The University has something to say about students’ romantic entanglements with teachers.
Don’t do it.
The University forbids “all faculty and staff, including graduate assistants, from pursuing or engaging in dating or sexual relationships with students whom they are currently supervising or teaching,” according to the Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy. The policy was updated Sept. 15.
“I want them to be allowed to date me, but I could definitely see the bias in that,” said Mary Sheets, a junior from Covington. “You wouldn’t get the most out of your education.”
Sheets, an environmental economics and management major, dated a TA in June who wasn’t teaching her class.
“I met him downtown, and we hit it off,” she said. “We just went to dinner. He just didn’t end up being my type.”
The University policy exists for dating because of the potential for problems in the classroom, said Piers Stephens, a philosophy assistant professor who teaches Introduction to Ethics.
Stephens said it’s common for students to be friends with teachers, but professors should act a certain way toward them in class to quell suspicion of favoritism.
“You do usually keep a certain distance,” Stephens said. “Your own impartiality is important in the classroom.”
If friendship has the potential to attract ideas of favoritism, “certainly the same must apply to sexual relationships,” Stephens said.
“They’re even more disruptive,” he said.
Tyler Chafin, a first-year accounting graduate student from Roswell, said dating a professor is probably “not the greatest idea.”
“It’s possible it could be OK, but it could be bad,” Chafin said. “There could be a subconscious bias toward the student you’re dating.”
Stephen Devore, a pre-business freshman from Charlotte, N.C., said his parents met when his father was his mother’s professor in college.
After the class ended, his parents began dating.
“I could see how it could be detrimental in class,” Devore said of dating a professor. “There’s a lot more tension in the grade relationship.”
A break-up between a student and professor could affect grades or the student’s desire to go to class, he said. Devore also said the professor could be “significantly older” than the student.
But dating a TA may be a different story. TAs are typically younger than professors and closer to students’ ages.
“In terms of young TAs, I don’t see much of an issue,” Devore said.
Sheets has not had a relationship with a TA teaching her class and most likely wouldn’t have dated the TA if he was, she said.
“I probably would have a problem with it if they were my actual TA or professor, especially professor because they’re usually so much older,” Sheets said.
Chafin said the same problems arise while dating a TA as when dating a professor, but a TA is more socially acceptable because of their age.
“You would probably want to have the teacher double check the person is getting fair treatment,” he said.
Stephens said it may be acceptable for TAs to date students in their classes if the student is only taking one course in the subject.
Sheets said she would oppose another student in her class dating the professor, but Chafin and Devore said they wouldn’t care.
“It doesn’t really faze me that much,” Chafin said. “It’s not going to impact the way I operate in the class.”
Stephens discussed how student relationships with professors are frowned upon more in the United States than in the United Kingdom, his home country, because of a greater “awareness of the dangers of abuse.”
He said such a relationship creates professional dilemmas and other students will voice concerns if the student in the relationship excels in the class.
“It’s unfortunate,” Stephens said. “If the student is very good and they get good grades for entirely the right reasons, some people will say something."