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The University Faculty

Office of the Dean


Cornell’s only policy on consensual romantic and sexual relationships between students and faculty has been in place since 1996. It exists not as a formal part of the university policy library, but rather as a resolution adopted by what was then called the Faculty Council of Representatives, approved by the president and provost, and incorporated into the Faculty Handbook.

Over the past two years, there have been several attempts to update the policy to address shortcomings, including its lack of distinction between different groups of students (undergraduate and graduate), its vagueness as to when such relationships are absolutely prohibited and the requirements of appropriate disclosure of such relationships when they are not, and on its lack of clarity regarding enforcement mechanisms. These attempts at updating the policy have, however, failed.

To protect the interests of both students and faculty, as well as the reputation of the university, Cornell must have a formal policy addressing romantic and sexual relationships between students and other academics, which include all tracks and ranks of professors. It must also address situations when a student is serving as a teaching assistant or grader.

The policy must be part of our official policy library, and it must be clear in its parameters: when if ever are romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty/staff and students permitted; what are the requirements for disclosure where such relationships have developed; how is such disclosure handled; and how should conflict of interest issues be managed if such relationships develop. The policy must also address how misconduct will be handled and who will address it.

The CRPC is charged with drafting such a policy that is easy to understand and inspires ethical behavior. To ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are taken into account, the committee includes tenure track faculty, non-tenure track faculty and researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and staff members from legal counsel, the Title IX office, the Graduate School, the Dean of Students office, and Human Resources. Transparency is expected throughout the drafting process.

It is expected that the CRPC will interact with the review of Policy 6.4 (Prohibited Bias, Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual and Related Misconduct) that is underway. A separate policy concerned with staff-student relationships will be developed later and modeled on the policy developed by the CRPC.

To expedite the drafting process, the committee is urged to review consensual relationship policies that have been adopted at peer schools, freely drawing upon good ideas contained therein. I request that the committee transmit the proposed policy to my office no later than May 1, 2018 along with the reactions from the Faculty Senate and each of the assemblies.

Martha Pollack

Last Updated: April 28, 2018 at 12:14 am