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Other relationships between faculty members and the students they teach have recently made headlines in Colorado, where the university is investigating a professor accused of having an amorous relationship with a graduate student who worked for him and not notifying his superiors, and North Carolina, where a faculty member resigned after it came to light that he had been having conversations of a sexual nature with an undergraduate student over an instant messaging service.“In my experience, this is not a rare occurrence, particularly at the graduate student level,” says Richard Carlson, a professor or labor and employment law at the South Texas College of Law, who has written on the subject of faculty-student relationships.“It’s much more common than it should be.”Despite policies put in place at colleges and universities during the past decade that prohibit relationships between professors and the students they teach, and newer policies prohibiting all romantic and sexual relationships between instructors and undergraduates, professors on campuses across the country say that while such relationships are not common, they are more frequent than many expect."Sexual harassment has not disappeared from our campuses" and the "development of policies and programs has not eliminated the problem -- and perhaps never will," wrote Billie Wright Dziech, an English professor at the University of Cincinnati, and Linda Weiner, a former college administrator, in their book The Lecherous Professor.Despite the lack of statistics, Dziech says that, from her experience dealing with such cases, the majority involve male faculty members and female students.
Because of the stigma attached to such relationships, and the fact that they are prohibited on many campuses, tracking how frequently they happen is difficult.
Higher education groups do not survey faculty members about their relationships, and both students and faculty members would likely be reluctant to answer such questions honestly.
News that a graduate student had been killed the week before classes were scheduled to start rocked the University of Idaho last week.
But local news coverage has been dominated by questions about the relationship between the student, Kathryn Benoit, and the man suspected of killing her, Ernesto A.
Bustamante, who until a few days before Benoit's death was a professor in the department in which Benoit was enrolled.
Police found Bustamante dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound after an extended standoff with law enforcement officers.
In 2003, the University of California adopted a policy prohibiting romantic or sexual relationships between faculty members and students they are teaching or have a reasonable expectation of teaching in the future.
Last year, Yale University adopted a policy expressly prohibiting relationships between faculty members and undergraduate students, regardless of whether there is any chance the professor will teach the student.
"The statistics haven't changed since we started studying this," she says.