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Muskrat01

This could be bad, right?

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I guess it could be very good, or very bad.

I know of several professors who married students they had supervised.

It could potentially be very bad if you're not interested, though.

I can't give you advice, but you have my sympathy.

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Sounds terrible. No one should have to put up with those kinds of distracting shenanigans while they're pulling their hair out at the dissertation level. How exactly is this professor flirting with you?

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Well, so far, he's asked me to meet him for coffee to discuss a paper I'm writing in our class, he lingers after class to talk with me and walk me out, he makes comments that could be interpreted as either totally innocent or totally flirty depending on the context and how I repeat them (which, so far, I haven't because another professor in our department was accused of harassment recently and it was a big scandal) and he's made insinuations that we should meet outside of class to just kind of hang out, although this insinuation was very vague and not at all explicit.

I don't feel harassed, just sort of curious about how to proceed without endangering my credibility and his. I think he's a pretty cool guy and I like talking to him about the work and sometimes random other stuff. I don't want any trouble, nor do I want any kind of affair. I also don't want to inadvertently get into something that will jeopardize my chances at having a non-partial committee later. Any thoughts?

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They are, unfortunately, always exclusively to me, as far as I can tell from talking to my peers in the class. I'm totally cool with hanging out with faculty and being friends and such like. I have had great experiences with this in my master's program, but this is definitely a "test the waters, see how far I can get" kind of situation with this professor. I think just laying low and letting it pass may be the best plan and then hopefully we can move into the "we're friends and nothing's wrong with getting some coffee" stage.

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I obviously don't know what the best thing to do is, but if I were in that situation I would also "hang low"/"play it cool" blah blah, at this point. I would probably find myself acting somewhat formal/aloof toward him with things not strictly class-related while trying not to come off as impolite. That is indeed very awkward, even more awkward if he's on your committee. Maybe I have a stick up my ass, but that kind of thing would drive me nuts.

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This happens a lot......and has probably happens/ed to other students in your dept.

My advice is to slowly show that you're not interested without totally dumping the poor person. When this happened to a friend, she sent flowers to herself.....and did little things to let her boss know (who was a dean) she had someone.

Nine times out of ten, he'll take the hint, realize how embarrassing the situation can be and move on.

But, in this situation, not doing anything gives him the idea that its okay.

Just my two cents......

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How movie like--in a bad way. That happened to me as an undergrad, but thankfully I was transferring schools (due to different reasons) and didn't have to deal with it. I am so so so bad when it comes to these things, I really don't know how to act. Another prof. tried to get me into bed once after a conference (!) one that I didn't work with, and yes he knew I had someone, but as soon as I realized what was happening I just ran away. At least now, even though my advisor is a guy, I know he's very happily married with kids and it's totally cool when I hang out with his family.

I'd be curious if anyone else had advice, as I can't offer any. Just my sympathies....good luck and hope it all turns out ok.

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If this was a problem in your department before, then he'll likely be leery (unless he's an untouchable but still) especially since interactions in colleges are now the frontline news.

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this happens all the time.

you know, there's usually no policy against professors dating their students because most of the people in positions of power at schools dated or married their grad students. just because it happens all the time doesn't mean it's okay all the time.

i'd recommend making it obvious that you are dating someone, even if you're not. when he wants to talk to you after class, tell him you've got a date or you're meeting your boyfriend. sending yourself flowers to the department is also a very good idea. find a friend (outside the grad program) to call you on your cell when you know you'll be meeting with this professor.

unfortunately, telling him to cut the garbage puts you in a tricky spot. it's not fair to you, but you've got to blow him off gently. making yourself seem taken is the easiest way to do that.

to be fair to him, what you described doesn't sound like it's crossed any lines yet since he hasn't explicitly asked you out and you haven't explicitly shut him down. i don't want to make it sound like i think this guy's a monster, because he's only doing what probably 1/3 of his colleagues have done at some point.

if you "hang low" or whatever and take no steps to show you're uninterested, he'll keep trying and eventually you'll have to tell him to cut the shit and that could have implications for your education. nip it in the bud.

Edited by StrangeLight

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this happens all the time.

you know, there's usually no policy against professors dating their students because most of the people in positions of power at schools dated or married their grad students. just because it happens all the time doesn't mean it's okay all the time.

Most???

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alright, most is an exaggeration, but at my undergrad institution with over 45,000 students, there were a few... issues with students dating professors. one of which resulted in the suicide of one student and some unwanted media attention on the school. and the president of the school, the deans of each faculty, and the head of the department where this all went down were ALL either married to a former prof, married to a former grad student, or had had multiple relationships with grad students that were pretty public. all of them.

from talking to professors that have taught at many universities in the US and canada, and most of them rather prestigious (i listed places but thought better of it...), it was extremely rare to find people in positions of power at these schools (either in the department, the faculty, or the school as a whole) that hadn't been in relationships with a graduate student. dating a grad student in general is less controversial than dating your advisee in particular, but both happen.

and again... the status quo is that if this is consensual then it's not a big deal. so i'm not saying most of these people are devious monsters or anything. you meet someone new, you work with them all the time, you date them maybe, and if that works out, you get hitched. and that's fine. but that reinforces the culture of normalcy around two people with a very lopsided power relationship dating each other, and when those relationships end poorly, it usually messes up the graduate student.

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the president of the school, the deans of each faculty, and the head of the department where this all went down were ALL either married to a former prof, married to a former grad student, or had had multiple relationships with grad students that were pretty public. all of them. ... it was extremely rare to find people in positions of power at these schools (either in the department, the faculty, or the school as a whole) that hadn't been in relationships with a graduate student.

Really, these aren't exaggerations too?

These are pretty big things to be saying about academia, and don't forget that you are saying them in a forum presumably full of future faculty members and administrators.

If you are not exaggerating, I respectfully disagree with the above. In my (albeit limited) experience with academics, while there certainly are professors out there who act this way -- and all of us should be aware of how to deal with issues should they arise -- there are also many professors who do not act this way, and many who are extremely concerned about the power issues that are likely to arise and do not treat such actions as "normal" at all.

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really, those aren't exaggerations. a colleague of mine nearly got fired from his tenured position for publicly stating that it was inappropriate for the dean and heads of faculty to handle the matter of the grad student suicide when they had been in relationships with their own graduate students. a false accusation and $10,000 in private detective and legal fees later, the campaign to push this professor out of the school ended.

i'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but it all happened and it isn't an exaggeration.

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I'm sure those things happen, and I believe you. I just question your estimates of the frequency of such events. Would you advise female grad school applicants that, if they are thinking about working with male advisors, they might as well assume that their advisors find it appropriate to have relationships with grad students? Again, if you believe that's true, all I can do is respectfully disagree based on my experience, but if you don't believe it, I think the stakes in spreading such information are potentially high.

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there's probably a dependence on discipline. In some fields it's standard to get new professors that are in their late 20's/early 30's which really isn't that much older than some grad students.

graduate school is a strange entity. When you enter, you are advised by faculty and they are in a position of mentorship/authority. When you leave, you are their colleague and peer. Everywhere in between is one big blurry line.

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