Debunking the Professor-Student Relationship Fascination

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We’ve all witnessed the heated hookup or affair between a professor and their student on TV. A short-lived, scandalous romance that rarely lasts a season. With these forbidden relationships being frequent storylines utilized to hook viewers, it begs the question if professor-student relationships are as common as they’re painted out to be. Are professor-student relationships happening right under our noses, or are they simply rare affairs?

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The entertainment industry has portrayed the professor-student relationship as a consensual one. Consensual, but nevertheless, tinged with acknowledgment of how wrong it is. Whether it’s age, lack of professionalism, or cheating, these types of relationships are always seen in a negative light. Something dishonorable and wrong. 

In “Dawson’s Creek”, we witness a brief affair between Tamara Jacobs and Pacey Witter. A divorce who gives in to desire, hooking up with her student. With rumors spreading, Tamara left town, leaving Pacey disheartened, though we see a reappearance later in the series, and feelings are still present and reciprocated. 

Rewind to “Felicity”, where we catch Elena hooking up with her professor and fighting the guilt of discovering a letter grade bump because of it.

Or how about Jane Gloriana Villanueva rebounding with her professor and having a meltdown?

A real head-scratcher: Paris Gellar and Professor Asher Fleming. With no true explanation, one might deduce Paris was a sucker for the intellectuals. Though Flemming was known to have student hook-ups, this one stuck quite literally to the death.

And let’s not forget about one of the most iconic TV relationships from our teenage years: Ezria. Aria Montgomery and Ezra Fitz had a rocky start, to say the least, but throughout the series, moving past the fact that the relationship started off when Aria was 16, the couple found a way to make their relationship work. From classroom hookups to real dates, living together and a meeting at the altar, this couple was endgame. And while we’re on the topic of high school romances, does anyone remember Brooke Davis and Nick Chavez?

Attraction and Outlook
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So what is it that initiates these relationships? Genuine attraction? The thrill? Better grades?

According to, from a poll of 2,000 students, 14% honestly admitted to having some sort of romantic relationship with a professor. Thinking about the scale of your university, that leaves the potential for numerous hook-ups to quiet literally be going on without you noticing. And almost half of these relationships were reported to be initiated by the professors themselves. 

The driving force you ask? Well apparently, 2/3 of respondents said the hookup was mutual. The second most common response was the thrill of the hookup. So this aspect of forbidden romance seems to be a huge factor in professor-student relationships, right behind genuine attraction, with 50% of these students fantasizing about their professors. These relationships are taking off whether it’s the intellect or looks. It seems that the benefits outweigh the potential costs. 

Basically, hookups are more common than we thought. But when it comes to long-lasting relationships, it can’t be said for certain how many of these relationships make it. With one search on Google, many stories can be found on students and professors who wed, but it seems that the common theme is tackling the desire and moving past it, in what seems to be a mutual manner, rather than one that leads to a sexual harassment report. 

University Policy
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Wondering what Penn State’s stance on faculty-student relationships is? Surprisingly, it’s not as strict as one might come to assume. Though the rules differ from college to college, here at Penn State, faculty-student relationships aren’t prohibited as long as they are disclosed. This disclosure is a necessary matter of protection for those in the relationship as well as the university itself. 

Disclosing a consensual relationship should be initiated from the start of a relationship so that any supervisory or evaluative roles of the faculty member can be reviewed to determine any conflicts of interest. Someone with supervisory authority would essentially include anyone employed at the university who handles grades, recommendations, employment, or who participates in extracurricular programs. Their role being someone who teaches, has a creative scholarship or conducts research for the university.

Whether these encounters are short or long-term, the university considers it a consensual relationship, which means it must be reported. Even a single sexual encounter falls under these guidelines.

The responsibility of disclosure always lies in the hands of the faculty member. After reporting the relationship, a meeting is set up to develop a plan which addresses conflicts such as required courses taught by the professor or favoritism. 

The biggest issue lies in undisclosed relationships. These result in disciplinary action such as mandatory training, suspension, or loss of salary increase for the faculty member. For the student, disciplinary action is handled according to the Student Code of Conduct. 

It seems that professor-student relationships aren’t as taboo as you would think. So the question becomes, are your fantasies worth it, or are professor-student relationships off limits?

Let us know what you think by tweeting us at @VALLEYmag on Twitter!


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