July
19th 2009
Sunday round-up: Rodeo Days edition

Posted under: American history, childhood, GLBTQ, jobs, local news, race, students, unhappy endings, weirdness

CD18CHEYENNEFRONTIERDAYSWho can resist “The Grandaddy of ‘Em All?” It’s high rodeo season out here on the high plains desert–check out this bareback rider, courtesy of the Denver Post.  There’s a reason you don’t meet too many rodeo cowboys over the age of 21–especially not the bull riders.  (One exception:  calf-roping teams frequently feature “senior citizens,” by which I mean, men in their 30s, 40s, or even 50s, many of whom do a brother act or a father-son act.)  The African American Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo usually rolls through town later in the summer.  Unfortunately, I missed the Colorado Gay Rodeo last weekend in Golden, and (shockingly!) Potterville’s own Stampede because of my recent travels.  Although Cheyenne Frontier Days is supposedly ”the Grandaddy of ‘Em All,” the Stampede is bigger, better, and beats ‘em every year, fair & square.  (We’ve got much better food at our rodeo–pork chops on sticks, roasted sweet corn brushed with butter, and lotsa barbecue.) 

Now, for some less cheerful news:  I’ve got some updates on the UNC Predator Proffie, Vance Fulkerson, that we’ve been following here at Historiann, all from the Denver Post this morning.  To wit: 

  • UNC Prof called master teacher, master manipulator.”  Oh, and be sure to click to check out “perhaps the most ridiculed hairpiece” in Potterville.  Good lord, that’s a terrible rug!  This article makes it clear that faculty and probably many administrators knew all about Fulkerson, but chose to ignore or cover over complaints.
  • This former student’s testimony is a textbook case of Fulkerson’s M.O.:  flattery interspersed with abuse and threats, which are difficult for students in their late teens to negotiate with a powerful mentor in his 50s, who offered special attention and connections for their acting careers.
  • Damage control is on, full-force in the UNC Theater Department.

6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Sunday round-up: Rodeo Days edition”

  1. Susan on 19 Jul 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    One of the problems with “everyone knows” is that if no one complains, they can’t do anything. It’s just reputation. And it’s easier not to ask too many questions…

  2. Historiann on 19 Jul 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    I think that’s exactly right, Susan. And, the first linked article suggests that Fulkerson had several relationships with students that appeared to be consensual, so in a department where that’s OK, it’s harder to pursue the cases in which students were being coerced or forced into a personal/sexual relationship.

  3. cgeye on 19 Jul 2009 at 10:45 pm #

    Nuh-uh, Prof. Historiann — what those articles said was that it wasn’t UNC policy to allow students to have sexual relationships with professors, it was that UNC had no policy for sexual harassment whatsoever. And the kicker? Read below about who was the head lawyer during their Sgt. Schultz act:

    Former UNC graduate school president William Sherman shares that sentiment. He recalls attending a meeting for new teaching assistants in 1998 with Kay Norton, now president of the university. She was then head of the school’s legal department.

    “When I asked about sexual harassment,” Sherman said, “she told us they could not get into trouble — because they had no policy.” A spokesman for Norton said Friday that “during her four-year term, she and the board addressed discrimination and sexual harassment policies and approved revisions that reflected nuanced standards.” The school now has a detailed policy, including procedures for filing complaints.

    And this quote is a charmer:
    “The department is full of very talented professors who are hard-working, dedicated and care about the success of their students,” he said.

    They do not deserve to be besmirched by their proximity to Fulkerson, he said. “I think it is very important to protect the reputations of those who are not accused of such disturbing behavior.”

    I’ll again state it plain: If a hypothetical department knew that girls went off with its department head, who gave them drugs, pushed them into sex and cohabitations because they feared losing their scholarships, wouldn’t you say that department condoned sexual harassment and non-stranger sexual assaults, despite what the rest of that department’s professors did?

    The reason sexual harassment policy is promulgated throughout the entire university is to *prevent* such tainting from taking place. If each teacher, each student and each department acts as if it’s the university’s rep on the line should they fall, then everyone watches out for each other. We know this doesn’t happen concerning straight female students and athletes; now we see what happens when another group marked as non-standard and inferior — gay male theatre students — are considered to be suitable for non-stranger sexual assaults on a regular basis.

    Cause this? Is sexual assault with an impaired victim:

    Christopher Johnson was a 22-year-old senior in 1991, Fulkerson’s first year at UNC. Fulkerson invited Johnson to help him make a presentation at a high-school thespian conference in Denver. Johnson was told there would be a group of students, and separate hotel rooms. Instead, that first night, it was Fulkerson and Johnson alone, in a one-bed room. Johnson says Fulkerson got him very drunk, took him to a porn arcade and later initiated an unwelcome sexual act that Johnson says he submitted to, just to get it over with.

    And this? Is the rationalization of the kid in the family who did not get hit or raped, so don’t blame her for saying nothing when other boys’ lives and careers were damaged by a teacher who was useful to her:

    Longtime Denver actor Laura Ryan-Krausa, class of 2000, said she “absolutely believes” Fulkerson is guilty, but not the department as a whole.

    “I went there to study, to become better, to learn how to make a living as an actress. And I did it,” she said. “…I despise what Vance (is accused of), and am angry on behalf of all of his victims — livid, to be precise.”

    But at the same time, she added, “Vance was my teacher — and he taught me a lot, things that I think separated me from the pack and helped me get me work.”

    No one will get out of this clean. Just as investigations into athletics departments brings forward the sticky issues universities use non-local minority men to beef up their squads, this will bring up how communities will tolerate gay men as long as they sing and dance — and everyone will line up to tar whatever gay teachers in the program as potential pedophiles, because they had a department head who could have been pushed out in 2000, but was allowed to return and do more harm.

  4. Historiann on 20 Jul 2009 at 7:19 am #

    cg.eye–I agree with you, and I don’t see where you see a disagreement. My comment to Susan was merely that the boundaries in the theater department were all messed up, and that Fulkerson was (according to previous DP reports) not the only faculty member who had inappropriate relationships with students. Faculty were drinking, drugging, and having sexual/romantic/personal relationships–all of these activities cross boundaries in the faculty-student relationship that shouldn’t be crossed.

    I hope no one who bears responsibility for this abusive environment will get out of this clean, but I share your concern that the alarms are raised only when it’s boy-on-boy stuff. Because, to a large extent, we naturalize age, status, and power differences in heterosexual relationships, so a male prof who hits on girls regularly might not be flagged as a disturbing creep in the way that a male prof who made unwanted advances on boys might be. (Then again, Fulkerson was permitted to behave in this manner for 18 years–the thing that may bring his career to an end was the objectively criminal photography/videotaping of boys on the toilet and in the shower without their consent!)

  5. cgeye on 21 Jul 2009 at 11:14 am #

    We’re square. The adamant careerism of the former student quoted above must have burnt my toast so much I momentarily confused friend with foe.

    I’m just praying that no Save Our Kids group doesn’t decide to camp out at the Legislature, to defund those pesky thespians as a cost-cutting move.

    *That’s* what the department should fear — moving so deliberately and absolving anyone whose feelings might be hurt by being linked to a twisted department chair that the constant enemies of a liberal arts education will smell blood in the water and — I’m mixing cliches so much, I’ve gotta lie down….

  6. Historiann on 21 Jul 2009 at 11:25 am #

    cgeye–take it easy! It’s going to be a nice, cool, overcast day–enjoy!

    Personally, it sounds to me like the Theater department is in desperate need of a good housecleaning and a babysitter for a few years, until they can sweep out that culture of no-boundaries. (Even if a child of mine didn’t have sex with a professor, would I really feel great about hir drinking or drugging with a proffie? NO! It’s all inappropriate, although it varies by degrees.)

    And, never fear: the reactionary forces that are at war with education in Colorado, especially higher ed, don’t even need Fulkerson to do their dirty work. Look–over there! It’s Ward Churchill!

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