College Professors and StudentsBy Carol Natoli

A professor who ignites curiosity and encourages students to question things can create a great relationship with a class or an individual pupil. While interacting about college material, a visit to the professor’s office is generally safe ground for discussing assignments.  Sometimes friendships develop and one has to ask himself if meeting for coffee “off campus” is appropriate. Where is the line drawn if other things are talked about?  Does staying “on campus” make it feasible to have a friendship or is the student misinterpreting the professor’s interest, just because the student is getting attention? The problem arises often with a young college professor who isn’t that much older than his senior student and that student shows interest of a different nature other than academic.

Can friendships develop between college professors and students of the opposite sex?   A vast oasis of topics might draw them together, with life skills that can be shared, but a professor’s lifestyle should heed to the danger of crossing the line with a female student. Meeting at a local pub to discuss an upcoming project can be a ploy on the end of the professor.  Beware!

On the other hand, maybe the professor is a mother herself, who returned to work, when her children were grown. The adult learner, returning to class, might be able to relate with the professor offering a personal story and shared philosophy.  Being that they are both adults of the same sex generally causes no problem, unless there is interference on grade requirements, and the friendship allows such requirements to be washed under the table, as a form of favoritism.  One must not forget what ethical behavior is all about. Ethics does not just include workplace morals but also anything that does not raise eyebrows.

”Professors have the ability to set the tone of the classroom based on their personality, teaching style and even their shifting moods. It is a student’s sometimes precarious job to stay within the bounds of the unwritten rules of their various classes. If a professor is permissive or even inappropriate does this give his or her students license to behave the same way?” (April 23, 2008 by Lisa Barbella , retrieved June 8, 2011, The Exponent, Student Newspaper of UAH).

If being inappropriate in the workplace would not be tolerated, what makes people think that it should be tolerated in the academia arena?  Just as a corporate job requires men to wear suits and ties all day, shouldn’t last-semester seniors dress this way too?  If college should teach anything, it should teach real-life scenarios which included good habits and the negation of erroneous consciences.

“Certainly the type of class will have an effect on the intimacy of its students and its teacher. Small discussion classes create an environment of openness not often found in larger, more impersonal lecture halls. Certain areas of study facilitate class conversations about sensitive topics such as love, family, politics, sexuality, religion, and morality. It is difficult maintain a strictly professional atmosphere and neutralize the intense emotions often created by these situations. Even if it were possible it would arguably be detrimental to the purpose of these types of classes.” (April 23, 2008 by Lisa Barbella , retrieved June 8, 2011, The Exponent, Student Newspaper of UAH).

Do not get yourself in the position of not knowing what to do.  In the real world, one cannot always predict or prevent with whom he or she will fall in love with, but the greatest lesson in life is one of self-control, despite the fact that we have seen lately the opposite of politicians, who just haven’t seemed to grown up.

Be an adult and learn to fit into that world, where there are consequences for one’s actions and responsibilities with every choice.  Do not jeopardize one’s own relationship, professional or otherwise, for it is a long road to win back trust. Grow, learn, converse, and be enriched, whether it be through the professor’s academic experience or life experience; the professor should not give an indication that he or she wants to change the relationship from a teacher-student scenario to one of friendship. If students do not heed this advice, only bad things can happen to a planned career before the long-awaited first note of “Pomp and Circumstance” is even heard!

Finally if either the student or the teacher feel the attraction then maybe its time to take a semester off. These days there are many colleges that offer online degree programs and online courses. One can easily attend an online college for a while and then transfer the credits back to the college once the heat subsides.