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University Policy Office

Shelly G. Gonzalez, Policy Officer
Administration 208
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660.543.4730
Fax: 660.543.8022
sgonzalez@ucmo.edu





CONSENTING RELATIONSHIPS

Approval: Approved by the President on November 6, 2007

Authority: Board of Governors Policy 1.2.040

Responsibility: All University Employees

PROCEDURE

I. Purpose

The University of Central Missouri has a tradition of commitment to provide an academic community environment that, without discrimination, fosters intellectual, professional and personal growth. Central to the preservation of this environment is the trust that should characterize all interactions among those working toward the common goal of the institution, namely, our students, faculty, professional staff and support staff. This trust is put at risk when members of the university community engage in consenting romantic or sexual relationships that involve persons of unequal power, for example, administrator and faculty, faculty and student, supervisor and employee. Because UCM strongly disapproves of consenting relationships where professional power differential exists, this procedure and guideline statement is being promulgated.

  1. A faculty member will always be treated as having such a power differential if the student is in an educational experience where the faculty member has authority to assign grades. The same holds in other circumstances as well, for example, when a faculty member serves on thesis, dissertation or scholarship awards committees.

    These principles also apply to administrators and supervisors in their relationships with student, faculty, professional staff and support staff.

  2. In the view of UCM, romantic or sexual relationships between persons of unequal power, even if consenting, are unwise and often contrary to professional ethics. Such a relationship tends to impair one’s ability to make an objective judgment of the performance of the student or employee.

    Those who choose to ignore these standards will stand responsible for their actions and the risk associated with those actions.

  3. Decisions concerning grades, degrees, promotions, evaluations, merit increases and awards must be made free from any trace of bias or favor. Such decisions come under a cloud when made by those who have an emotional relationship, beyond the purely professional or academic one, with those who benefit from those decisions. Even the mere appearance of bias may seriously disrupt the academic or work environment.

  4. The individual in authority bears the primary responsibility for any negative consequences resulting from an even apparently consenting romantic or sexual relationship. It is the student or the employee, not the instructor or supervisor, who is most at risk in these relationships. In particular, the respect and trust accorded a faculty member by a student, a well as the legitimate power exercised by the faculty member in giving grades, criticism, praise, recommendations for further study, future employment, etc., greatly diminish the student’s actual freedom of choice, should sexual favors be introduced by the faculty member. Although it is proper for a student to decline any personal relationship of this kind, a student may feel that few options are available when a faculty member asks for a date. If an employee’s supervisor attempts to initiate a personal relationship, the employee may feel that his or her options are similarly limited. As a result, the degree of informed consent that exists within such a relationship is difficult to establish. Should a charge of sexual harassment follow, a claim of mutual consent may be difficult to sustain.

  5. Commonly accepted standards of professional behavior and ethics require that faculty members not hold evaluative power over any student with whom they have a romantic or sexual relationship. Thus, faculty members should not initiate or accept such a relationship with a student over whom they have an evaluative role. Should such a relationship exist or if such a relationship has existed between a faculty member and a student, the faculty member must remove himself or herself from the evaluation of the student’s work. Failure to do so will be a violation of UCM Board of Governors "Ethics Policy", 1.2.180 and "Conflict of Interest or Commitment Policy for Employees", 2.1.050.

    "Ethics Policy": http://www.ucmo.edu/upo/index.cfm?pg=policy.cfm&upoID=1.2.180

    "Conflict of Interest or Commitment Policy for Employees":
    http://www.ucmo.edu/upo/index.cfm?pg=policy.cfm&upoID=2.1.050

    Similar proscription applies to administrators and supervisors in their relationships with students and employees over whom they have an evaluative role. A supervisor who is in a romantic or sexual relationship with another individual over whom he or she has evaluative responsibility must remove himself or herself from personnel decisions concerning that individual, such as appointment, retention, promotion, discipline, tenure or salary. Failure to do so will be a violation of UCM Board of Governors "Ethics Policy", 1.2.180 and "Conflict of Interest or Commitment Policy for Employees", 2.1.050.

II. Contacts

Administrators that can help address concerns about consenting relationships:

  • Director of Human Resources

  • Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Vice President for Student Affairs

  • Judicial Officer, Office for Student Affairs

  • General Counsel

  • Campus Advocate for Students

Individuals may contact the Office of the General Counsel or the director of human resources to obtain contact information for the above-referenced administrators or by using campus directory resources such as UCM Search, http://www.ucmo.edu/search.xml.

III. Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the consenting relationships procedure and guideline and the discrimination and harassment procedure?

The harassment procedure addresses unwelcome behavior including but not limited to that of a sexual nature. Information about the discrimination and harassment procedure is available at http://www.ucmo.edu/upo/index.cfm?pg=policy.cfm&upoID=discrimination.

What are some examples of consenting relationships covered by this procedure and guideline?

An apparently voluntary romantic or sexual relationship between:

  • A faculty member and a student enrolled in his or her class

  • Two students when one is the other’s graduate teaching assistant or instructor

  • A faculty member and a graduate student when the faculty member serves on the student’s dissertation or thesis committee

  • A faculty or staff member and a student when the faculty or staff member serves on a scholarship or assistantship awards committee, and the student is a candidate for a scholarship or assistantship

  • A staff member and a student under his or her supervision

  • A university administrator and an employee over whom the administrator has an evaluative role.

Why is a consenting relationship procedure and guideline necessary?

Academic and professional trust and ethics are put at risk when members of the university community engage in, or attempt to initiate, romantic or sexual relationships that involve persons of unequal power. Such relationships represent a special form of conflict of interest. Decisions concerning grades, degrees, promotions, evaluations, merit increases and awards must be fairly decided. The integrity of these decisions may be questioned if a consenting relationship exists or an attempt is made to initiate one.

What should I do as a student if a faculty or staff member attempts to initiate a romantic or sexual relationship with me?

It is proper for a student to decline any personal relationship of this kind. If the initiation is unwelcome, you may choose to discuss your concerns with the person’s immediate supervisor or request transfer to another section or an alternate evaluation. As an alternative to contacting the person’s immediate supervisor students may contact the Director of Human Resources or any of the aforementioned administrators listed under “Contacts.” If you choose to enter into the relationship, you should be aware that it is the responsibility of the faculty or staff member to remove himself or herself from any evaluative role over you.

What can I do if I believe I am being disadvantaged by a consenting relationship between my instructor and another student?

If you are comfortable doing so, discuss your concern with the instructor. Otherwise, discuss it with the department chair or dean or the Director of Human Resources or any of the aforementioned administrators listed under “Contacts.” It is the responsibility of the person or persons contacted to take any further action.

What should I do as a staff member if a supervisor attempts to initiate a romantic or sexual relationship with me?

It is proper for a staff member to decline any personal relationship of this kind. If the initiation is unwelcome or if attempts to initiate such a relationship persist, you may choose to discuss your concerns and options with the next-level supervisor. As an alternative to contacting the person’s immediate supervisor employees may contact the Director of Human Resources or any of the aforementioned administrators listed under “Contacts.” If you choose to enter into the relationship, you should be aware that it is the responsibility of the supervisor to remove himself or herself from any evaluative role over you.

What is my responsibility if I am a supervisor who is involved in a consenting relationship with someone who works for me?

You must remove yourself from personnel decisions concerning that individual. These evaluative decisions include appointments, retention, promotion, discipline, tenure or salary.

What is my responsibility if I am a faculty member who is involved with a student in my class?

You must remove yourself immediately from evaluation of the student’s academic performance or recommendations for further study, employment, academic honors or awards.

What does a supervisor or a faculty member do to remove himself or herself from the responsibilities?

A faculty member involved in a consenting relationship with someone over whom he or she has evaluative power is to report this relationship to his or her department chair, or in colleges where there are no departments, to the dean. Some schools expressly prohibit consenting relationships between faculty members and students in that college.

A supervisor is to report a consenting relationship to his or her immediate supervisor.

What will the chair or dean do to ensure that the student is evaluated by someone else?

If the student is enrolled in a course taught by the faculty member, the chair or dean, if feasible, will facilitate the transfer of the student to another section or class and will inform the faculty member and the student of the transfer. If a transfer in not feasible, the chair or dean will arrange for the student’s work to be graded by another faculty member and will inform the student and faculty member of the arrangement. If the faculty member is serving on the student’s thesis or dissertation committee, the chair or dean will arrange for another faculty member to serve in that position and will inform both individuals involved in the relationship. If the faculty member serves on a committee that recommends grants, scholarships, awards, or assistantships, the faculty member must not participate in any decision that affects the student. The chair or dean will maintain a confidential record of the arrangements that have been made.

What will a supervisor do when a subordinate reports that he or she is in a consenting relationship with someone under his or her direct supervision?

The supervisor to whom the relationship is reported will arrange for all evaluation responsibilities and other personnel decisions to be transferred to another person, or will assume those responsibilities personally, and will inform both individuals of the arrangements. The supervisor will maintain a confidential record of the arrangements that have been made. When feasible, the supervisor to whom the relationship is reported will help facilitate a transfer to another area.

What if the consenting relationship comes to an end? Should I resume my evaluative responsibilities?

Even though you are no longer romantically involved with the employee or student, the potential for a real or perceived conflict of interest remains. Evaluations should continue to be the responsibility of a third party.

What can I do if I believe I am being disadvantaged by a consenting relationship between my supervisor and one of my colleagues?

If you are comfortable doing so, discuss your concern with your supervisor. Otherwise, discuss it with the next-level supervisor or contact any of the aforementioned administrators listed under “Contacts.” It is the responsibility of the next-level supervisor or administrator to take any action.

What are the consequences for a faculty member who is involved in, or initiates, a consenting relationship with one of his or her students and does not remove himself or herself from evaluative responsibility?

A faculty member who fails to remove himself or herself from evaluation of the student’s work will be in violation of UCM Board of Governors "Ethics Policy", 1.2.180 and "Conflict of Interest or Commitment Policy for Employees", 2.1.050.

What are the consequences for a supervisor who is involved in, or initiates, a consenting relationship with a supervisee and does not remove himself or herself from personnel decisions concerning that individual?

A supervisor who fails to remove himself or herself from personnel decisions will be considered to be in violation of UCM Board of Governors "Ethics Policy", 1.2.180 and "Conflict of Interest or Commitment Policy for Employees", 2.1.050.