Graduate Student Instructors Teresa Buckwalter and Joe Gonzalez met in 1991 when he was her history GSI. As the semester progressed, Teresa, who was 20 years old, began to see Joe, who was 26 years old, as more than just her GSI.
“When the term ended, I decided to make the first move, because I knew he wouldn”t ask out a student. But I also had an inkling that he might be interested too,” Buckwalter admits.
“I took this as a cue, and I asked her if we could have coffee or lunch sometime,” Gonzalez recalls.
At the onset of the relationship, Buckwalter said she found “it kind of thrilling to be dating a GSI.” The couple married five years later. Despite their personal success, Buckwalter and Gonzalez advise potential couples to wait until after the term to pursue a relationship.
“Whenever someone holds some inducement over another, in this case a grade, things can get tricky,” says Gonzalez. “Otherwise it”s just too damn messy!”
Many students dream of this type of fairytale romance. LSA junior Jodi Charnas is not embarrassed to admit that her affection for her GSI goes beyond being impressed by his teaching abilities.
“I”ve had a crush on my GSI. I think everyone has,” says Charnas. She admits that having romantic feelings toward her GSI “makes office hours more appealing and class time go by faster.”
“But it wasn”t just me!” Charnas explains. “Other girls in the class thought he was so cute too.”
Charnas, however, denies that this affected the class structure or grading scale in any way.
It is not only female students whose minds wander from class material to more exciting fantasies. LSA sophomore Jeff Braun is not immune to these feelings.
“When I was sitting in class, I just thought “damn, she”s bangin”,”” he says. But Braun comments that he “never went to office hours, though. It had no effect on my class performance.”
A student who wished to remain anonymous said that he could simply not concentrate because of his attraction to his American Culture GSI.
“I got nervous answering her questions because I didn”t want her to think I was stupid,” he said. His lack of participation cost him a letter grade.
But not everyone finds their GSIs attractive. Mali Manyam, LSA junior, recalls that none of her GSIs have been her ideal Saturday night date.
“They are mostly non-English speaking, nerdy and don”t know what they are talking about half of the time,” she complains. “I look forward to having a hot GSI,” Manyam said. “Sure, it hasn”t happened yet, but I do have one more year left!”
But students aren”t the only ones pondering this issue. Sara Talpos, a former GSI and current lecturer in the English department, is aware of the small age difference between she and her students.
“Honestly, I try not to think about it,” she admits. “But I do make a conscious effort not to be overly casual with my students and to maintain a balance between being open and helpful and crossing inappropriate lines.”
As an undergraduate, Talpos found herself in a sticky situation when a GSI asked her out mid-semester. “He wasn”t threatening or anything, but I still felt uncomfortable and less willing to go to office hours,” she says.