She is an 18-year-old freshman, starry eyed and entranced by her teacher's apparent brilliance and sensitivity. Faculty members at the University of Virginia recently voted to prohibit sexual relationships between professors and the students they supervise.
Are they two consenting adults in love, or is it sexual harassment and exploitation?
In a statement, the organization also said that sexual relationships can later make the faculty member and the institution vulnerable to allegations of sexual harassment.
“Sexual relations between students and faculty members with whom they also have an academic or evaluative relationship are fraught with the potential for exploitation,” the AAUP said in a statement.
“In their relationships with students, members of the faculty are expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism, or bias.
When a sexual relationship exists, effective steps should be taken to ensure unbiased evaluation or supervision of the student.” In some ways, it’s easier for schools to ban such relationships so they’re not forced into taking sides — or acting as judge and jury — in cases where a student or faculty member complains about harassment, or worse, Dziech said.
The rule about professors and undergrads is the only blanket ban.
The new policy doesn’t ban sexual and romantic relationships between all people who teach and all people who are students.
A Gray Area Representatives from the State University of New York at Purchase, Marymount College, Sarah Lawrence College, Pace University, Westchester Community College, Iona College and Mercy College also said that such relationships were discouraged by the administration though not specifically addressed in college policies.
But administrators, professors and students alike say that the issue of faculty-student dating is a complex one.
Some say that the unequal power in a relationship between a student and a faculty member -- particularly one who is in a position to grade or make recommendations about the student he or she is dating -- is inherently exploitative.
Others cite happy marriages of professors to their former students.
They included contextual prohibitions, she said; “Professors can’t have sex with graduate students if they are teaching or supervising or evaluating them in some way. It just made sense.” “Nobody said, ‘You’re treating me like a child, trampling on my civil rights, I’ll have sex with whomever I please.’ That would be the only argument against it – that it’s paternalistic,” Johnson said.