In my own family, when my grandfather’s sister left Smith in the 1950s in order to move to North Carolina and get married to her geology professor, no one questioned her decision. Research from 1990 about sexual harassment indicated that while harassment does occur between same-gender faculty and students and between female professors and male students, such cases were “statistically insignificant.” In 1993, after many colleges started placing restrictions on sexual relationships, Jane Gross wrote in the that they seemed to be “inspired by feminists on campus, who point to the inherent power imbalance between a professor who gives grades and writes recommendations and a impressionable young woman who is either flattered by the attention or fearful of spurning it.” The issue, furthermore, was “propelled by growing recognition that sexual harassment is a serious problem that could land professors and administrators in court.” A professor can’t sleep with his students for much the same reason bosses can’t sexually harass their secretaries without potentially running into real legal trouble: some of the victims started to speak up.The first no sex policy came in 1984, when Harvard banned relationships between faculty members and students they taught. In 1986 it adopted a very specific policy barring romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and their own students, but allowing relationships with students professors don’t specifically “teach or supervise.” Harvard Dean Henry Rosovsky, introducing the policy at his school, wrote that relationships between teachers and students were "always wrong." John Kenneth Galbraith, emeritus professor of economics at the school, publicly wondered how he, who had been married to a former graduate student for almost 50 years, should atone for his sins.And they too are usually intelligent, accomplished, published, and passionate.We experience our TAs in a much more relaxed, casual setting.Though she was not seeking special treatment from her professor, when adults interact in this close setting, it is easy for certain signals to get lost in translation.At the university level, it’s likely that students will have professors close to their age.
A 1997 paper by Barry Dank and Joseph Fulda indicates that: Starting in the 1980's, a feminist literature emerged calling for the banning of intimate, organizationally based, asymmetrical relationships and the subsumption of such relationships under the rubric of sexual harassment.
Historically, no one much cared if (unmarried) professors wanted to date their students. (The fact that he didn’t, upon marriage, stop sleeping with his students was the first indication that something might be wrong here.) So what happened?
While there’s a troublesome power dynamic at work here—a tenure-track economics professor’s relationship with a freshman in his macroeconomics class, whose grade he determines, is obviously different from any relationship that student might develop with another economics professor; likewise, that freshman would have a different relationship with another freshman—nobody seemed to think this one was such a big deal. If a professor were to approach (or text message) a student today to ask for a date it would strike many as incredibly inappropriate. While it’s true that that UConn prohibition extends to any professors and any students of every gender, the traditional dynamic here is a male professor and a female student.
Unlike a professor’s lecture, a TA’s recitation involves discussion and gradual acquaintanceship.
All of this makes them much more likely candidates for dating and relationships.