Should Professors Sleep With Grad Students? (Hint: NO)

This morning in Slate, I go prudish, puritanical and shrewish (also known as “professional”) and suggest, gently, that professors schtupping their own program’s grad students is not only unacceptable in most (if not all) situations, but that far from being a mere personal indiscretion or “private” choice, it’s straight-up professional abuse on par with plagiarism and fabricating experiment results. The piece is #1 on the site right out of the gate (these things change a lot, so I like to keep ocular proof), and it wouldn’t exist without the incredible women and men who were willing to be interviewed by me on the record, names, affiliations and all. Incredible job, everyone, and thank you again.


20 thoughts on “Should Professors Sleep With Grad Students? (Hint: NO)

  1. I’m personally familiar with several very happy relationships that formed between a prof and grad student and not familiar with any other profs who just slept around with students. These “successes” colored my thinking on this issue. Your Slate article points out a lot of the collateral damage that I hadn’t thought about or didn’t perceive to be happening. I’m definitely changing my mind about this.

    The solution may not be to prevent relationships from forming – when was the last time our culture took a step towards less sex? Instead, having some official policies can help. How do businesses handle this? Some make both employees notify HR when they form a relationship. That probably helps, though it’s not full proof. Pittsburgh Univ. had that policy and it didn’t prevent a mess (Inside Higher Ed:


  2. One of the fundamental things a professor is being hired to do is grade students objectively. Not sure how objective grading can be when one of the students is also the prof’s late night booty call.


  3. Not that it’s any of my business, but Prudence should probably be kept off the “most” lists, if only to stop her from dominating the entire page.


  4. (Disclosure: I’m a political scientist at a large university)

    What the heck is up with all these philosophers screwing their students? Why does it always seem to be philosophers? Or am I going too much by anecdotal evidence?


      • Is it a particular problem with philosophers, or is it something about philosophy which is recently uncovering these stories and encouraging people to report and respond to them?

        One possibility is that sites like this don’t exist for disciplines other than philosophy because other disciplines don’t have such widespread problems with gender exclusion and sexual harassment. Or it’s possible that it’s in part because of the efforts of the philosophers who maintain and contribute to that site that these incidents have recently come to light in philosophy while they remain hidden in other disciplines.


  5. What did you think of the female academic who joked that her sexual preference was graduate students and that she was a feminist? I thought she was awful.


  6. As someone who at 18 and two months entered into a relationship which resulted in marriage with my freshman English professor, What I learned is that a prof in their 30s who’s attracted to his/her students will be attracted to them again in their 40s.

    Word to the wise. And yes, I’ve so much better off without him.


  7. Yes, it is Jane Gallop. She’s a Distinguished Professor at UW-Milwaukee no less. It was years ago that I read her book but found it especially galling that she framed it all as fwminist, thus framing herself as edgy rather than sleazy.


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