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Instances where a professor demands sexual favors for a grade or recommendation clearly constitute sexual harassment, for which there are policies and sanctions already established.But many administrators refer to faculty-student dating as "a gray area," where individual maturity levels, professor's marital status and questions of direct supervision play a role.
Others say that any faculty-student relationship is simply incompatible with the mission of higher education."This is not a moral question," said Dr.
Ronald Herron, vice president for student affairs at SUNY Purchase. There are profound obligations one takes on as an educator that require us to always place the student and the act of teaching ahead of personal interest." Dr.
Suzanne Kessler, Associate Professor of Psychology at SUNY Purchase.
"But most of what we're talking about is not what falls under a strict definition of sexual harassment.
Herron said that college students in the customary age group -- from 18 to 21 years old -- are still forming their identities and that involving a student in a personal, sexual relationship would interfere with that process of emotional growth.
Student-Patient Analogy Some professors make the comparison between a faculty-student relationship and a relationship between a therapist and a patient, which is always considered unethical by professionals."They are parallel, though not identical, issues," said Dr.Most college administrators suggested that if there is real mutual attraction and affection between a faculty member and a student, it can wait until the status of one member of the relationship changes."Even if quite genuine love developed between two people that was not intended by either to take advantage of the other, I would be most comfortable with its not being acted out until either the student graduated or the faculty member was no longer the employee of the college," Dr. Margaret Keady Goldberg, of Bronxville, married her former English professor at Marymount College, but said she did not start dating her future husband until two years after she graduated. Goldberg, said that love-stricken students were an occupational hazard for her husband, who died several years ago."He'd receive all these calls from students who were having a crush on him," said Ms. "He was always very honorable and said, ' Thank you very much, but I don't have relationships with students.' Not all professors were that honorable.Certainly these situations presented themselves, and sometimes the professor had the maturity and morals to handle it, and sometimes he didn't," she said.I can understand certain circumstances where the professor appears almost God-like and therefore is highly regarded by the student.The young person can feel in love and can fall prey to any manipulation on the part of the professor," he said. Cancro said that under such circumstances it is the professor's responsibility to maintain the boundaries of the relationship.Others cite happy marriages of professors to their former students.