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Dating at College


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Lets say you have a child who is an older college student.

 

The college has staff and teachers, but it also has some tutors who are not employees. These tutors work with students individually, and the students pay the tutors directly. This is optional, but the teachers are enthusiastic about students taking advantage of the opportunity to use an approved tutor.

 

Let's say one of these tutors is around the same age as your child, and, in fact, they know already know each other. So, your child thinks tutoring would be helpful and signs up for tutoring with his/her existing already-known friend.

 

Would it be "inappropriate" if it should come to pass that this tutor and your child to develop feelings for one another? What should be done if it becomes apparent that the two would like to date? Are you imagining a male tutor -- female student, or a female student -- male tutor relationship? Does it matter? Is there a role for the college in managing the situation?

 

(I'm not really all up in this business, it's more of a curiosity 'how would this be seen' style of question.)

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The gender of the people in question wouldn't bother me. Developing a relationship wouldn't bother me, either. Once it went from being "kind of interested in each other" to "officially dating," however, I might look for another tutor, just because something feels off about paying your girl/boy friend to help you with a subject.

Edited by SproutMamaK
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To be clear the tutors are *not* students themselves, just some of them are young-ish to be done college, and some students are old-ish to be at college.

 

---

 

So, definitely no concerns about a 'power difference' in the relationship? Nothing around the possibility of a tutor appearing to be predatory, and the college appearing complicit?

 

What if there were an age difference?

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The gender of the people in question wouldn't bother me. Developing a relationship wouldn't bother me, either. Once it went from being "kind of interested in each other" to "officially dating," however, I might look for another tutor, just because something feels off about paying your girl/boy friend to help you with a subject.

I agree.  

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Predators take advantage of every situation possible. The only way the college would be complicit is if the tutors were officially "college-approved" - as in background checks or employment/education history. And even then, it would only if somebody detected a predatory pattern that injured students and ignored it.

 

I understand the concern and it's probably a minor, but valid concern. However, things happen, people meet, whatever, whatever. Even with a large age range, even with an older woman, even within taboo scenarios, so who is to say that the feelings aren't genuine?

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I was a departmental tutor at my college. It would've been inappropriate for me to date someone I was currently tutoring, but if I had been single and there were a mutual interest, it would've been totally fine for him to switch to a different tutor and then ask me out.

 

I don't think the sex of the tutor matters and neither does age assuming that they are both 18+.

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Just that young profs probably shouldn't date students (regardless of age) so I imagined it might be a line that any/all employees or (pseudo-employees) ought not to cross either.

 

It's fine for unmarried professors to date students so long as the student is not currently enrolled in the professor's class. My aunt had a long-term boyfriend whom she met when he was her grad school professor. They did not start dating until after the course was over.

 

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Developing feelings would not be inappropriate.

 

If they would like to date, the tutored student should find a different tutor.

 

Male-female in either role doesn't matter.

 

If the tutors are affiliated with or referred by the college, I'd expect that there would be some general policy about tutors not dating their clients; if the tutoring is simply encouraged by instructors, I'd expect that the college couldn't much meddle.

 

Really, it's about blending personal and professional relationships. Not usually a good idea. Best to keep the boundaries clear.

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The tutors aren't employees of the college, so I really don't think there is any issue at all.  Essentially the tutor is someone the student has hired.  I think it might be better not to date someone who is actually tutoring you, for practical reasons, but I don't think it's immoral to do it.

 

TBH, even with a college employed tutor, if that person was not in fact teaching that student, I probably wouldn't think it was a problem, especially if they were close in age.

 

As far as the power/predatory thing - these students are no longer children, they are adults.  All romantic relationships have power differentials of one kind or another, that are just inherent, and we would be very very limited in our relationship options if we could only date people with whom we were completely even with in terms of power of position, wealth, personality, intelligence, physical prowess, and so on. 

 

It's one thing if there is an issue of giving someone a mark or pressure of that kind, but that is not the case just because an employee is dating a student they have no institutional power over.

 

Predatory people are all over the place, and will use any sort of power or influence to their advantage, and are personally culpable for that.  But I don't really see a reasonable way to say we should cut out all relationships with potential power differences on that account.  I've known university faculty, and others, who made use of their job to meet people to have sex or relationships with, and I tend to think they are a little slimy - on the other hand I don't think they were particularly taking advantage of their partners who were in most cases quite aware of what the arrangement was and were happy enough to be in a position to do the same from the other end.

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It's fine for unmarried professors to date students so long as the student is not currently enrolled in the professor's class. My aunt had a long-term boyfriend whom she met when he was her grad school professor. They did not start dating until after the course was over.

 

Yuck. It totally isn't. Even Harvard, a holdout, finally banned this last year. Most universities have for years considered professor-student relationships inappropriate. http://time.com/3697799/harvard-sexual-relationships-students-professors/

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There is nothing one can do against developing feelings. That is not inappropriate.

Acting on those feelings and beginning a relationship could be a problem if one is a student client and the other a tutor who is endorsed by the university. Depending on the school, such a relationship may be explicitly prohibited.

If they want to pursue the relationship, it may suffice if the tutor and student end the student's tutoring contract, but it may be necessary for the tutor to quit tutoring. 

 

ETA: The gender of the people involved is irrelevant for any such rules. In fact, it would be considered discriminatory if the college applied different rules depending on gender. Any age difference is also irrelevant.

Edited by regentrude
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To be clear the tutors are *not* students themselves, just some of them are young-ish to be done college, and some students are old-ish to be at college.

 

---

 

So, definitely no concerns about a 'power difference' in the relationship? Nothing around the possibility of a tutor appearing to be predatory, and the college appearing complicit?

 

What if there were an age difference?

 

 I see the scenario you described differently than middle-aged professor and 18yo college freshmen. This would suggest more of a power difference. A tutoring situation can be terminated and a new tutor found. This would be more difficult and alarming if we were discussing a tenured professor and a student.

I also got the impression from your scenario that student and tutor are not far apart in age. Therefore I do not see anything inappropriate.

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 I see the scenario you described differently than middle-aged professor and 18yo college freshmen. This would suggest more of a power difference. A tutoring situation can be terminated and a new tutor found. This would be more difficult and alarming if we were discussing a tenured professor and a student.

I also got the impression from your scenario that student and tutor are not far apart in age. Therefore I do not see anything inappropriate.

 

It has nothing to do with age.

At our college, it would be prohibited for a grad student TA to date any student even if they are exactly the same age.

 

The college may have rules that would apply in case of such a relationship, and usually they are irrespective of the participants' ages.

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I decided not to read any other responses yet. I don't see this as a problem - the tutor is not an employee or in a position of authority. They already knew each other, too. I don't imagine one gender or another for the respective roles; it wouldn't matter to me.

 

Sent from my XT1049 using Tapatalk

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My son is a college student and a college tutor.  He is currently going through tutor certification classes and this was brought up.  Basically, the tutor is not supposed to initial any conversation outside of the tutoring subject during the tutoring session.  If the one being tutored initials a conversation (unrelated to the tutoring) the tutor is supposed to steer them back to the subject at hand.  If a friendship or more forms and they want to get together outside of the tutoring session, the tutor needs to request for a new tutor to be assigned.  My son tutors several students that had to be switched from another tutor because of friendships.  This is for the protection of all involved and to make sure that the subject that tutoring is needed for is properly covered.  Outside of the tutoring center, one can hire a tutor that they have a friendship or more with but the tutoring is not under the college and the college is not liable for those tutoring sessions.  I hope this was clear enough.  My son has said that there are so many rules and if/then scenarios that they have to go over.

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I was a departmental tutor at my college. It would've been inappropriate for me to date someone I was currently tutoring, but if I had been single and there were a mutual interest, it would've been totally fine for him to switch to a different tutor and then ask me out.

 

I don't think the sex of the tutor matters and neither does age assuming that they are both 18+.

 

 

 

Really, it's about blending personal and professional relationships. Not usually a good idea. Best to keep the boundaries clear.

 

 

:iagree:  While I don't think there would personally be anything inappropriate about dating a tutor, I think one should be aware of perception. If there is another tutor available, I would have the student switch and let them date. I find this different than professor student relationships, which should be off limits in my opinion. 

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Tutor holds no authority or power over the student. Student can always use another tutor if things go south.

 

If I were creating rules for the workplace, I'd probably add a no fraternization policy. Always best to reduce chances of drama or paying for people to flirt. ;)

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Yuck. It totally isn't. Even Harvard, a holdout, finally banned this last year. Most universities have for years considered professor-student relationships inappropriate. http://time.com/3697799/harvard-sexual-relationships-students-professors/

 

It seems obviously wrong to me as well. But then I was thinking about potential exceptions. What if an older adult student at a community college met a professor in another department socially? What if the student is just a lifelong learner student and not even going for a degree? I'm having a hard time getting my ire up. It feels morally totally fine, even if it's against policy.

Edited by Farrar
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Just that young profs probably shouldn't date students (regardless of age) so I imagined it might be a line that any/all employees or (pseudo-employees) ought not to cross either.

I think the difference between a tutor and a professor is that the tutor has no authority or power over the student. Also, if the tutor is basically employed by the student, one could argue that it's the student in the greater role of power.

 

I think it sounds totally fine, personally.

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It seems obviously wrong to me as well. But then I was thinking about potential exceptions. What if an older adult student at a community college met a professor in another department socially? What if the student is just a lifelong learner student and not even going for a degree? I'm having a hard time getting my ire up. It feels morally totally fine, even if it's against policy.

I guess the professor in question has to decide if her or his career is worth it in that situation. Because these days even a tenured professor can get fired for it. (In the olden days, not so much, and I know plenty of older professors whose second wives were their graduate students.)

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I haven't read the responses.

 

From the description, the tutor is not involved in grading, so I don't see any impropriety there.

 

The sticking point that there is a financial relationship involved. I think adults could figure that out. So I wouldn't have a problem with this.

 

Gender of the participants makes no difference here.

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Yuck. It totally isn't. Even Harvard, a holdout, finally banned this last year. Most universities have for years considered professor-student relationships inappropriate. http://time.com/3697799/harvard-sexual-relationships-students-professors/

 

There is a conflict of interest if the student is currently enrolled in the professor's class and the professor is grading that student. There is no conflict of interest once the class is over.

 

I don't buy the claim that two consenting adults have an inherently problematic relationship simply because one is a professor and the other is a student at that university. What can the professor do to the student if he/she is no longer in the professor's class?

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I have no problem with this. 

 

An actual faculty member shouldn't date undergrads, IMHO (or even grad students if they are in the same department).

 

Adults should not date minors. But most undergrads are 18+ and therefore not minors. Grad students are typically in their mid-20's or older so definitely not minors.

 

I'm so sick of how our society wants to treat young adults as children. Once you're 18 and out of high school, you're an adult and should be treated as such.

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There is a conflict of interest if the student is currently enrolled in the professor's class and the professor is grading that student. There is no conflict of interest once the class is over.

 

I don't buy the claim that two consenting adults have an inherently problematic relationship simply because one is a professor and the other is a student at that university. What can the professor do to the student if he/she is no longer in the professor's class?

Well, most universities disagree with you. Happily, you don't have to buy it because you are not a university professor. 😉

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It has nothing to do with age.

At our college, it would be prohibited for a grad student TA to date any student even if they are exactly the same age.

 

The college may have rules that would apply in case of such a relationship, and usually they are irrespective of the participants' ages.

 

Universities are doing CYA because they don't want to get involved in a potential sexual harassment lawsuit. From a legal standpoint, it's easier to have a blanket rule than to do the hard work of figuring out which specific relationship scenarios are ok and which aren't.

 

It's like how I have a blanket "no sleepovers except at relatives' houses" rule for my kids because I don't want to get into arguments over which friends' houses I'd be ok with and which not.

 

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It has nothing to do with age.

At our college, it would be prohibited for a grad student TA to date any student even if they are exactly the same age.

 

The college may have rules that would apply in case of such a relationship, and usually they are irrespective of the participants' ages.

Even if they are not in the same department? Or class? That seems to strange to me. 

 

Yes, if it is a TA who is involved in a class the student is taking, of course. But otherwise?

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A million years ago, I tutored math because I was also a grader for several of the advanced, 300-level courses. They didn't have any of the graduate students available, so I tutored. It was just a few students on an as-needed basis.

 

I signed an agreement that I would not have a romantic relationship with a student I was tutoring. If I wanted to pursue a romantic relationship, I had to end tutoring.

 

My boyfriend at the time had already graduated and was working, so it wasn't an issue at all for me.

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Adults should not date minors. But most undergrads are 18+ and therefore not minors. Grad students are typically in their mid-20's or older so definitely not minors.

 

I'm so sick of how our society wants to treat young adults as children. Once you're 18 and out of high school, you're an adult and should be treated as such.

 

It's not about age. It's about a power differential. For instance, many large organizations prohibit dating between bosses and employees. Anyone in power is stupid/foolish/crazy to date someone who is "under" them. Just asking for a law suit or a criminal complaint.

 

Undergrads take a wide range of courses and often have no control over which professor they might need to take a course from, get a recommendation from, etc. They are not wise-to-the-world as they will be in a few more years. 

 

Grad students probably shouldn't date professors either, but grad students generally have a much narrower range of courses required/desired and have much more lee way as to course selection. When I did my MS, I took courses in a very narrow range of departments and knew well which courses I'd need. I had 5 faculty members on my committee, and other than those 5, the rest of the university had very little influence over my destiny.  Contrast that with an undergrad with 4 years (say 50 courses) needed across a wide range of departments . . . I was in Stream/Forest Ecology, and if I'd wanted to date a Sociology prof or a French prof or whatever, that would not be at all a conflict with my own studies/well being. (Still probably a bad idea, but at least not dangerous to my education.) 

 

All that said, when I was interviewing for grad schools (as a 22 year old), the professor (age maybe 50) at UC Boulder who was recruiting me strongly . . . (and even visited me in my HOME in VA) . . . made mention that he'd previously dated a grad student. And made mention that if I accepted the funding/position he was offering, I would be traveling with him, alone, in remote areas of Alaska, back country camping via helicopter drop . . . I did not accept that position. I did accept a position/funding at another school. Soon after I accepted that position, I discovered that my major advisor (age about 45) had a prior relationship with a grad student that ended badly and created a big stink in the entire department/college. I discovered that, to my chagrin, only months AFTER having commented/joked to my advisor about the UC Boulder prof who had been hitting on me while recruiting me. This all made sense when I realized that my major advisor "had it out for me" because I was dating another new student in his lab (who became my wonderful dh). After much drama, I ended up switching to a FEMALE advisor, and my dh ultimately quit his phd program (and then went to vet school). That sexual/romantic tension of the possibility of dating between an advisor/mentor and me, as a grad student, DID negatively impact my (and dh's by secondary impact) academic experiences . . .

 

So, IMHO, it is stupid/dangerous/selfish to pursue relationships with underlings in grad school/undergrad/workplace. If you want to date someone over whom you have power, you need to change the work/school situation before you do so. 

 

Personally, I would be very skeptical of any faculty member (25++ in most cases) who was interested in dating an undergrad. I would be concerned about their wisdom, maturity, etc. There are exceptions, of course. (A young prof . . . a second-career older student, etc.) . . . But, as a general rule, people who seek out much younger/less experienced/less savvy people to date have something amiss, IMHO. 

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Well, most universities disagree with you. Happily, you don't have to buy it because you are not a university professor. 😉

 

Even for graduated former students though? So a professor at an institution can't ever date a former student from that institution, even if they never had a teacher/student relationship?

 

Honestly, that seems like a major overreach. 

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 Contrast that with an undergrad with 4 years (say 50 courses) needed across a wide range of departments  

 

Outside of my major, I never was required to take any specific course. There were general ed requirements, of course, but they were things like "a science course" or "a humanities course" or "a writing course", etc. and there were always numerous options. If I had wanted to avoid a specific professor because we were dating, it would've been totally easy to do that.

 

Even within my major, I typically only ever had 1 required course with any given professor. There were electives taught by the same profs, but again easy to avoid those if I had ever needed to.

 

I dated or was engaged to a fellow student the entire time I was in college (my now-DH, whom I met during Orientation week) so this was never anything I had to worry about. I just don't see a professor-student relationship to be inherently problematic except when the student is currently enrolled in the professor's course.

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Even for graduated former students though? So a professor at an institution can't ever date a former student from that institution, even if they never had a teacher/student relationship?

 

Honestly, that seems like a major overreach.

No, only when one is a prof and the other a student at the same institution. 😊

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The OP didn't ask about whether the rules said it was prohibited, it asked about whether we thought it was wrong.

 

Having rules doesn't mean something is wrong, there are a heck of a lot of stupid rules in the world.

 

I don't think that just because some institutions make rules about something that they are necessarily correct.  Aside from guidelines to address real conflicts of interest, I think most rules made prohibiting dating in the workplace are over-reaching and a bad idea.  It's exerting inappropriate control of others and it's extremely paternalistic.

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I think it is definitely wrong for a professor or TA to date a student because they are grading the student. But from what I understand the tutors you describe are not involved in grading and hired by the student. So the student is almost like an employer and the tutor is an employee and the student is paying the tutor directly and the tutor is dependent on the student for wages. This is like someone dating the person they hire to clean their house. Should the house cleaner continue to work for them? No, but iIf not they lose wages. Is it easy for the tutor to find a new student to teach and the student to start with a new tutor? Agree that it's wrong to be paying someone and be in a relationship with them. What happens if the relationship ends?

Also, during their training was the tutor instructed not to date their students? To me, this means something.

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