Posted in Opinions, Top Opinions

Student-faculty romance. Sorry, where’s the problem?

It’s weird, but it certainly doesn’t warrant a campus-wide ban

TEACHERSTUDENT(RBG)
Image Credits: Christy Lum

Leave it to the UBC administration to consider a means for sexual assault control that’s so shortsighted it’ll leave you questioning the professional competency of the institution. The Globe is currently frolicking in a sticky story that involves potentially ‘legislating love’ between students and faculty members at the university.

UBC faculty say they’re “‘absolutely’ willing to consider a ban” on consensual relationships between these two parties, The Globe reports. This is primarily as a means to avoid the coercive power dynamics involved in any sexual assaults on students. The school’s interim president Martha Piper alludes that such a ban may be necessary to stop such troubling behaviour — a ban akin to that between a doctor and patient.

Of course, all the hoopla surrounding sexual assaults on school grounds has Canadian universities frantically ensuring that assault policies are given a thumbs-up from their politically correct patronage. But sadly, this is a case in which executive action may be taking measures that are more invasive than needed to secure everyone’s safety on campus. Dr. Piper openly admits that she is unaware of any other Canadian university to have implemented this kind of ban.

Wake up, Piper: it’s because every other university realizes that such a ban defies the natural sexual attractions that occur between two consenting adult humans.

Now, the same could be said for the school’s current conflict-of-interest policy requiring that faculty do not formally assess any student-lover with whom they have current classroom connections. But the ban UBC is proposing would be a trivial restriction on freedom of choice outside the classroom.

Every other university realizes that such a ban defies the natural sexual attractions that occur between two consenting adult humans.

While The Globe references one incident of alleged assault by a former PhD candidate at UBC to explain the school’s willingness to implement a campus-wide ban, Dr. Piper doesn’t use any evidence to prove that all ‘academic love’ is dangerous. So maybe she should draw upon actual data, or conduct some proper research to prove that this dirty romance epidemic propels unrelenting assaults — as if that’s the only thing faculty members want to do.

If this is the case, we might as well ban people from consensual relationships altogether. Yes, sexual assault occurs, but because student-faculty romances are so rare, it’s safe to say that non-consensual encounters happen far more often outside the academic world than within it.

Further, to liken this kind of ban to a patient-doctor relationship couldn’t be more misguided. It insinuates that patients can’t date doctors from a hospital they visit, even one who isn’t registered as their doctor. It simply doesn’t make sense.

I hope never to see the day when school executives power trip so much that they start blindly pulling Orwellian policies out of their rears to restrict who we sleep with when there are no professional connections involved. While we’re at it, how about they restrict with whom students and faculty marry and have children?

Cite your sources, Dr. Piper. Sure, it might be a little weird to see second-year Sally from psych class necking with a 65-year-old, nearly retired Nobel winner, but in the end our choices are ours to make as consenting adults, regardless of your opinion.

  • Environment Grad

    To even pretend that a faculty-student relationship isn’t by nature asymmetrical at least, and rife with power-differentials that easily can lead to all sorts of abuse and favoritism is ludicrous. To say that this is the same as restricting marriages and children is a strawman argument as it is common for workplaces to have restrictions on relationships between bosses and workers. The University has a vested interest in preventing issues in the workplace and I would say this is a delicate enough issue to be not black or white but solidly in the gray, unlike how you describe it as “Orwellian policies [pulled] out of their rears”.

    This does happen all of the time, and I would agree with you that if there is no professional connection it would be much more likely to be alright, but there is no way to know if there is a professional connection until the student is no longer a student. I have personally seen student faculty relationships go really south, very quickly, and I’ve seen those that have worked, and all of those that have worked started AFTER the student was no longer a student.

  • Environment Grad

    “Yes, sexual assault occurs, but because student-faculty romances are so rare, it’s safe to say that non-consensual encounters happen far more often outside the academic world than within it.”

    Oh yeah? Any citations where that sentiment comes from other than your own ass?

  • Environment Grad

    “Yes, sexual assault occurs, but because student-faculty romances are so rare, it’s safe to say that non-consensual encounters happen far more often outside the academic world than within it.”

    Oh yeah? Any citations at all on this one?

  • HarveyCedar

    Faculty who wish to consort with a student should either resist the urge or resign from the faculty. There really is no other professional, moral, or ethical choice.

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