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LOR Unethical Situation-Need Advice

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by BeMD13, May 14, 2014.

  1. BeMD13

    BeMD13 5+ Year Member

    Dec 31, 2012
    I worked very hard the past two semesters and earned an impressive grade in both sections of the course I took. I also developed a strong professional relationship with my professor. At the end of the course, my professor was willing to write a positive letter of recommendation and we had several great discussions about it. However, after providing him/her with the AMCAS forms required to submit the letter, my professor then asked me out.

    I said I had plans and (s)he suggested the following week. I felt on the spot and said maybe. It was for a group event so it is possible that my professor did not have the worst of intentions but it is still a grey area and I feel that line should not be crossed while there is still a power differential such as a LOR involved. I really need the letter from this professor and I do not want to cause trouble as this type of situation can easily cause termination or probation for an instructor.

    How do I handle this? I do not intend to go as this will imply consent and if s(he) is interested in me and finds I only intend to maintain this on a professional level, "Hurt people, hurt people." It is best I stop anything before it starts. So what exactly do I say? My second question is what do I do about my letter? I really need it! I worked so hard and earned it but now it is a big mess.
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  3. QuinnTheEskimo


    Jan 9, 2014
    A group event? Are you sure he/she is "asking you out?"
  4. BeMD13

    BeMD13 5+ Year Member

    Dec 31, 2012
    I am not 100% sure. Although (s)he did suggest that he/she would pick me up. It is at a bar where a group of faculty members get together. No students.
  5. hoihaie

    hoihaie Banned Banned

    Mar 6, 2014
    group event? Who else did he/she say was going?
  6. BeMD13

    BeMD13 5+ Year Member

    Dec 31, 2012
    Just other professors at a bar. Is that normal? Haha maybe I am confused but something seems off about one student at a bar with the professors. Do you guys do that? Am I overreacting?
  7. WillburCobb

    WillburCobb I am the pull out king Banned Account on Hold 5+ Year Member

    I attended a group event with a prof. once. We had some drinks, BS-ed, and had a good time. At the end of the night I was a VERY happy guy:naughty:
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
    onyisraw and Being like this.
  8. BeMD13

    BeMD13 5+ Year Member

    Dec 31, 2012
    I just kind of got that vibe that can't really be put into words. I wouldn't have a problem meeting some of my other profs at a bar but this one... who I know is single and looking, just makes me a little nervous about it. Especially being alone in a car together. I don't think it is a good idea when I asked for a LOR.
  9. hoihaie

    hoihaie Banned Banned

    Mar 6, 2014
    Tell him you wanna bring a friend or two who really wants to come as well
    candbgirl likes this.
  10. GUH

    GUH Underdawg 7+ Year Member

    Jul 13, 2010
    Eastern US
    Major red flags here are the timing of the "asking out", the location (not school or the office), the fact that this professor is single, the fact that you are (presumably) of the opposite sex, and the professor's persistence (asking you out for the following week). I would not trust any letter from this professor unless (s)he gets exactly what (s)he wants.

    Also, in spite of your solid performance of the class, the harsh reality is that you are never entitled to a letter, so it would be best to try to get a letter from someone else if you don't meet the professor's request.
    CW 2010, BeMD13 and gyngyn like this.
  11. BeMD13

    BeMD13 5+ Year Member

    Dec 31, 2012
    Sorry... meant to post this as a direct reply. I don't post often so I am fairly new with this.
  12. gyngyn

    gyngyn Professor Moderator Physician Faculty Lifetime Donor Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

    Nov 4, 2011
    Alta California
    It is unprofessional for someone to put you in this position. I would not trust them. At all.
    Goro, CW 2010, darkjedi and 8 others like this.
  13. BeMD13

    BeMD13 5+ Year Member

    Dec 31, 2012
    Thanks for your reply. Those are all the things I was worried about so I've already started thinking about some alternative people I could ask. I think I might feel it out and if I get a call about next week and my plan to say no does not go well, then I'll scratch that letter. If the response is neutral, I might still consider using it even though it is a big risk. How should I say no? I am bad with dating advice even when it is not my professor writing my LOR!! Any thoughts?
  14. F.Underwood


    Mar 27, 2014
    Professors sometimes ask students out just to get to know them better so they can write better LOR's.
    I would proceed assuming that is the case. If he or she comes on to you (invites you back to his or her place), then come up with a good excuse for why you cannot. In fact, if you can, make the Prof know that you have something to do after so they cannot offer afterwards.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014
  15. onyisraw

    onyisraw 2+ Year Member

    Oct 25, 2013
    If you are a guy, go out with her. If you are a girl, bring a friend along or meet him at the place where the event is. This is not that big of a deal. Both of you are of age. This is my 100% honest response.
  16. touchpause13

    touchpause13 nolite te bastardes carborundorum 5+ Year Member

    Jun 25, 2012
    If any alarm bells are going off in your head around this person (and I'm assuming they are because you posted) STAY AWAY. Do not trust them if your instincts say not to. Find another person to get a LOR from
    CW 2010, LizzyM and gyngyn like this.
  17. hoihaie

    hoihaie Banned Banned

    Mar 6, 2014
    If you're really uncomfortable with him and don't want to use his letter of rec, why not just say no to going out with him, but still ask for a letter of rec, but don't waive your right to read it. Since you're not gonna use the LoR from him anyways, might as well see what he is really up to.
  18. Goro

    Goro Faculty 7+ Year Member

    Jun 10, 2010
    Somewhere west of St. Louis
    My radar is going off right now, big time! This crosses a line into unprofessional behavior, and this should be reported to the Chair and Dean. STAT.

    It is a violation of AAUP for faculty to date students. I know of cases where faculty have been fired for doing to. And this sure sounds like a date. Go find another Professor for a LOR.

    DokterMom and touchpause13 like this.
  19. DrCharlemagne

    DrCharlemagne Old Maid in Training 7+ Year Member

    Feb 27, 2010
    First, trust your gut. I'm going to present some alternate reasons for why the prof may have asked you, and obviously I'd like you to consider them, but if you're still really convinced this crossed your boundaries then you're correct.

    I have a professor friend who has gone with me to the bar several times for drinks, sometimes we go alone sometimes we meet his friends. Sometimes I network with his buddies, sometimes we just make fun of our department, sometimes he just watched Nascar and griped about his kids. He has a known history of platonic interactions like these, though because we were at a women's college he was always asking young women to go. He seemed more cranky old uncle than lech, and I did learn a lot from hanging out with him. To be fair though, he never asked around letter time and he never tripped my creepy sensor.

    I also know at my UG college several professors liked to meet at one pub off campus, and students could find them there to chat in a more relaxed setting. Especially the younger professors of both sexes liked to hang out with students and talk with them about how things were going in school, plans for the future, advice on how to find graduate schools and so forth. Point being, there was an established culture of professors talking with students at a bar where I went to school, and that might be the case here.

    If I were in your position, I would try to establish whether this is potentially just a group of nerds hanging out to talk shop by asking if other students were invited/going. If not, then I'd probably go to another professor I trusted in another department and ask for advice. I may also have tried asking directly what the professor's intentions were, but I'm also older and crankier than most undergrads. I'd try to avoid going over his/her head or starting a grand inquiry right away, but also understand that this is textbook harassment and you'd be within your rights to take a stand and ask for an apology.
  20. dcc23

    dcc23 2+ Year Member

    Jun 13, 2013
    Not quite sure I'd trust Frank Underwood's opinion on an ethical scenario.
    lumpyduster and touchpause13 like this.
  21. Mr Interesting

    Mr Interesting Bonehead 5+ Year Member

    Jan 19, 2011
    This kind of thing happens all the time and it sucks. The faculty – student relationship is sacred and built on trust. But every now and then someone crosses the line. Tread lightly because these situations have a way of screwing you too. I know this from personal experience.

    OP, I suggest you find another professor asap. Take heed to the advice from
    @gyngyn , @Goro , and @touchpause13

    Edit: Too personal
    Last edited: May 15, 2014
    touchpause13 likes this.
  22. F.Underwood


    Mar 27, 2014
    Lol, good one. However, all jokes aside, if they both find each other attractive, why would it be unethical?
  23. dcc23

    dcc23 2+ Year Member

    Jun 13, 2013
    For one, I don't think the OP suggested they do find him/her attractive. Secondly, let's play out this scenario:

    The OP goes to the function with the prof, who makes an advancement on them at the end of the night. With the LOR in the back of the OP's head, they may feel coerced into a situation they do not want to be in. This is why people in supervisory positions are not allowed to pursue relationships with subordinates.
  24. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    Having a drink in a bar as part of a group is ok but it is too easy to cross the line into a sexual relationship. Such a relationship between a faculty member and a student of any age is hazardous and may be forbidden by school policy. It creates the potential for sexual harassment (will they write you a better letter if you put out? or will they write you a poor letter if the relationship sours?) and I have seen it destroy the career of the faculty member, hamper the student's academic opportunities, and destroy committed relationships (when the relationship involves cheating on a spouse).

    Where there is an imbalance of power (student/teacher, patient/physician, client/lawyer) there are professional codes of conduct that limit romantic/sexual relationships between the parties.
  25. DokterMom

    DokterMom 2+ Year Member

    Mar 1, 2013
    If the prof follows up with you about the date, simply reply that you felt uncomfortable about the possible appearance of impropriety and didn't want to put him/her in a position where his/her motives might be questioned... Unless of course, it was a group event and your boyfriend/girlfriend/friend would be welcome also -- in which case you'd ride with your friend and meet him/her there.

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