Procedures for Handling of Consensual Faculty/Staff-Student Relationships

Interactions between members of the faculty/staff and students at Maryville University are guided by mutual trust, confidence and professional ethics. There is a power differential inherent in such relationships. Personal relationships between faculty/staff members and students carry the risk of conflict of interest, breach of trust, abuse of power and breach of professional ethics.

Faculty and staff members (including full or part-time faculty and all other personnel who teach, coach, evaluate or allocate financial aid to students) shall not engage in consensual relationships with students whenever the faculty/staff member has a professional “position of authority” with respect to the student in such matters as teaching a course or in evaluating, supervising or advising a student as part of a school program. Should a consensual relationship develop (including any dating, romantic, sexual or marriage relationship), or appear likely to develop, while the faculty/staff member is in a position of authority, the faculty/staff member and/or the student shall terminate the position of authority. A position of authority includes, but is not limited to, situations in which the faculty/staff member makes or is responsible for an evaluation of a student for admission, coursework, financial aid, suspension, expulsion or other discipline. (Faculty/staff providing instruction without evaluation are not necessarily in positions of authority.) Even when the faculty/staff member has no professional responsibility for a student, the faculty/staff member should be sensitive to the perceptions of other students that a student who has a consensual relationship with a faculty/staff member may receive preferential treatment from the faculty/staff member or the faculty/staff member’s colleagues.

When a consensual relationship exists or develops, a faculty/staff position of authority with respect to the student must be avoided or terminated. Avoidance or termination includes, but is not limited to: the student not enrolling in a course; transfer of the student to another course, section, seminar, etc. taught by a different faculty member; assigning or transferring the student to another academic advisor; the student dropping a course. The Civil Right Ombuds may be involved in determining the appropriate course of action where transfer or reassignment is not readily available.

Any credible allegation of a faculty/staff member’s failure to avoid or terminate a position of authority while in a consensual relationship with a student obligates the appropriate dean or other responsible person to conduct a prompt and thorough inquiry to determine whether the allegation is true. Where it is concluded that a position of authority in a consensual relationship exists and the faculty/staff member and/or the student involved refuse(s) to terminate the position of authority, the appropriate administrator shall terminate the position of authority and can impose sanctions against the parties involved.

Persons in violation of this policy shall be subject to sanctions ranging from verbal warnings to dismissal or termination. Persons who knowingly make false allegations that a consensual relationship between a faculty/staff member and a student overlaps with a position of authority between the two shall be subject to the same sanctions.