She is an 18-year-old freshman, starry eyed and entranced by her teacher's apparent brilliance and sensitivity. Faculty members at the University of Virginia recently voted to prohibit sexual relationships between professors and the students they supervise. Are they two consenting adults in love, or is it sexual harassment and exploitation?
Dating a student is a professional breach of trust, and one that adversely effects the integrity of the entire educational institution. As Professor X notes, a professor has a potential teacher-student relationship with students at a university, not just those in his or her classes.
Dating a student who happens not to be in one of those classes is what lawyers call “a distinction without a difference.” Many students and professors will reasonably assume that the pairing arose out of the student-teacher relationship, and in some ways it almost certainly did.
In fact, the more problematic ones are the ones that seem consensual.
Everyone brings up the case of the long-term, happy relationship, but that's a rarity.
Suzanne Kessler, Associate Professor of Psychology at SUNY Purchase.
"But most of what we're talking about is not what falls under a strict definition of sexual harassment.
The original post, for example, states that “Lawyers date their clients all the time.” In fact, they don’t, and when they do, they are probably violating their ethics rules, which prohibit lawyers from dealings with clients that interfere with independent judgment and create conflicts of interest. On “Dating Glory,’ one commenter offered genuine insight.
The statement also implies a similarity that doesn’t exist, for the professor-student relationship’s duties and expectations are very different from those of attorneys and clients. “Professor X” correctly pointed out that professors were obligated to maintain a position of authority, objectivity and judgment as mentors and teachers of the whole student body, and had a duty to their schools not to allow their trustworthiness to be undermined by having intimate relationships among the same group that they were supposed to be supervising and advising. The created when a supervisor/manager/leader indulges in intimate relations with someone over whom they have authority, status and power—and every professor has authority over every student, in class or out— undermines the institution and the profession, by sending the false message that such relationships are standard, approved, and implicitly desirable in the culture where they occur.
Might the professor’s best friends on the faculty be more generous when grading their friend’s significant other if he or she is one of their students?
Will the professor consciously or subconsciously be easier on the friends of his student lover if they are in his class?
A teacher always has superior power over any student by virtue of his or her position of authority, and it is an abuse of that power to use it to entice students into dates or bed.