I teach engineering at a community college in the US. I currently have a student with very poor hygiene. He stinks pretty badly, has obviously greasy hair, doesn’t change his clothes frequently, and I usually seat him in the back of the room (during exams and labs, when I have power over seating arrangements) so I don’t have to smell his (relatively strong) body odor.
This student has also spoken with a colleague of mine about his low self-esteem. He’s worried that he isn’t making friends, and doesn’t know if the people he hangs out with are hanging out with him because they want something from him (help with classwork) or because they are truly friends.
In my opinion, this student follows me around like a puppy, and he tries too hard to impress people (students and faculty alike). I am a young-ish female faculty member and I try to create very large boundaries, especially with my male students. As an example, he frequently finds the need to explain to me (in way too much detail) why he gets questions wrong on exams (I don’t care, and I don’t need to know, which I’ve told him several times with no success).
So, I would like to mention to this student that his hygiene is off-putting and isn’t helping him out in the friends department. However, because he already follows me around like a puppy dog, I don’t want to encourage any more interaction from him. Additionally, it frankly embarrasses me to have to bring up hygiene issues with somebody in their late teens / early twenties. How can I bring this issue up while still maintaining my boundary as a female faculty member who doesn’t want her male students following her around and asking her for advice all the time?
I was hoping that I would be finished up with this student by now, but I am the only professor who teaches Electrical Engineering courses, so I can’t recommend that he take classes with someone else, or ask another colleague to discuss this with him. He will be taking another of my courses next semester and I don’t personally know any of his other intended professors for next semester to ask them to bring it up.