I’m a female sophomore in college. I never really knew what I wanted to pursue as a career or even a major for that matter. I decided to check out a political science class earlier this year to see if that might be interesting and I loved it! I have always been fascinated by politics and found my new professor so exciting and interesting. We have been analyzing the recent presidential debates and it’s been some of the most fun I’ve ever had in class. I could tell that my professor really cared about students because of how much he puts into his classes and how passionate he is when talking about politics.
He also took an interest in me. I have always been one to sit at the front of a classroom and ask a lot of questions and in his engaging class I always asked a lot of questions and would stay after to ask other ones. The professor asked me if I wanted to help him on a project for the upcoming presidential debates to which I excitedly agreed. We arranged to meet at an off campus coffee shop, during which we discussed an upcoming debate for at least an hour or more. Then he asked if I wanted to join him for a drink at his place. I stumbled over my words and myself but I somehow managed to cobble together a story of needing to get home and that we could meet up another night soon. I’m just confused. I am attracted to him in a professor kinda way but feel really weird about this whole thing. What should I do?
Dear Professor Trouble,
Big red flags going up in both hands here for Professor Creeper. He crossed a line inviting you to his home. You feel uncomfortable and I would too.
The beauty of college is being able to explore, dream and dive into passionate pursuits and future career paths. Your professors are there to support you, guide you, teach you and push you. I attended a liberal arts college because the intimacy of learning in a small class size and having accessibility to my professors was appealing.
He has put you and himself in a potential compromising position and it is not okay.
You did nothing wrong. You bring energy and excitement to his classroom. Romantic professor and student relationships are played out in movies and literature, and while considered cliché, they exist. There is nothing illegal about a professor developing a romantic thought of a student. The problem falls with pursuit. Professors are authoritative figures. They have influence over molding young minds and are in a position of power.
You have acknowledged that your professor’s invitation to his home has extended into uncomfortable parameters. Although making excuses can get you out of the next situation, if it persists, it may be time to take it to the head of the department, your college counselor, or dean. You should be able to passionately pursue this study without any interference from this professor. He has crossed the line and asserted his position and power. He has put you and himself in a potential compromising position and it is not okay. Trust your instincts. Stand your ground.
Dear Professor Trouble,
I hate to say it, but he probably wanted to sleep with you. With a fair number of men you meet, it’s fair to consider that their primary motivation in developing a relationship with you is sexual. That doesn’t mean that it’s their only motivation, just one of the primary ones. Considering that you went into this project without that possibility on your mind, this likely suggests that you have had healthy, safe relationships with older men in your past. While I do hope that you can maintain that outlook, it is also important to keep healthy boundaries as you set off into new environments in college and beyond. As long as men and women have worked together, there has been a mixing of business and pleasure. While it is possible for two consenting adults to navigate a dual relationship such as student/teacher and romantic partner, it can be also be confusing and risky. It may even be disallowed depending on your university.
The safer and advisable decision in most of these situations is to avoid dual relationships if at all possible.
Many times in these types of dual relationships, the younger and more vulnerable partner is the one who is harmed. The safer and advisable decision in most of these situations is to avoid dual relationships if at all possible.
In this situation, you agreed to coffee under the premise of working together on a school project and although that was honored early on, your professor pushed these boundaries at the end of the night. My guess is that this is not the first occasion he has asked a female student to participate on a special project and likely not his last.
Given that this professor appears to be a good teacher and one that has inspired you to pursue a major, it will be up to you to decide how best to proceed. It seems likely that you two could continue to work together within the classroom, while drawing a line when it comes to outside of the classroom. Working on maintaining these boundaries now will only be good practice when it comes to protecting yourself and your career in the future.