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Professor-Student Relationships: How Close Is Too Close?

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I was wondering if any of you grad cafe'ers had any experience crossing from professional to personal boundaries in your relationships with professors. This doesn't necessarily mean anything salacious. For example, are any of you genuinely close friends with your professors? I feel like this is more common in grad school than undergrad, since the professors start to view a grad student as more of an equal at that point.

Discuss (as they say)...

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I feel like I'm pretty close to my advisor. He's young, and we're quite similar in temperament.

He got married about a year after I did, and both of our wives are in the sciences, so there's that similarity as well.

I'm not as close to him as I am to my friends within my cohort, and the same I'm sure could be said with him and his friends who are young professors, so I guess it depends on how you define "genuinely close friends".

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I actually just got in from babysitting for my professor, which I've been doing for over a year now, including when i actually had her in class. My boyfriend and I are going to be staying at their place and dog-sitting over the holiday. This particular prof has also been my advisor through the grad school process, and we've definitely gotten to know each other quite well throughout the process. I don't know if I'd go as far as to call us "genuinely close friends," as it isn't like we "hang out," although we were supposed to go over there for dinner recently but one of the kids got sick. Anyway. Point being, we have definitely developed a personal relationship.

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I have a very close relationship with my thesis chair. We've worked together for about 5 years (undergrad into grad school), and we've traveled abroad together twice. We've definitely moved into the "friendship" realm of our relationship esp. since I graduated and we're now more "colleagues" than "student/teacher." I think it's really nice and beneficial to see profs as people.

Of the opposite sex? Ummm yes, with one prof. We've also worked together for a long time (undergrad/grad), but he's much older (early 60's) than me so there's never really been any "tension" between us as far as that goes. A lot of girls in the program tend to think he's attractive for an old guy, but I've never really seen it so that also helps haha! We have a dynamic more of like if we were closer to the same age we'd probably hang out but I don't think it would ever get weird or anything -- we just have a lot in common.

Long story short, once you work with profs for a while (which you do at the grad level) you tend to grow closer together. There's, of course, the sterotype of grad student affairs with that sexy older prof, but I've never really seen a lot of that. The age differences mostly make that hard (hehehe) to come (hehehe) by. The only young male profs in my department are either jerks or medievalists (so that sums that up :) ).

Edited by rems

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Any of you have experience being close with professors of the opposite sex?

PSA:

As someone has already pointed out -- please, don't feed the trolls. It's for our own good.

Or, perhaps put another way with this one: don't take the bait! (Come on people, you're smarter than engaging in this.)

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PSA:

As someone has already pointed out -- please, don't feed the trolls. It's for our own good.

Or, perhaps put another way with this one: don't take the bait! (Come on people, you're smarter than engaging in this.)

Did I miss the memo about the meaning of "troll"? Or is any discussion topic that's not about the font size of your writing sample suddenly trolling?

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I just find that sometimes, as an attractive ____ , I get into situations where professors are very friendly and solicitous and the conversation often turns personal very quickly, and I've shared a lot of coffees and glasses of wine with profs, often on their tab at their insistance. And it seems like no one else has these weird confusing relationships, or has even heard of them happening. Yet again, in this I am ronery and sadry arone.

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Quite honestly, I think this is a perfectly valid question, and I'm not sure why people are being so harsh. If the discussion devolves past a certain point, you can just stop responding or ignore it, but I see no reason not to respond sincerely up until then.

There is a stigma, and I think Grad Cafe exists as a place where people can discuss all aspects of grad school, even those they (or we) might not be especially comfortable with.

I wouldn't say I have close friendships with any professors of the opposite sex, mostly because the ones I do hang out with are at other universities- either friends that were a few years ahead of me and are now teaching, or people I've met through local professional organization events. Close enough to hang out with occasionally, but not close friends.

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Quite honestly, I think this is a perfectly valid question, and I'm not sure why people are being so harsh.

There is a stigma, and I think Grad Cafe exists as a place where people can discuss all aspects of grad school, even those they (or we) might not be especially comfortable with.

I wouldn't say I have close friendships with any professors of the opposite sex, mostly because the ones I do hang out with are at other universities- either friends that were a few years ahead of me and are now teaching, or people I've met through local professional organization events. Close enough to hang out with occasionally, but not close friends.

Thank you. I am not very popular among the English peeps on here. I'm glad a science person can come along and be objective :)

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In my current program, I don't feel like I have particularly close relationships with faculty. The prevailing attitude in the department seems to be that relationships should be kept professional. I've eaten dinner at people's houses, gone out for meals with faculty etc but I'd say these all happen within what's understood as a faculty/student, mentor/mentee relationship rather than a personal relationship. I'm not sure if that will change the longer I am here, and the longer I spend working with particularly faculty (presumably it will change to some extent).

At my MA institution, faculty and students had genuine friendships that were, and are, maintained outside of any academic reasons they may have had for getting to know each other in the first place. The school treated its graduate students very much like junior academics, though; and there were alcohol-laden talks and presentations weekly within the department that facilitated people getting to know each other better.Faculty and students socialized a lot outside of any formal academic set-up. I think this partly had to do with the location of the school which is in the countryside, near a small village with little going on socially. It seems fairly natural, in this situation, that, with a small and sleepy social scene on your doorstep, you're more likely to end up relying on the university for your social life, and these faculty/student relationships are the result of that.

I just find that sometimes, as an attractive ____ , I get into situations where professors are very friendly and solicitous and the conversation often turns personal very quickly, and I've shared a lot of coffees and glasses of wine with profs, often on their tab at their insistance. And it seems like no one else has these weird confusing relationships, or has even heard of them happening. Yet again, in this I am ronery and sadry arone.

What do you mean by 'solicitous'?

I've shared plenty of wine and meals with faculty in my old department, including with faculty of the opposite sex, and I've never felt that there was anything 'weird' or 'confusing' about the interaction...

Edited by wreckofthehope

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Or perhaps not a chemical thing at all, but a mis-reading thing?

I'm not denying that there are some predatory professors out there, but, quite honestly, they are few and far between (in my experience). In most places the gossip network should give you enough to go on that you need never be sharing a glass of wine with them. If, as an adult, you can't engage in a non-sexually tinged manner (if that is what you're implying) with someone of the sex that you, habitually, have sex with, I worry for you.

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I don't think that a professor is necessarily predatory just because he or she may have a more-than-professional feeling for a student. There are things that exceed the boundaries of acceptable behavior without it being intentional or manipulative or anything like that. It's complicated.

I was wondering if anyone else had a similar situation arise in their own life. Clearly your answer is no. There's no need for you to try and delve deeper or accuse me of anything. Obviously you don't understand what I'm talking about, and there's no real reason for me to try and explain this stuff to you.

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I don't think that a professor is necessarily predatory just because he or she may have a more-than-professional feeling for a student. There are things that exceed the boundaries of acceptable behavior without it being intentional or manipulative or anything like that. It's complicated.

I was wondering if anyone else had a similar situation arise in their own life. Clearly your answer is no. There's no need for you to try and delve deeper or accuse me of anything. Obviously you don't understand what I'm talking about, and there's no real reason for me to try and explain this stuff to you.

Actually, my answer was 'yes' - if you read my post above. I have been friends with my professors in the past (though not at my current institution). Your original post asked about having friendships with professors (nothing 'salacious,' you said). Now, your posts seem to imply something more than platonic friendship... so, which is it?

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It's not salacious, just ambiguous. For example, a prof who tells a student (removed at poster's request). This becomes a bit confusing when the prof and the student are of opposite gender and heterosexual.

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I can understand why that might be confusing. If these things were said in a 'platonic' way, and you genuinely believe that, then the confusion is on your side and it's you that needs to figure out how you feel about this professor (assuming this is you we're talking about). I can only go by what you say, and you say that they are offering you their friendship in a non-sexual way, if you're reading that in sexual terms, that's your issue. For the most part, in friendships where I've felt differently (i.e. thought that the person actually was attracted to me sexually) the best way to deal with that is to be resolutely platonic in your interactions with that person... don't let ambiguity sneak in to your interactions - it's not like you have no say in how your interactions unfold.

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What if there is a mutual attraction, a mutual platonic admiration and also a mutual desire for respectability?

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