In a statement sent out on Monday, President Martha E. Pollack endorsed a consensual relationships policy that differed from the proposal offered by the CRP Committee’s final report.
The policy supported by Pollack bans sexual or romantic relationships between faculty members and graduate or professional students “whenever the faculty member exercises academic authority over the student or is likely to in the foreseeable future.”
In its final report to Pollack, the CRP committee recommended a policy that banned all sexual or romantic relationships between the faculty and graduate or professional students “affiliated with the same graduate field or degree program.”
This policy was widely criticized, with a majority of the members of the Faculty Senate, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Employee Assembly voting against it, as previously reported by The Sun.
The “compromise” policy was suggested by the committee to Pollack because the assemblies “were not happy with the grad student bright-line,” according to co-chair Charles Van Loan, dean of faculty.
“Over the semester, we talked about different options. We ended up favoring the bright-line,” Van Loan said, referring to the same-field ban. “We also talked about fuzzier lines, including the one that is being adopted now in the compromise. … We had talked about that, other schools have similar language, so it wasn’t like ‘oh boy, we have to go back to the drawing board.’”
Faculty members who were in strong opposition to the same-field ban recommended by the committee have expressed their support for Pollack’s proposal.
Prof. Richard Miller, philosophy, who criticized the committee’s policy as “excessive,” said he finds Pollack’s solution “quite reasonable and a principled compromise.”
“[The compromise] describes the right way to strike the balance between the need to preserve the integrity of the teaching relationship, on the one hand, and personal needs, autonomy and privacy, on the other,” Miller said.
Pollack endorsed a complete ban on any sexual or romantic relationships between undergraduate students and faculty members, as well.
In her statement, Pollack also directed that “disclosure and enforcement of this policy [be] centered in an office that sits outside the colleges and schools.”
This office is “critical” to the success of the policy, according to Van Loan, who warned that a “sweeping-under-the-rug phenomenon” would occur without it.
However, he was clear that this office would not act unilaterally but with department chairs, faculty and others in order to ensure an effective solution.
“You want a system for disclosure and enforcement with built-in checks and balances,” Van Loan said.
Specific details and language for this policy and office will be developed by the Policy Office, which will work in consultation with experts in the human resource division, the University counsel, faculty and students, according to Van Loan.
While Van Loan was happy with the progress his committee made and the endorsement, he did express concerns with the questions still surrounding the policy’s implementation.
“I’m very optimistic with respect to CRP education — there is a lot we can do with students, faculty, and staff,” he said. “In terms of ‘will people disclose?, will relationships be driven underground?,’ no one really knows for sure, and that is why for me this is not really a high-five moment.”
According to Pollack’s statement, the policy will be official by the fall.