Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Can a student and a professor fall in love?

Vancouver Island University has come up with a new twist on policies in regards to student professor sexual relationships.  As part of their statement on consensual relationships between students and profs, they have a sort of FAQ and they address the question- “Can’t a student and faculty member fall in love?”

Now it is addressing  the process of falling in love that the dankprofessor finds to be exceptional in this context.  Understandably,  bureaucrats, university or otherwise, would seem the least likely to be concerned with falling in love or being swept away or love at first sight. Of course, the bureaucratization of love would seem to me to be the ultimate oxymoron.

So following is the VIU response to “Can’t a student and faculty member fall in love?”  The VIU statement is highlighted and it interspersed with comments from the dankprofessor.

Yes, of course, that can occur. Many of our students are of similar age and experience to our faculty and, except for the circumstance of the employee/student relationship, could be considered very appropriate matches

Hold on for a moment; the question was can they fall in love, not whether such falling is appropriate.  In any case, for VIU, falling in love can appropriately occur if people are of the same age and experience.

Such is a rather narrow definition, is it not?  In fact, VIU tells me that my parents could not have appropriately fell in love since my father was 20 years older than my mother.  For VIU when does an age difference become too much of an age difference.  Now their similar experience thing opens up a Pandora’s box.  I guess that people of dissimilar national, ethnic and racial experiences are just not eligible for falling in love with each other.  And I expect that the highly educated and the not so highly educated are also ineligible for falling in love with each other, and so on and so on, no fraternizing with people from the wrong side of the tracks.  Just stick to your own kind!  And, of course, it would be unthinkable, unmentionable, for an administrator to fall in love with a student!

Often students and employees will share the same interests and the learning environment can encourage close collaboration and interpersonal support. However, the faculty member must remember that it is their responsibility to maintain appropriate boundaries with a student. There is no way to check out whether an attraction is mutual without crossing that professional boundary with a student.

OK, I get it, it appears OK for the faculty member to develop a crush on a student, have feelings of love toward a particular student.  But checking this out with the student in terms of finding out if it is mutual would not facilitate the maintenance of appropriate boundaries.  So confessions or professions of love to the student are simply out of line. But, I guess it would be OK to direct ones feelings of love into other creative enterprises such as writing love poems and songs of love as long as any particular student is not known as the subject of such artistry.  Of course, the VIU statement does not preclude the student from professing love for the prof.  If such becomes the case, I guess VIU would expect the professor to tell him or her that you are violating my boundaries and to please stop!

It is recommended that any employee who wishes to initiate a sexual relationship with a student wait until the institutional relationship has ended before taking any steps.

OK, now VIU has dropped the love thing and deals with not initiating a sexual relationship.  Wait to the institutional relationship has ended they state.  But for some of those adhering to VIU waiting rules, the long wait could very well lead to the waiting prof having a mental breakdown and end up being institutionalized.  Or just when the prof thinks it is now safe to approach ones love object, the prof now finds that he is two months too late and the student has accepted the hand of another, and the other being another professor.  Or after a four year wait and love now just around the corner, the prof finds out that the student has re-enrolled for another degree program. But there is more from VIU on this.

Making a practice of initiating sexual relationships with former students, however, would also be problematic. It could be understandable that a faculty member “falls in love” with a student once. It is not understandable or acceptable for a faculty member to “fall in love” with students and to initiate relationships with former students, on a routine basis. In those circumstances, a decision-maker would question whether the faculty member was exploiting their professional role to enhance their personal and social life.

So after the four year wait and now the student is a former student, the prof in VIU terms is still not on safe ground as to dating students since VIU finds dating former students to be “problematic”.  Given VIU standards, it is acceptable for them to “fall in love” with a student once, but not more than once.  If love with the student goes astray or leads to love and then divorce, then the professor should have learned his or her lesson and just give up on falling in love with students. As VIU states, such is simply not understandable.

Well, the dankprofessor will help out the VIU administration just a little bit.  Just because a prof asks out a student does not mean that the prof is in love with the student or the student with the prof.  Most dates end up being just another date.  One generally does not instantly meet the right one.  And if the pool of nearby eligibles for dating happens to be mainly former students, it is the most “natural” thing in the world to end up dating and possibly mating with a former student.  And the VIU administration engages in gross stereotyping when they refer to only the profs initiating. Are they not aware that students, and more specifically female students are quite capable of initiating and do initiate?

And finally in their last sentence it becomes quite revealing of who are these VIU people- “In those circumstances, a decision-maker would question whether the faculty member was exploiting their professional role to enhance their personal and social life”.  The revelation is that the VIU administrators are the decision-makers, not the professors and certainly not the students.  In the VIU world view, the administrators are the adults who make decisions as to what is best for their children- their profs and their students. This is authoritarianism and arrogance at its worse.  Or to put it in still other terms, VIU administrators are the VIPS who must control the behavior of the peasantry.

Now as for faculty members using their professional role to enhance their personal and social life.  Is not such the norm in social life,  that people use their professional role to enhance their personal and social life?  Even university administrators do this, even presidents, priests, parents, prophets and politicians do this, even Lithuanians and Latvians do it. We all do it!

Shame on VIU for lending their so called good name to this dribble. Such has no place in university life.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating | 3 Comments

   

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