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I'm a new (and hence young) faculty member, in a city where I don't really know anyone. I also really enjoy swing dancing.

The university has a swing dance club. I don't think there really is an issue necessarily, it's a public space in full view of a large group. However, because it is dancing, that means you are in contact with your dance partner (i.e., a student)...so it's giving me pause.

Looking for gut reactions, others who know their school policy, etc. Yes, I could just ask someone, but I really enjoy it, I sort of don't want to get an official school "no"...

Didn't know what to tag, ethics/policy seems the most appropriate?

EDIT: An update. On advice of one of the answers below, I did reach out to the club's admin. They said that it is open to any faculty/students who wish to learn/do some swing dancing.

Further update, HR passed me to dean, dean said they have no issue, and that he knows other faculty are part of various student clubs too.

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    My gut reaction is that it would also depend upon your ability level. When I first started dancing I was very shy and nervous about the whole thing. I would have felt even more uncomfortable dancing with potentially my own lecturer, and might not even have carried on. Now that I am much more experienced I've danced with all sorts of people - of all genders, ages and experience levels; I would no longer be phased dancing with my lecturer. Therefore, my gut reaction is that it would be fine for you to join the Advanced category, but inappropriate to join the Beginners. Also, any clubs in town? – niemiro Sep 19 '17 at 14:37
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    It may be against the club rules for non-students (not just faculty) to attend, not because they think it's sketchy, but because the club is subsidized by student activity fees that non-students don't pay. – MissMonicaE Sep 19 '17 at 14:42
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    @MissMonicaE On advice of another poster, I did reach out to one of the club's admin on their facebook page. They said it is open for faculty as well. – J M Sep 19 '17 at 14:59
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    @JM Just to be sure, it might be worth checking with HR anyway. If the club's leaders are students, they could easily not know about relevant university regulations that apply to faculty, if there are any. – David Z Sep 19 '17 at 15:27
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    Great news that it's all fine with everyone. Enjoy! – Tara B Sep 19 '17 at 15:51
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If you are in the US, then it is typical that university clubs have formal elected leadership -- a president, and possibly other officers as well. Generally, they are quite serious about this -- indeed, in graduate school I remember a conversation with a foreign student who joined the ping pong club, and was struck by how earnest the officers were about fulfilling their roles.

I think the club president would be a good person to whom to address your questions; you can probably find out who the president is by Googling, or by seeing if the club has a Facebook page.

Incidentally, I went to university club-sponsored dance events as a graduate student myself, and I remember at least one faculty member who regularly showed up.

  • Good suggestion! I did reach out to one of the student admins on the facebook page, they said it's open to any students/faculty that wish to learn more about swing. – J M Sep 19 '17 at 14:58
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The short answer is that this really does depend on the strictness of your institution's conduct policies.

However, I would think that in such circumstances—in particular, it's a club where everybody knows physical contact is required—it would be understood that such contact would take place. Therefore, so long as the contact is limited to what is appropriate for dancing, I don't see why there would be an issue.

(You may also want to look for off-campus swing dancing opportunities—getting away from campus may be helpful for work-life balance.)

  • It is a rather small college town, I will certainly look into options, but I'm going to be surprised if there is something around the area. Is this an HR, faculty association president/rep, someone else question? I bug my chair with a lot of things, I'd like to avoid going to her if I can. – J M Sep 19 '17 at 3:59
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    This would be an administrative issue, so I'd suggest starting by asking your HR department if there are any rules covering this situation. – aeismail Sep 19 '17 at 4:24
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    Although you are not really looking for rules so much as norms. Therefore rather than asking HR, you might consider asking a faculty mentor, or the department chair, etc. – Tom Church Sep 19 '17 at 9:05
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    The club itself may or may not have their own policy as well. Worth checking out whether it mentions anything about staff getting involved. – Mast Sep 19 '17 at 12:23
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    You might go and see what the general membership consists of. In small towns, it would not be unusual to find faculty members. This activity would be completely out in the open and public, so should be above board. – Jon Custer Sep 19 '17 at 13:45
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I attended a student swing-dance club as a postdoc, and a non-student one where students were present as a lecturer. None of the students I actually taught were present, although there were students who were friends with ones I taught, and they were able to identify me.

I asked my boss about this. The response was that it's ok. However, I did keep an eye out for my students attending. I dance both lead and follow, so if one student had come I would have switched over to avoid dancing with them. If several had started coming, I would have had another think.

As I understand it, for this level of relationship the key point is being aware of any conflict of interest. If you are in a position to affect the academic outcome of someone in the group, someone with more authority than you should be made aware of the situation and respond accordingly, so that everything is seen to be above board.

4

I joined a student swing-dance society as a postdoc (in the UK). There were a couple of other postdocs in the society, but no permanent faculty. The swing dancers ended up being my main social group in that town.
I was doing some lecturing, and one of my dance friends was in a class I taught a couple of weeks of. I told my boss that I was friends with that student and so would prefer not to be involved in any assessment of his work. My boss said that was fine and if necessary I could sign a 'conflict of interest' form. He was not all bothered about me being friends with one of my students. I think that in small university towns it would be really unreasonable to bar university staff from joining student-led organisations, because those tend to provide most of the activities available in the town.

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As a student leader of my college ballroom dance club for several years I'd say go for it. You've mentioned that club is open to faculty/staff so there should be nothing stopping you, we had several faculty regularly participate. The club would honestly probably love to have your participation and support on campus. As for having pause about being in contact with your partner/student: I'd frankly be more concerned about you. The modern dance community places no sexual connotations on dance so if you, your administration, or the students you dance with do there's really a bigger problem. That being said, I'd recommend caution, it is an intimate activity and people can read too much into it. You're always allowed to turn down a dance if you think someone is going to far and I'd keep the club leader abreast of all your concerns just in case. At the very least, the campus club should have connections to the broader dance community in your area for you to "widen the pool."

  • Great points, thank you for providing your insight! I also didn't place any connotations on it, but felt the same way (it can be an intimate activity). – J M Sep 19 '17 at 18:03

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