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poppyos

Is it rude to ask for coffee (decaf)?

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Hello:

I am going to get a little personal here, and ask if it is rude to ask prospective advisors or professors to get coffee with you; wit all of the controversy surrounding work place professionalism, and the possibility that it might be seen as favoritism, would asking an advisor or professor in a department you want to apply for to get coffee with you, be rude? Would it be unethical? Would it create conflict between you and other members of the department? I ask, since I am hoping to visit schools at some point within the next year, and while there, if I meet any professors who might be keen on talking further, I could go on Yelp and find someone to communicate with.  For those who might suggest same-sex professor might be better (I am a cis-woman), I find that hetero-normative, and since I'm bi, the problems of it becoming a date (or it being seen as one), would still be problematic.  I guess to put it bluntly: I know that some people have this ideology that if your working, your working: your not there to socialize, but I am not one of those people.  And unfortunately with this hyper-professional environment, the lines get blurred when people try to be kind and communicate in a friendly manner, and people assume you have some romantic interest in them (when you don't).  

 

For those who feel more comfortable, DM (direct messages), are accepted.  

 

Thank you,

Poppy

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I'm very confused about the whole coffee and date discussion. Why would you not simply ask to schedule a "normal" meeting with these people, gender aside, in their office during normal business hours while you're in town? 

For what it's worth, if you're doing several of these meetings back to back because there are several people you'd like to meet, and they know it, someone might ask you if you'd like a coffee. If you say yes, they'll take you to a nearby coffee stand and splurge for two drip coffees. You'll probably talk on the way there/back and waiting in line. Maybe even sitting down for a few minutes. There won't be anything romantic about it. 

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I would be very careful with this - better to go for something more professional than a coffee.

Even in grad school I refrain from taking away people's time for a 'coffee' - with the exception of my supervisor but that's more because I know for a fact he's totally up for this and we usually discuss science over coffee so it's more like a freeflow brainstorming session on what's going on in the field, new ideas for projects, how manuscripts are coming along, etc. 

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Agree with fuzzy: If you are in town and want to meet with a faculty member as a prospective student, send them a message asking to meet with them, during regular work hours, asking exactly that. 

It's not favoritism or unethical (in terms of admissions ethics) unless the professor makes it so or if it happens to violate some internal rule that the department has about contact with prospective students. In either case, it's not your problem---it's the professor's responsibility to act ethically. If they choose to favour you because they met you in person (while they did not meet other candidates in person) then that's their bad, not yours.

I don't see how it could cause conflict between you and other members of the department. At least in my field, the meetings you propose are very normal. 

In terms of trying to avoid it becoming a date (or being seen as a date): if you treat it like a research meeting then it's a research meeting. Like fuzzy said, meeting at their office, grabbing coffee and returning to campus afterwards (chatting along the way) is not at all romantic. Keep the discussion away from romance and it won't be romantic. (Clarification: not intending to imply that it's on you (or any one person) to keep the conversation away from romance, but I mean it as advice to two professionals who want to have a one-on-one meeting and neither want it to be construed as a "date").

You say that you are not one of those people that 100% separates social and work. That's okay, I don't think anyone can separate it 100% either. But I am not sure what you mean by raising this concern? It's definitely okay to discuss non-work/social topics (as long as they are appropriate for a professional meeting) in these meetings. Small talk about hobbies or whatever is probably fine. But since this is your first meeting with them, it's not like you are going to be socializing like they are your best friend anyways. 

Finally, are you specifically worried about the scenario where you are friendly to a professor and they think you have romantic interests in them? I am not sure if that is what you meant in your final sentence, sorry if I misunderstood. If you are only worried about how it looks then I would say that it's not your "problem" because it is not your fault if some sketchy prof interprets your friendly actions as romantic interest! But you might also understandably be worried about your own safety and/or professional consequences if the sketchy prof takes it out on you when they find out they were wrong about their assumptions of your intentions. Unfortunately in this second case, I don't have any experience or expertise, I just know that sometimes my colleagues are worried about this too. Hope you can get good advice from someone else with actual experience on this.

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1 hour ago, TakeruK said:

Finally, are you specifically worried about the scenario where you are friendly to a professor and they think you have romantic interests in them? I am not sure if that is what you meant in your final sentence, sorry if I misunderstood. If you are only worried about how it looks then I would say that it's not your "problem" because it is not your fault if some sketchy prof interprets your friendly actions as romantic interest! But you might also understandably be worried about your own safety and/or professional consequences if the sketchy prof takes it out on you when they find out they were wrong about their assumptions of your intentions. Unfortunately in this second case, I don't have any experience or expertise, I just know that sometimes my colleagues are worried about this too. Hope you can get good advice from someone else with actual experience on this.

I took it to be a question about appearances, in which case having a professional meeting in a professional setting during normal work hours should take care of it. If the question is about what to do if a professor gets sketchy during a meeting, I think it'd be good to get the hell out of dodge fast (hence, it's useful to have the meeting in said professional setting, like someone's office, with the door open), and thank your lucky stars that you're early enough in the process that you can choose never to work with said person (or for that matter, be in a room alone with them) ever again. More than that has to depend on the situation, I would think. 

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Idk if this helps in your situation at all, but my experience with getting coffees was fine! I was at a conference in my field and emailed some professors I was interested in ahead of time and most were amenable if not enthusiastic about meeting for coffee (one even had breakfast with me!!). I think it depends on how you phrase it, and especially if you're applying in that cycle and to their program instead of vaguely ~might apply sometime in the future~. I wouldn't overthink it too much though, just keep it informational and professional :) 

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I don't think so coffee is amazing and people love coffee according to me asking someone for coffee is a good gesture . I simply love coffee and it is super amazing that makes you healthy it has many health benefits. So one should definitely ask for coffee or tea when they come to visit you. 

 

 

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