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Dating your Professor

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In some ways, sex between students and their professors is part of the mythology of academia. It turns up regularly in film and literature. The scenario typically involves a young female student seduced by her older and more knowledgeable teacher.

Historically, male professors have considered a campus full of available young women a perk of academia. They used to call it the candy store, according to the Women’s Research & Education Institute. Attitudes began to change in the 1960s and 1970s, with the rise of feminism and an increasing number of female scholars in academia. Real policy changes did not occur until the late 1980s and 1990s, when courts said schools could be held liable in sexual harassment cases. Since then, many universities have begun to address student-professor dating.

University fraternization rules are sometimes vague. It is a commonly held belief that everyone is considered an adult at the college level and should know where to draw the line. At many schools, there are no formal rules about professors dating students. It is discouraged, but not prohibited. For most educators, there is an unwritten rule that getting involved with students is a bad idea. Even though the vast majority of educators already live by an ethical norm, you still need to show the institution’s position and deal with the rare cases when someone violates it.

Nationally, universities have taken different approaches to the problem of professor-student relationships. At Ohio Northern University, the faculty handbook dictates that “faculty and staff members should not have sexual relations with students to whom they are not married.” At the University of Michigan, romantic relationships are not forbidden but are considered to be a violation of ethics if the faculty member supervises the student. Faculty members are also required to inform their supervisor if they are having a relationship with a student. At the College of William and Mary in Virginia, all dating between professors and undergraduates was banned. This is the direct result of a former instructor writing an embarrassing article about his affair with a student.

The most popular approach is to ban relationships between professors and the students they supervise. This eliminates conflicts of interest but does not get involved in the personal lives of consenting adults. It is usually suggested that no professor should date a student in his class. If a relationship would develop, the professor is required to disclose it so that conflicts can be managed if they arise. Most rules do not specify whether it is acceptable to date after the student is no longer a student in the professor’s class.

Generally, most students have no interest in dating one of their professors. For most students, professors are authority figures who are considered off-limits sexually. If you insist on dating your professor, it is best to wait until you have graduated from school. While it is true that some students have been able to date their professors without any problems, this is the exception rather than the rule. Some of the problems that can occur because of dating your professor include:

  • It is difficult to have an equal relationship when one party has so much more power (your grades).
  • If your relationship is known to other people and you have excellent grades, some people (students and/or faculty) may question the validity of your grades and find it difficult to take you seriously as a student.
  • If your relationship is secret, someone could still find out and again question the validity of your grades. Because of the personal relationship you have with the professor, you may be unsure of their bias and of your true academic performance. This can lead to self-doubt.
  • If the relationship ends badly with a lot of hard feelings on both sides, the professor could use his position to do several things:
    • Sabotage your grade, or at least leave you questioning if personal feelings influenced your grade
    • Talk about you to other instructors and negatively influence how they perceive you
    • If the professor is the only one teaching a course that you must take, it could be very awkward being in those classes. It will be difficult to ensure that personal feelings wouldn’t affect their behavior toward you in class or at grading time
    • If the professor teaches in the department of your major, you might feel uncomfortable not only with them but possibly with others in the department. Some women go out of their way to avoid both a professor who is an ex-boyfriend and in their department in general. This can cause feelings of alienation.
  • It would be very difficult to use the professor as a reference for graduate school or for employment.

Another thing to consider is sexual harassment – or at least the appearance of sexual harassment. By dating a student, the professor is vulnerable to charges of harassment. This may not be the case, but that might be what it looks like. Sexual harassment can end a professor’s career. Students that date professors can come under suspicion of sexual harassment as well.

One thing to look out for is the older (usually male) professors who seek out attractive young students to boost their self-esteem. This stereotype doesn’t apply to all professor/student relationships, of course. If you find that you are a trophy for a professor you are dating, you should question whether you really want to be with someone who cares about you because you are a boost to their ego.

Some relationships between professors and students fizzle when you leave the classroom environment. What you originally found sexy and charismatic may seem horribly normal and bland outside of the classroom. In addition, part of the attraction of the professor/student relationship is that is taboo. Once the semester ends and the taboo is gone, that attraction may disappear.

There is no need to categorically rule out a relationship with your professor. Love is a hard thing to find and sometimes it begins in less than ideal situations. If you are considering such a relationship, think carefully about your decision. Keep in mind the reasons you are attending college. A sexually charged atmosphere is not usually conducive to learning. Isn’t that why you’re here?

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Sue Ellen over 3 years ago Sue Ellen

Excuse me? Who are you to tell people what two CONSENTING adults can and cannot do? This article reeks of judgmental arrogance. I pity you for being so narrow minded and ignorant. As long as the student is no longer in the professor's class, it is literally non of your business what two CONSENTING ADULTS choose to do with each other. Do me a favor: learn to get out of this awful, narrow-minded bubble you're in and accept the fact that two people can be attracted to each other with no ulterior motive, even in a classroom environment.

Francis over 3 years ago Francis

Through discussion with colleagues I have learned that a female professor in my department has been actively seeking out sexual liasons with male students since her arrival in our department in 2004. She boasts about it to other female colleagues and has turned most of us off with her lack of professionalism. Though she is a lecturer and not protected by tenured status, she continues to seek young male students from her courses. Our state college has a policy against sexual relationships between students and professors if the student falls under supervision of said faculty member. Really would love it if she would teach somewhere else.

Paul almost 4 years ago Paul

In the real world, sex can happen with anyone! Why not have sex with one's teacher whether it is in high school or college/university. However, I would find disturbing and disgraceful if a professor had a sexual relationship with his or her student, while one of the parties is married.

ref over 4 years ago ref

Bad idea. It certainly isn't going to earn you any respect from your colleagues or classmates. The best you can hope for is a neutral opinion and then it goes downhill from there.

Max over 5 years ago Max

Relationships between professors and students should be no different than others: What is your purpose? If one of both is already married, it is not only bad idea, it is a sin. If your purpose is serious, meaning to look for long-term, like marriage, and both are single, then, why not? Many student females have married their professors. Avoid adultery and fornication; sexual immorality is always sinful in the eyes of God.

MM McGee almost 6 years ago MM McGee

What makes professor student relationships difficult are administrators who practice feminist jurisprudence. These types of feminists don't believe that women have agency. Women, in the worst tradition of patriarchy, are legally considered a protected class, like children, by feminists. Any woman who cares about her liberty and liberation from patriarchal norms should reject these feminist representations of women as helpless and infantile. I'm in a relationship like this right now that's being investigated and my partner feels insulted that some random administrator believes she has the duty to protect her. I, though, feel offended that a third party filed a complaint with complete anonymity because, well, we're competing for the same jobs. I hope women out there who already haven't seen the light eventually do. Feminism is oppression of men and women. Its first principe--the personal is the political--is an attack on a basic human right: the right to privacy. The systems itself violates basic rights to due process. It's all around fascist to ban and persecute these relationships, both in spirt and in the way the laws are constructed. I mean, literally, these are fascist laws. King George of 1776 would be proud.

Aesop almost 6 years ago Aesop

I know of a professor that is living with his former students. He trades them in about every other semester. They are always young women under 25. He's suck idiot that they fight over him. Since he has tenure, he feels his job is protected.

Teacher about 6 years ago Teacher

In addition, part of the attraction of the professor/student relationship is that is taboo. should read: In addition, part of the attraction of the professor/student relationship is that it is taboo. Perhaps you were distracted by something in english class? Otherwise, a fine article, B.

Forbidden Love over 6 years ago Forbidden Love

I completely agree that it is wrong to date or even think of dating your professor or student, includes wanting to too because there are so many obstacles that can and will arise no matter what you do to go around them or whatever. It's double edge sword, both you and your instructor could face huge consequences if both decide to elope together while the student is still a student to them. Even if they aren't in the same class anymore, it can still be a challenge to pull off hiding your feelings from the rest of the school. I know because over the time in my second year of college I have developed overwhelming feelings for my professor and to be able to talk him oh so friendly without showing any emotion that I care for him in that way is super difficult because I have suspicions he likes me too but still those are suspicions and I could be wrong on them. Showing I care may end up making me look like a fool if they aren't true. Same for a professor who suspects his or her student liking them in that way. Two could become really embarrassed and things could get highly awkward between the two. I mean nothing serious has ever happened between me and my professor that I like yet things have already seemed to get awkward since the semester is coming to an end and I'm still sitting on the outside looking in and wondering if my suspicions are true that he likes me and could we make it work if so or am I just over analyzing things since he waited a whole semester to try to get to know me as a student if that is the case and not the other though I am leaning towards to.It just seems so odd to why he would wait so long, I mean I noticed little things like him staring at me when we watch documentaries in class or when he's talking to another student and smiles at me or when I am talking to another student and he looks at me like he's listening to what I have to say too. It's those little things that make me want to go with the fact that he does like me and is not interested in getting to know me as a student but as another human being. But still I wouldn't go for it and encourage him to date me if he does like me because I wouldn't want him to get fired nor do I want to be kicked out of college. I've come along a long way to get here, I'm not going to throw it away over something so silly and may end up being meaningless and not worth it. Now if both of you can't deny your feelings for each other, then that's another subject.

Linda Sue almost 7 years ago Linda Sue

Been there-Done that while I was in College. It was wonderful- but unfortunately it does come with its own set of complications and challenges. I was an older student dating a much younger instructor and it lasted 10 years and 2000 miles after a promotion and transfer to another state. I loved him very much and It was one of the happiest times of my life but I would not recommend it to anyone else. Life is hard enough without adding this challenge. Ours ended just like any other relationship can and the end, was actually due to the age difference. I was thinking and planning for the future in retirement but he was in a totally different (younger) mindset that didn't want to go there.

Supergirl almost 7 years ago Supergirl

While I certainly agree that professors should be held to a high ethical standard given the inherent power of their position they hold, I think the issue of age should also be considered. I had an almost year long relationship with a professor, but was only in his class for the first semester, after which I decided it would not be a good idea to intentionally recreate a potentially problematic situation. However, I was a 27 year old graduate student and he was a 32 year old divorcee. Inside or outside of academia we would have been in one another's natural dating pool. It is so hard for intellectuals to find mates outside of academic environments, why make it anymore difficult. I should note that our school did not have a formal policy forbidding our relationship.

university176 almost 7 years ago university176

I think its a nice script.This description is very helpful for everyone.This is rediculous.Student teacher relationships are an awful idea. The age and status difference are time bombs waiting to go off.

jules about 7 years ago jules

Like everything else, each situation is unique. I am at university and have found myself deeply attracted to my professor. He is quite a bit older than me and is married, and I am in a relationship too. I no have plans at all to make my feelings known, as for the above reasons we are both completely off bounds, not to mention the trouble it could cause within the institution! But when you are studying something you love and in front of you there is an attractive member of the opposite sex who has tons of knowledge and experience in your field, I think it would probably be a little unnatural not to develop some kind of attraction! But I also feel that as adults we are aware that the decisions we make have consequences. But two single consenting adults, in whatever situation they meet, if the develop strong feelings for each other, leave them to fall in love without black and white rules!

anonymous almost 8 years ago anonymous

What if the professor is dating his student; lies to the faculty when it had been reported; gets her pregnant; write her letters of recommendations; hires her as his assistant; and includes her in his various private practice appointments....how does one go about knowing they made the proper report and the university ignored it by simply asking the professor which of course, in conjunction with his morals, lied about.

Realist over 8 years ago Realist

I can tell you right now as a young male student, it's not even worth it. Feelings are feelings, and sometimes they are undeniable. It's happened to me, but if you look outside the box, many of these professors will never look at things the way the student will, no matter how intelligent or mature they are. The job of a professor sets standards and ethics, and even if they're written or unwritten, they remain integrated in their brains. Cross the chances of a successful relationship with one of them. Hate to sound so pessimistic, but really, just get your things done and get the fudge out. It's not worth it.

youngnfresh over 8 years ago youngnfresh

So I decided to google on student. Vs. Prof relationship. Lately I've been killing myself with this fantasy and desire for my prof. He's 36,I believe and I'm 20. I don't think it's disgusting or bad. He's smart, outgoing and a doctor. I don't expect to have a serious relationship, I want to have a good time with him but I need to make sure the school doesn't have any strict laws. So the nextt question would be. How do I make the first move? Haha anyways thanks for the article

4Real over 8 years ago 4Real

Thanks goodness for Sandra Browns comment. It makes the most sense! I am in this situation but mine seems a bit more cut and dry. I could tell there was a mutual attraction with him but I absolutely waited until the class was over and the grades were submitted. He will no longer be teaching at the school that I am attending but even if he were, I would never need to take another class with him again...we are also the exact same age...I found myself attracted to him over time...I guess you could say that I like his brain...Why should we miss an opportunity for something that could last a lifetime for something that only lasted a few months?? We are not children and so anyone in my situation this cut and dry should most certainly take a chance...You may never meet someone that makes you feel that way again!

Sandra Brown over 8 years ago Sandra Brown

I feel that two consenting ADULTS should have the right to be involved in a relationship. I stress the word adult because I am referring to college age professors and students. If an attraction develops between the two in a classroom setting, it may be best to wait until you are no longer in that particular professors class. Any adult can be attracted to another adult, regardless of their position. Human nature is normal. Many professors are single and attractive, which may be what draws the students attention. I have heard most people say the attraction is due to the fact that a relationship between student and professor is considered "taboo", or, only because he/she is in a position of authority. Some attractions may stem from that, but many adults can be attracted to a professor physically as well as mentally. Being intelligent, well-versed or well-spoken can be just as appealing as physical characteristics. If both of you are adults use your common sense and enjoy the individual you have found.

anon over 8 years ago anon

I can see that there would be power issues if the student is in the professor's course and/or the professor is in an advising role. Otherwise, if a student and a professor meet at a university and hit it off, great for both of them! The Ohio Northern University rule is preposterous. Also, there's not always an age difference. I'm a professor and I've dated doctoral students who are older than I am.

real mannequinne over 8 years ago real mannequinne

I don't believe in any rules codifying what a professor or a student can or cannot do in terms of their relationship. However, it's just awkward when the professor and his student go out for a night in the town and his other students spot them together. They will start gossips that will harm the professor's credentials. afterall, we do live in a society where if other students know that their classmate may be treated with preference, then they will likely spread a bad word of mouth for that professor. it's just a chain of event that poses as harmful to the educator's career.

realmanequinne over 8 years ago realmanequinne

I don't believe in any rules codifying what a professor or a student can do in terms of their relationship. It's just very awkward when two people go out for a night in town, and then some other students spot them. The gossip will spread, and it will harm the professor's credential.afterall, we do live in a society where if the students who are classmates with the girl who's dating their professor feel imbalanced and that others may be treated with a favor, they may react by spreading a bad word of mouth for the professor. it's just a chain event that poses a harm to the teacher's career.

Elaine over 8 years ago Elaine

My 20 years old daughter is dating her 56 year old Psychology Professor in PA. We want to find a good psychologist or therapist to talk with her because she is not listening to our concerns. Any advise?

Kat almost 9 years ago Kat

From a younger age I've always found the older generation more appealing. However, in those times I have never acted upon them because they were not appropriate behavior and I pay attention to some rules that are for my protection and my well being. Now, I am 23 years old and I still feel attracted to older men. Instructors, older men in tech I have met, you name it. I feel that it is, maybe for me, a meeting of the minds and I find it attractive. Most men my age act so much younger than I do (I get told how mature I am for my age, guessing more around 28 to 30 and I look very young for my age of 23 now...) and I do find it refreshing. I won't, never, date an instructor that is still teaching in my classes. Like the blog will support, it makes more hassle than anything. Wait it out, if you still feel the same way, and you both agree to it, why not? Just use common sense in these situations. Conflict of interest in terms of your grades and future are not a good thing!

Marco Satyro almost 9 years ago Marco Satyro

I'm a professor at the university of calgary, and I've dated students before. I think it's okay as long as the relationship is not sexual. What's wrong with going out for dinner with your female students? It's only a dinner, nothing more!

Anon over 9 years ago Anon

I am a junior college PE teacher. I just turned 30 and was recently asked out by a very attractive 20 year old in one of my classes. After next week she will no longer be attending our school and leaving for a 4 year school. Should I take her up on her offer. Our district guidelines say it is not sexual harrassment as long as it is "reciprocal".

Anon over 9 years ago Anon

I agree with other commentators. This outlawing of various relationships, of whatever kind between grad students, undergrads, or professors, with a 'difference in power' simply stinks of feeble-minded leftist politics. I'm a Democrat, but not so weak-willed that I want a government or institution to tell me how to conduct my relationships! Jeez. Of course if you date within the department there will be politics. That's why we have to be adults, and own up to problems we create! For hundreds of thousands of years we humans dated within the same small community we grew up in, and it worked out didn't it? You have to be a totally softheaded leftist, and catalogue everyone according to the superficial 'group' they belong to, to take such a heartless and disempowering position against the individual.

Hani over 9 years ago Hani

This is ridiculous. Some date their teachers NOT because they want to boost their grades and NOT because they're their teachers and definitely NOT because the attraction of a "taboo" relationship sounds exciting. Most of the time, the student as a student and the teacher as a teacher are just a coincidences. If two people find each other attractive and they happen to have met in a classroom setting, it's totally fine. Who's to make "legal" rules about sexual attraction, really?

liberal-education.com almost 10 years ago liberal-education.com

Student teacher relationships are an awful idea. The age and status difference are time bombs waiting to go off.

me about 10 years ago me

I think professors and students should be allowed to date whomever they wish. As for the question of "power" and "authority" difference- when did college professors become authority figures? College is NOT highschool. There is no reason to see a person who has knowledge of a subject and is able to grade someone else on it as dominant or higher up. As for the question of ethics and treating students equally- aren't there parents who teach their students? Are professors who would give someone they are attached to a higher grade REALLY cut out for the job anyway? No. A professor should be allowed to date a student and if grades are skewed because of it, it means the prof. wasn't an honest person in the first place. I think any sort of rule- social or legal- which prevents two people from forming any kind of bond is absolutely cruel and useless. In a world in which people steal, kill, and invade others' countries, I think the least people can do is take joy in those who are able to connect with each other. Shame on you colleges!