Boundaries - Staff / Students


Quick question(s):

1. Do any of you socialize with the staff in your dept.? If yes, do you think there is a potential for blurring of boundaries? i.e., becoming too sociable, or, and this is where it becomes tricky, possible dating?


2. I used to think the latter was a no-go, but I can see how it might occur if said staff-member had nothing to do with you academically. Or, do you just ignore it, and put your feelings on hold until graduation? I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with this new-found friendliness, and really don't want to do something irrational.

Sensible responses welcomed. This is the first time something like this has happened to me, and it's all rather unnerving right now.


Just a personal experience that might help you. In my first year (I am currently second) PhD students did often socialise with staff. At a particular party (after much flirting on earlier occasions), I ended up with the director of my research institute. It was never public about us dating, although it was pretty much 'the worst kept secret' in the department; and I know that a number of senior members of staff knew, they effectively turned a blind eye as long as we were discreet.
We dated, then split up after a few months, but it was for personal reasons. He then got a job at another Uni, and since we have begun to see the possibility of having a relationship again. One of the reasons I believe it didn't work earlier is because we were forced not to be 'open' about it, which takes it's toll.


Hey. Thanks for replying.

Yes, the socializing mostly takes the form of drinking, and with the younger staff in the dept. - must have been similar for you? That tends to be conducive to an atmosphere in which personal information is divulged, and sometimes, flirting takes place.

The discreteness thing seems sensible, as, even if there is no conflict of interest, it might seem that way to some. As most of us are in our mid-late twenties, and the younger staff a similar age, it does seem normal that friendships, and sometimes, relationships may develop - as after all, these are the people you spend most time with.


I should also point out that nothing has occurred between said staff member and I, it is me that has the attraction, and one week their behaviour is rather receptive, whilst the next, it's distant. It is complicated, but the main reason for that, strangely, has little to do with them being staff. Don't really want to say too much on a public forum. Just interested in how these situations are handled, and what, if anything, to do about it. As I am here for at least another two years, it's in nobody's interest to become entangled in a drama.


If the academic in question has nothing to do with you academically, I honestly can't see how this is a problem. After all, it's only natural that you're going to be attracted to like-minded souls, so there's nothing irrational about being attracted to an academic if you're a PhD student. On the other hand, I suppose you run the risk of things going horribly wrong, and you feeling uncomfortable in your department. Other than that, I think this is perfectly normal (if the person is not connected to your work). I did, however, know a fellow MA student who was dating her supervisor, and she (and he) were looked upon badly, as it did affect the marks she received for her work and her future prospects. That still pisses me off to this day!


Hi Bellaz,

They have nothing to do with my work, and likely won't. They are, however, a new-ish staff member, so from their perspective, it might look unprofessional when trying to make a good impression in a new job. Over the year though, they have socialized a lot, and recently become more open.

That's a shame about your friend, esp. if they were both mature about it. I guess I can see how the marking-conflict might arise, but in our dept., it's anonymous at undergrad/ma level, presumably to avoid bias etc.


I'd say go for it then. Yeah, see where you're coming from, but there is no such thing as anonymous marking. The tutors already know which topic you've chosen for your MA dissertation, as you've agreed it with them, so it's impossible. Anonymous marking doesn't actually exist, really.


Oh, sorry I didn't clarify! When I said it affected her marks, I mean she received preferential treatment, and was given much more support and encouragement by said supervisor/boyfriend.


That caused much resentment from the other students, as we could see something was going on between them. She was getting loads of help from him at the time, and he wasn't bothering to help any of his other students anywhere near as much. This is when it becomes a problem, when the academic is actually your tutor. We were all so frustrated because it was blatantly unfair.


I was a BSc student and my boyfriend was doing his PhD... we dated, even though he marked some of my coursework and practicals... he informed the lecturer beforehand and the lecturer just made sure the grade he had given me was fair (2:2 I still remember on that particular peice of work as I was awful at programming!)

As for mates.. yes, When I was a PhD student I socialised loads with my 2nd supervisor who is still a really, really good friend and actually am still friendly with many of the lecturers and staff - I never saw it as a problem, however I think it depends on the people involved.

I never talked about my PhD.. or my research really.. it was more 'Oi, Buttmunch, it's 3pm and it's Friday.. pub?' or 'Hey, how are all your cats? mine threw up on the carpet the other day...'

The *only* reservation I would have is dating my supervisor as that could get very tricky.. thankfully my 1st supervisor was 50 or so, married with kids my age!


"I was a BSc student and my boyfriend was doing his PhD... we dated, even though he marked some of my coursework and practicals"

Isn't this technically a dismissible offense? Not passing judgment, but I always thought it was/is. I know for sure it is at UCLAn. Not too sure about where I am now.


"Isn't this technically a dismissible offense? Not passing judgment, but I always thought it was/is. I know for sure it is at UCLAn. Not too sure about where I am now."

Not as far as I knew, he knew or the lecturer who was running the course.....

I'm pretty sure Reading Uni is really, really lax about stuff like that.. plus, as he was a PhD student marking undergrad practicals, he just filled out forms, the lecturer signed them and he claimed cash for the work.. so it would be interesting to see *how* he could have been sacked.. perhaps prevented from marking stuff in the future?

Everyone knew... we tried to be very open and honest about things and noone said anything at all...


Hey Bellaz. Can totally see where you're coming from, and surprised the lec. didn't refrain from marking her work, and pass it onto somebody else. His professional reputation has probably been tainted, as we all know how small the academic community is, and it's not immune from gossip.


The academic in question blows very hot and cold, i.e., exchanged numbers the other week, but this week has almost made a point of being distant. I don't want to push the issue, as it's unacknowledged, but others have picked up on it, which makes me think I'm not completely delusional.

As I said, the biggest problem is not the fact they are an academic. There are other issues going on, so just thinking what to do about it. Confrontation could be risky. Was just voicing it really, to try and get it out of my system, or rather, see if it makes any sense written down.