The university’s educational mission is promoted by professionalism in faculty-student relationships. Professionalism is fostered by an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. Actions of faculty members and students that harm this atmosphere undermine professionalism and hinder fulfillment of the university’s educational mission. Trust and respect are diminished when those in positions of authority abuse, or appear to abuse, their power. Those who abuse, or appear to abuse, their power in such context violate their duty to the university community. 

Faculty members exercise power over students, whether giving them praise or criticism, evaluating them, making recommendations for their further studies or future employment, or conferring other benefits on them. Amorous relationships between faculty members and students are wrong when the faculty member has professional responsibility for the student. Such situations greatly increase the chances that the faculty member will abuse their power and sexually exploit the student. Voluntary consent by the student in such a relationship is suspect, given the fundamentally asymmetrical nature of the relationship. Moreover, other students and faculty may be affected by such unprofessional behavior because it places the faculty member in a position to favor or advance one student’s interests at the expense of others and implicitly makes obtaining benefits contingent on amorous or sexual favors. Therefore, the university will view it as unethical if faculty members engage in amorous relations with students enrolled in their classes or subject to their supervision, even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship. 

As with faculty, staff may also be in a position to exert authority over students. Staff, too, must be conscious of the potential for the abuse of power inherent in their relationships with students. Students relay on staff for assistance and guidance dealing with issues such as scheduling of classes, financial aid, tutoring, housing, meals, employment, educational programs, social activities and many other aspects of university life. Those who deal with students are expected to provide them with support and positive reinforcement. Staff who would deal with students in a sexual manner abuse, or appear to abuse, their power and violate their duty to the university community. 

DEFINITIONS: As used in this policy, the terms “faculty” or “faculty member” mean all those who teach at the university, and include graduate students with teaching responsibility and other instructional personnel. The terms “staff” or “staff members” mean all employees who are not faculty, and include academic and non-academic administrators as well as supervisory personnel. The term “consensual sexual relationship” may include amorous or romantic relationships, and is intended to indicate conduct which goes beyond what a person of ordinary sensibilities would believe to be a collegiate or professional relationship. 

POLICY: Read more on the university’s policies

COMPLAINT PROCEDURE: Complaints alleging a violation of the consensual sexual relationships policy shall be handled in accordance with the grievance procedures established for complaints under the university’s sexual harassment policy.