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October 11, 2000

Virginia Professor Admits Affair Withstudent

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Oh, what Bill Clinton wouldn’t give to be Sam Kashner.

According to the former College of William and Mary creativewriting professor, he, like Clinton, had a glorious workplace affairwith a young woman. Also like Clinton, his affair has been madepublic, in this case through a prose confession in the October issueof GQ magazine.

Here’s the enviable part: no one believes the guy cheated. Noteven his wife. And especially not the William and Mary community,which is less than thrilled with Kashner’s representation of thecollege.

In “The Professor of Desire,” Kashner writes of his descent into”a moral mosh pit” of beautiful, hungry young students hailing fromcarnivorous backgrounds and in search of a man they can trust — andeventually conquer.

“It doesn’t take much for them to fall in love with you,” writesKashner. “As a professor of creative writing, you tend to get thedreamers, the romantics, the weirdos. Spend 20 minutes talking aboutyoung Keats, show that drawing of the young poet on his deathbed inRome, and it’s shooting fish in a barrel.”

Kashner goes into explicit detail about the behavior and mindset– or lack of — of his students, even offering supposedly verbatimcopies of written assignments that students used to detail their epicadventures in, and eventual boredom with, sex.

Eventually, he writes, the stories of his students’ sex livesconsumed him. It was all that mattered.

In true “American Beauty” style, Kashner bought a NordicTrack,lost his love handles, and devised methods of hiding his bald spotfrom students.

What followed was a seven-month affair with a college student thatculminated with sex in her dormitory room — followed by therevelation that she was a married woman. The student’s husband, afterfinding out about the affair, hanged himself in a shower on campus,leaving a suicide note that blamed Kashner for his death.

After that incident, Kashner writes, he had become a “pariah” oncampus. But Terry Meyers, chairman of the English department atWilliam and Mary, contests that Kashner never needed a trip to thecampus doghouse — until, perhaps, now.

Meyers said that when he spoke with Kashner, Kashner denied everhaving sex with a William and Mary student, or with any student forthat matter.

“This is a small town, it’s a small college, and it’s a prettygossipy town,” Meyers said. “And I think if Sam was really having anaffair, I probably would’ve heard about it a lot sooner than now.”

The William and Mary community isn’t quite so forgiving. Aneditorial in the Flat Hat, the school’s student newspaper, blastedKashner and said that he has “dragged the college’s name through themud.”

Meyers said he hopes that a resolution will soon come to pass andthat Kashner, who left the college this year to write full time, willadmit to his sins — or, in this case, a lack thereof.

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