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Is it okay to date a student once the semester is over?
November 17, 2010 5:56 PM   Subscribe

Is it okay to date a student once the semester is over?

I am a grad student in my late 20s. I'm teaching a course and I find one of my students (a junior) ridiculously attractive. I've been careful to maintain a professional relationship and not show any favoritism (if anything, I probably grade this student slightly harder than my others). There is no chance that I'll teach this student in the future.

I'm wondering if there are 1) ethical and/or 2) professional considerations that would deter me from pursuing...um, some kind of sexual relationship...once grades are turned in at the end of the semester. Replies from people in academia would be great, because while I don't personally have any ethical problem with this I am curious as to what my fellow grad students or professors in my department would think of me if they were to find out--and if that would affect my professional standing in any way. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (64 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Do you think you'll have a better chance of getting her in bed if you give her a good grade?

The existence of that question should be enough to answer your question.
posted by alms at 5:59 PM on November 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


A friend of mine met his now wife when he was a Grad student teaching a class. As long as things are clearly set, and you won't have that person in class anymore, go for it. Ethical issues are over at that point.
posted by deezil at 6:00 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your school university most super definitely has an explicit policy on these kinds of relationships, and plenty of precedents as to how they have dealt with them in the past. Do some googling on your school's policy web site for "instructor student relationships".
posted by Think_Long at 6:01 PM on November 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


In a general ethical sense, if there is no chance of you teaching her/mentoring her in the future, I see no ethical reason not to ask her out after the conclusion of the semester.

However 1, yes, some people might find it kinda sketchy. That doesn't mean it will affect your professional standing, but it will probably get gossiped about.

However 2, where I went to grad school grad students were not allowed to date undergrads. Each school has its own policy on this sort of thing, so make sure you know the restrictions at your institution.
posted by brainmouse at 6:01 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


anonymous: "(if anything, I probably grade this student slightly harder than my others)"

I know you meant this as an aside, but it's worth pointing out that this is just as bad as favoritism.
posted by yaymukund at 6:03 PM on November 17, 2010 [66 favorites]


Even if there's no policy against it, you will be known among the faculty as "the one who's dating the undergrad." Do you really want this to be your distinguishing quality?
posted by philokalia at 6:06 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


This issue is a hot topic in the universities here right now - but Think_Long has it right. Different institutions will have different policies on this, ranging from "hell no" to "let us know" to "not our business," so find out where yours stands.

That said, the power dynamics can be a sticking point - if said student feels like you have some sway in the department, they could feel pressured even if you don't intend it that way.
posted by Paragon at 6:06 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


(if anything, I probably grade this student slightly harder than my others)

your feelings for this student is already impacting them in a negative way. is it really fair to them that they get graded harder because your hormones are making you feel guilty?
posted by nadawi at 6:07 PM on November 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


As a fellow TA, I'd say there's no problem. Once they're out of your class, they're just another undergrad. And you're free to date undergrads. As long as you don't make it awkward for them, I wouldn't even classify this as weird. I'm assuming that you're not being a creepy TA. You're not being a creepy TA, right?

If you signed an employment contract for your TA position it probably wouldn't hurt to look at any ethics clauses, but I'm pretty confident you're in the clear.
posted by auto-correct at 6:07 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've known of quite a few grad students dating former students, and I don't think it's seen in as much of a grey area as when full faculty do so. I personally wouldn't be cool with doing it, but I can't say that I would automatically judge someone badly if there was no chance of that person being in your program again. You do need to check your university policy, though. Where I went to grad school, it was just sort of frowned upon, so there is variation in how schools treat it.
posted by bizzyb at 6:08 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Our opinion means almost zero; your institution's policies mean everything.

That said, in my opinion it's creepy. Since you ask. And I favorited everyone who said, in effect, "Grading a student less generously because you want to fuck them is also a form of sexual harassment."
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:09 PM on November 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


I once had a similar question, but as a student wanting to date a professor and wanting it to know if it would cause him any trouble before I started flirting with him. So I created a throwaway anonymous Gmail account and emailed my question to the school's HR department inquiring both about official policy and what would unofficially be frowned upon. They wrote back that officially it was OK for students and instructors to date if the student was not in the instructor's class, but unofficially it was best to keep those relationships discreet on campus until after the student graduated.

So you might try a similar anonymous email to find out what your school's policy and culture is.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:09 PM on November 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


One of my friends is a professor (does not yet have tenure) and he has dated students after the end of the semester. I think his school has a "none of our business" policy. I don't think it's an issue. As philokalia pointed out, some might have an opinion about it, but I really don't think personally that it's anybody's business if you are both consenting adults.
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:10 PM on November 17, 2010


Hugo Schwyzer is a women's studies prof & blogger who writes quite a bit about student crushes, among other things, on his website. I'm sure he's addressed the issue from the reverse at some point. Maybe something there would be of use to you?

And are you attracted to *her*, or her appearance? And does that matter to you?
posted by MeiraV at 6:12 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's interesting and, I think, telling that people automatically assume this is a male grad student in pursuit of a female undergrad.

Anyway, there was some student publication at Columbia, might have even been the Spectator, that published an article about this and I remember being shocked at how widespread (the article made it seem) it was (is). I really don't think this is such a big deal if it goes down after the class. As for it affecting fairness... gimme a break, TAs and undergrads get buddy buddy all the time for better or worse.
posted by johnnybeggs at 6:12 PM on November 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


As for it affecting fairness... gimme a break, TAs and undergrads get buddy buddy all the time for better or worse.

The OP implies that the "ridiculously attractive" person is getting the opposite of a break. That sucks.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:17 PM on November 17, 2010


From the OP:
This student happens to be really smart. I usually grade students slightly harder when they're really smart (like, an A- instead of an A) because it pushes them to take their work to the next level and turn in a better second draft (I allow paper revisions for higher grades up until the very end of the semester). I don't think I'm being influenced by my feelings about the student.

Regarding the university's policy, I took a look at the handbook and it says that we are required to disclose relationships to our superior if it is instructor-student, but it doesn't say anything about the policy once the professional relationship is effectively over.
posted by jessamyn at 6:19 PM on November 17, 2010


From the OP:
Also, for what's it worth, I'm female, the student is male. I tried to leave it ambiguous (boo double standard!) but that may have been a bad idea. Now I am kind of thinking that this fact may change some people's ideas about whether this is "creepy" or not, but I originally hoped that the advice would be the same regardless of gender.

In response to the question of whether I'm attracted to the person's looks or the actual person, uh, I have no idea?? Is there any way of figuring out which is which? Sometimes a person walks into the room and your whole body just lights up like a Christmas tree, even though you've barely looked at them, and you have no idea why. This is one of those cases.
posted by jessamyn at 6:32 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


OP you are an undergrad's dream, close out the semester and go for it.
posted by johnnybeggs at 6:37 PM on November 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm a professor at a research university; I do not see any problem with what you're proposing. Your university probably has a policy on dating current students, but I really doubt they have anything explicit on former students, beyond CYA catch-all sexual harassment language.

If one of the TAs in my department started dating an undergrad, yes there'd be some snickering, but beyond the initial 'oh, that's interesting...' I can't imagine anyone would really think twice about it. For people with whom I have a professional relationship, dating habits aren't high up on my list of things I care about...
posted by deadweightloss at 6:43 PM on November 17, 2010


Check your institution's policies (I'd suggest asking (anonymously) as well as checking the written policies) first. Maintaining discretion is a good idea, no matter what the policies are, though you'll find many, many relationships in academia that began as prof/TA or TA/student relationships. It's fair to say that this is super common, whether or not it's "legal" at any given moment.

And think about whether or not the student will continue to have any contact with your department -- this can be an issue, even if you will never again be his teacher.
posted by Forktine at 6:48 PM on November 17, 2010


Yes, it is okay for two adults to date.
posted by jrockway at 6:53 PM on November 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm a female prof. If your university has no policy, then wait not only until grades are in, but perhaps even until into next semester. Then go for it. My suggestion would be to suggest that you go for coffee off campus, or something like that. Clear enough that you are making a move, but not a major move. Then you can gauge out what your feelings are and also to make sure that you can flag for him what's up and let him make the transition. Generally what I'm suggesting is that because you are in the power role, that you make darn sure that your guy is mature enough to navigate some of these issues (some are, some aren't). Depending on the culture of your department, you might choose to date off campus and to keep a low profile on campus. I agree with deadweightloss that there may be a raised eyebrow or two, but only for a minute. It happens.
posted by kch at 6:58 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You will be gossiped about even if the university policy is loose about instructor student relationships.

I personally find it skeezy when it's a prof or a grad student. Let me put it this way, there is a tenured prof at my university who is known as "pant less wonder" Still a prof but people don't respect him. Another prof is dating an undergrad now, and though he is trying to hide it, the staff knows and mocks him for it.

I have had friends who have had relationships with their profs -- not good for them especially when it lead to divorce. I have had a friend who was attractive to his female grad TA. She was notorious for being a "guide" to undergraduates a la Britt Ekland in the Wicker Man. Drama, drama, drama. YMMV

Be prepared for gossip and the raised eyebrow. Seriously, check the university policy to be above board about it.

Sorry if I am being a downer, this is a little close.
posted by jadepearl at 7:05 PM on November 17, 2010


What makes this kind of thing creepy is the power dynamic, even after you stop being their teacher specifically. But I don't think that's really a problem here, for two reasons. Firstly is that you're only a grad student yourself, so there's no chance of you hiring them or taking them on as a grad student of your own in the short term future. Secondly is that you're not really that much older than an undergrad anyway. I don't think gender comes into it really, an older female University employee hitting on a student is just as creepy as an older guy doing it in my opinion. Once class is over I don't think there will be any weird power issues left over, so you should be fine. Students hooking up with other students is not uncommon at my University though, so if the culture is more rigid where you are then you might still get gossiped about.

The only thing is to make sure that you're really clear of being their teacher. Not just turned in the final marks for your part, but they've finished all their assessment and have their final grades returned for all their classes. My Uni just finished exams but they're still being marked and it will be a while before students get their grades back. This means there's also still time for things to be disputed - including the course work I graded during the semester - and you don't want to be dating someone who ends up in that position for some reason. Part of that is also the look of things. Once this semester is over and the student is worrying more about signing up for his classes next year you'll be seen as just a grad student again rather than a 'teacher' per se. The timing may be more clear cut where you are though, so use your judgement.

I guess the last issue is how you track him down to ask him out. If you use an email address or other contact details which you only have because you're his teacher then that could potentially be a problem. Some places have rules about how you can use that information. If you see him in the hallway or he's listed on the Uni website somewhere or you've exchanged contact details personally then you're back into 'just another student' territory and it's fine.

And don't ever mention anything about grading him harder for any reason (even in passing), because that's never going to go down well. I'm always careful to be scrupulously fair in grading all my students to recognise their level of achievement regardless of what I think of them, physically or mentally, and most people would be upset to hear anything different.
posted by shelleycat at 7:07 PM on November 17, 2010


The OP asked about how it would be seen by other students and faculty, not about policies. When I was a TA I never would have thought anything of it, and I don't feel any different now that I'm a faculty member. Go for it after grades are in, and after the final grade-changing period, so maybe next semester. I'm a married male prof., and was married while a TA as well, if that has any bearing.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:09 PM on November 17, 2010


Also, since the grading issue has been brought up, I can't imagine grading a student more harshly than another, even if it's to push them to do better. Just as a side note, maybe check with your faculty teaching mentor or advisor to make sure you're doing this in a reasonable way.

Yes, I'm more concerned with ethical issues of grading than dating students.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:18 PM on November 17, 2010


> Your school university most super definitely has an explicit policy on these kinds of relationships

Nope, not definitely. My university doesn't have a policy, but it seems there's an unwritten rule that instructors shouldn't be grading people they are dating. So I would suggest the OP find out the policy at their school, and in the event of a lenient policy, be completely professional until after the semester grades are posted and then ask the undergrad out.

All the people in jadepearl’s examples sound trashy and stupid. Don’t be trashy and stupid, and you’ll be fine. It’s not professional for staff to be gossiping about this stuff in any case.

As someone who deals with students, I've spoken over the years with plenty of grad students dating undergrads. No raised eyebrows around my office; in many cases, there are only a few years of age difference between these students. In cases where there was already a relationship, and then the grad was assigned to TA a class the undergrad was enrolled in, we made sure the TA was assigned to a different section than the undergrad. We had a recent case where a first-year grad student was dating a senior (nobody cared). The senior then applied to the grad program. Their relationship was discussed briefly as an element of admission and then it was decided that no one cared and it wasn’t germane.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:20 PM on November 17, 2010


I think others have covered the ethical and policy grounds. But you should still think twice about doing this. If you have an ongoing relationship, your whole department will probably know about it. Do you think the faculty don't have anything better to do than gossip about you? You are wrong. Most will either not care or find it amusing, but there might be a couple who will think less of you because of this, either because they will assume that you behaved inappropriately when you didn't, or because they have expansive definitions of impropriety.

It’s not professional for staff to be gossiping about this stuff in any case.

This is one of the things you learn in grad school. Faculty don't always act professionally.
posted by grouse at 7:23 PM on November 17, 2010


I wonder, do you have any kind of read on whether the student feels similarly toward you? Because if I had been crushing on my TA all semester and then got asked out afterward: cool! But if I didn't have any interest (or inkling that this attraction existed)? I'd be somewhat-to-pretty creeped out.

I guess I would feel kind of the same way I would if I left a job and then got asked out by my former boss. (In my case, that would feel... for lack of a better term, yucky.) Because that's not what I thought that relationship was about.

I don't at all think there's any ethical problem with dating someone who isn't your student, but I do feel like your current relationship -- where you have authority -- colors the situation somewhat. If you happened to meet him again socially after this semester and click, then I would see NO issue whatsoever with pursuing anything, but as shelleycat mentions, if you're able to contact him only by virtue of saving his information from when you were teaching him......seems like a gray area to me.

On the other hand, if he were to ask you out once the class is over, I'd say go for it!
posted by emumimic at 7:25 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, it is ok. But you can never be in a position to judge her ever again. And this includes writing her a letter of recommendation. As long as you don't violate this, go for it.

Been there, done that
posted by special-k at 7:26 PM on November 17, 2010


I dated my TA in undergrad. We're married now. My husband went to his department head and disclosed the relationship officially, and nobody thought it was a big deal. I think it happens fairly often.
posted by mmmbacon at 7:27 PM on November 17, 2010


I wouldn't do this if I were you.

If it goes badly you are risking too much. It might be fine, but why put you work at risk?

Sexual Harassment? You have already said enough here for him to challenge every grade you have given him (that "mark the smarter kids harder to bring out their potential" will not fly as an acceptable practice, throw in you sleeping with the kid and you would be doomed at a hearing)

I would avoid this.
posted by ServSci at 7:35 PM on November 17, 2010


I am curious as to what my fellow grad students or professors in my department would think of me if they were to find out

This is going to vary a lot depending on the culture of your department. In my graduate department, it was considered totally ok and not even worth gossiping about for a grad student to date an undergrad, as long as they weren't currently teaching them. (And because of how teaching assignments worked there, it was super easy to make sure that you would not be assigned as a TA to a class your undergrad datee was taking.)

And in my department, both male and female TAs were openly dating male and female undergrads (in all sorts of complicated combinations). That said, I'm sure that gender plays a huge role in how this is seen and discussed, and more so in some places than in others.
posted by Forktine at 7:36 PM on November 17, 2010


As a former TA I have been asked to help write recommendations for students (the professor was very fond of delegating things to me) after the class had ended. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:39 PM on November 17, 2010


This probably varies from school to school, but if you're just a TA (not a professor) and won't be her TA again, it should be fine.

Still, check relevant manuals first.

(I'm a former TA and this came up once.)
posted by 630 at 8:01 PM on November 17, 2010


I am a professor and I do not care who my TAs date after the semester is over.
posted by LarryC at 8:08 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This former TA sez go for it! Somebody in my department did it and married her.

The one I liked came to office hours a bunch. Then came at the same time next semester--when I had different office hours. Saw her in the halls, but we never got together :(
posted by Ironmouth at 8:14 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm just summarising the above, but here's the three questions to ask yourself.

1) Is there an employment issue for you to weigh up?

2) Is there a professional/reputational issue for you weigh up?

3) When/how will the power imbalance between you as a teacher and them as a student be removed?
posted by jjderooy at 8:16 PM on November 17, 2010


You're both adults, and there may not be a policy against it, but there's still a good reason not to do it. Suppose he thinks he did a good job in the class (as you say, he's bright), at least in part because of things you have control over (grades, perhaps discussions during or after class). Then you invite him out on a date. How is he supposed to think about his earlier evaluation of his abilities? Did he really do well, or did the fact that you liked him grease the skids?

This may not be much of an issue because of your limited involvement, and it is likely less of an issue given that men generally aren't subject to a lot of efforts to undermine their confidence in their intellectual abilities, but it is something to consider. (The excellent "What is it like to be a woman in philosophy" has a post about a more dramatic version with a male professor and female former student).
posted by Marty Marx at 8:19 PM on November 17, 2010


Date whomever you want, whenever you want, with one proviso...

If you have a personal relationship with a student -- platonic, non-platonic, or whatever -- get someone else to grade their work (whether another TA or the instructor). This isn't that uncommon of a case.

And it is no different in terms of fairness than if your sibling/child/whatever were taking the class -- you wouldn't be able to judge them objectively, and so you should get someone else to grade them.

This is quite common at [major research university] where I've TA'd for the better part of a decade.
posted by astrochimp at 8:33 PM on November 17, 2010


Sorry, on rereading: since you're the instructor, perhaps take my advice to mean that you should ask another instructor or qualified grad student to mark this student, if you think this would be permissible.
posted by astrochimp at 8:41 PM on November 17, 2010


As someone currently in the reverse role (about whom this post may even possibly be about?), I say go for it! I really don't think it is weird at all, just two adults sharing some love. In fact, I intend to ask my TA out on a date after the semester is over :) But if you're interested, I also wouldn't wait for him to make a move, you never know when something special exists and it would be a shame to miss out on it.

To the OP: As a minimally identifying question (because this feels strangely like the situation I am in and, if so, would totally be interested!), do you attend the graduate program at the university at which you teach or are you in a graduate program at a different school?
posted by masters2010 at 9:06 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think this depends a lot on the culture of the school and the department. I've known grad-student/undergrad couples and never thought anything odd about it. It helps a lot, though, that it's an older undergrad.
posted by raf at 9:08 PM on November 17, 2010


Is it okay to date a student once the semester is over?

You tell me: is it okay if you repost this question non-anonymously? That should tell you everything you need to know about whether it's okay where you are.
posted by davejay at 9:13 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, and: if her work merits an F, will you give it to her, or would you be reluctant, knowing it would likely kill your chances with her?
posted by davejay at 9:13 PM on November 17, 2010


I'm wondering if there are 1) ethical and/or 2) professional considerations that would deter me from pursuing...um, some kind of sexual relationship...once grades are turned in at the end of the semester.

Once upon a time, well over a year after I had graduated college, I was messing around on a dating site. I saw a cute girl. And she was a grad student in anthropology - how cool, that's what I majored in for undergrad! So of course I sent her a message. She replied, was witty and attracted to me and we were all raring to meet up and geek out about New Guinean hill tribes over beers. And then, in the course of our emails back and forth, it was revealed that she was a grad student in Anthro at the very university where I had received my degree in Anthro not two years prior. We'd been there at the same time, and she'd been the TA for some courses during that period.

She shut the whole thing down without even meeting me - there was just too strong a possibility that, if we hit it off and started a real relationship, someone at the school would eventually find out, misunderstand, and it could potentially ruin her career (even though it would be easy to verify that she'd never actually taught me).

So, no. I'm going to say this is totally inappropriate, and your student is probably 100% off limits to you, forever, no matter what. Unless you were to leave the program, perhaps.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 PM on November 17, 2010


You tell me: is it okay if you repost this question non-anonymously? That should tell you everything you need to know about whether it's okay where you are.

The OP did not know that this was ok prior to posting this question.

OP: I dated a handful of my students during my time as a grad student (much of my twenties, in three different graduate degrees, and in two large public universities). So did my peers. The faculty did not care what happened after the semester was done. Just follow that golden rule - you cannot judge this student ever again or write a letter of rec.

I am still in academia and we still don't care what happens after the course is done.
posted by special-k at 9:22 PM on November 17, 2010


You tell me: is it okay if you repost this question non-anonymously? That should tell you everything you need to know about whether it's okay where you are.

The OP did not know that this was ok prior to posting this question.


My point was that if the OP is nervous about people at his school finding out that he asked the question, he should probably be nervous about dating the student, and if not, then not.
posted by davejay at 9:55 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


My point was that if the OP is nervous about people at his school finding out that he asked the question, he should probably be nervous about dating the student, and if not, then not.

Right, got that after posting my comment. But it still means nothing. Many people on AskMe post relationship questions anonymously to keep that out of their posting history. What's wrong with that?
Your test (If you cannot post this under your own username then you shouldn't be doing it) is just plain wrong.
posted by special-k at 10:09 PM on November 17, 2010


As much as I wouldn't like to admit, I falsely assumed the OP was male. I found it a little creepy, but only because of a past experience.

I slept with a TA in undergrad and in hindsight it was a bad idea, mostly because I wasn't really attracted to him but was kind of into the fact that he stared at my ass and flirted with me. I was really easy bait because I secretely wanted to be that girl who bedded the TA/prof. O, the things we do as naive, insecure girls...

The fact that you're older than the student, a female, and the prof makes it way hotter. So whatevs! Just make sure that he's single before you make any advances.

What is the age diff?
posted by GEB's fun world at 10:13 PM on November 17, 2010


Many people on AskMe post relationship questions anonymously to keep that out of their posting history. What's wrong with that?

I think if the question you're posting anonymously to ask is "would it be ethical to pursue a relationship in this context?", the desire to be anonymous is worth thinking about. Not because being anonymous is bad, but because the poster seems to already know deep down that this is sketchy or she would have just put her name on it.
posted by Sara C. at 10:13 PM on November 17, 2010


OP, I have no idea whether it's a problem in your case or not. I know tons of people who have dated across this kind of line. In many cases it works out great.

You know what, though:

Just follow that golden rule - you cannot judge this student ever again or write a letter of rec.


People always toss this off like it solves any problems. But if, for instance, the student goes to graduate school in your subject, you are one of a handful of contacts he has at this point. He would be losing a potential mentor and writer of recommendations; you wouldn't. In this sense, relationships across a power diferential tend to be more costly for the person with less power, not the other way around. In your shoes I would mainly be concerned about the student if something went wrong-- in the relationship, in his career, or some combination of the two.
posted by BibiRose at 10:17 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


At the institutions I've been to: no one cares. They don't care if you're dating an undergrad, they don't even care if a professor is dating an undergrad.

At one of the institutions I attended, the major frosh gossip was the fact that two of the tenured profs had met - and started dating - while one was an undergrad, and the other already had tenure. But really, we gossiped about it because we gossiped about everything, including and most especially the fact that the same teacher wore hairpieces that contrasted strongly with their natural hair color.

Don't worry about it. You can make it into a big deal by asking lots of people in your department about it, but really, with most departments, if you don't make it their problem, it isn't a problem.

I might take care in how you approach your crush after the semester is over. I agree about using data that you only had access to via the class, see if there is some publicly accessible means of contacting him.

oh, and for the record? I read your original post and update as a female grad student with a cute male undergrad. Not sure why everyone jumped to the opposite assumption.
posted by arnicae at 11:49 PM on November 17, 2010


Nthing that this depends a lot on the culture of your department. Do other TAs do this? In my department it isn't frowned on, exactly, but it's also very rarely done. As a result, the one time a grad student did date an undergrad it was pretty weird - he didn't really bring her around when the grad students were hanging out, because most grad students don't want to hang out with undergrads. So nobody thought he was doing anything wrong exactly, just odd.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:07 AM on November 18, 2010


I don't think it is creepy and I don't think it is a big deal at all, after the semester is over.
posted by Silvertree at 7:16 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope its OK...I met my wife because I was a grad student instructor and she was my student for one semester. We have been married for 22 years.
posted by Billiken at 7:31 AM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


It happens all the time, but there is some kind of power differential. Whether that matters, or makes things creepy to you or your peers, is a matter of personal opinion. Like dating a previous boss, someone with a major age difference, or one-time mentor, there will be some people who don't like it and others who don't care.

I agree that if you can run into him in at some local event or hangout it will be less weird than if you contact him by the email you only have because you were his TA.
posted by mdn at 7:38 AM on November 18, 2010


[folks, answer the question without dissing other commenters. If you can't be constructive come back when you can be.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:03 AM on November 18, 2010


Now I am kind of thinking that this fact may change some people's ideas about whether this is "creepy" or not

Doesn't change my idea about it. But since it's apparently okay policy-wise with your institution, do whatever feels right to you.

And I would really encourage you to get rid of the "I grade smart students harder" thing. As a former smart student, that is frustrating beyond words. Smart students are very likely to be competing for fellowships and awards and similar that are decided on the basis of fractions of a point in grade-point averages. When teachers in the humanities grade their smart students harder, it puts the smart humanities students at a disadvantage against the smart math and science students--whose grades are generally calculated on the basis of comparatively objective criteria like tests and lab reports.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:28 AM on November 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


Institutions in America have become way too paranoid. In the name of protecting themselves from lawsuits, diseases... terrorists, many has create really intrusive rules and curtails freedom that are not theirs. This has turn America into a country full of fear, suspicion, and cost us time and fortune while not making us any safer or happier.

My view is: screw the school's rule. You are an adult. The school pays you 8 hours a day (for peanuts, BTW); they don't get to regulate you beyond those hours. That goes double when you are no longer employed by them. If you are a Master student, you are actually PAYING the school for their services. So, you should live your life and take risks as you please. What's the worst that can happen? They won't pay you anymore? Blah... then go find another job.
posted by curiousZ at 3:12 PM on November 18, 2010


My friend did this 8 years ago. They got engaged around the time he graduated. The folks in her department were very happy for her. The couple is now married and has a lovely family. (Note: This undergrad was well-respected among the faculty who knew him, which may make a difference.)
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:43 PM on November 18, 2010


Back when I was a grad student I knew a fellow female grad student who was dating a male undergrad who had been in one of her classes (I presume it was after those classes had ended, but it was a while ago and my memory of the details is fuzzy). Despite the fact that I was in a small, relatively gossipy department, it never appeared to cause a raised eyebrow (and she never made secret of it). So it's certainly possible to do without generating lots of drama.
posted by damonism at 8:23 PM on November 18, 2010


I'm a TA, and my university advised against relationships of this sort on the grounds that student-lovers can turn on you, and accuse you of unfair grading (or some similar misconduct), at any time. If the student in question turns out to be bitter and unscrupulous, even the fact that your relationship did not begin until the semester ended may not stop him from trying to get back at you (at which point it's simply your word against his).

So, what you're suggesting is definitely not risk free, even after grades are turned in; but on the whole I don't think it's too worrisome. Be smart about knowing when to back off, that's all.
posted by Maxa at 8:49 PM on December 11, 2010


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