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Q6. What About Faculty-Ugrad Relationships?

Read What Other Schools Have to Say.
Review of Terminology

Talking Points

  1. Some universities have outright strictly prohibit relationships between faculty and undergraduate students. Is that advisable?
  2. If relationships between faculty and undergraduate students are not prohibited, then should there be specific language calling attention to the enhanced vulnerability of that group of students?
  3. Are there strategies to follow that would guard against the formation of relationships between faculty and undergraduate students?

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Last Updated: December 5, 2017 at 2:56 pm


  1. Outright prohibition (such as Brown’s) needs some exceptions, my spouse become an undergrad at CU some years after we were married.

    1. I believe that an outright prohibition is the best thing. In the case of a married relationship, the spousal couple should not be in the same program. I think it is fine to have an exception to allow the undergrad to come to Cornell, but it must be in a different program that their spouse. The same dynamics exist regardless of the pre-existence of the relationship.

  2. I oppose an outright prohibition. Relationships between a faculty (or staff) member and an undergraduate student situated clearly outside the faculty (or staff) member’s “radius of authority” should be okay. I know, for example, of a staff member in one college who entered into a consensual relationship with an undergraduate in another college when the undergraduate was a sophomore. The student has now graduated and the relationship continues happily.

    I concur with the apparent consensus at the Faculty Senate meeting in 2016 (I think) that it infantilizes students to prohibit consensual relationships between adults that don’t violate the current policy (or an enhanced version thereof) on power relationships and radii of authority.

  3. An undergraduate has a relationship to the institution not just to their college or department. The faculty and staff act as agents of the institution in the delivery of the mission to the undergraduates. This agency relationship should preclude faculty or staff from being in intimate relationships with undergraduates.

  4. It is my strong belief that due to the power differential, romantic and sexual relations between ANY undergraduate and a faculty member should be prohibited. As described below, my own experience leads me to this conclusion.

    Nearly 50 years ago when I was an undergraduate geology major at Boston University I had a sexual relationship with the chairman of the department. I was seduced by the flattering attention of this powerful, charismatic man. I felt special, though in hindsight I am sure that I was not the first nor the last undergraduate woman whom he propositioned and with whom he had sex. In addition to the seduction of power, perhaps the intrigue of secret meetings in hotels also was alluring to me at that age, though it is now something that fuels my disgust.

    That affair has been the event in my life over which I have felt the most shame. I felt such shame, that I told no one about it until this past year.

    I knew his lovely wife and sweet eleven year-old daughter and I had a boyfriend. I have asked myself how I could have done this? Obviously the proposition was so compelling that I betrayed these people and was complicit in this affair.

    Because an 18 year old is of age to give legal consent does not mean that an 18 year old is mature enough to make a good decision regarding saying yes to a respected person in a position of power.

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