Rules against professors dating students
Skeen and Nielsen (1983, 39) reported that in only three of the twenty-five cases they studied was the sexual interaction initiated by the professor.
(p.136) (See below for a criticism of Mc Arthur’s intepretation and use of some of this data.) Part of Mc Arthur’s argument against blanket bans is that enforcing them well would be problematic and difficult.
(1) Blanket Relationship Bans One consideration relevant to relationship bans arises in another passage of Honderich’s book that was part of the Twitter discussion: Feminism had begun, with books and marches, but it did not include the charge of harassment by teachers.
Harassment there certainly was, once by me in at least one mind.
(p.189) That’s one worry about professor-student relationships.
Even if we suppose that there are some that are consensual and otherwise unproblematic—“successful”—we need to look at the ongoing context in which such relationships might come about.
Now in this latter case the student Honderich admits harassing is one he has institutional authority over.
To use a term not then current, there was no harassment worth the name.So I would have said in setting out to defend myself.In fact, in these buoyant times, I did not reflect a lot on my actions and my moral standing, or suffer guilt, partly because of the optimistic feeling that if I worked at a defence, a confident one might be constructed. (pp.128-29) This passage and related ones were brought to my attention by Joshua Habgood-Coote (Bristol), who discussed them on Twitter.Whether such relationships would involve a power imbalance that undermines the possibility of consent, I don’t know; I think the diversity of actual cases means that this is hard to generalize about.However, such relationships clearly violate widely-accepted and well-justified norms regarding conflict of interest, and there is no sufficiently compelling reason in these cases to override these norms.