Should Colleges Ban Relationships Between Professors And Students?

There are lots of things one should not do in college, such as eat ramen noodles for every meal 16 weeks straight, but that does not stop most of us from doing it anyway. Several colleges are trying to put the kibosh on at least one at-times ill-advised decision: a ban on professors banging their students. The New York Post reported this weekend that the City University of New York (CUNY) has proposed a tightening of its sexual harassment policy to ban sexual relationships between professors and “students for whom they have professional responsibility.” Teacher/student hookups are currently “strongly discouraged” in the policy, but the faculty senate and legal counsel both say they should be banned.  Columbia University, also in New York, is finalizing a similar ban on professor/student relationships this month. 

Some peeps are balking at the proposal: one student quoted by the post groused, “we’re in a post-secondary facility, we don’t need to be babysat or monitored.” A male professor complained, “They’re trying to ban love! It’s not realistic, because grown women fall in love and have affairs with older men and nobody can legislate this.”

“Banning love” is a bit of a melodramatic overstatement. It’s probably a semester or two at most that a teacher or student would have to keep their feelings under wraps.  Unless a student is sleeping with their advisor or department head, the professors who have a “professional responsibility” to their new hookup would in most cases change at the end of the semester, or at the latest, the year.

I support rules against professors having sexual relationships with their professors, because it’s all too easy for the power dynamic in that situation to be abused. I’m surprised there aren’t stricter rules about them already! That being said, though, we also have to be reasonable about how not every student in this scenario is a “victim” of a “predatory” teacher: I have a friend who has been happily dating for years the man who was a teaching assistant at a class she took in college. I genuinely don’t believe she was “sexually harassed” by him. Attraction happens and these feelings may be ill-advised sometimes, but they are are real: that melodramatic male professor quoted above is at least right that this is something that can’t really be legislated.

What do you think about colleges tightening rules on sexual relationships between professors and students? Let us know in the comments.

[New York Post via Gothamist

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