The Prime Directive
Sitting in the stands I always catch snatches of conversation and realize that 'so and so' is dating 'what's his name.' I even get a sense of the ever-evolving groups and subgroups that make up a small campus community. I like to think I have a good rapport with my students, but as a faculty member my connection exists almost entirely in the classroom, a space I structure and over which have a nominal (if not actual) authority.
The classroom is in many ways an artificial world and has its own peculiar rules and routines. Put me in a classroom and I am comfortable and at home, but put me in a social situation with students beyond the classroom and I usually feel awkward and self-conscious. What on Earth do we have in common? As a result, I tend to observe Star Fleet general order # 1 when it comes to socializing with students: there must be no interference with the internal development of alien cultures.
For a few years my office was on the same floor as a student resident hall. Sometimes coming into work, or stopping by the office on a weekend, I would happen onto students necking or having a beer party in their rooms. One morning as I was coming down the hall, a student was scurrying back from his shower wrapped only in a bath towel. I was the alien in these situations. I was on their planet, so I carefully observed the Prime Directive and pretended not to notice. It's just better that way.