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Date My Professor?

Monday, May. 16, 2011

Best student response this week wins a $50 Amazon gift card.

It all started when Frannie, a 19-year-old sophomore, went to work as a student assistant in the English Department. She had gotten a recommendation for the job from Bill Marsden, who had been her professor in the survey of British literature she took last quarter. The class had been so lively and engaging that Frannie was thinking of declaring English as a major.

After she started working for the department, Professor Marsden always stopped at the reception desk and spent some time chatting with her. As they got to know each other better, it seemed natural that Marsden asked her questions like whether she had big plans for the weekend or whether she had a boyfriend waiting for her back in her hometown. But then she began to notice other signals that maybe he was interested in more than the usual professor-student relationship. He would put his hand over hers for a moment while they talked, and he brought her a collection of the love letters from Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning.

Frannie was actually quite flattered by his attention. True, he was probably well into his thirties, but he was still cute, and he was a lot more mature and interesting than the boys she met on campus, whose idea of a good time was beer pong. Frannie was pretty sure Marsden would ask her out if she gave the right signals back. Should she get involved with someone on the faculty?

Here are some resources that may help:

Dating Your Professor: Problems to Consider Before You Date Your Instructor

Yes, Professor?

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making



Comments Comments

Deepti said on May 18, 2011
I wouldn't view a relationship between Frannie and Professor Marsden as unethical, per se. She isn't taking a class with him, so he's not in a direct position of authority over her. If he were, that would be a different story. It would be completely wrong for Marsden to use his influence as a professor to give Frannie an unfair advantage over other students. It would also be wrong for Frannie to try to use their relationship to get better grades or any other academic benefits. If they both scrupulously avoided that kind of thing, however, I wouldn't classify the relationship as unethical. That being said, it isn't something I would advise. There's major potential for things to go wrong. In an ideal situation, both would be able to keep their personal lives completely separate from their professional/academic lives. In the real world, though, Frannie would have to interact daily with people who in all likelihood would be suspicious of her relationship with Marsden. Marsden might have to deal with colleagues who think less of him for breaching the traditional gap between teacher and student. Frannie only seems casually interested in Marsden. I'd suggest she avoid the problems involved with getting into a relationship with him. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Kristyn said on May 19, 2011
I don't think she should do it. Though Frannie doesn't have a class with Marsden now, the fact that she had a class with him in the past, got a recommendation letter from him, and is thinking of pursuing a degree in the same department that he works in can be extremely problematic. If she started dating him and people found out they may be suspicious as to whether or not Frannie received any preferential treatment in the class. Also, I doubt that any company would knowingly accept a recommendation letter from a significant other due to bias. Yes, they weren't together when she asked for and submitted the recommendation, but her company still might not appreciate it. Also, the fact that she is considering pursuing an English major and works in the same department as he poses the same risks that a secretary takes when dating her boss. If things should turn sour between them, Marsden could ruin her reputation amongst his colleagues and she'd probably be out of a job in the English department. To me, it seems like a huge risk to her future. There's also the emotional risk she runs dating him as she's still a teenager and he's into his thirties. They're at two completely different places in their lives both literally and emotionally. People say "age is just a number" but the difference between 19 and say 35 seems much bigger than 50 and 66. Marsden may be looking to settle down and have a family while Frannie might just want to have some fun. She is a freshman after all and lots of things in college are probably new to her. So, though it may be legal for them to date, I'd advise against it. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Cameron said on May 19, 2011
I don't think it would be a good idea at all for Frannie to get involved with a teacher. For one thing, even disregarding the fact that he is a professor at the school Frannie attends, Marsden is much older than she is. This can work in some cases, but when the age difference is this vast, and the younger person is only 20, there's a good chance that maturity differences will emerge quickly (not to mention the awkwardness of being members of different generations). Though it's probably unfair to assume that Marsden is only interested in Frannie because she is young and naïve--and therefore easy to take advantage of--this still has to be of concern. Just because Frannie's impression of him is that he is mature and respectable does not mean that he is not secretly strange or desperate or creepy, just like any other guy she might meet. It seems a little childish to date someone solely because he is older and seems to be interested. Plus, there's nothing wrong with beer pong& - Like
Big Q said on May 19, 2011
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Miriam said on May 20, 2011
No, Frannie should not date her professor! (I hardly ever use exclamation points, so you see I'm really serious about this.) First of all, if she intends to major in English, there's every chance she will need to take another class with him or ask him for a recommendation. That raises the conflict of interest problems Deepti describes. To avoid even the appearance of impropriety, most universities have policies against relationships between students and any professor who might be in a position to evaluate them. Also, Frannie's social life will be very uncomfortable. Will she and Marsden hang out with the beer pong crowd? Probably not. Will Marsden's friends welcome her? No, she is 20 years their junior. They will regard Marsden as suffering from arrested development, and they will not know what to say to Frannie. Besides, what draws Frannie to Marsden may well have a shelf life. Marsden is a professor; part of his attraction is his superior intellect and greater experience of the world. As Frannie matures, she will herself develop a field of knowledge and a range of experience. Will Marsden be able to accept her growth, or will he expect to remain "the professor" in their personal relationship? That's going to get old. The Ethics Romance rarely follows the rules of attraction: Who knows what sparks love between two people? Even so, romance ought to follow a few rules and one of them, as technical as it sounds, is that mutuality builds on equality. It's hard to specify from one relationship to the next what the relevant measures of equality might be. It may be very unequal for Frannie at 19 to be involved with Professor Marsden in his 30s. But it may not be very unequal for a woman in her 40s to be involved with a man in his 60s. So, in addition to age, we should think about equality in terms of such categories as professional development, employment or educational relationships, desire for a family, compatible groups of friends, etc. There is nothing so delicate and mysterious as the mutuality of romantic love. But, like a magnificent rose, it springs from roots that run deep in the rich soil of shared lives. Frannie ought to hold off on Marsden. A more fitting bloom awaits. - Like
A said on May 20, 2011
I do not perceive the relationship to be unethical and would even go as far as to say that underestimating Frannie's ability to make responsible judgments for herself or assume that Bill may assert himself take advantage of the situation may be unethical in itself. The relationship within the context of a student and professor is a little more conflicting and I believe that because of school policies or regulations, they be advised against dating. Their are no signs of their exhibiting any unethical behavior such as providing favors for better grades or special treatment. Aside from the breach in policies, I do not believe it to be an unethical relationship as long as they remain professional within the school environment (much like a job) and a mutual attraction and respect is present. I feel that, had this relationship developed under normal circumstances, I would take the benefit of the doubt and consider no qualms in their dating as I'm sure most others would not give a second thought. Who is to say these two may not find love together or grow and mature from each other? - Like - 1 person likes this.
Mikaila Read said on May 22, 2011
If Frannie chooses to enter a more than usual relationship with her ex-professor she may not be making the wisest decision, but she is not making an unethical one. This is assuming her university has not outlined any restrictions on student-professor relationships. If the university has outlined restrictions on student-professor relationships, then Frannie may be behaving unethically by choosing to deliberately disobey those restrictions. The most frequently brought up issues when arguing against student-professor relationships dont usually explore the ethical nature of the relationship itself. Rather, they tend to focus on all of the merely potential negative sequences that may precede or follow the relationship. Although it may seem right to declare something, which seemingly breeds unethical instances unethical itself, it cannot be done justly. Take, for instance, fire: fires existence may lead to arson if utilized by a person of bad or unethical will. Does this make the fire itself a bad or immoral entity? No. Fire can also keep one warm. Fire can also cook ones food. Going into an endless battle of pros and cons, however, is never a legitimate way to determine whether a person or thing is ethical or not, yet society seems to often rely on the majority rule to do so. At one point in this country, majority ruled inter-racial marriage to be immoral and prohibited it on the sole grounds that the majority said it ought to be. Simply because the majority of the country declared inter-racial marriage immoral did not make it true. It only made it more difficult to achieve. The same cultural discrimination has been applied to the professor-student relationship, and is no more appropriate now than it has been in past applications. Dont date your professor because the validity of your grade comes into question. Surely this could be a fair reason why one ought to shy away from dating ones professor. For, even if the student completes the professors course prior to dating, the students grade will come into question merely because the majority tends to assume the professors liking towards the student must have had an influence on it. A professor, however, ought to maintain professionalism and fairness. If a professor allows an interest/liking towards a student to influence their methods of grading, they could do so regardless of relationship status. Therefore the professors own actions are alone unethical, and not the relationship of the student and professor per se. The lack of professionalism and fairness could be labeled unethical, but the dating itself (especially in Frannies particular case) is not so easily declared unethical. Dont date your professor because what if it ends badly? Truth be known, ALL relationships have the potential to end badly. While the professor-student relationship may not be the best dynamic, it is not unethical. In Frannies position, she need not worry about the unethical nature of dating her professor. She needs only to be willing to face the cultural firing squad. - Like - 3 people like this.
Kati Carson said on May 23, 2011
While he may be attracted to her and the age difference shouldn't matter so much, the position he is in and the position he is putting her in is just awkward. If there's ANY chance she could take a class with him, there would be a severe conflict of interests. Other professors would probably look at her differently, and so would students. This could affect her grades and her social life. If they broke up, I'm pretty sure there would be quite a bit of drama. There's a slim chance this could go smoothly, but I imagine there would be a great deal of resentment on her part because she would have stigmatized herself socially. Seeing him around would likely be extremely uncomfortable and lead to one of their transfers. My thought is, if you're really interested, wait until you've graduated so you have more options especially in the case of a breakup. - Like
Eric Smith said on May 23, 2011
I don't think she should date her professor. She should look for someone like her professor, but to actually date him runs a huge risk. My advice for her would be to keep looking for someone her own age. - Like
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Tags: ethics, student-faculty romance