Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Student-prof dating at Indiana U and beyond

Been looking for some  recent student commentaries on professor-student dating and I found a column in the Indiana Daily Student entitled Academy of Love by Brian Mcfillen*.  Following are some excerpts from the column interspersed with observations from the dankprofessor which are preceded with—

“I can say this: I think academia honors bans against professor-student relationships more in theory than in practice, because if professors and students couldn’t hook up, the professorate would go extinct.”

—Brian does overstate. But I think I get his point that student-prof relationships are commonplace even at Indiana U, home of the Kinsey Institute.

“Now, I think we can almost all agree that dating a student while he or she is in your class is inappropriate – but what about students not in your class, but with whom you might have to otherwise professionally interact? When I think of all the seemingly happily married couples that I know who started out as faculty advisor and graduate student advisee, the line starts to blur.

—Yes, the line is very blurry.  Today’s ex-student may become your student tomorrow.  Today’s non-student may becomes tomorrow’s student.  Of course, Brian is incorrect when he states that I think we can all agree  that dating a student in ones class is inappropriate.  I disagree.  It should be incumbent  upon Brian and others to present their reasons for abridging this freedom of association.  The university is not the military and not the corporation. I say this because many want to implement a corporate or military model and apply it to the university. Interestingly as universities have become more corporate, fraternization bans have become more common.  Brian is correct about student-professor couples marrying and even being happily married, and even unhappily married and even having children who grow up to be students and then become professors and some even may become bloggers.  On the other hand, great former profs from Indiana U, such as Kinsey, may simply hook up with some favorite students.  Just think if Indiana U had fraternization bans when Kinsey was there, we may never had a Kinsey Report or a Kinsey Institute.

“Look at it this way: most academics’ social universes could be bound in a nutshell and within that nutshell, many of the individuals are already married. So, if you’re still single upon entering academia, you really feel the pinch. And, then you put professors with students who have common interests. For example, as shocking as it might sound, both political science professors and political science majors tend to be very interested in politics. The rules seek to discourage any attractions that develop. It’s like academia is a dating agency in the ironic punishments division of Hell.

—Well stated Brian, you got it right.  I would only add that it’s like the academia becoming a monastery with vows of celibacy, but not  the most hellish vow for professor which would be the vow of silence.

“Things seem to have improved since I entered college in the late 90s, as universities have gotten a grip on what constitutes sexual harassment and what does not. Still, reading through IU’s Handbook for Student Academic Appointees, a lot of vagueness remains. While universities should protect students from abusive professors, they can’t really expect academics to follow the famous quote from “Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.” You know the scene I mean.

“No time for love, Dr. Jones.”

—I don’t think that the universities have gotten a grip on the sexual harassment thing; ambiguity still remains, nothing has changed except maybe the rhetoric defending sh rules.  The chilly climate is quite predominant in many universities. By chilly climate, I mean the atmosphere in which profs are advised/warned as to what they may say in the classroom.  The only safe way out is to say little or nothing, or to read direct from the non-sexist boring text, or to take the hellish vow of silence and have the TAs do all the talking/lecturing/professing.

*Sorry about the link, article is from 8/29, go to the Indiana idnews site, put in as a search term- Brian McFillen

September 6, 2007 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Indiana University, ivory tower romance, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating

1 Comment »

  1. I disagree with the 4th comment . Most corporations DO NOT have “dating bans”. I saw a survey by an American Management Association which said about 83% of companies had no “policy” whatsoever, regarding consensual dating after work. I have often considered this to be a Civil Rights issue. Then, there is a question of enforcement. Would the mere sighting of two people, at different levels in the company/school, at a restaurant, movie theater, or of one entering the others residence, be grounds for “discipline”? It is a matter of privacy (not secretive privacy, but the right to be free of company/school meddling in private matters)), and freedom of association, after work!
    These bans should be fought, by whatever means possible!

    Comment by Donald Visconti | February 13, 2010 | Reply

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