Statement on Consensual Relations
STUDENTS: The following statement on consensual relations is intended primarily to inform the faculty and staff about the professional risk associated with romantic or sexual relationships in an academic environment. It is presented here so that you may understand the issues involved and the problems associated with such relationships for students as well as for faculty and staff.
Adopted April 29, 2002
Keene State College’s Mission/Values Statement is best served in an academic environment characterized by professional, ethical behavior on the part of each member of the campus community. The College, while respecting individual rights, recognizes its responsibility to communicate to the campus community the professional risks associated with consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between a Keene State College employee and someone over whom they have authority(for example, a faculty member and a student, or a supervisor and his or her assistant).
Such relationships are of concern to Keene State College for two primary reasons.
Conflicts of Interest
Conflicts of interest, or the appearance of conflicts of interest, may arise in connection with consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between administrators/faculty/staff and students/employees. Furthermore, such a relationship may give others cause to believe that unfair advantage accrues to the student/employee in the relationship. Keene State College, as well as more general ethical principles, precludes individuals from evaluating the work or general academic performance of others with whom they have intimate familial relationships, or from making hiring, salary, or similar financial decisions concerning such persons. Consensual romantic and/ or sexual relationships that fall within the categories described above may also raise conflicts of interest and other ethical concerns.
Abuse of Power Differential
Although conflict of interest issues can be resolved, in a consensual romantic and/or sexual relationship involving a power differential, the potential for serious consequences remains. Examples of power differentials include but are not limited to: a faculty member who will be grading a student’s performance, an athletic coach who determines players on a team, a residence hall director who may assess fines or other penalties against a resident student, or an administrator who has access to student records. An administrator/faculty/staff member who enters into a romantic and/or sexual relationship with a student/employee where a professional differential exists must be aware that:
- the reasons for entering the relationship may be a function of the power differential;
- if a charge of sexual harassment is alleged, it will be exceedingly difficult to defend against the charge on grounds of mutual consent; and
- the individual with power in the relationship will likely bear the burden of accountability.
The following suggestions can help you avoid the potential problems outlined above:
Avoid consensual relationships when there is a conflict of interest or a potential power differential.
If a romantic or sexual relationship exists or develops, divest yourself of the professional responsibility for evaluation and/or supervision. Your supervisor may be able to help you develop alternative plans.