On a sidenote... I can't find a student/teacher relationship policy for our college, and it would probably seem suspicious if I asked someone about it. Anyone have any hints??
I looked at my university's policy last year, as it happens.
At this one institution - and policies may vary - "amorous relationships" between faculty and undergraduate students are strictly forbidden. In fact, such a relationship is one of the few grounds on which tenure may be revoked.
Relationships between faculty and graduate students are strongly discouraged, but are treated as any other conflict of interest: if there is a relationship, it must be disclosed to someone higher in the chain of command, so steps may be taken to make sure the faculty member does not exercise any authority over the student in question.
This is not just a legal nicety, though, but a serious ethical issue; it's a matter of principle.
Faculty are trusted to make judgments about students' performance on the basis of academic criteria alone; if a personal relationship clouds that judgment (or has the potential to cloud that judgment, or even just appears
as though it might
cloud that judgment), it is a basic failure of professional responsibility.
It's a hard fact of being a professional: when you are in a position of authority based on trust, you cannot have just any kind of relationship with just anyone, no matter how much you want
to. You cannot just "follow your heart" . . . not if you want to remain in a position of authority based on trust.
And this doesn't just apply to "amorous" relationships. There's a very useful engineering ethics case that involves an invitation to play golf at a private country club . . . which leads to a serious, full-blown conflict of interest.
On the personal side, I have to wonder how much trust and openness there can be in a relationship in which there is a real power imbalance. It seems to me motives would always be suspect: Does the student really love the prof, or only the status and possible advantage the prof might bring? Does the prof really love the student, or is the prof just getting off on the abuse of power?