The University of Northern Virginia had already made news over an immigration raid last month of its Annandale office-mall headquarters.
Then, the story got stranger. Someone, presumably conducting a journalistic background sweep on university Chancellor David Lee, unearthed pictures and ads posted by the academician on an S&M Web site.
The revelation prompted little serious news coverage but fired up a whole ‘nother sector of the news media, drawing headlines such as this one, from Britain’s Daily Mail: “University chancellor, 64, exposed as sadomasochistic, suburban sex-dungeon master.”
In a letter dated Aug. 19 and posted to the university’s Web site, Lee wrote that he was stepping down immediately: “Discussions of my personal life have become a distraction,” he said, at a time when the campus faces “much more significant issues.” Lee’s replacement is Habib Khan.
Immigration authorities raided the little-known school late last month, seizing evidence and distressing the school’s student population, listed on the Web site as about 2,000 students, most of them apparently Indians living in America on student visas.
A letter posted to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Web site instructs students they may continue study at the university or seek transfer to another accredited institution.
Many UNVA students wrote appeals to the government and anyone else who would listen, voicing fear that their investment in higher education would be wasted. Among other issues, the university is essentially self-accredited, meaning that no recognized accreditor has reviewed or approved its courses. That could make transfer difficult, even if the school emerges from the regulatory cloud.
One student, Yamini Prakashchandra Ghandi, wrote that she had completed most of a master’s degree and maintained a GPA of 3.5.
“If UNVA [should] close, I would lose so much that I have worked for,” she wrote, echoing the words of several other students (almost to the word; I suspect they circulated a form letter). “My parents’ hard-earned money will go to waste; the time and effort I have done to earn good grades in all my classes will all go in vain. . . If I need to transfer to another university, that means I need to start from the first step of my master’s. I cannot pay the tuition fee again.”
The window into Lee’s personal life opened a day or two after the ICE raid, when The Smoking Gun published images pulled from a Web site called CollarMe.com. (Motto: “largest BSDM Community on the Planet”.)
The account stated that 64-year-old Lee had “transformed his basement into a suburban dungeon complete with bondage racks.” It said Lee and his companion posted ads seeking “attractive submissive” women to “be part of our poly family. Ideally you will consider yourself a slave or a sub with slave tendencies.”
Lee said the couple could “provide a safe, sane home with a good balance of love and discipline.”
And what do the besieged foreign students make of these developments? It’s hard to say. Soon after the bondage pictures appeared online, the plaintive e-mails stopped.