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  Cornell University

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Q4. Connections with the Harassment Policy?

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Review of Terminology

Talking Points

  1. How can an initially consensual relationship with an underlying power differential drift into a harassment situation over time?
  2. Perhaps by using examples, describe what you think is the difference between a harassment situation and a consensual relationship?
  3. Knowing that the Title IX Office reviews all questions and concerns about sexual misconduct, how should that office be involved in the implementation of a consensual relationships policy?
  4. What should the policy say about a situation where the participants maintain that their relationship is consensual and but an objective third party disagrees?
  5. Virginia Commonwealth University: “Relationships between an employee in a position of authority and a student also have the potential for other adverse consequences, including the filing of charges of sexual harassment and/or retaliation if one party to the relationship wishes to terminate the relationship over the other party’s objection. The initially perceived consensual nature of the relationship can ultimately be seen as inherently suspect due to the fundamental asymmetry of power in the relationship, and it thus may be difficult to establish consent as a defense to such a charge. Further, even when both parties consented at the outset to a romantic involvement, this past consent does not remove grounds for or preclude a charge or subsequent finding of sexual harassment based upon subsequent unwelcome conduct. “
  6. University of Iowa: “[Suppose] one party to the relationship wishes to terminate the relationship to the other party’s objection. In those circumstances when sexual harassment is alleged as the result of a romantic and/or sexual relationship, the existence of the relationship is not a per se violation of the Policy on Sexual Harassment. However, the apparent consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect due to the fundamental asymmetry of power in the relationship and it thus may be difficult to establish consent as a defense to such a charge. Even when both parties consented at the outset to a romantic involvement, this past consent does not remove grounds for or preclude a charge or subsequent finding.”

 


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Last Updated: December 5, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Comments

  1. Any time there is a power differential, the chances of manipulation or abuse by the superior is great, both intentionally and unintentionally. The entire concept of “consensual” is warped in these situations. I do not see how manipulation and abuse can be avoided. Therefore, while I agree that this is draconian, I recommend a total prohibition on relationships where an institutional power differential exists. Let the harassment policy govern these relationships. This gives more power to the “weaker” party. I relieves the university from having to police consensual relationships. It also elevates the cost to the couple of deciding to have a relationship. If the relationship is prohibited by policy, then the power dynamic must be eliminated before the relationship is permissible. Basically, one of the people must leave the power relationship. This is a costly decision to at least one of the people, so they have to value the romantic relationship enough to end the power relationship. If the “power” person pressures the “weaker” person to “quit” so that the romantic relationship may proceed, then the harassment policy is available to deal with it.

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