Saturday, June 15, 2024

College romance: Are there policies in place on student-faculty relationships?

(WYDaily/Courtesy of Pixabay)
(WYDaily/Courtesy of Pixabay)

Is it against school policy for professors or other campus staff members to engage in consensual intimate relationships with students?

For some colleges, such as the Christopher Newport University and the College of William & Mary, it is.

While it is technically not illegal to for a teacher to engage in a sexual relationship with a college student who is 18 years or older, both CNU and W&M have prohibited student-faculty relationships in their policy — to some extent.

Christopher Newport University

According to CNU’s handbook, the university forbids any faculty or staff member, be it a teacher, janitor or administrator, from having anything other than a professional relationships with students.

“The Board deems such intimate instructional faculty-student and administrative professional faculty-student relationships to have the potential to subvert the educational mission of the University; to have the potential to affect adversely the educational experiences of students; to have the potential to affect adversely the effectiveness of both instructional and administrative professional faculty in the discharge of their professional responsibilities; and to have the potential to affect adversely the mental, physical and/or financial well-being of faculty, staff, and students — including in all instances instructional and administrative professional faculty, staff, and students who may not be direct parties to the relationship itself.”

Translation: CNU’s Board of Visitors feel intimate relationships with faculty and students can affect a student’s education, the professionalism of faculty and affect not only the parties involved, but other faculty, staff and students indirectly, according to the university’s handbook.

However, there are a couple exceptions.

If a teacher is married and their spouse choose to enroll at the university, it’s okay. If a student is married and their spouse becomes a faculty member at the university, the couple is covered, according to the college’s policy on relationships.

Covered from what exactly? Consequences.

Faculty members who violate the policy could be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation and/or fired, according to the university’s handbook.

The policy also extends to individuals who “knowingly” falsely accuse a faculty member of having an intimate relationship with a student. If it is a student, he or she “shall be considered in violation of the Honor Code and, upon conviction of the offense, shall be expelled.”

According to the CNU’s policy, if it is faculty member and he or she is “found guilty of violating the rights and freedoms of students, Board Members, or employees of the University,” they can be fired.

It’s not clear if faculty, teachers or administrators are prohibited from having intimate relationships with other school employees.

College of William & Mary

At W&M, the faculty cannot have intimate relationships with any undergraduate students.

But they can engage in intimate relationship with graduate students, as long as the faculty member does not have a “direct professional responsibility” for the student, according to the university’s faculty handbook.

Direct professional responsibility can range from advising and grading purposes to thesis service and coaching.

Those who violate the policy could be fired, according to the handbook.

And just like CNU, there are some exceptions to the rule known as “exceptional circumstances” granted by the Deans of Schools and Arts and Sciences.

For instance, faculty members who have a existing relationship with a student or have a relationship with a non-traditional student are required to report the situation, if it could prove to be a conflict of interest, to a supervisor “who should take
steps to insure unbiased supervision or evaluation of the person supervised,” according to the handbook.

The university also prohibits faculty members from engaging in sexual or romantic relationships with employees he or she supervises and similarly to the faculty-student relationship policy, he or she must report the relationship to a supervisor.

It’s not clear who is in charge of ensuring accurate reporting among faculty members.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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