Vas Mathur / Sun Senior Photographer

Prof. Charles Van Loan, dean of faculty, and Anna Waymack grad present their initial draft of the consensual relationship policies at a GPSA meeting on March 12.

March 13, 2018

Presentation to GPSA Summarizes Consensual Relationships Policy Proposal

Print More

“We’ve done a lot of homework,” announced Dean of Faculty Charles Van Loan at a GPSA meeting on Monday, referring to the Consensual Relationship Policy Committee’s development of a new policy proposal to better regulate issues surrounding romantic or sexual relationships across power differences.

A synopsis of “Policy 6.x” explains that the proposal would prohibit “all romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduates” as well as those in which one partner has the ability to influence the “academic progress or professional advancement” of the other.

Van Loan, co-chair of the committee, said that the policy is now entering a public comment period. After that, the assemblies, including the Faculty Senate, will vote on the policy in April and present it with comments to President Martha E. Pollack by May 1.

Calling the policy a “harassment prevention” strategy, Van Loan emphasized the need for continued feedback and “a really healthy, open discussion across campus” on the proposed policy.

“People shouldn’t be afraid — there are well-reasoned, defendable opposition points, and we want to make sure that people aren’t shy about speaking up against some of the things that we may propose,” he said.

The proposal comes after 11 committee meetings last semester, where members reviewed the policies of over 50 peer institutions and sought feedback from sources such as student groups, college HR directors and graduate field assistants, according to a presentation delivered at the meeting. The committee has also visited or will visit each assembly.

Tyler McCann grad commended the committee’s efforts to research the policy and gather as much feedback as possible.

“As someone who has not been very involved with following this, I would say that the amount of detail and their ability to speak on this issue really shows the tremendous amount of work and research they’ve put into this,” he told The Sun.

Only three paragraphs in length, the current policy on “romantic and sexual relationships between students and staff” is based on a Faculty Council of Representatives resolution approved by the University president and provost in 1996. Since then, several unsuccessful attempts have been made to revise the policy.

Along with prohibiting certain types of relationships, the public rough draft of Policy 6.x also outlines procedures for enforcement, the disclosure of relationships and recusal plans, in which individuals involved may be asked to recuse themselves from matters involving potential conflicts of interest.

Finally, the policy aims to create a “6.x Office” that “would serve as a resource for authorities who may need help with disclosure and for subordinates who may need help with a difficult situation,” according to the policy synopsis.

Jesse Goldberg grad told The Sun that he believes it is important to have enforcement and recusal policies along with ways to help affected individuals.

“I think it’s really important that there will be an office that will be there to support what we call subordinates, people who aren’t in a position of power, because so often it feels like you’re lost and alone and you don’t have anywhere to turn,” he said.

However, Goldberg also said that he still has questions about “the privacy of relationships, especially for queer students and queer faculty.”

“If you’re not ‘out,’ for example, and you’re in a same-sex relationship with a faculty member who then has to disclose,” people might be able to “put two and two together,” he said.

Anna Waymack grad, co-chair of the Consensual Relationship Policy Committee, said during the meeting that the committee is still seeking feedback from campus organizations and will be hearing from LGBTQ groups.