Writers With Benefits: Private Study Session
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 19:12
The vast majority of college students are adults, and though sexual harassment lawsuits and public perception can muddy the ethical waters, there is no provision in the Citrus College administrative policies that forbids an instructor from engaging in a consensual sexual relationship with an adult student.
What responsibilities, if any, do consenting adults have when it comes to mixing sex and education?
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David Tate: I’m pretty sure we’ve all had a crush on a teacher at one time or another. So which one of your teachers made you want to do some extra studying?
Melanie Gudino: I had a crush on my history teacher when I was a sophomore in high school. He was in his early twenties—really young. I think he had just got out of the military. But high school is a different story.
DT: I think we can both agree that high school students are rightfully off-limits. But we’re in college now. Do you think there’s anything wrong with students and professors starting relationships?
MG: I don’t think so. What happens if a student and a professor meet outside of campus, like at a bar or any social event, and they get involved? In 45 states, it is not a crime for school employees to have sex with students age 18 and older according to Counter Pedophilia Investigative Unit. Those high school kids turn into college students, where they constantly hear about how they’re adults now—if that’s really true, what’s wrong with an adult relationship with a professor?
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To get some clarification on why the school frowns upon student-instructor relationships we talked to manager of human resources/staff diversity Brenda Fink.
“The concern that the college has is the conflict of interest that can occur even when a relationship may be in a positive place,” Fink said.
“If a relationship spoils or goes bad in some way it becomes very difficult and very awkward in a classroom situation and often both parties end up feeling some level of harm.”
And to get a better idea of the faculty’s perspective on things, we figured the best person to talk to would be a faculty member. Academic Senate president and former Glendora Police Department lieutenant Jim Woolum had some extra information for us.
“Relationships between students and professors aren’t anything new.” In fact, Woolum said he knows of two Citrus College professors who ended up marrying Citrus College students. But the important distinction Woolum wanted to make was that the professors in question went about things “the right way.”
“The right way to do it, is to start with both parties being single,” Woolum said.
“The second criteria would be to make sure that the student is not in the instructor’s class. When the instructor has control of a grade, success, or progress. I think at that point any relationship other than a professional instructor-student [relationship] is inappropriate.”
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