Jun 08, 2023  
2019-20 Faculty Handbook 

3.21 Policy on Consensual Relations between Faculty and Students

It is the College’s policy that sexual relations between faculty members and students over whom they exercise authority are prohibited. Examples of such authority relationships include students in the faculty member’s department, program, or classes; and faculty who serve as a student’s advisor, thesis reader, writer of evaluations, or evaluator in academic competitions. This policy extends to sexual relations between faculty and students over whom they have exercised authority in the past, currently exercise authority, or are likely to do so in the future.

As a more general matter, sexual relationships between faculty and students are inconsistent with the aims of the College, which include providing an atmosphere in which each member of the community may contribute “to the learning and teaching of all” (Principles of Community). An essential precondition of the maintenance of such an atmosphere is an academic environment free of the threat of hostility, harassment, and humiliation. Sexual relationships between faculty and students compromise such an environment and are professionally unacceptable.

In addition, individuals should be aware that consensual sexual relationships can result in actionable claims of sexual harassment because the voluntariness of the consent may be questioned when a power differential exists. If a sexual harassment claim subsequently is filed, the argument that the relationship was consensual will be evaluated in light of this power differential. (See in this regard both the College’s Policy on Discrimination and Harassment [FH 3.21 ] and the AAUP statement reproduced below.)

AAUP Statement on Consensual Relations between Faculty and Students

Sexual relations between students and faculty members with whom they also have an academic or evaluative relationship are fraught with the potential for exploitation. The respect and trust accorded a professor by a student, as well as the power exercised by the professor in an academic or evaluative role, make voluntary consent by the student suspect. Even when both parties initially have consented, the development of a sexual relationship renders both the faculty member and the institution vulnerable to possible later allegations of sexual harassment in light of the significant power differential that exists between faculty members and students.

In their relationships with students, members of the faculty are expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism, or bias. When a sexual relationship exists, effective steps should be taken to ensure unbiased evaluation or supervision of the student.

FEC: Approved 11/06/00
Faculty: Approved 12/7/00