BLURRED LINES: student-staff dating


Aztec Press Illustration by Katelyn Roberts.

There’s a fitness class at a community college with about 20 people. The setting is like many classrooms in a community college: varying age groups, from a 19-year-old to a 40-something who also happens to be a counselor at the college.

The 14-week course takes its usual route as students learn new skills in a class with strangers. Students eventually make acquaintances, and exchange phone numbers for class purposes.

But when one text exchange goes awry, a younger student can’t help but ask, “Where’s the line?”


Older Guy: What’s your name?

Younger Girl: Who is this?

OG: *** from class…lol.

YG: oh lol, it’s ******.

OG: Is it weird I kept your number?

OG: If so, I’ll delete it if you want…

YG: No, it’s fine, I just didn’t save yours, ha ha.

OG: Ouch, lol.

OG: I’m trying to flirt, but I don’t know if it’s working, ha ha.

YG: Wait what? Lol.”

OG: I’m trying to flirt … Is it working 😉 lol.”

OG: Just thought you’re really cute and kinda sexy.

OG: But if I’m out of bounds, I apologize…

YG: (does not respond)

(1 hour later)

OG: I guess that’s a yes, lol.


Harassment comes in different forms. Many perceive harassment when they read or hear the word “sexual” spoken in conjunction.

But harassment can be more than obscene remarks. Any unwanted, persistent attention can be classified as harassment if it makes the person receiving it uncomfortable.

The remarks made by the older school-employed student could be classified as obscene and were definitely unwanted, based on the woman’s replies.

It is up to the young woman to decide whether she will report the interaction to school authorities. Her decision likely depends on how safe she felt after the exchange.

Everyone who believes they are being harassed by Pima Community College personnel or by their peers should immediately file a report.

The college will take action whether it is an employee or a student doing the harassment, according to the Personnel Policy Statement for College Employees.

PCC’s accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission, required all college employees to take sexual harassment training after a former chancellor resigned amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment.


Pima’s personnel policy defines consensual relationships as “amorous, romantic and/or sexual relationships entered into by mutual consent between employees or between employees and students.”

The policy says a consensual relationship must be reported, whether it is between two employees or between an employee and student.

The wording reads: “An employee who may have a conflict of interest situation must disclose that interest in writing to the chief human resources officer or designee.”

The consequence for an unreported relationship can be employee termination.

College spokeswoman Libby Howell isn’t sure how common instances of faulty-student relationships are but said, “We are not aware of disciplinary actions specifically related to faculty-student romantic or sexual relationships, at least in recent years.”

The college reserves the right to establish guidelines and determine whether a relationship presents a conflict of interest.

If the relationship is deemed a conflict of interest, it must immediately be reported to the head of human resources.

Another policy says employees who have relationships may not be involved in their partner’s work, whether they’re employees or students.


Most people have moral compasses, so it’s baffling the older student thought it was OK to hit on a teen half his age.

However, a consensual relationship would not have violated PCC policy as long as it was reported.
Bottom line: Maybe there isn’t an ethical or moral line in a handbook, but there is one in your head.

Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t pursue it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *