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