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Your Call: How Does She Proposition Her Professor After Graduation?

Tue, Oct 8, 2013

Advice, Dear Em & Lo

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section.

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Dear Em & Lo,

Okay, so at the risk of sounding like a basket case with daddy issues, I am seeking some major advice on a delicate approach.

I have started to develop feelings for my former professor. Yes he is older, yes he is in a position of authority. We have had several personal conversations that go beyond the role of mentor/mentee. I feel comfortable around him, I find him funny and attractive. He appears to be comfortable around me. I don’t want to approach him until I graduate (one semester left) because I don’t want him to think I am after something I am not. I also don’t want to put him in a position that could jeopardize him professionally if he were interested. I think he is interested but I can’t be certain if it is just friendly conversation or he feels the same.

How do I approach him after school is done without seeming like a harpie bimbo with daddy issues? I do have genuine feelings toward him and I am really unsure how to tactfully approach this. How do I follow through?

– Don’t Stand So Close to Me

What advice do you have for D.S.S.C.T.M.? Leave it in the comments section below.

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6 Responses to “Your Call: How Does She Proposition Her Professor After Graduation?”

  1. AlanK Says:

    First of all, don’t even think about approaching him until you graduate. Don’t flirt. Don’t do anything. Any sensible teacher knows that pursuing a student is the nuclear offense: he may be totally blackballed from his profession and never teach again. Unless you want to condition him into running away when you approach him, just don’t. Really.

    After that, just give it a month and do what you’d do with anyone else. However, anyone with any scruples will send you on your way; nice people don’t take advantage of people who’ve been attracted by a power dynamic. Which is yet another way of suggesting you keep it in your pants and find another object of your affections.

  2. J Says:

    Well, I agree with AlanK’s advice to wait a month after you graduate. If you still want to pursue it after a cool down period, just send him a casual, no pressure email and ask if he wants to grab coffee.

  3. Dogbrains Says:

    Every college has a policy on student/professor relationships. Generally, they are discouraged but not forbidden (granted that you take no further classes from said professor, alert a superior, fill proper forms, and are private about the relationship while you are still attending the school).

    That being said, it would be more appropriate to wait until after graduation. I would suggest that after you graduate you continue on with your life, don’t get so hung up on being a harpy, and treat this relationship as any other. Because you want a normal relationship, right?

  4. Johnny Says:

    “Finally, graduation! Wanna help me celebrate? I could go for a drink!”

    I am former teacher of adults. Trust me, profs get this all the time. It’s one of the job perks. This will not be at all weird or out of the ordinary. In fact, he may have the same designs on you.

    Good on you for being appropriate and discreet. Not every woman who desires her teacher is.

  5. Ralphie Says:

    Uh, yeah. Former college professor here. Johnny is correct that this is not uncommon. Some things to consider that has not been raised. What do you really know about this professor. Is he married, involved, straight/gay/other? While you’ve had conversations that go beyond the role of mentor/mentee, do you really know about his personal life.

    Reading this post, thoughts of a large number of friends and colleagues who’ve married former students come to mind (both male and female). The funny thing is two good friends in doctoral program who advised me against doing this have both married former students (one of them having at least one prior student relationship-started by the student-before she married her spouse). And then there are those who were involved with students but did not wind up in lasting relationships.

    Contrary to what AlanK says, a lot colleges/universities do not have policies on this. That said, many others started developing these policies in the ’90s. Regardless of the policy situation, it is better for everyone involved to wait until after graduation.

    The reality is, you are an adult looking to pursue an adult relationship. You pursue this in the same manner you would pursue any other adult relationship. If this was a person you met while volunteering at a soup kitchen, how would you pursue this? J’s suggestion as to inviting him out for a cup of coffee is one possibility. It would not be viewed as anything strange; it is not uncommon for students and teachers to maintain relationships after graduation. You can then start to explore whether this is something either of you are interested in pursuing.

  6. Richard Says:

    I agree with previous writers that you are wise to wait until after graduation and to broach the subject carefully. Social media is another avenue. I have kept in touch with former students that way and, along the lines of what Ralphie mentioned, it also can give you some insight on the person you may not have gained in the academic setting.

    Best of luck.


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