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Commission on Women and Gender Equity in Academia

III.C. Intimate Relationships Draft (version 2)

Freedom of thought and expression, and the ability to pursue knowledge unfettered, are essential to the academic enterprise.  The faculty – student academic relationship is central to this enterprise.  Faculty members serve as teachers, mentors, and evaluators, and are entrusted to nurture the intellectual development and professional preparation of their students. Intimate relationships between faculty and students can compromise the integrity of academic interactions. Given the innate power imbalance between faculty and students, intimate relationships create the potential for real or apparent coercion, favoritism, bias, or exploitation.

To provide clarity regarding the intentions and purposes of this policy, the following definitions are employed.

  • Student refers to all full-time, part-time, visiting, or prospective undergraduate or graduate students, and all postgraduate trainees, research associates, residents, and fellows.
  • For the purposes of this policy Faculty refers to tenure-track, instructional, research and clinical faculty members of all ranks.  (Other individuals (e.g.: students, post-doctoral fellows and other trainees) who exercise academic authority over students should see their respective handbooks for related policies.)
  • Intimate relationships refer to sexual, dating, and/or romantic relationships.  Note:  unwanted advances or other inappropriate behaviors may be considered sexual harassment, which fall under HR Policy 106.
  • The exercise of academic authority includes the following activities (on or off campus): teaching courses; grading or otherwise evaluating student work; advising on formal projects such as a thesis or other research; serving as an external examiner or committee member on a thesis committee; participating in decisions regarding student funding or resource allocation; performing clinical supervision; making recommendations or otherwise influencing admissions decisions, employment, grants, fellowships, or awards; or planning University-run academic conferences, workshops, or seminars involving students.
  • Every member of the faculty in a department, program, or division is assumed to exercise (or in the SMD, likely to exercise) academic authority over students and trainees in that academic unit. Faculty members are considered to be in a department, program, or division if they hold a primary or secondary appointment, teach courses, have the right to act as a primary supervisor on theses or other academic projects.

Any questions regarding the above definitions, as well as other aspects of this policy, should be directed to the University Intercessor or the appropriate Department Chair or Dean.


The Policy

III. C. i. Faculty are prohibited from entering into intimate relationships with undergraduate students of the University.

III. C. ii. Faculty are prohibited from entering into intimate relationships with graduate students or postgraduate trainees over whom they exercise academic authority as defined above.

III. C. iii. Faculty are prohibited from accepting academic authority (as defined above) over any student with whom they currently share an intimate relationship, or with whom they have shared such a relationship in the past.


Violations of this policy will result in disciplinary actions, which can include, but are not limited to, written warnings, loss of privileges, mandatory training or counseling, probation, suspension, demotion (including revocation of tenure), expulsion, and termination of employment. Disciplinary actions will be enforced at the appropriate administrative ranging from department Chair to the office of the Provost.


In rare circumstances, an exception to this policy may be granted by agreement of both parties in the relationship, the Chair(s)/Dean(s) of the faculty member and student and approval of the University Office of Counsel.  Such an agreement must include a written management plan outlining measures to insure the integrity of the academic interaction and to protect the best interests of the student.  The University Intercessor is available for guidance in the creation of such a plan.


III. D.  Management of Academic Relationships with Immediate Family Members

Frequently, close familial relationships between students at the University and faculty members exist, for example when a faculty member’s child, person over whom the faculty member has legal guardianship, spouse, or committed partner enrolls at the University. In such cases a conflict management plan must be developed in consultation with the cognizant Chair detailing how the faculty member’s evaluative authority over the student will be removed. The plan must be approved by the student, faculty member, Department Chair and the cognizant Deans.

Related policies include: and Also refer to other handbooks as developed (graduate handbook, post-doctoral handbook, UG, etc.


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