For someone who will be referred to as Karen for the sake of anonymity, dating her professor just sort of happened.
“At the end of the semester, he suggested we get together and have dinner,” Karen said. “I thought he meant a group of students, but when I showed up he was the only one there. So he took me on a date, and later, to my surprise, he told me I was smart and pretty, and he kissed me.”
Like it or not, relationships between professor and students at any university are bound to happen. UVU’s policy on the matter is that such relationships are discouraged, and are prohibited if the student is studying under the professor, whether by class or department. In other words, a professor should not have any authority over the student if a relationship is to occur. Yet the lure of love often prompts one to toss rules to the wind, and before you know it, the professor and student become entwined in scholastic romance.
Such is the case with Karen’s fling.
“We kissed like three times, and hung out more that that,” Karen said. “but what it came down to was that I was flattered and surprised that he liked me. As an 18-year-old, it felt really cool to have sparked a professor’s interest.” But she adds that she was “ultimately not attracted and not interested in him” save for that reason alone.
From the start, Karen had doubts about this brief tryst. She questioned the intentions of the professor, who schmoozed her over with fast-whipped intelligenstia rhetoric reflective of his discipline. This troubled her, along with finding out that the professor had dated other students. She ended the relationship.
Overall, Karen advises against the type of professor-student relationship she experienced. In her view, the skewed psychological dynamic inherent in a relationship between a professor and a young, naïve freshman is reason enough to avoid it.
“It’s not worth it,” Karen said. “most professors that want to date students, unless it’s at the graduate school level, are probably looking for an easy sexual relationship. Maybe if I’d been 25, the situation would have been fair and balanced intellectually and psychologically and could have developed.”
Karen’s story presents a clear-cut example of the problems that can occur with student-professor affairs, mainly because of the problematic context it was in. But I also talked to someone we’ll call Nicholas, whose story does not share such ethically unsound variables. His romance with a professor was sparked by candy and flirtatious conversations.
“I went into her office and asked for some candy because she always had a bowl full of it,” Nicholas said. “We talked and she told me to come again soon. So I did.”
Like a stray cat that always comes back for milk, Nick kept visiting the professor – but soon it had little to do with candy and everything to do with hormones.
“We talked about food, art, movies, stuff like that,” he said. “We both ended up critiquing food so much that I asked her out so we could critique food together. Later, we ended up kissing.”
Nicholas said that in the end the romance only lasted a few dates. He declined to go into detail about why the relationship ended other than saying that he knew it just wasn’t going to work out.
“I stopped going to her office for candy and talk because I felt like we wouldn’t work out, so why continue?” Nick said. “She then emailed me, said she missed me coming by, and after talking about it more we’re still friends.”
Nick had dated this professor after he was out of her class, and his story shows that student-professor relationships can be harmless, especially when – and maybe because – they do not violate University guidelines. So the next time you’re hot for teacher (or vice-versa), remember that you’re both probably better off making sure to stick to the rules. They may have exceptions and seem arbitrary, but at least it will preserve the professionalism that should exist on a University.