Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

A step in the right direction

The dankprofessor has been very critical of university policy statements on consensual relationships regulating student professor sexual relationships. Invariably these policies function to degrade both students and professors and subject professors to disciplinary actions, sometimes actions that include dismissal.

Now the West Hills Community College District has come up with a policy statement that is minimally invasive and punitive and not degrading of student prof couples.  There are still some problems.  So here it is followed by my comments-

Consensual Relationships

Romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors and employees or between administrators, faculty or staff members and students are discouraged. There is an inherent imbalance of power and potential for exploitation in such relationships. A conflict of interest may arise if the administrator, faculty or staff member must evaluate the student’s or employee’s work or make decisions affectingthe employee or student. The relationship may create an appearance of impropriety and lead to charges of favoritism by other students or employees.  A consensual sexual relationship may change, with the result that sexual conduct that was once welcome becomes unwelcome and harassing. In the event that such relationships do occur, the District has the authority to transfer any involved employee to eliminate or attenuate the supervisory authority of one over the other, or of a teacher over a student. Such action by the District is a proactive and preventive measure to avoid possible charges of harassment and does not constitute discipline against any affected employee.

 Note that throughout this statement MAY is used, such as “A conflict of interest may arise…”  There is a POTENTIAL for exploitation.  Of course, all relationships have a MAY; there is nothing intrinsic about relationships that pre-determine a result.  But most policy statements have no may and simply state that there is a conflict of interest, etc.

The major difference in the policy is that there will be no “discipline taken against any affected employee.”  Bravo to West Hills. Of course, never ever should there have been any discipline taken against any party to a consensual relationship at any university.

But there is one caveat regarding the goodness of this policy and that is the statement that “the District has the authority to transfer any involved employee to eliminate or attenuate the supervisory authority of one over the other, or of a teacher over a student.”   OK, most policies state that the university can unilaterally pull out a student from the class.  This policy leaves that out which is good, but pulling out a prof from a class in the middle of a semester functions to disrupt the entire class and may lead to punishing an entire class of students.

The dankprofessor still believes that this policy is a step in the right direction.

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January 3, 2010 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized

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