Tag Archives: power

Tentative: Previously had sex with an undergrad in a class I’m teaching

Dear Sexpert,

I am a grad student and I had sex once with an undergraduate student, but we never saw each other again. I am teaching a course in the fall and saw this student has enrolled in the class. What should I do?

– Tentative TA

Dear TA,

It shows good judgment that you are questioning whether these previous relations (albeit brief) may impact your teaching role, and are being proactive in managing the situation before interacting with the undergraduate student.

As discussed in this Sexpert, graduate student/undergraduate student relationships can create a power differential. Even though you are no longer involved with the undergraduate student, there may be a perceived or existing conflict of interest, not to mention a potential awkwardness in seeing one another.

Regarding what to do about the situation, the first place to start would be with policies of the institution. At Princeton, Rules and Procedures of the Faculty of Princeton (Ch.V. Sec.C.) Consensual Relations with Students states that “Relationships which pre-date either this policy or the role at the University which causes the conflict must also be disclosed promptly to the parties’ respective department chairs and to the Dean of the Faculty.” Additionally, these procedures recommend that “Any member of the University community who is uncertain about how a power asymmetry may impact a relationship or adversely affect the community should contact the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity, or the Office of Human Resources.”

This indicates that you should speak with your department chair, and/or the Dean of the Faculty (depending on which you feel more comfortable starting with) about this potential conflict of interest. You need not go into the specifics of the relationship but just share generally that you have previously had sexual relations with a student who is enrolled in the class you are teaching this fall. There may be a number of ways to handle the situation, including swapping you to a different section of the class being offered.

Best wishes,

The Sexpert