Professor-Student Relationships: What You Need to Know?

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While relationships between students and professors aren't unheard of, they can be a source for all kinds of problems.

Is It OK for College Students and Professors to Date?

First things first: A student must be 18 years old to legally be able to consent to a relationship with an adult. Beyond that, some schools have specific rules about what to do if a student and a professor want to pursue a romantic relationship. If that's the case at your institution, know that the answer to your dating question lies in the faculty and/or student handbook. Breaking those rules could jeopardize the professor's job.

What to Do When There Are No Rules

If you're at an institution where there aren't official rules about dating, there are most likely some guidelines or unofficial community expectations. Is it frowned upon? Is it OK to date a professor, so long as you're not in one of his or her classes? Be aware that even if you're not breaking any rules, your relationship could cause problems.

Even if the professor isn't the student's professor when the relationship starts, problems could arise if the student ends up in the professor's class later on. As a member of the faculty and through their influence with other faculty (who may teach the student), the professor holds power over the student. Many schools look down on professor/student dating because of these reasons.

Additionally, other students may perceive you as having an unfair advantage because you are, by nature, closer to at least one member of the faculty. If you're dating a professor whose classes you take, students may think you're getting special treatment or grades you haven't earned, no matter if you actually are.

Say your professor/partner tutors you in a subject you're struggling with or helps you figure out which classes to take and get you the classes you need. In your mind, you might just be enjoying the benefits of a nice relationship. But in other students' minds, you might be enjoying something they are unable to get unless they make the same choices you did. Be prepared for your relationship to cause tension with your peers, as they may envy your inside access to the faculty world

What If It Doesn't Work Out?

Dating a professor can have tricky long-term consequences. If you break up, you may still have to see each other regularly around campus or, worse, in class. All those questions about fairness your relationship initially raised will remain, only you may now be at an unfair disadvantage, with your ex having power over your grades and reputation with other faculty. You could do some damage, too, as anything you share with your friends about your relationship could spread across campus and affect the professor's reputation or, worse, their job.

Ultimately, you both need to consider the rules and have a discussion about the potential risks of a relationship.