Within the past few years, there have been many cases of teacher/student relations in the high schools. This, of course, is illegal, and for a plethora of good reasons, not the least of which is an abuse of authority. It is one thing to have a staff member and a student become romantically involved, but it is quite another when one is an adult and the other an adolescent.
But what about in college, f an instructor becomes romantically involved with a student? Both are legally adults. Is this instance still considered an abuse of authority, despite the fear of favoritism eventually coming into play? Although the age gap between the teacher and student still might cause an imbalance in the relationship, both are capable of making their own decisions and giving consent.
Then again, what if there is no age gap, such as in the case with a young professor and an older untraditional student? Would this still be considered an imbalance? Would this still be considered exploitative?
Of course, one indisputable reason that would make instructor/student relationships inappropriate would be if both participants share the same class. Favoritism just might take place regardless of the respective ages, and even if it didn’t, should the student do very well, favoritism would be an understandable suspicion. For this reason, an instructor and her or his student should not engage in any type of intimate relations. This is even why student-friends or family members of professors are encouraged to take classes with other instructors, so that complications don’t arise. This would be the practical and ethical move.
What would be the case, however, if an instructor became romantically involved with a student that wasn’t in any of her or his classes? If this relationship is mutually consensual, would it still be inappropriate or exploitative or an imbalance of authority? Why or why not? After all, if the student wasn’t in a class with the instructor, that instructor couldn’t play favorites or even threaten with low grades, should the relationship become sour, nor could the student threaten foul play under the same circumstance, because that student is not in the instructor’s class. There is, then, no authority problem here because of this. Is this unethical or even unhealthy?
It is true, however, that if staff members and students weren’t to become involved romantically, no problems would arise. This is practical and safe.
Still, does that or does that not violate the rights of two adults who wish to become involved because they are drawn to one another? Really, does the administration have a right to step between the two adults and say “no!” as long as instructor and student are not in the same class?
This has been an ongoing debate in colleges all around the world, let alone the United States, for many years, and it is still going on. In the end, no one will ever know. The answers will likely be based on individual perspective as opposed to a universal resolution. That’s probably the best way to handle it anyway, since each person can make up her or his own mind.
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