13

Can professors have romantic relationships with post-docs (in the same department)?

I feel like this point is a bit more subtle than, say, professors hooking up with students, since post-docs and professors are considered peers / colleagues.

  • 2
    Can? Yes. Should? No. See the regulations of your particular institution to see what is allowed there. – GEdgar Jul 10 '17 at 18:01
  • 10
    @GEdgar Why not? Moreover, I hope, strongly hope, that regulations don't go as far as regulating romantic relationships between professors and postdocs (and I wouldn't want to work for an institutions that makes prescriptions on this matter). – Massimo Ortolano Jul 10 '17 at 18:09
  • 25
    I don't see a problem as long as one is not the other's supervisor. – Roland Jul 10 '17 at 18:14
  • 3
    I tend to agree with @Massimo, and further, there shouldn't be unnecessary shaming of relationships between two consenting adults who are also considered peers. But nonetheless, my question is can, not should professors have romantic relationships with postdocs that work in the same department. – user75862 Jul 10 '17 at 18:17
  • 7
    @user75862 "Can" seems to be a useless question in this context for this SE site. You are almost certainly really asking either "should" or "is it permitted by the university" - if the latter, then the question needs to be closed based on: "The answer to this question strongly depends on individual factors such as a certain person’s preferences, a given institution’s regulations, the exact contents of your work or your personal values." – Bryan Krause Jul 10 '17 at 18:24
23

Policy on this may vary from institution to institution, so those would need to be specifically consulted.

However, the whole "when is a romantic relationship taboo?" question hinges most importantly on one thing: does one of the individuals involved exercise some sort of power over the other. It would be odd for a professor to have a relationship with one of his or her own postdocs, where the postdoc will likely need a letter of recommendation or decision on financial promotion from their now-conflicted lover. I think, generally, there is usually not a policy against this but might be frowned upon.

This is why it isn't a good idea for a president to sleep with a white house intern, or a teacher to have a relationship with one of their current students. Even if it were technically legal, and no bias was ever realized, the potential for bias and conflict is too strong.

A professor in one department and a postdoc in another department should present no problem though, if there is no potential employment/financial promotion conflict, e.g. English Dept. vs Physics Dept.

Another question to consider is whether the relationship precedes both individuals being a member of the institution. For example one member of a married couple gets a job at the institution and the other enrolls in school there. But even in this situation, I can see potential for conflict if they are in the same (or closely related) departments.

As long as everyone is open, honest, consenting adults, and clearly discusses potential conflicts with the appropriate personnel then there may be no issue though. Trying to keep it secret, especially if there is potential for a conflict of interest is probably not a good idea.

17

Can professors have romantic relationships with post-docs (in the same department)?

Yes, they most certainly can (and should, if they feel like it - take that, @GEdgar...), provided that one is not the other's supervisor or someone who holds sway over the other's career, e.g. wants/needs to write him/her a letter of recommendation. Although it is hard to prove a negative, I'll stake my reputation - well, my academia.SE reputation at least :-) - on the claim that there isn't a serious university in a developed country where such relationships are forbidden.

I feel like this point is a bit more subtle than, say, professors hooking up with students, since post-docs and professors are considered peers / colleagues.

I disagree, it is not subtle at all. Postdocs and professors are grown-ups and are 100% free to enter consensual relationships with each other (with the exceptions mentioned above) even if they share the same workplace and occupy different positions on the workplace totem pole. It is of course advisable for both parties to enter such relationships with caution and maturity, similarly to any romantic relationship between people sharing a workplace (or any romantic relationship at all for that matter).

Moreover, there are plenty of situations where professors can ethically and legally have romantic relationships with students (not their current students, to be sure). So to the extent that you used "hooking up" as a disparaging term, I think that was uncalled for.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.