College Professors Sleeping with Students

As a person involved with academia (as a grad student) I am rather curious about people’s attitudes toward this question: Should college professors be prohibited from sleeping with (or becoming romantically involved with) their undergraduate or graduate students.

Do you feel that it is okay under some circumstance (i.e. when the student is no longer in their class) or should professors be prohibited from sleeping with anyone enrolled at the college.

If you feel it should be prohibited, what level of sanction do you believe is appropriate.

And just for the record, I am happily married, so this is not an issue of personal relevance. :smiley:

I don’t think people in any superior/subordinate relationship, or who may be forced into one in the future by circumstance, should be romantically and/or sexually involved. So not only is it wrong for a professor to sleep with a current student of his/hers, but if there’s a chance the student will in the future be in a subordinate relationship again, the policy should still be hands-off.

Example: say that while in grad school, I took a class, developed the hots for the professor, and we started dating after grades were in. That would be OK to me, UNLESS the program were small enough that I might have to take another class with him in the future.

Disclaimer: I did date a professor while I was in grad school, but he was never my professor, and although I could have taken his class (it was an elective for my program), I never did, and since he was on a 1-year Fulbright, the opportunity would not have, ummm, arisen down the road.

Punishment? Depends on specific circumstances, i.e. was there ever a quid pro quo involved, or was it completely consensual?

I would think that by that age, people should be mature enough to handle the situation. However, there are enough people who aren’t and it creates an apparent conflict of interest. Too bad too, because right now I’ve got a grad student as a TA for one of the courses I’m taking and I’d definitely like to “go for it.” But, things as they are, I guess that one will have to be filed away for later consideration.

From what I see around here, and assumptions I make, I’d say it’s ok if the professor is male, but not ok if the professor is female.

Why don’t you think it’d not be ok if the prof was a female?

I don’t think it’s ok to cross that line of having a relationship with someone who is a superior/subordinate. Most people could not view the other as objectively as people they aren’t sleeping with, and all it takes is someone else to complain that the subordinate is getting special treatment (even if it’s not true) for that superior’s credibility to be lost.

Male grad student here:

I really don’t think it’s a good idea. Whether it should actually be banned or not is another thing. I think that when it’s a case of a professor and an undergrad, then it should be. Profs and grad students constitute a horse of a somewhat different colour, although i tend to fall back on the position taken by Eva Luna, and that would probably preclude a grad student from having a relationship with his/her direct adviser. I certainly would advise against such a relationship.

As a grad student, i have to work as a TA, and i would never even consider having a relationship with one of my students, even after the end of semester. Luckily, this is not going to be an issue, as i’m already seeing another grad student and am very happy in the relationship.

There was a long article about a year ago in Harper’s magazine (if i had the energy, i’d get up and find the relevant issue) in which the author argued that relations between profs and students were not only OK, but that they had positive intellectual consequences for the parties involved. If you want the cite, let me know and i’ll find the magazine.

Absolutely inappropriate. Even if the student is no longer in the professor’s class, s/he will still have to take classes with other professors in the department. Knowing that Student X is Professor Y’s girlfriend could have either an unduly positive or an unduly negative influence on how other professors grade Student X.

Female grad student here:

I have a hard time imagining why any professor would want to open that particular can o’ worms, but I don’t think such relationships should be banned, provided both parties are over 18 and the student is not currently in the professor’s class.

In general, I think the tendency to treat undergrad students as semi-juveniles who require special protection has a bad effect on the intellectual climate of the university. They should be treated as adults who have every right to make their own decisions about sex (and, of course, to take the consequences of those decisions).

On reflection, while it wouldn’t be acceptable for a student to date a professor in her department, I think it would be okay for a graduate student in, say, the History department to date a math professor. Personally, grad school made me want to throttle my professors, not sleep with them.

I do have a problem with undergrad students dating professors at all, but I can’t clearly articulate it. Aside from the undue influence, it just seems creepy. Creepy, however, is probably not a sufficient reason to ban a whole category of relationships. I feel it’s inappropriate and that it should be reflected in professors’ evaluations, but it shouldn’t be a fireable offense.

You know, Fretful, I never really saw it as an issue of treating undergrads as semi-juveniles, just people on a whole different level of power and authority. I’d look at a prof sleeping with an undergrad like I would a manager sleeping with a new trainee. Sure, they’re both adults, but it has such a potential to get ugly in so many ways that I don’t know why’d you’d even want to go there.

Incidentally, if sleeping with your undergraduate students isn’t a fireable offense (or shouldn’t be), what about high school teachers who sleep with 18 year old students? I mean, they’re both adults, the same as the professor and the freshman, right? What about an OB who starts a relationship with a patient after she’s had the baby and is no longer in his care?

Reading that post, it sounds like I’m just being a smart-ass to Fretful, and that wasn’t my intention at all. My fingers just weren’t keeping up with my train of thought.

My intended point was that schools ban student-teacher relationships for the same reason companies discourage intraoffice relationships. There’s the potential for things to get messy on a lot of levels, and it’s not just the lovers who have to deal with the mess. The school or office has to deal with it too, and they understandably don’t want to be put in the way of a sexual harassment suit.

The discussion then got me thinking about people I’ve known who’ve gotten fired for being in other relationships we often consider inappropriate. Are these other cases really so different, and if so, how are they different?

There’s a crucial difference between “discourage” and “ban.”

All right, so what about the companies where consorting with coworkers will get your butt fired? They do exist, you know.

My previous post is hereby amended to read “for the same reason some companies ban intraoffice relationships.”

I heartily encourage it. I think all first-year students should make every effort to initiate sexual relationships with their graduate teaching assistants.

Especially the cute redhead in my 10:00.

Apparently one of the English professors at my college has been seducing his female students, and they’re too scared to say anything. Their grades depend on it. One of my friends wants him to try to seduce her just so she can get him in trouble, because she thinks it’s just wrong for a teacher to exert sexual power over female students.

I don’t think it’s right for teachers and students to have sexual relationships, because it gets in the way of academics.

I guess I did give that impression. I don’t think it’s any okayer for male professors. I live in a college town, and from the outside looking in, it seem’s more accepted for male than for female persons in authority to “mess around”.
On the whole, though, I don’t think it’s a problem unless they let it be a problem. If the “affair” is consentual, and doesn’t affect their scholastic relationship, no problem. Could even be beneficial.
Personally, I think the whole university community, in general, could grow up a little.

I’ve been waiting for a thread like this to appear on the SD because I have a personal story for just this kind of thing:

My junior year at the University of Arizona I met an older (older than me…she was 28) female at a piano concert on campus. Turns out she was a philosophy prof. at the UofA, and she didn’t even know I was a student until I told her. We hit it off and started seeing each other regularly. We had this discussion a few times and she made it very clear that she would never date one of her students, past or present, until they had left the school altogether, just to be safe. Since I was a business major, she figured it would be alright to date me. Well, I enrolled in her class in the second semester because I still needed an elective credit and it fit perfectly in my desired time slot. I knew it was her class, but because it was open to enroll 200 students, I figured I could slink in undetected in a hat and sunglasses. Turns out I could, and like a lot of classes I had, I only needed to show up 5-6 times a month anyways.

Fast forward to finals week, I take the test and walk to the front to turn it in. Of course standard procedure is that you show your student ID as you hand it in to make sure the person taking the test is you. I figured I was “busted” at this point, so I just strolled up to the front, slapped my ID on the desk in front of her and said, “I’ll pick you up at 8 tonight…don’t be late.” She was speechless with shock, and I just walked out of the room.

She called my cell phone shortly there after and cancelled on me. I figured I would let her take some time to calm down and get some thoughts together, so I called her a couple of days later. No matter how I explained it to her, she just couldn’t let it go, so she let me go. Looking back I can understand, I mean I did betray her trust and could have gotten her in serious trouble had anyone found out, but she was just too perfect for me to let any rational thoughts presuade me otherwise.

Sad ending, but a worthwhile college experience for me. I still visit Tucson twice annually, and we can usually spend a few hours together, but the conversation always comes back to our little foray, leaving us both to wonder, “What if?”

As one who has a crush on a gender studies professor at my college, I’m all for it. cough cough


I actually have to disagree with you here CrazyCat…I think that these policies are silly. I have no doubt that there are interoffice relationships that end badly (but then again a lot of other relationships end badly too)…and that in some cases the superordinate person may behave inappropriately in some sense. But (and perhaps I am cynical)…I think that an adult can make the decision to take this risk if they decide to become involve. It shouldn’t be for a company to dictate whom dates whom…and plenty of interoffice relationships actually work out. On the other hand, I want to make it clear that any form of sexual harrassment absolutely must be banned an punished, but if the two parties can be prepared to tolerate each other should the relationship fail, they shouldn’t be punished simply for dating.

I’m not sure if you were serious, but if so I fail to see what difference the gender of the professor would make. What’s good for Dr. Goose is good for Dr. Gander.

-I’d say it seem’s that, according to university custom, it’s ok if the professor is male, but not ok if the professor is female.
I’m commenting on my observation that the prof is most often male, and the student female. The rumors seem a little meaner when the prof is female.