Can Professors Date Students?

Can Professors Date Students

To maintain the integrity of their programs and the schools in general, most academic institutions are quick to respond to any breach of their policies. While dating among teachers is acceptable in most educational institutions, most frown upon teacher-student romantic relationships.

Most of these institutions recommend positive relationships between teachers and students to provide some level of comfort enabling students to take academic risks leading to higher academic achievements. To deter staff and students from abusing any such relationships, institutions have implemented policies against teacher-student romantic relationships.

This is mostly a result of public outcry for regulations in the wake of multiple instances of teacher-student relationships being made public. This article will look at some of these regulations and also clarify whether professors can date students and whether it’s against any public regulations.

Can Teachers Date Students Over 18

18 is considered the age of consent for any sexual relationships even in academic settings and while the student may legally be considered a consenting adult at this age, other regulations still apply. Let’s answer this question first and then further break it down.

Yes. Although considered highly unethical, an 18-year-old student is legally a consenting adult. However, most educational institutions have instituted policies against teacher-student romantic relationships.

While a student may be of legal age, a romantic relationship between a teacher and a student could lead to even more complications as the professor’s ability to remain impartial is called into question.

In the absence of any state and federal regulations against teacher-student romantic relationships, educational institutions have resorted to implementing internal policies prohibiting the practice.

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Academic Institutions Policies on Teacher-Student Relations

Resulting from public outcry on the previous incidences of teacher-student relationships, some educational institutions have resorted to outright banning or partial-banning depending on the professor’s academic or supervisory position.

Stanford, Harvard, and Yale universities, The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and the University of Connecticut are among these institutions.

Stanford University for instance bans any romantic relationships (consensual or other) between teachers and undergraduate students irrespective of the professor’s academic or supervisory position over the student. The university also explains this ban as a consideration of the relative youth of undergraduates and their particular vulnerability in such relationships.

The university further bans relationships between other staff (including deans and other senior administrators, coaches, supervisors of student employees, Residence Deans, and Fellows, as well as others who mentor, advise or have authority over students) members with broad influence or authority over students and undergraduate students.

San Diego State University’s policy also forbids any consensual relationship with students over whom the teacher or employee exercises or influences direct or otherwise significant academic, administrative, supervisory, evaluative, counseling, or extracurricular authority.

Harvard University also outright bans any romantic relationships between its faculty members and undergraduates irrespective of the professor’s academic or supervisory position.

In the case of graduate students, the regulations are a bit flexible as faculty members are only banned from relationships with students they’re teaching or supervising. The policy also warns against the possibility of complications in relationships between faculty of different statuses and who would be held accountable in the event of problems resulting from the relationship.

Yale University’s policy on teacher-student consensual relations is also similar to Harvard University’s as relationships between faculty and undergraduate students are banned irrespective of whether the faculty member is in a supervisory position over the student or not.

In the case of graduate students, the policy is a bit flexible as it only bans relationships with students over whom teachers have or might reasonably expect to have direct pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities, regardless of whether the relationship is consensual.

University of Connecticut’s policy on teacher-student relations is also similar to Yale and Harvard’s as relationships between teachers and graduate students are prohibited so long as the student is under the teacher’s authority or supervision. Relationships with undergraduates however are outright banned according to the university’s policies.

Can Professors Date Students

Now that we’ve looked at the policies on teacher-student relations implemented by some of the major educational institutions, we can answer the question of whether professors can date students.

Yes, most educational institutions do not prohibit romantic relationships between professors and graduate students who are outside the professor’s supervision or authority. However, romantic teacher-student relationships with undergraduate students are banned by most institutions.

The table below provides a simple overview of the most implemented policies geared towards tackling teacher-student relations and maintaining the institution’s integrity.

Teacher-Student Relations Policy Table

StudentsHigh SchoolUndergraduatesGraduatePre-existing Relationships
TeachersIllegal (Under 18)ProhibitedProhibited when under teacher’s authority or supervisionMust be reported within 3 months of policy implementation

Can Professors Date Graduate Students

Yes. Most academic institutions do not prohibit teachers from dating graduate students if the student is not under the professor’s authority or supervision. That said, dating students isn’t recommended as it can lead to complications.

While it’s not illegal to date a graduate student, each institution has its own policy governing teacher-student relationships. It’s necessary to identify your institution’s policy on the topic before engaging in any such activity. The table above also illustrates the most popular policies implemented by most major universities to address the issue.

Can You Date Your Professor After Graduation

Yes. Dating your professor or teacher after graduation is legal so long as you’re both consenting adults the professor is no longer in a supervisory or authoritative teacher-student position over you.

Most societies would find the relationship dynamic inappropriate considering the fact that the professor previously held an authoritative position over the student. It’s advisable to wait a few years after graduation to date your professor.

How Often Do Professors Sleep With Students

A poll by CollegeStats involving 2000 current and former students revealed 14% of students having inappropriate relations with professors and other staff members.

While this doesn’t mean all professors are sleeping with students, the poll presents the statistic that one in ten students are in an inappropriate relationship with their professors or other staff members. To answer the questions in terms of our modern society:

Not as often in today’s litigious society as most academic institutions now implement policies geared towards addressing and penalizing offending staff members. In the worst-case scenario, a professor could lose their license if they’re breaking their institution’s policy on teacher-student relations.

Disadvantages Of Teachers Dating Students

Undermines Educational Environment

Teacher-student romantic relationships can undermine the educational environment for both the student and other students in the environment. Academic institutions are environments for learning and any negative rumors of teacher-student relations can undermine the environment as a place of learning for students and other staff both during the relationship and in the case of a break-up.

Expose The Teacher To Charges Of Misconduct

Depending on the educational institution’s policy on teacher-student relationships, any teacher identified to be in breach of these policies would face disciplinary actions.

While some institutions may allow relationships with graduate students outside the professor’s authority, others outright ban this act. In the case where the student is an undergraduate under the authority of the teacher, disciplinary actions would be most likely unavoidable.

Liability For Professor and School

Inappropriate teacher-student relationships can create potential liability, not only for the teacher but also for their institution if it is determined that laws against sexual harassment or discrimination have been violated. This exposes both the school and the teacher to liability for violation of laws.

Power Balance

The unequal institutional power inherent in this relationship heightens the vulnerability of the student and the potential for coercion.

The pedagogical relationship between teacher and student must be protected from influences or activities that can interfere with learning and personal development. Undergraduate students are particularly vulnerable in these relationships as a result of their age and relative lack of maturity.

Our Thoughts

As a professor or teacher, it’s advisable to refrain from romantic relationships with students as this is considered unethical in most of our societies in spite of the legality of such an act.

At the very least, verify the details of your institution’s stand on these relationships to avoid any potential consequences to all parties involved, including the institution and other students.

Akshay Vikhe

I am an aspiring Data Scientist with a huge interest in technology. I like to review courses that are genuine and add real value to student’s careers. Read my story

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