Too Close for Comfort: Is Dating Your Professor Too Much?

Words by: Nyasha Baly

Standing at the lectern, that Ralph Lauren cuffed polo never fit so well tucked into a pair of khakis. It feels like butterflies are wallowing through my stomach. Maybe feelings are developing. They’re always on time, very organized, smart and certified. They’re classy with apparel and mean with oration. Dating a professor is such a tempting temptation.

During Alexis Shoemaker’s sophomore year, innocent office visits soon turned into an awkward situation. Shoemaker, now a junior psychology student at Florida A&M University, was failing a science class, so she began visiting the teacher’s office hours frequently for help.

One day, in a long sundress, Shoemaker attempted to borrow a book from her professor to prepare for the final exam.

“Oh, you think I’m going to pass you just 
because you come in here with pretty dresses 
and you smell good,” Shoemaker recalled the professor saying. 
“I’ve dealt with your kind before, 
I’m not going to pass you just because you’re pretty. 
I’m not going to do it.”

Shoemaker said this encounter was the most uncomfortable, “as if there was an underlying commentary behind his remark.”

Shoemaker’s experience illustrates how easily a line can be crossed in the platonic and professional teacher-student relationship. Though she was not seeking special treatment from her professor, when adults interact in this close setting, it is easy for certain signals to get lost in translation.

At the university level, it’s likely that students will have professors close to their age. The idea that students can date their professors is becoming increasingly normalized on college campuses.

Freshmen Veterinary Technology student Ajiona Lunsford, explained her mother’s personal experience in which her relationship with her professor extended beyond the classroom.

“Back in the day, my mom dated her professor when she attended Hampton University,” Lunsford said. “I met the guy, and until this day, him and her still talk and they’re friends. At this point in college, we are grown.”

Attraction between students and professors are not unrealistic with how often these parties interact. Most students spend a majority of their time communicating with faculty through lectures, major based extracurricular activities or meet-ups during office hours.

There may even be instances where you feel like risking it all to try things out with your professor, but take into consideration the numerous factors involved. In this very delicate situation things can easily go sideways. Suspension, the teacher being fired, expulsion or even legal action depending on the situation.

Florida A&M University Security Guard Sharon Moore saw the outcome of a student-teacher relationship that took place here at FAMU.

“Twelve years ago, my niece who went to FAMU was dating a professor,” Moore said. “The school found out about it and she ended up getting kicked out of college. She couldn’t go to another university and he lost his license. It’s hard for her to actually get a good job now, so she’s working at a McDonald’s trying to make ends meet for her and her daughter.”

You’ve got to ask yourself a few questions before you link up with Professor X at Top Flite. Some people truly put their future on the line for love. These types of students who do so endanger other student-teacher relationships.

For justified reasons, there are many students who are scared to grow close to their professors in fear that boundaries may be crossed. It is traditionally considered taboo to pursue these types of relationships with professors.

CollegeStats.org polled 2,000 current and former students, and the results were telling. Over 52 percent of people polled said they’d fantasized about a professor before, but 48 percent said they would not engage in an affair with one.

Of these people, 14 percent “boldly” – and under anonymity – said they have had inappropriate relations with a professor. Out of the 14 percent, 45 percent said those relationships were prompted by the professor or faculty member.

One would imagine that most adults and professionals approach the idea of students and teacher relationships with a zero tolerance policy. However, faculty member Debra Jackson, a business management analyst for FAMU, has a different mindset than most IMG_0744.MOVstaff at FAMU regarding the issue of students dating professors.

“I think a student can date a professor, but they can’t be involved within the same program with one another. That student shouldn’t have leverage for a grade in the class,” said Jackson.

Jackson explained boundaries needed to be set in place if a teacher decides to carryout an intimate relationship with a student. Before making the move, both parties should be cognizant of what they’re signing up for.

What may happen outside of the classroom between that student and professor relationship, can always turn back around and hit where it hurts. If the relationship did not work out as planned, retaliation is a feasible end. Attendance holds and ruthless rate my professor comments are the least of your worries, but expulsion and removal from their job are very tangible, serious consequences. The damage could be devastating.

We are all warriors ready for combat when it comes down to what we want, especially when it comes to finding love. Every decision we make comes with consequences, but it seems like pursuing a relationship with a professor is becoming a risk more college students are willing to take.

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Click here to see what some of the Journey Staff had to say about dating their professor.

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