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Q8. What Would Make a Disclosure Policy Effective?

Read What Other Schools Have to Say
Review of Terminology

Possibly relevant: What Cornell has to say about conflict of interest and disclosure when consulting and external engagement are involved.

Cornell’s Hazing Page is perhaps a good model for disclosure.

Process Privacy Under Policy 6.4

Talking Points

  1. Disclose to who? Chair? Dean? Someone HR or the Title IX Office? When should those in the recipient-of-disclosure pool communicate amongst themselves?
  2. Should the authority or the subordinate have the responsibility to disclose? What if the subordinate disagrees with the authority and prefers not to disclose?
  3. How should third-party disclosures be handled?
  4. Should the policy mandate a point at which disclosure is required? If so, when?
  5. What should the policy say about nondisclosure when the parties involved are in a relationship that is explicitly prohibited?
  6. Should undisclosed relationships be treated as nonconsensual and placed under Policy 6.4 if discovered?
  7. Are there situations where disclosure “beyond the department” is unnecessary?
  8. Is it possible to have a disclosure mechanism without chilling the environment of collegiality that  is so essential to the life of the university?

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Last Updated: February 8, 2018 at 2:19 pm


  1. It would be nice if disclosure led to an actual result — preventing conflicts of interest, favoritism, etc. When I was doing a graduate degree, my advisor was romantically involved with one of the students in their lab. After disclosure, the student was supposed to move to a different laboratory with a different advisor, but this never happened. The person stayed in the lab and just had someone different sign off on the paperwork. It was a complete sham. I have seen many similar situations in my years at Cornell.

  2. Speaking as someone from a relatively small (and therefore tight-knit) department, I feel that disclosure outside the department is a must in all cases. It is unrealistic to expect potential complications of a varied and unpredictable nature to be resolvable “in-house” without conflicts of interest arising–imaging trying to arbitrate a dispute involving a close collaborator, as an easy example.

    Regarding mandating disclosure at a certain point: while it would be nice if such a cutoff could be defined, doing so would require both parties to the relationship (and potentially also a third-party disclosee) to agree when the relationship had reached a particular stage. It seems highly plausible, however, that the relationships where the parties might be adverse to disclosure would likewise be the very ones where they’d be reticent to assign labels to nature of their liaison. It therefore seems unlikely that a threshold for disclosure could be set in a meaningful way.

  3. In some cases, a mutual love can evolve between persons who are “off limits”. Such a situation is fraught with danger to the people involved and to the educational environment for others. Unfortunately even “true love” often ends in a break-up (look at the high divorce rate) that can lead to recriminations. Recently a senior respected faculty member at Cornell revealed to me that 30 years after an affair with her major professor, she still cannot go public with it because he has threatened her professional reputation.

    How best to protect everyone? “Declaration” of the situation to the Chair and Dean, implementation of institutional steps to remove the power dynamic to the extent possible and public transparency should be required. Transparency is key in protecting the junior person. Should there be recrimination on the part of a faculty member, others could see that it was possibly due to relationship issues. Transparency also keeps rumor from being the way others conjecture about what is going on.

  4. What is the confidentiality policy on this disclosure? Will the person to whom a relationship is disclosed have the right / obligation to broadcast it to the world?

  5. We need some alternative to going to your DGS or department chair. I support the Committee’s proposal to have a central office to which disclosures can be made in confidence, and that can manage subsequent disclosures to department chairs and others as needed.

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