Questionable Professionalism & New Adjuncts — Drawing the Line

millerBy Melissa Miller, Ed.D., M.Ed.

True headline: “Campus Shock: Michigan Professor Actually Takes Nude Pictures…With Student.”

Wow. Just wow. Seriously? Where do I begin? When you first read that headline, since you are most likely an educator, don’t you say to yourself, “Ugh, I would never do that!”? I think of myself in this situation and cringe. Are you kidding me? I don’t want my students to see me without makeup and a brush through my hair, let alone naked! And, no offense to the beautiful form that is the human body, I don’t want to see my students naked either. Do you? I’m not a prude or squeamish about the naked body. But this doesn’t freak me out because of the nudity, but the fact that it is a professor and (former) student!

I was not an art major, so my appreciation of what is good art is limited to instinct and common sense, not scholarly study. I know art and beauty are in the eye of the beholder, and people have a wide variety of tastes. My art history knowledge is limited to undergraduate humanities courses, and I get, in the broad sense, that this is art to the professor (and the models), and he is pushing boundaries, expectations, definitions, preconceived notions, blah, blah, blah. Okay. But even I, with my limited knowledge but lots of common sense, know this is odd. But I guess that is the point. However, just because it is different doesn’t mean it is good. Even if I just saw these pictures and didn’t know it was the professor and a former student/colleague/etc., they strike me as awkward.

These photos seem to blur the line of professional standards and self-promotion. When you were in college, did you want to take nude or semi-nude pictures with your professor? I’m sure some view the experience as a learning tool, self-discovery, etc… — but I think it lowers our standards as professionals. When dealing with students, I often informally apply a rule to myself – would I want someone talking to/dealing with/treating my daughter this way? We are in a position of authority that should not be squandered or taken advantage of. If this were my daughter, I would be livid. I know, they are of age and consenting adults. Seriously, though? What is the professional standard, here? If we say it is in the name of art, does anything go?

Aside from the pictures themselves, this article led me to really think about the relationship between student and professor, even former students. As a New Adjunct, can you imagine making a name for yourself on campus with this photo shoot? What about the fact that this is a male professor? If I did this (as a female), there may be a different response from the general public, but professionally, I might have more to lose. Aren’t we responsible to set a high standard for our professional relationships? It seems the line is very blurred here. We are in a position of trust, and New Adjuncts particularly have a vulnerability as well. How would you feel about your doctor or medical resident posing nude and semi-nude (or even fully-clothed!) with patients and former patients? Yes, they are of age, but is it right? What about the professional standards? It seems to be taking advantage of the position of authority, mentor, and teacher.

What are your thoughts? “Say cheese!”

About the New Adjunct: Dr. Melissa Miller completed her Ed.D. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She holds a M.Ed. from Mary Washington University and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech. Dr. Miller’s professional and research interests include adult and online learning, professional development, and literacy. Presently, Dr. Miller works as an adjunct instructor and an evaluator, while also enjoying her roles as a wife and mother.

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