Student Professor Relationships

One of my former high school teachers (I went to two high schools in two states, good luck guessing who) started publicly dating a student the day they had graduated and turned 18. There was much speculation that the relationship began much sooner. Most people hear this story and agree, it was at the very least an unethical choice, and depending on when the relationship truly began probably an immoral and illegal one as well. This is because there is a clear separation between teachers and students in high school. The teachers are adults, and the students are children. When you get into the murky world of college relationships things become more complicated.

Most colleges have little to no regulations on student/faculty relationships. Should we prohibit or regulate relationships between two consenting adults? Most have had at least one professor who is rumored to give preferential grades to attractive students, and true or not, this is a harmful aspect of the college experience. These perceptions do not benefit the students, teachers, or college. It is important for the system to be viewed as merit based and fair. If teachers date current students, regardless of what grade the student actually receives in the class, it will be problematic. Most people agree that professors should be prohibited from dating current students.

Should professors be allowed to date former students who are still enrolled at the college, or students they have never actually taught? This is where people tend to become a bit more divided. On one hand there is the perception that consenting adults who are not directly working together in a student-teacher relationship have no reason to abstain. Despite this, there are complications. Professors will have friends among their colleagues and could, in theory, have an influence in how their romantic partner is perceived in the classroom. Despite issues like these, many colleges do not have systems or regulations in place in relation to these relationships.

At colleges like Western New Mexico University it becomes even more difficult to prevent or discourage student teacher relationships. Western attracts students from all walks of life. Often time’s professors and students are peers. If faculty student relationships were completely banned it would probably only lead to an increase in secret relationships. Despite this, there should probably be regulations on when and how it is acceptable to engage in these relationships, in much the same way that many corporations have a policy on work place relationships.

Policies have to be in place to limit favoritism and corruption among faculty members. Such policies also would serve to protect members of faculty from students who wished to take advantage of them.  Rules such as: No dating current students, or possibly even no dating students pursuing a major from your department, could help limit the corruption, both real and perceived.

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