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Enrollment and Student Academic Information Bulletin

Policy on Consensual Relationships

Consensual Relationships

Extracted from ACA-33 Code of Academic Ethics.

Relations with Students:

With regard to relations with students, the term “faculty” or “faculty member” means all those who teach and/or do research at the University including (but not limited to) tenured and tenure-track faculty, librarians, holders of research or clinical ranks, graduate students with teaching responsibilities, visiting and part-time faculty, and other instructional personnel including coaches, advisors, and counselors.

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 their power in such a context violate their duty to the University community.

Faculty members exercise power over students, whether in giving them praise or criticism, evaluating them, making recommendations for their further studies or their future employment, or conferring any other benefits on them. All amorous or sexual relationships between faculty members and students are unacceptable when the faculty member has any professional responsibility for the student. Such situations greatly increase the chances that the faculty member will abuse his or her power and sexually exploit the student. Voluntary consent by the student in such a relationship is suspect, given the fundamental asymmetric 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 interest at the expense of others and implicitly makes obtaining benefits contingent on amorous or sexual favors. Therefore, the University will view it as a violation of the Code of Academic Ethics if faculty members engage in amorous or sexual relations with students for whom they have professional responsibility, as defined in number 1 or 2 below, even when both parties have consented or appear to have consented to the relationship. Such professional responsibility encompasses both instructional and non-instructional contexts.

  • Relationships in the Instructional Context. A faculty member shall not have an amorous or sexual relationship, consensual or otherwise, with a student who is enrolled in a course being taught by the faculty member or whose performance is being supervised or evaluated by the faculty member.
  • Relationships outside the Instructional Context. A faculty member should be careful to distance himself or herself from any decisions that may reward or penalize a student with whom he or she has or has had an amorous or sexual relationship, even outside the instructional context, especially when the faculty member and student are in the same academic unit or in units that are allied academically.

Personnel Policies for Professional Staff

Consensual romantic relationships

It is in the interest of Indiana University to provide clear direction to all employees about the risks associated with consensual romantic or sexual relationships between members of the university community where a conflict of interest between the parties exists or may exist.

Conflicts of interest may arise when relationships occur between and among employees, students, and prospective employees. This policy and ethical principles already preclude staff from evaluating the work of others with whom they have intimate familial relationships, or from making hiring, promotional, transfer, or similar decisions concerning such persons.

These same principles apply to consensual romantic or sexual relationships and require, at a minimum, that appropriate arrangements be made for objective decision making. Additionally, in the event of a charge of sexual misconduct, the university will give very critical scrutiny to any defense based upon consent when the facts establish that a power differential existed within the relationship.

Whenever a conflict of interest occurs, or may occur, because of a consensual, romantic relationship, it is the employee’s responsibility to tell the immediate supervisor about the relationship. If the relationship involves one’s immediate supervisor, then the employee should go to the next level of management. The next level of management is responsible for making arrangements to eliminate or solve any conflict or possible conflict.