Since The New York Times Magazine’s big cover story earlier this month on decades of sexual abuse by three predatory teachers at the elite Horace Mann School, hundreds of former students and faculty alike have come forward to talk about their own, similar experiences. One of them is 88-year-old Tek Young Lin, a retired Horace Mann English teacher (known for crying over his delicate cherry trees), who has admitted to the Times that he had sex with several students — or, in his words, “maybe three, I don’t know.” (The paper also spoke with at least three former students who corroborated Lin’s confession.) However, the really surprising thing about the story is Lin’s extremely casual attitude about his history of sleeping with underage students.
- “In those days, it was very spontaneous and casual, and it did not seem really wrong.”
- “The only thing I can assure you of was that everything I did was in warmth and affection and not a power play. I may have crossed societal boundaries. If I did, I am sorry.”
- “I’m surprised they remember,” he said, referring to the students who the Times spoke with. “It was all so casual and warm.”
- “In those days, the ’60s and ’70s, things were different,” he said, adding that he’d acted “occasionally out of impulse.”
- “Oh no, it was very discreet. It seemed O.K. in those days.”
At least two of the students the Times interviewed were glad that Lin had finally come forward with his story, but they struggled with his skewed memory of what happened. One of the now-grown men, who broke contact with Lin after an uncomfortable petting-heavy sleepover, responded to Lin’s statements by saying, “Delusional might not be the right word. But to not have the awareness that there’s a built-in power dynamic with a teacher and student?”
Meanwhile, another of the former students, who said Lin liked to cuddle, hinted at the complicated loyalties inappropriate teacher-student relationships can create:
Did Tek behave in a way that was inappropriate? Absolutely. Was he warm, was it a wonderful relationship? He opened up areas of philosophy to me. Yes.
Lin, a Buddhist turned Taoist who now lives near Santa Clara, told the Times that he is willing to make amends (of a sort), and help his victims work through the hurt. But Horace Mann, under the pressure of two investigations and with its reputation hanging in the balance, called on Lin to cooperate fully with law enforcement. Not that his victims can hope for any legal redress in the matter.