Student-Teacher Relationships: Don’t Cross the Line

Recent news – Harvard banned student-teacher relations. It is not the first university concerned with preventing sexual relations between college faculty and students. Why does it actually matter? Students do not ever think about the disastrous consequences of intimate relationships with teachers. Not only can it mean an ethical investigation (especially if you’re taking Professor Love’s class), but can lead to expulsion and ruin your chances to find job after graduation.

Ivy League on Student-Teacher Rules

Although student-teacher relationships have been tolerated at many colleges across the U.S., a handful of Ivy League schools are instituting rules that would make this behaviour grounds for expulsion. In February 2015, Harvard formally banned sexual relationships between students and teachers, following the decision of schools like Yale and the University of Connecticut.

Students’ reaction is controversial. Some college-aged students have argued, they’re adults. What’s the problem with having sex with a professor if it’s consensual? The American Association of University Professors has responded in kind, naming several real issues with this kind of relationship.

“Sexual relations between students and faculty members with whom they also have an academic or evaluative relationship are fraught with the potential for exploitation,” stated the AAUP. “In their relationships with students, members of the faculty are expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism, or bias. When a sexual relationship exists, effective steps should be taken to ensure unbiased evaluation or supervision of the student.”

What about Social Media?

As social media becomes a pervasive necessity for communication, less-that-professional texts, tweets, and posts are a huge concern. In the New York City School District alone, more than seven school employees have been arrested over the past few months for sexual advances via electronic mediums. This has inspired the district chancellor, to make contacting students through public forums like Facebook or Twitter a fire-able offence.

While some think this is far too aggressive of a punishment for simply connecting with students outside of class, others see it as a gateway to more pernicious evils. Teachers who have personally friended or followed students reciprocally are able to send private messages that may lead to sexual messages, or “sexts.” This can place both the teacher and student in a precarious position, as research suggests there is an increased probability of real sexual interaction.

What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

The opinions differ. On one hand, rules such as the one at Yale and Harvard are said to actually limit Constitutional rights. Professor Paul R. Abramson explains, “The choice of one’s romantic partner is no less essential to the formation of the self, no less a matter of the integrity of our private sphere, than well-protected First Amendment rights such as religion and speech.”

On the other hand, university as any institution has the right to impose certain rules and policies. Many companies have policies that ban interpersonal relationships between employees, and you will have to deal with it when you apply for a job. What is more, universities are really trying to protect you from awkward and negative outcomes of relations with students. Some potential results from this kind of relationship include:

  1. The relationship ends badly and lowers your grades despite high performance.
  2. Your instructor can’t be objective when teaching and grading you
  3. Instructor loses authority and respect of you and your peers who know about your relations
  4. Your academic performance is under risk to be investigated and nullified due to the relationship.
  5. You get jealous of other students and that influences your performance
  6. Your attitude to the subject depends on your attitude to the professor and your current state of relations
  7. Sooner or later you feel that you have little in common with your instructor due to generation gap and social factors.
  8. Your instructor is afraid to lose their job and their colleagues’ respect, so they will never make your relations public.
  9. You are afraid to get caught and expelled

Solution: Don’t Cross the L.I.N.E

You need to remember that there is an invisible LINE that keeps both of you safe. By following these four simple rules, you can ensure that you keep positive relations with your professor and do nothing provocative:

L – Leave alone: Don’t leave class with your teachers, allow them to give you rides, or spend unnecessary time with them outside of class. If you have feelings for a teacher, leave their class – permanently.
I – Identify danger: If you feel that your teacher has more than a professional interest, recognize it.
N – Notify authorities: If there is inappropriate behaviour, confront the teacher with a friend. If it continues, tell your department chair, or Dean.
E – Email only: Don’t befriend your professor on social media or other online networking sites. Use only the established college email to send correspondence.

Remember – professors can be your friends, supporters and advisers. They can help you build professional network and give you recommendations for your future position. Keep your relationships within boundaries. Do not let emotions interfere positive teacher-student relations and you will get the most out of your college years.

What do you think about professor-student relationships? Share your thoughts with us!

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