update: I’m not dating a student where I teach but people think I am

Remember the adjunct professor who was worried that people would see him with his sister (a student where he taught) and mistakenly think he was dating a student? Here’s his update:

Well, the results are kind of mixed. My sister discovered that the problem was more pervasive than either of us had realized. As she became closer friends with some of the students there, she discovered that basically all of the students who knew of me assumed that I was dating a student, even though most of them didn’t have a notion of who that student might be. And so those rumors spread pretty far and wide among the student body and that continues to be a problem no matter how hard my sister’s friends try to fight it. But on the other hand, and more importantly, I made much more of a point of making sure that every instructor within the sound of my voice knew about the situation, and now it’s something that they all laugh about whenever they hear that rumor from students. Now that the matter is all clear with the faculty, I’m not worried about it costing me professional opportunities. I got a second job on campus and have been recommended by a friend for a third.

I credit your advice with emboldening me to bring up the subject more with other instructors. When I wrote to you, I half-thought that I might have been blowing the significance of the situation out of proportion, and that maybe I should just let it go. Until that point, I was worried that if it became widely known that a student was my sister, there might be concerns about me writing her papers for her or using my connections to influence how her professors treat her. I met my sister for lunch in the cafeteria and acknowledged her when we passed in the halls, but the campus is so big and crowded that I assumed no one paid particular attention to what anyone else was doing. Boy was I wrong, and I’m so grateful that you helped wake me up to what the bigger danger was.

{ 11 comments… read them below }

  1. Adrienne

    Another great example of how clear, honest communication solves problems. Kudos to you, professor, for having the courage to address the issue head on!

  2. Elizabeth West

    I’m glad this got cleared up among the faculty. You can’t stop college kids from gossiping, but good for the OP for mitigating the damage. Yes, most of them are kids, not long out of high school, with high school mentalities and habits. Just come to my campus. Maybe it’s just that I’m old, but wow, they look like babies!

    1. Sascha

      I feel super old at the university where I work, and I’m just 29. I know most of these students are just 10 years younger than me, sometimes less…but dang! Maybe it’s because they are all in sweats and free campus t-shirts. Except those Nursing school students…they dress to the nines.

  3. Chocolate Teapot

    I realised I was getting old when the police and sentries on guard outside public buildings only look about 16.

  4. Caitlin

    When I read the original post, I thought that the professor must be at a very small private college because I couldn’t fathom how, at a big school, people would even notice! My university has 30,000 students, and I can’t recall anyone ever talking about a student having a relationship with a professor, seeing professors in cars with students, or experiencing gossip so widespread. Bizarre.

    1. VintageLydia

      It might depend on the program. Some are large and not terribly close knit, but some are fairly small so notice EVERYTHING about each other, and from there it spreads to students in other programs and suddenly everyone “knows” Mr. Adjunct is dating Susie Student.

  5. JC

    What’s interesting is that I am also an adjunct, and I actually did end up in a relationship with a former student. We didn’t date until after the class ended – a while after – and as soon as we decided to go out, I went to my dean and notified her. There was no chance he would ever take a class from me again; I teach writing and he was not in a writing-intensive program. While he did end up as a work-study in the learning center where I also worked, our hours were very different and we never did anything together on campus. We are married now, and even people who knew him as a work-study and me as a teacher did not connect that we were together until I changed my name. Nothing ever came of it, because we were very circumspect. I wonder if this college environment is just more gossipy than mine, or if it’s because we are at a community college and therefore the age difference (he’s a year younger) is absolutely minimal.

  6. SD

    Not at all on the same scale, but just to say I relate: when I was in high school, my older sister (also nine years older, as it happens!) taught there for a couple of years. It’s a very small school, she had actually gone there as well and when I started high school teachers would meet me and go “Oh, you’re []’s sister!” even though we don’t have the same last name. We look very similar.

    My sister and I would sometimes roughhouse a little or just relate to each other in a very sisterly, not at all student-teacher, way even while we were at school/work (respectively). Because it was such a small school, we assumed absolutely everyone knew we were related, she never taught any of my classes, etc. But after she had been there a couple of years, one of my fellow students said to both of us “Oh, you two are sisters?”
    …so that was kind of worrisome, and made me wish we’d made a little more noise about being sisters initially, I have no idea what that student or others might have been thinking but not saying. Well handled, OP!

  7. voluptuousfire

    Did the OP of this story ever mention if him and his sister have the same last name? One would think if they had the same last name they would be related, either married or siblings.

  8. Kat A.

    To the OP: Listing each other as your sibling on Facebook (in your friends list) might help, especially if you let that part of your Facebook be public.

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