"Near the semester's end, my father committed suicide. My professors were notified, and when I returned to campus, my mentor called to offer condolences and invite me to dinner with his family..... When I arrived, he invited me in, and as he closed the door behind me, he mentioned that his family had left town for a shopping trip. He then raped me, and on my way out, said: "By the way, I have a lot of power in the department, so it won't do any good for you to say anything about this."
"College students are over 18, right? They're adults and can decide what they want."
"College should be a time of sexual freedom and experimentation. What if they just want to have fun?"
"Students are free to say no if they don't want to have sex with a professor."
Most colleges and universities have policies against even consensual relationships between faculty and students. These policies are often not enforced, but they do exist. So apparently somebody thinks it is a bad idea. Plus, many college students are under 18. Why is something that is wrong enough to be punishable with prison-time when a student is 17 perfectly okay at 18? It's an abuse of power at any age, and that makes it wrong.
College students are under unbelievable financial, relationship and academic stress and are often away from everyone who supports them. They are very vulnerable.
Sexual harassment in educational settings is particularly heinous because oftentimes they have large sums of money invested in their education. Unlike a job they could resign from, or a high school where their parents and the law could protect them-- college students are more vulnerable to the grooming of predatory professors, have less protection, and access to fewer resources than at any other time in their lives.
That presumes that all professors won't retaliate when or if students don't do what they want. Even if a professor is not directly responsible for a students grade, because evaluation in most academic disciplines is very subjective, they still have power that can be used to damage a student's career. Because of that power, THE STUDENT IS NEVER COMPLETELY FREE TO TO CONSENT OR SAY NO.
An attorney's thought-provoking discussion of the arguments for and against professorial relationships as fiduciary.