Posted on 13-12-2009
Filed Under (Appropriate behavior) by Anita Kelly

The semester is over. Is it okay to ask that single instructor you’ve been hankering for all semester out for a drink or to dinner?

Uh, no. One reason is that instructors are bound by the ethical rules laid out by the American Psychological Association or their employers to avoid dual roles. As long as you are still a student and the instructor is still employed at the same university, you will necessarily become involved in a dual role if you get romantically involved with your instructor. A relationship could cost your instructor his or her job.

This doesn’t mean that your instructor won’t be tempted by your interest. Instructors develop crushes on their students, too, but they are the ones responsible for saying “no”.

Sometimes we professors forget that most college students find repulsive the idea of dating anybody over 30. As a 19-year-old undergraduate at Northwestern, I was creeped out when immediately after the semester ended, a professor offered to bake me one of his “famous apple pies” to be shared at his apartment.

So, you will just have to wait until you graduate to ask out that instructor. But by then, you will probably have moved on to somebody a bit more appealing from your own classmates. Just like that itch you never scratch, your interest will likely go away on its own.

(2) Comments   


Jake on 26 December, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

What if there is absolutely no romantic interest in the professor but the drink or dinner would have more of a friendly, group feel? I could think of a few classes I’ve had where I would have loved to just hang out over a few drinks or maybe a casual meal with a professor and some fellow classmates. Would this still lead to the ethical dilemma between dual roles?

Anita Kelly on 27 December, 2009 at 2:24 pm #

Dear Jake,
It’s fine for a professor to treat you and other students to dinner, and even to a drink or two if everybody is over 21. But from an ethical standpoint (at least as laid out by the American Psychological Association), YOU can’t treat your professor to a drink or dinner, even though your intentions are perfectly friendly. I know it’s a bummer, but the dual-role thing makes your treating a problem for that professor. After you graduate, it’s perfectly fine for you to take your professor out, as long as you are no longer in a dual role with that professor.

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