Allen Ginsberg once declared, âÄúThe best teaching is done in bed," but apply this advice to University life and people start to get uncomfortable. Professor-student relationships hold a high rank on the long list of academic taboos âÄì right up there with rioting in Dinkytown and eloping with your study abroad boyfriend âÄì but I would argue that much of this condemnation is undeserved. Last weekend, I talked with a University of Minnesota undergraduate (who I will refer to as âÄúPrudenceâÄù for irony and confidentiality) over the joys and technicalities of professor-student relationships because she just so happens to be in one. This wasnâÄôt a planned conversation. In truth, we were supposed to be working on a group project, but instead, we decided to get drunk. Inevitably, drunk classmate girl talk leads to the question of whether we find our professor hot. PrudenceâÄôs response was something along the lines of, âÄúWell, I find MY professor to be hot.âÄù When we asked her exactly what she meant with that kind of emphasis on ownership, she proceeded to unveil every girlâÄôs college fantasy: âÄúIâÄôve known him, my professor boyfriend, since I started working in his department about two years ago. I never took a class under him, but he always flirted with meâÄ¦I blew him off mostly, but a couple of months ago he asked me out to dinner. We have had many, many discussions about whether or not itâÄôs okay to pursue this, but so far itâÄôs working out well enough. We just have to be discreet about it.âÄù Before I could even get the question out of my mouth, Prudence added, âÄúAnd yes, I call him âÄòprofessorâÄô in bed.âÄù My classmates and I were awestruck by her academic prowess, but it did cross our minds that he could just be a hairy old man. A couple of Facebook clicks later, however, and Prudence proved us wrong. He is, in fact, a gorgeous specimen âÄì perhaps heightened by the fact that he is not opposed to scandalous romance. (As a side note: the fact that we now have the ability to friend our professors on Facebook to learn more about their personal lives, sift through their photos, etc. makes this dating scene even more hot to handle.) âÄúIt is highly likely that us professors are attracted to our students,âÄù PrudenceâÄôs professor said when asked for comment. âÄúWe see our students every single day and if they are taking a class with us, that probably means we have the same interestsâÄ¦And in general, guys donâÄôt really care about age or profession with girls, so the fact that they are attracted to one of their students isnâÄôt necessarily going to bother them.âÄù Yet it does seem to bother a lot of other people. A simple Google search of âÄúprofessor-student relationshipsâÄù brings up a wealth of commentary about its pros and cons. In particular, check out www.dankprofessor.wordpress.com. It is a weblog that âÄúexamines the sexual politics in higher education and beyond." Parents and the university administrations tend to be the two major groups that are having the qualms, which is ironic, since neither of them are the ones in the actual relationship itself. âÄúMy parents would try to talk me out of it, if they knew,âÄù Prudence said. âÄúThey would say IâÄôm squandering my youth or that heâÄôs using me for sexâÄ¦The professor and I are sixteen years apart, but I would definitely recommend dating a professor to any student. They are more worldly and mature and they know how to treat a lady. IâÄôm not knocking college boys, but they still have a lot of growing up to do.âÄù As it is now, University of Minnesota policy does not condone professor-student relationships. I understand the professional premise behind this stance, but I also find it to be somewhat unrealistic. People find love in all kinds of places. There are far more natural, mutual attractions that occur between university students and professor or TAs than the commonly talked about âÄúprofessor preying on studentâÄù or âÄústudent giving it up for the grade.âÄù Although protections do need to remain in place for these circumstances, there should also be provisions for exceptions to the rule. For example, in PrudenceâÄôs case, she is dating a professor, but it is not a professor of any of her classes, so it is not going to have any influence on her GPA. Consequently, hers is a relationship that shouldnâÄôt need to be kept discreet. I doubt this column will trigger any change in policy, but it is important to recognize that are often labeled asâÄúscandalâÄù are actually quite normal. âÄúPeople just need to un-bunch their panties and give it a whirl,âÄù Prudence said. âÄúItâÄôs all media and society hype that makes it seem so bad. Over the years, people have also given relationships in which the male is significantly older than the female a bad nameâÄ¦They make it seem like the guy is just after sex. Well, I hate to burst anyoneâÄôs bubble, but arenâÄôt all guys, no matter what age, after sex? At the end of the day, we are just two people looking for some companionship.âÄù Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at email@example.com.
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