There are some big questions Forbidden Chemistry needs to think about here.
High on the list is his ability to fulfill the duties of the TA job.
I’m inclined to think that this is an issue that professors with TAs who are in the same cohort as the students they are TAing ought to deal with explicitly as they mentor their TAs.
(Yes, I think that there ought to be mentoring of one’s TAs, but that’s probably a topic best left to a post of its own.) Aside from the question of whether a romantic relationship with a student in the course will undercut Forbidden Chemistry’s performance as a TA, there’s also the question of what effects the dynamics of the TA-student relationship could have on his relationship with the object of his affection.
Rather than taking it personally on either end (the wretched problem set one friend submitted, or the painful grade the other friend assigned to that wretched problem set), everyone pretty much assumed an unfeeling, uncaring universe that was out to get us all equally, one way or another. However, our correspondent here is describing an environment with a baseline of warmer feelings, where members of the junior class are reasonably friendly with each other and the universe is a pretty OK place. Except the potential for love here is challenged by a power disparity.
A TA may not have a lot of power over his students, but could it be enough to mess things up?
As for her advice, the only place where I think she is off base is when she advises that the final grading of the student should be by the professor not by the TA.
Given that there is a preexisting friendship in place, though — indeed, a web of preexisting social relationships within the junior class — it’s not unthinkable that an innocent interaction in a social context might get something started.Would this give her greater access to Forbidden Chemistry to get her questions answered about how to make the labs work, or how to analyze the data, or what counts the most on the lab write-ups?The other students might decide that Forbidden Chemistry is falling down on his TA duties if he doesn’t provide them with similar all-access consultations out of class.Even if she were confident that she was getting fair treatment in the class, would her classmates who were not dating a TA share this perception.Indeed, in some ways the big consequence to fear from asking a student out here is what that would do to Forbidden Chemistry’s relationship with the other students in the class.How awkward would make their interactions in the context of the TA-student relationship?