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Maintaining Professional Relationships

Practical Tips for Teaching Assistants

  1. Maintain a professional relationship with your students. Don't attempt to be one of them -- your position of power precludes close relationships.

  2. When meeting with students in your office, leave the door open or arrange to be interrupted after a short time.

  3. If you feel a student is "coming on to you", make it clear by your reactions and/or verbal response that you are not interested. If the behaviour persists, seek advice from someone you trust, who will take the problem seriously and can help you deal with the problem, preferably your supervisor. You, or your supervisor, can also call the Human Rights Office for confidential information and assistance.

  4. Mutual attractions do occur between students and teaching assistants. If you wish to have a personal relationship with a student you must wait until the student has completed any course work and is no longer under your direct assessment or control. If this is not possible and a relationship develops, you must declare a potential conflict of interest, normally to the Department Head or Dean who will assist in arranging evaluation by alternative means.

  5. If a student approaches you with personal problems that may undermine the professional relationship, direct them to the appropriate area on campus that can help them (e.g.. Student Counselling Service, Office of the Dean of Women).

  6. When carrying on conversations with students, both in and outside the class, avoid commenting on student dress and appearance.

  7. Discriminatory jokes and slurs have no place in the classroom. Because many students will be offended by such remarks, put a stop to them immediately.

  8. Make every effort to use gender neutral language in your classroom to avoid students feeling excluded and alienated.

  9. If a student comes to you because they are being harassed by someone else, take the complaint seriously. Offer support and provide information. It is your responsibility to handle this problem quickly and appropriately.

You too are vulnerable to being sexually harassed. This can be particularly difficult if you are dependent on your harasser's good will. Also, you may find yourself being given a hard time because of your gender, feminist stance, sexual orientation, or racial or ethnic origin. The Human Rights Office can offer information, support, and help you think through possible ways to resolve the problem.

  • distributed by the Human Rights Office, Queen's University

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    Last updated June 24, 1997

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