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  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

Q1. Why is it Important to Have an Effective Policy?

Read what other schools have to say.

Talking Points

  1. The lead paragraph must be succinct and engaging regardless of the reader’s personal opinions.
  2. It should connect to the high level mission of the university
  3. It should say something about the risk of power differentials that extend into the future.
  4. It should say something about the risk of consensual relationships
  5. It should mention legal and reputational ramifications to the university
  6. It should say something about inspiring ethical behavior
  7. It should make clear that there are workplace ramifications beyond the parties involved.
  8. It should make clear whether or not the policy applies to the reader.

Proposed Prose for the Policy [11/20]

As an institution where any person can find instruction in any study, Cornell demands ethical and conscientious behavior from all who are engaged in its mission of teaching, research, service, and outreach. Romantic and/or sexual relationships between instructors and students risk the integrity of that mission. Professional and institutional power differentials raise questions as to the student’s ability to refuse advances or freely leave the relationship. There are added concerns when those involved have different perceptions of the underlying power differential.

Even where fully consensual, such relationships can create lasting harm to the overall academic environment. They risk compromising the instructor’s judgment and impartiality then and in the future, impacting grading, distribution of resources, academic or professional recommendations, and more. They often undermine collegial dynamics among the students themselves through real or perceived favoritism. They can tarnish the academic reputation of the instructor, the student, the field, and Cornell itself. When these relationships end, or when favoritism becomes apparent, they raise the specter of legal action against the instructor and Cornell. Regardless of their outcome, their presence lingers within the careers of both parties, potentially driving the student from their discipline or hampering their lifelong academic and professional progress.

This policy is concerned with more than just relationships between students and instructors. It applies to romantic and/or sexual relationships in which one party is a student, post doc, or veterinary resident and the other party has the power to affect the academic progress, professional progress or employment possibilities of that person. Thus, the individual with authority may be a faculty member (all tracks and ranks) , a researcher (all tracks and ranks), a teaching assistant or grader, an administrator, a coach, a visiting academic, or indeed, any member of the staff.

Post Your Comments

We are interested in developing the best possible policy, so please share your insights with the Committee below. Neither your name nor your netID will be visible in the posted comment unless you include that information explicitly in the comment itself. Your name and netID are also invisible to the comment moderators.

Insights that are based on your own experiences are extremely valuable, but they must be totally anonymized if they are to  be posted.  Specific allegations of sexual harassment or bias need to be directed to the Title IX Office. More on reporting obligations.



Last Updated: November 21, 2017 at 5:45 am