Dating Down at Yale

Christine Whelan | Posted on 04/07/10

Yale has officially banned professors from dating undergraduates - even if said undergrad isn't one of their students.

Tracy Clark-Flory at thinks this is absurd: Why shouldn't consenting adults be able to pal around as they see fit?

OK, so universities, like workplaces, want to prohibit romances between teachers and their students -- I get it, it makes sense. Such a power imbalance carries the risk of sexual coercion and favoritism. (Yale certainly has experience with high-profile allegations of that sort.) Of course, people's hearts and libidos rarely follow such strict, sensible rules -- but it's a reasonably cautious measure meant to prevent abuses of power.

But, forbidding relationships between students and faculty members who don't even have a significant academic relationship with one another? That seems awfully paternalistic. We are talking about legal adults, remember. Students will inevitably encounter power imbalances -- rooted in differences in age, financial status and so on -- in their personal lives. It certainly isn't an unusual dynamic in an average 20-something woman's romantic life, let me tell you. I fail to see how it's any of the university's business unless the relationship -- "damaging" or not -- has a direct impact on a student's academic life.

Things really heat up in the comments section, as Salon is accused of being elitist in its opinion. (Worth clicking through -- it's pretty funny.)

I'm 32 years old and a college professor. You're not going to find a whole lot of professors younger than I am. So lemme tell ya, when I say it'd be creepy to date an undergrad, just think of how much creepier and inappropriate it would be if one of my colleagues who is, say, 40... 45... 50... starts fooling around with a 19-year-old.

Yale, I'm with you. Professor-student relationships are inappropriate.

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