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One of my students is an escort/stripper and she has offered me (and other faculty in my department) her "services". I am pretty sure my initial reaction of "thanks for letting me know, now can you answer the question about how to calculate the standard deviation", may not have been the best reaction. The offers have continued. My head of school is aware of the issue, and has asked if I want him to do anything.

Is the student doing anything wrong by offering her services to me? For what it is worth, prostitution is legal in the UK. Is this any different then a student telling me she works in a restaurant?

What is the correct response in a situation like this?

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Did she offer her services free of charge, or is she simply advertising her craft? –  gerrit Feb 25 '13 at 14:40
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@gerrit: Does it matter? –  JeffE Feb 25 '13 at 14:40
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@JeffE I think it might, as one could be interpreted as a bribe, whereas the other cannot. I'm not saying either is appropriate, but the severity of a misconduct can be different depending on what is the case, perhaps (I'm not sure). –  gerrit Feb 25 '13 at 14:41
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Say openly that you're not interested. "Thanks for letting me know" is not a clear NO to everyone. Then think further about what to do (with the help of the answers below). –  Ana Feb 25 '13 at 14:57
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You know, I knew a couple girls who stripped to pay their way through college, and both of them would have been mortified if any of their classmates found out, much less their prof. To them stripping was a fun, well-paying means to an end, not something they wanted to bleed over into their "real life." They wouldn't offer their services to friends or acquaintances outside of work. Maybe it works differently with escorts, but I'm inclined to say that it's not just "advertising her business." She's hitting on you. –  Alexander Gruber Feb 25 '13 at 22:26

4 Answers 4

up vote 105 down vote accepted

First, “thanks for letting me know” is not an unambiguous no. I suppose most people would actually get it, but she already appears to have boundary issues, so you should make it much clearer. The best thing to do would be to make it clear to her that you consider her propositions to be out of line. You can add, that while you don't think badly of her because of it, such offers have no place in the classroom (or in a student/teacher relationship).

In fact, you would probably do the same if she insisted on asking you to come have dinner at a restaurant she worked at: you'd be annoyed by it, because it is detrimental to her (and others) attention. I regularly have students who ask out-of-line questions, and I try to be firm: while I'd be happy to discuss if we were friends, we are not and my class/practicals/whatever is not the right place for that.

However, there is a distinction between talking about sex and dining: the law makes makes a distinction in many countries, including UK. From UCL's HR webpages:

Sexual harassment can take the form of ridicule, sexually provocative remarks or jokes, offensive comments about dress or appearance, the display or distribution of sexually explicit material, unwelcome sexual advances or physical contact, demands for sexual favours or assault.

which clearly covers your case, whether the sexual advances are of a paid or an unpaid nature.

Finally, regarding your head of school: the student clearly has boundary issues, probably for making the offer in the first place and definitely for renewing it multiple times after you declined. So, yeah, I would suggest your head of school or a counselor having a talk with her about it.

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I agree that the student clearly has boundary issues — all examples I've read about of students doing such work went at great length to avoid ever running into a teacher while working. Whether advertising to sell sexual service is sexual harassment I'm not sure, though. –  gerrit Feb 25 '13 at 14:51
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Boundary issues and works as a stripper/escort. Wow, what are the odds! –  Kaz Feb 25 '13 at 16:03
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I'd add that you should make sure any further conversations with this person are conducted in the presence of a counsellor or other third-party, just to be safe. –  Suresh Feb 25 '13 at 16:35
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@АртёмЦарионов I disagree: there are boundaries, set forth by laws, regulations and university policy. I strongly advise to set one's behavior according to one's employer policy, obviously. –  F'x Feb 25 '13 at 21:31

Your initial reaction was thanks for letting me know, now can you answer the question about how to calculate the standard deviation.

This answer is ambiguous and at risk for misunderstanding. I guess you mean no, but you're not saying no. If taken literally, this answer says neither yes nor no. Myself, earlier in my life, would have interpreted thanks for letting me know as an expression of interest, which explains the repeated offers. In sensitive cases like this, I think it's important to be very explicit:

I am not interested in your professional services and please do not offer them again.1

Like this, at least it is beyond doubt that you have replied negatively.

1Possibly adding as long as you are my student ;).

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No question, my initial answer was ambiguous and could have been better. I was so shocked that I didn't handle it as well as possible, but at least I didn't give my standard reply of "why don't you swing by my office to chat about that". –  StrongBad Feb 25 '13 at 15:24
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^ Which would have been both hilarious and very, very disturbing at the same time. –  Joe Z. Feb 25 '13 at 15:29
    
+1 i agree, i struggle to tell apart refusals and ambiguous answers, some people take everything literally, and taken literally the above sounds like a remark of interest –  RhysW Feb 25 '13 at 16:41
    
+1 Ambiguity can mean flirtatious, though it's clear from the OP's question that it wasn't the intention. –  Fuhrmanator Feb 25 '13 at 16:49
    
Big +1. I've mistaken things like "thanks for letting me know" for a sign of interest when I was a student. It can be very ambiguous. In a case like this you need to make it perfectly clear you're not interested. –  Rena Feb 26 '13 at 0:02

I think her offer is more than just a simple bribing. It is an intentional act to jeopardize your career and put you in trouble. Unfortunately it is a method used by some individuals to disturb and manipulate others and when they get disappointed they can easily pretend they are the victims of sexual abuse. Due to the fact that sexual relationships between people are not as simple as other relationships, her offer cannot be compared with inviting you to a restaurant. I think it is better you not only reject her offer but also report her offer and try to document it.

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Depending on the region, it may or may not jeopardise his career as long as it is not a bribe. See also this question, although I recognise this is not about a relationship. –  gerrit Feb 25 '13 at 14:38
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I agree with Vahid. Further, I think, technically she probably didn't do anything wrong. At least not as long as you can't prove she offered her services as a bribe. Known professional or not doesn't matter. I always assume: those who offer such services also would not hesitate to accuse YOU of inappropriate behaviour and uninvited sexual advances and where I come that can destroy your life instantly, even if there isn't a shred of truth in that accusation. From now on never receive her without at least one fellow worker, best female, around. And report the incident! Just in case! –  user1129682 Feb 25 '13 at 22:13
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+1 Even if Vahid is wrong, what he is telling you to do is not wrong. Better to be on the safe side. –  KK. Feb 27 '13 at 4:53

Maybe she just wants to get it on with you....just wait till she's no longer your student and get some. I don't think she meant any harm by it she probably just wants to score. I would do, I've been hitting on a professor of mine and would give anything to fool around with him but I am not his student anymore. He rejected me and the way he did it was just through being polite but making no further suggestion to see me or ask me any personal questions or anything. He was just uninterested and you can tell. Be polite but uninterested and she will go away. That's the best way to do it.

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This is some funny answer, but very bad advice. Maybe she will be a student of his class again? –  Kogesho May 23 at 19:56
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Uhh... No. Just no. o.O –  Moriarty May 23 at 21:12

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