Crushes or crushed

June 16, 1995

Jennie Bristow presented a picture of students deliberately and ritualistically setting out to enter into casual sexual relationships with their lecturers in universities and colleges.

She questioned the wisdom of teaching unions Natfhe and the AUT forming policy designed to warn lecturers about the consequences of their sexual activity with students. Believing erroneously that such policy was written solely to protect her and her student colleagues, (who presumably feel that bedding-their-tutor is much more fun than writing their final-term papers) she complained that such policies were patronising and only served to dampen her and presumably her present companion's ardour.

The policy was not introduced only to protect students, but to guard university and college lecturers from situations which might compromise their professional integrity and which may lead to their own and their colleagues discomfort at work.

Ms Bristow acknowledges that students do suffer as a consequence of sexual relationships with their lecturers; but she perhaps needs to realise that lecturers do not enjoy the embarrassment of finding that they have become the target of a student "dare"; especially when they are subsequently relegated to becoming a mere, and very publicly discussed, conquest.

Neither is it a pleasurable experience to be a lecturer, responsible for assessment, who is targeted, bedded and dispensed with once a student's grades are announced.

It is not just the individual lecturer and student who are affected by so called "consensual relations". Staff sharing offices with lecturers who are engaged in sexual relationships with students have to face the inconvenience of students hanging around the department, too frequently knocking on shared office doors, repeatedly phoning and, at times, complaining about the lecturer once the relationship is over.

Likewise, personal tutors are placed in the awkward situation of hearing a student's complaint after the relationship is over and having to decide whether to act against the interests of their colleague by making the complaint public or attempting to cover up; leaving the student's anger (and frequently their own) unresolved.

It is in the interests of both lecturers and their students that a professional distance is maintained between the two. Of course, a student's eye may be drawn to the lecturer, as Ms Bristow suggests, but then so too may a patient's eye be attracted to their doctor or nurse. The medical professional learns to exercise self-control or risk losing a hard-worked-for career.

Are opponents of Natfhe and AUT policy really saying that lecturing staff are so "weak" that they cannot act similarly? I sincerely hope not.


Equal Opportunities Officer

Outer London Region


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