The Gifts That Keep On Taking

, , , , , , | Learning | July 22, 2019

I had been working as an English teacher for about a year at this university, and always had an open-door policy with my students so I could help them with their papers for any class. I was on the young side of things, only a couple of years older than half my students. 

As a new, young faculty member, one of the male teachers asked me out. I turned him down flat. I made it clear I wasn’t into dating anyone as I’m asexual and aromantic. He blurted out, “You just don’t like guys!” and stormed off.

What I didn’t realize was that this was overheard by one of my female students. She started coming to my office regularly. I inquired about any papers she needed help with, but she was very evasive. It seemed like she mostly came to shoot the breeze. I talked to the extent I could while I was grading.

Then, the gifts started coming. She would leave them with the department secretary, who would deliver them to me. That’s when I finally put two and two together; this student not only was bisexual, but she wanted me to be the third wheel in her relationship with her boyfriend. When she’d heard the male faculty accuse me of “not liking guys,” she thought that meant I was a lesbian and would be interested in her.

I told her gently but firmly that I couldn’t be in a relationship and that it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to hang out in my office unless we were discussing her homework. It seemed she understood as she stopped coming by.

But she still sent gifts, leaving them with the department secretary. I told the secretary to stop accepting gifts on my behalf, but the next time, the secretary would accept them anyway.

I then was taken aside by the department head to talk about accepting gifts from students that could be construed as “bribes,” and I was asked if I’d been keeping documentation of all my grades in case I was accused of doctoring the books or playing favorites. I was mortified. I insisted I didn’t accept the gifts — that the secretary kept accepting them on my behalf. I insisted he talk to her so she understood why it needed to stop. I doubt the department head believed me.

And still, the gifts came. I refused to accept them, but the secretary would just leave them on my desk when I wasn’t around. I didn’t want to throw them out in case I got accused of taking them home. I finally started leaving them on the secretary’s desk once or twice until I was able to land a new job and get out of that university before anything worse escalated.

1 Thumbs