3205 - Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships
Last updated: December 01, 2011
PREAMBLE: This section was created to clarify university policy with regard to consensual relations. Faculty Affairs Committee recommends that this policy be distributed to all students, staff and faculty at the start of each fall and spring semester. Work on this policy began early in the year and culminated in a final policy vetted by all student, staff and faculty groups at the university, and which was approved by the Faculty Senate on November 8, 2011 and the Faculty on December 13, 2011 and President Nellis on December 13, 2011. For further information please contact General Counsel and/or the Office of Human Rights, Access and Inclusion.
C. Failure to Comply with Policy
A. Introduction. This policy addresses only consensual romantic and sexual relationships. Nonconsensual sexual relationships are addressed in university policies prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination, FSH 3170, 3200, 3210, and 3220.
The university’s success in its educational mission depends on the professionalism of its faculty and staff. Maintaining professional relationships and the mutual respect and trust they engender between instructor and student, supervisor and subordinate, and in all relationships involving authority over another person, is key to this success.
A romantic or sexual relationship in which one party has direct academic, administrative, supervisory, evaluative, counseling or other authority over the other party inevitably raises concerns for objectivity, fairness, and exploitation. Such positions of authority include, but are not limited to, instructor-student; instructor-assistant; senior faculty-junior faculty; mentor-trainee; advisor-advisee; counselor-client; teaching assistant-student; coach-athlete; student housing staff-resident; and supervisor-employee. Consensual romantic or sexual relationships that develop in these contexts have the potential for abuse and damaging consequences; the imbalance of power creates unacceptable risks of exploitation, favoritism, harassment, and bias, both actual and perceived, and thereby impairs the integrity of the professional relationship and the trust on which it depends.
Relationships that may appear to be consensual, even to the parties involved, are frequently influenced by the position of authority held by the faculty member, supervisor, or other person exercising authority. Any faculty member, supervisor, or individual with authority over another who enters into a romantic or sexual relationship with his or her student or employee should realize that if a charge of sexual harassment were brought, either by the student, employee or an affected third party, a defense of mutual consent would likely fail. Sexual harassment violates federal and state law as well as university policy (see FSH 3220).
Students and employees should recognize the risks inherent in romantic and sexual relationships with their instructors or supervisors, and their ability to avoid the risks by staying out of such relationships.
B. Policy. In order to foster healthy professional relationships at all levels of the institution, it is the policy of the University of Idaho that no employee shall enter into or continue a romantic or sexual relationship with a student or employee over whom she or he exercises academic, administrative, supervisory, evaluative, counseling or other authority.
This policy recognizes that circumstances may develop that place one party to an existing romantic or sexual relationship in a position of authority over the other. It further recognizes that, despite this policy, consensual romantic or sexual relationships may develop in existing relationships of authority. Therefore, if a prohibited consensual relationship exists or arises, either the consensual relationship must end or the relationship of authority must be eliminated. The employee in the position of authority must disclose the romantic or sexual relationship to his or her immediate supervisor or to the next level supervisor. If the parties are unable, or do not agree, to immediately end the romantic or sexual relationship, the supervisor must take prompt and appropriate action to end the relationship of authority.
In an instructor-student relationship, actions may include but are not limited to: appointment of a qualified alternative instructor to the position of authority; transfer of the student to another course, section, or seminar taught by a different instructor; assignment or transfer of the student to another academic advisor.
In a supervisor-subordinate or other relationship involving the exercise of authority, the university may alter supervisory or reporting lines of either the supervisor or subordinate, and in other relationships of authority, may take such action necessary to change the position of authority. Whatever the nature of the authority one person has over another, prompt action must be taken to remove the authority when a consensual relationship exists or develops.
To encourage reporting of relationships governed by this policy, disclosures and actions taken shall be considered confidential, and they will be treated as protected personnel information under the public records statutes.
Any complaint or charge of discrimination or sexual harassment arising from a consensual relationship must be reported to the Office of Human Rights, Access and Inclusion.
C. Failure to comply with policy. Actions in violation of this policy are considered unprofessional conduct and may constitute adequate cause for discipline up to and including dismissal under the provisions of FSH 3910, 3920, and 3930.