Friday, May 15, 2009

Walcott Oxford Post Story Takes a New Twist

Derek Walcott's former Boston University accuser, Nicole Kelby, now says that people shouldn't factor that into his candidacy for an Oxford post.

But I have to say that I do not really understand what she is trying to say in this column in the Times:

As a mother, I can not tolerate the idea of a young woman being harassed. Sexual harassment is not about lust, it is about asserting power over the powerless.

However, while I believe that it is not appropriate to be sexual towards students, I also realize that it happens. Writers, by nature, have reckless hearts. Poetry is a passionate art. That is why it is crucial that institutions have strict policies against sexual harassment and are not too embarrassed to allow concerns to be heard. It is impossible to legislate behaviour, but to allow a student an opportunity to question behaviour in a safe and open forum is within our grasp. I believe that Oxford is capable of dealing with any situation of this nature.

There is more, if you want to read it. Basically, from what I can gather, she is saying the following:

1. Sexual Harassment of students is very bad.
2. Derek Walcott sexually harassed me. (Though she seems very careful not to come right out and say this.)
3. But it's all good, I mean, universities have rules for that. Because, you know, some teachers need to ride that edge in order to teach their subjects.

Anybody else get a different take from this?

1 comment:

Ian Thal said...

I think you nailed it, Art.

Personally, I'm long tired of what I've come to call, "the aesthetic suspension of the ethical." Yes, artists are human, and humans have flaws, and hopefully are flaws are not of such a nature (or the hearts of others are simply large enough) that we are still loved (or at least respected) despite these flaws.

But do artists get a special license to be hurtful over and above other human beings? Because that's what Kelby seems to be saying.

I completely respect Kelby's decision to (as near as I can tell) forgive Walcott for his past transgressions, or at least view his contributions to literature to outweigh the hurt he caused her many years past, but for her to universalize her forgiveness as if it follows from the categorical imperative is quite ridiculous (and even belittles her own statement.)