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Affairs Between College Students and Professors: No Big Deal or Completely Unethical?

Updated on November 14, 2008

The Professor/ Student Relationship

There are many cases out there made against professors and students having relationships outside the normal and obvious one of teacher and student. In many cases, I would say that the arguments made are solid ones that are true for most cases, including arguments such as the professor holds a certain power over the students, and it might create a potentially unfair atmosphere for the student in relation to the rest of the class. Society as a whole supports these arguments, insisting that a relationship between a student and a professor is unnatural. However, I think that a successful relationship between the two is entirely possible, given that the circumstances are just right and it can be done in an ethical manner, and here are three main reasons why:

1. While professors have made it to the level of "professor" for a reason, their knowledge and experience does not necessarily place them on a tier that is above and unaccessable to their students. Professors are professors because they have experience to share with their students, along with knowledge, but this does not create a position of power. There is a certain kind of respect that is expected in the classroom (it is the kind that keeps the student paying attention and offering appropriate responses to questions), but it is not a limiting factor. In fact, if a professor is not accessible to his or her students, it is actually a disadvantage for the student who might learn just a little bit extra from a professor they can relate to and ask questions of.

2. Professors and students are people, first. People begin and end relationships all the time. People share knowledge with one another all the time. To place students and professors in a separate category because they happen to be staging this exchange at a place called "college" or "university" isn't necessary. Stranger relationships have been allowed, ones with 50 year age gaps, or between boss and subordinate, yet relationships between students and teachers are the only ones that make the headlines.

3. It's really about the individuals in question. In some cases, it would be disastrous for a student and professor to get involved in a relationship. The student could be trying to get ahead, or be misreading the situation, or the professor could be abusing a connection to a younger student. But, in some cases, the professor and student could actually think on a similar level of thought. The age where a person becomes an "adult" is currently 18 in America, but everyone knows that there are 18 year olds who act like they are 5 years old, and 18 year olds who are genuinely mature and understanding. It is this second group of people who have the maturity and knowledge required for a relationship with someone as mature as they are.

What should the two parties do if they find themselves in a romantic situation? Remove the student and professor parts of themselves from the equation as much as possible. Have the student switch to another class time, or wait to get really involved until the semester is over. Don't bring school or work to the dinner table.

I am a student myself, and I have to admit, in most cases a student/professor relationship would probably be doomed from the start. There is always the question of partiality in the grading system, and the maturity of the parties involved. But I do believe it possible that a relationship between two mature adults can work, that it can be gone about in an ethical fashion, and that beyond that the label of student or teacher no longer matters.

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    • profile image

      4 years ago

      Professors, please refrain from dating your students. It's unbecoming to the profession

    • profile image

      katajojo 

      5 years ago

      When I was in college, I had a professor who gave me a B as a final grade when my test scores showed I should've received an A. I went into his office to tell him about the mistake, and he says to me, "It was no mistake. I gave you the B." I replied back, "But my scores say I should have received an A." He says back to me, "Yea, but if I had given you the A, would you have come in to talk to me?" I didn't know what to say. It was unnerving to say the least; I'm trying to decide if I heard him correctly. He then told me to "come visit him often." Of course I didn't, but then he caught me by the arm in the hallway one day and asked why I hadn't come to visit him. I told him I hadn't taken him seriously, he tells me he was "very serious." A few weeks later I'm walking in the hallway again, he's standing in the hall with the DEAN of all people, and he says to the dean..."There she is!! The most beautiful woman I've ever seen. What do you think Dr. 'x?' You gotta admit she's gorgeous." Poor Dean 'x' is dumbfounded, doesn't know what to say. After that...professor jerk was gone from the university. LOL!

    • profile image

      Prof Wife 

      6 years ago

      My husband, who was a professor, lost his job and destroyed my family because of his affair with a student. My daughter and I have lost our home. My daughter will probably never trust men. Affairs are destructive and effect many lives. College students may think it is fun and titillating to fool around with their professor but is damaging to families.

      Most colleges and universities have rules that govern professional conduct and moral turpitude. Professor/student affairs are common but there is a reason it is frowned on by colleges and universities. Affairs are an obvious abuse of power and affairs put the institution and all who are involved in jeopardy of sexual harassment suits. We live in a litigious society. Affairs are dangerous to everyone involved, not to mention how hurtful and destructive they are to marriages and families.

    • profile image

      Gramma to Be 

      6 years ago

      Well since my daughter is an immature and now pregnant 21 and the baby's father is her 35 yr old, and just as immature, professor, I tend to say that this should be handled the same as in high school - exploitive and criminal!

    • profile image

      Rox34 

      6 years ago

      In all honesty, if both student and professor are mature, I think its fine. BUT only if the student is not in any of their classes or leaves the University onto other academic pursuits. I mean, we are just people after all and if they like each other, why not? This is obviously different when it comes to High School, but in University, you can meet so many different people and actually develop feelings.

      It is definitely unethical if they are in the same class though... I just see it as two mature people, who know what they are doing. But outside of the University and not in the same class!

    • profile image

      Student dating a Professor 

      6 years ago

      The professor and I happen to be on the same campus and happen to be in the same department. But he never taught me, and we've both agreed that won't occur.

      And if a professor isn't teaching the student (ever or anymore), then there isn't any academic leverage. Yes, there will be knowledge/experience/wisdom gaps, but sometimes the gaps are minimal and intelligence, maturity, and mental flexibility on both ends are, in my opinion, the most important characteristics that can bridge that gap and make the relationship possible.

      And isn't it somewhat true of other relationships too? Men and women aren't always in the same boat, but if both are mature and mentally flexible as opposed to childish, immature, close-minded etc.

      Lastly, if age gaps are as big a deal as people believe, look at all of the comments on this article so far. How many of you would place good money on the table that you can guess any given commenter's age correctly? Correctly with a 5 year range? Correctly in the same decade? If age is so strictly important than this should be an easy task...but it isn't.

    • profile image

      Kx 

      6 years ago

      I have had similar experience but it happened when I was 13 and still at school.

      We did not have sex but

      I remember her calling me up one night crying and I actually felt sorry for her because she was trying to refrain herself from doing anything to me even though she tried to hit onto me earlier on in the duration that I knew her.

    • profile image

      abeljf 

      8 years ago

      I think it is completely wrong. It is unprofessional and it is a breach of boundaries. I can't imagine anyone who would think that professors don't wield power and influence. If you ever get to the graduate level you can firsthand observe politics that go on. I remember a professor I had as an undergrad. He was a brilliant professor-one of my favorite. I remember though, how I became kind of suspicious when I noticed that all of his TAs were not only all female but also very physically similar, similar in age (25ish) and they all had kind of a similar hippie chick style thing. Now it really isn't my business of what other people do in the bedroom and I certainly hope that I am not coming across that way. The thing is if there is such a particularly defined type of woman that are his TAs, then that means it is kind of premeditated; therefore I think it is predatory. I can believe rock stars get hot young chicks, but why would some coke bottle lensed egghead be viewed as appealing? I know that love follows no rules and logic but being a sexual opportunist is different.

    • Professor Eric profile image

      Professor Eric 

      8 years ago from the laboratory :)

      In my humble opinion, professors should not date their students. Students typically do not possess the mental fortitude and intelligence in the sciences that is crucial to the advancement of the human species, therefore only people of sufficient intelligence (professors and up) should be allowed to procreate.

    • wsp2469 profile image

      wsp2469 

      8 years ago from Alta Loma, Ca

      It's simple. Some institutions do NOT permit this in the first place.

      Secondly, if you're speaking of American colleges/universities it would automatically be illegal if the freshman in question was under 18.

      Finally, if you are going to do something like this you need to simply make sure you never have a class under this prof.

      It's that simple.

      (By the way, saying you like chicks doesn't really do anything for you. Mentioning you're on the Dean's List doesn't really matter either since anyone can type that in a response AND just because you get on it once does not mean you stay on it. But, I digress . . .)

    • Trublu profile imageAUTHOR

      Trublu 

      8 years ago from USA

      Just for general knowledge: I like edgy comments as well as the next guy, but if you're just going to swear and and comment that someone is "stupid" (even if it's someone I don't agree with) I'm not going to approve the comment.

    • profile image

      molly 

      8 years ago

      your retort was great! well done.

    • Trublu profile imageAUTHOR

      Trublu 

      9 years ago from USA

      Well, I approved the above comment of an example of who should NOT have a relationship with a professor, as they are lacking even the tiniest bit of maturity.

      And, just for the record: I like chicks, and I'm on the deans list without so much as touching a professor. :D Cheers!

    • profile image

      you are so stupid 

      9 years ago

      wow you're such a little skank - sorry hun you're too fat for any professor to want to risk losing his job over!! get a life and go study - banging your prof will NOT get you an A

    • profile image

      gina 

      9 years ago

      yeah sure i totally agree, it shouldn't be considered weird or anything, it's the same thing with celebrities, they're not a different species of life, so why is it so shocking when they start to date a non-celebrity?

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