mary, the writer Nancy Schoenberg, wrote that the husband of the student with whom he had had an affair hanged himself over it and named him in a suicide note. Kashner said he was unprepared for the deep offense college officials took to the article.
Fellow instructors objected that his tale could not possibly be true. Kashner's recently published novel, '' Sinatraland,'' just to dump Kashner books he already owned. Kashner insisted his account was true, even after a former student came forward to say she had indeed been involved with a professor over whom her husband killed himself, but it was not Mr.
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Kashner.'' If it was fiction,'' Mr. Kashner said, ''why go through the torture, the medieval agonies, of passing such a draconian policy? The faculty, which had already been warned that the college's governing board would not consider sufficiently tough a policy forbidding teachers only from sex with their own students, moved to adopt the more sweeping ban.
Methinks the college protests too much.'' Then last summer, an anthropology professor, Abdollah Dashti, resigned under accusations that he had impregnated a student who worked for him and bombarded her with threatening phone calls after learning of the pregnancy. Virginia Hudson, a junior majoring in history, said she saw no need for the new policy because teachers overwhelmingly acted professionally.
The essay's author, the novelist Sam Kashner, was, after all, teaching creative writing. We just felt that it was important for the college to make it clear where we stand on this issue.'' In doing so, this historic college has rekindled a debate that has haunted academia for years, making campuses a battleground over the boundaries between sexual harassment and personal liberty and the nature of informed consent.
But this month, the campus adopted one of the most restrictive policies for any campus, banning ''amorous relations'' between the faculty and undergraduates and threatening offending faculty members with dismissal. At one end stands a belief that William and Mary's new policy embraces to the full: that the difference in power and status between students and their teachers is so great that students are at an inherent disadvantage and must be protected from potentially predatory elders.
But few explicitly forbid romances between professors and students if the students are not in their classes.
In cases where the teacher is responsible for grading the student, most institutions require that another teacher do so.