You've got to hand it to him. That Gerald Hannon is one provocative old bugger. Once again, the libidinous adventures of Mr. Hannon, Esq., are making front-page news.
This time, however, he is participating, not merely pontificating.
Intellectually speaking, his startling admission of his extracurricular activities has nothing to do with his unique perspective on adult-child sex.
Prostitution is a question of ethics - when and where a certain behavior is appropriate. Adult-child sex falls into the category of morality - an issue of right and wrong. Hannon, of course, chooses to sidestep all of this by declaring discussion of his off-hour activities simply off-base.
For argument's sake, forget he is a teacher. The question is this: Are some professions mutually exclusive?
Can you be a neurosurgeon by day and a prostitute by night? Yes. Does that make you a bad neurosurgeon? No, of course not. Would you, as head of a hospital, hire a neurosurgeon who moonlights on his back? Not likely. Why? You don't have to answer that. When it comes to hiring, you don't have to justify. It's a judgment call.
And that, in all of this, is where we return. Was Ryerson exercising good judgment when they hired Gerald Hannon to teach freelance journalism? Yes. His views on adult-child sex have been well known for many years. Did they know he was a part-time whore? That's debatable. Hannon admits many people in his circle have known about his activities for many years. But did the school? Or did they not care?
It is apparent by now that in many ways Hannon has been the chief architect of his own misfortune. When the controversy erupted last week over his adult-child sex views, he could have shut it down quickly and quietly by refusing to give interviews.
My stance is well known, he could have said. My job is to teach and I want to get on with it.
Instead, Hannon was co-operative when asked to expand on his world view, up to and including an hour-long debate on national television.
At close range it is apparent, to me at least, that a large part of Hannon is enjoying the limelight. Is he ill? Is this a hangover from being physically abused as a child? (You know, negative attention is better than no attention at all. Or put simply, love hurts.) Is he manipulative? Or merely naive?
Now it appears one maelstrom has simply touched off another. Hannon is using this (and us) as a foil to plunge everyone into another protracted provocative debate.
And while we fiddle, Ryerson burns.
It is time to move on from the eccentric professor and address the larger issue of the university and its reputation. Do taxpayers want to sponsor an institution which supports (by default, anyway) these views?
The question now is not whether Hannon has the right to prostitute himself on his own time. He can. The question for Ryerson is do they want him on their staff? It is no longer an issue of academic freedom of expression. The institution will be judged by the company it keeps.
And, make no mistake, Ryerson's national reputation is on trial here. Hannon has become a flashpoint for an institution under siege.
There is a clear leadership vacuum at the top levels of the university. This teacher has strong defenders at the department level - notably journalism chair John Miller and assistant chair Don Obe. But, due to a resounding silence in the upper echelons, it is impossible to tell how far that support goes.
It would be a great comfort to many people if someone, anyone, would step forward. Not necessarily to condemn Hannon, but simply to say they don't endorse him. That someone, somewhere in the ivory tower thinks it's wrong for adults to have sexual congress with children. That there is nothing noble about the sale of human flesh. That these views aren't representative of the school or its values.
Or should we simply let the silence speak for itself?