Propositioning professors

Drew Baumgartner

Dear Drew,
I’ve long lusted after one of
my professors. Previously, I’d either
been entangled with a girlfriend
or believed that this was impossible.
But now, I’m unfettered by a
girlfriend and emboldened by the
impending graduation date. I’ve
done well with older women in the
past and have a relatively personal
relationship with this professor
already. A long-term relationship
is obviously out of the question, but
I wouldn’t mind something more
than a few scurrilous trips offcampus.
What do you know, Drew?
Has this been done before? Done
commonly? What can I do to bring
my dreams to sweet reality?
-Cravin’ it in the cupola

I promised at the beginning of
the year to do my best to answer
any questions sent to me, which
includes questions I suspect were
sent in jest. In the event that your
question is serious, Cravin’, I feel
like it’s my duty to fill you in on
the facts, so as much as it pains me
to do so, I’m afraid I have to quote
the student handbook:
“Consensual amorous and/
or sexual relationships between
students and faculty, advisors,
coaches, or others holding positions
of authority over them are
fervently discouraged and in cases
where a direct supervisory role
exists, not permitted. The term
“direct supervisory role” refers to
many faculty responsibilities both
in and out of the classroom including,
but not limited to, teaching,
academic advising, coaching (athletics,
drama, etc.), and service
on evaluation committees (honors,
awards, prizes, etc.).”
The handbook goes on to list
reasons why student-faculty relationships
are a terrible idea – all
of which I think you should read
– but the section quoted above
raises some serious practical concerns.
Is your “relatively personal
relationship” one you cultivated
in a student-advisor setting? Do
you currently have a class with
this professor? Do you have one
scheduled next term? Any “yeses”
to those questions have to become
“nos” before any relationship is
even allowable in the eyes of the
However, even if the relationship
is technically allowable, it
is still “fervently discouraged” by
the university. I’m not quite sure
what that wording means, but I
suspect it wouldn’t be great for
this professor’s career to make
decisions explicitly discouraged in
the handbook.
These facts lead me to the conclusion
that any such relationship
is far more trouble than it could
possibly be worth, but you didn’t
ask for my opinions, just how to
make it happen.
The bad news for you – but
good news for my conscience – is
that I don’t have any good advice
for attracting the attention of your
desire. The fact that this is a person
who only ever sees you in class
and pays particular attention to
your typos only adds to the difficulty.
Normally, I would advise trying
to call attention to yourself –
preferably the good kind of attention.
In a more typical setting, this
could mean at least coming off as
funny or charming or intelligent.
While this is already difficult to
do without seeming too strained
or contrived, it becomes next to
impossible to do solely in a classroom
Think about anybody who talks
a lot in class. These are the most
annoying people on the planet. It
doesn’t matter if they have a good
joke, or demonstrate knowledge
everybody already knows, it always
seems show-offy or self-indulgent,
and is only tolerable because we
all know the professor hates it as
much as the rest of class.
So how do you attract good
attention in this situation? I’d be
inclined to say through hard work
in the class, but I’m not sure even
mastery of the course material
will be seen as impressive in any
professor’s eyes. We’re talking
about someone who has studied
her chosen field for years, so even
the most impressive mastery of
undergraduate-level material is
cuter for trying to be impressive
than anything else.
In the end, while I’m sure these
things happen, I suspect they’re
more the result of the professor
being a creepy old lech than actually
being interested in who the
student in question is. If this is the
case, my best advice is for you to
become unspeakably attractive –
too attractive for anyone, professor
or no, to refuse.
Good luck with that.