College professors dating their students

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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.Further, even if one thinks Honderich acted wrongly by engaging in those relations, whether and how he should be blamed or otherwise held responsible for them today is another matter.

I’ll raise just two here: (1) arguments over blanket policies that some schools have adopted banning any such relationships, and (2) arguments concerning the treatment of philosophers who’ve engaged in such relationships.A young woman of good family told me of her sad marriage to an Indian gentleman, I sympathized too much, and did get an idea in my head.Something was said to Richard [Wollheim, then chair of the department] of this, and he found her another tutor. It preserved me from an undergraduate or two with the invigorating idea of an extra-curricular connection with their tutor.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.

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