I’m about to go back to college where I took a class from a professor that I have a big crush on. He’s not that much older than me, not married, and we flirted a looooot last semester. I don’t have him as my prof right now, but it’s possible in the future in my program. Should I try to go for it anyway, or is it not worth the risk of having to take a class from him in the future?
— Anonymous, from Tumblr
Sarah: Woooooooof. Okay, on the one hand, I understand the draw of this situation when you’re young and a total fucking idiot and you have no concept for the actual consequences of your dumbass actions. If I learned anything about life in these short almost 28 years, it’s that the kind of professors who would pursue a relationship with a student they might have in the future is probably not going to have the best ethical compass for relationship purposes, even if it’s just a fling. That said, if he is, for example, a grad student teaching intro courses and you’re moving into the 300 levels and beyond and you know you’ll never see him again as your prof, you might be okay asking him to meet up for a drink. That said, student-prof relationships are under tight scrutiny in the new era of Title IX additions, so don’t be offended if he’s not willing to put his professional credibility at risk just for a little extra poon. If you feel real chemistry beyond just wanting to fuck each other and you really want to pursue an actual relationship (and again, I strongly caution you against any grown adult who dates people who he used to teach), shelve this one until after graduation.
Debby: As a professor myself, I agree with many people that it’s best to leave romantic/sexual relationships outside the classroom. If you can register for another section of the same class, by all means do so. If you’re attracted to the professor and not his student, that gives you more freedom to reach out to him and ask him on a date or for sex or whatever it is you’re interested in (assuming, of course, you are unlikely to be his student in the future). Some departments and universities have explicit policies against faculty-student sexual relationships. Sometimes these policies are perhaps a bit over-reaching, extending to any faculty-student pairing even if the student is not in that faculty member’s class at any point ever. More often, policies are specific to faculty and the students they teach, and sometimes only to the semester that student is enrolled in their course and/or otherwise subject to being graded or supervised by the faculty member. If you care about or respect the professor as a person, it’s not only wise but kind to not put him in a position where he could lose his job or otherwise get into trouble. If you end up registering for his class, my advice is not the make him uncomfortable. Flirting openly with him in class - even if nothing is happening between you two - could change other students’ perceptions about him (or you) and may make some students feel like they are disadvantaged in their education in the sense that you may be getting attention or favors or flexibility that he doesn’t give to others - even if that’s not true. Just stay professional and, if you’re still into him after the semester is over, you can always approach him after final grades are in.