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  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

The ‘Situations’ FAQ

This FAQ anticipates questions that would arise  once Policy 6.X becomes official and is implemented. It ASSUMES the existence of the Policy 6.x Office.

Answers apply to both CRP-A and CRP-B unless stated to the contrary.


What is the Policy 6.x Office?

This office is situated within Central Human Resources and serves as a resource for subordinates, authorities, and those responsible for enforcement of the policy. It is responsible for the faithful execution of all 6.X-related procedures. It can be reached anonymously, by email, or in person.

The Policy 6.X Office is NOT a confidential resource, although it maintains privacy as much as possible. A list of confidential resources is available on the SHARE website.

A third party who believes that their academic or professional pursuits are in jeopardy because of proximity to someone else’s consensual relationship should contact the 6.X Office.

As a subordinate, I have a concern that relates to Policy 6.X. Who can I contact for help and/or information?

A number  options can be pursued at the discretion of the subordinate:

  1. If the authority is a faculty member, then the director of the subordinate’s degree program or the chair of the authority’s department can be contacted:
  2. If the authority is a member of the staff, then the authority’s supervisor can be contacted.
  3. If the authority is not faculty or a member of the staff, then the individual who is the supervisor or advisor of the authority can be contacte
  4. If these options are unattractive for any reason, then the Policy 6.X Office should be contacted.

What happens if I notice a relationship that might fall under this policy?

You are under no obligation to report. However, if you feel that your educational environment is being disrupted, then you should contact the 6.X Office, which can be anonymously,  in person, or via email.

When does a relationship become romantic or sexual?

We expect people to exercise their judgment: would a reasonable individual who heard about this relationship consider it to be romantic or sexual? If there is a question about it, then the recommendation is to err on the side of disclosure.

What are the precise definitions of ” undergraduate student”, “graduate student”, and “professional student”?

Undergraduates are students enrolled in, on leave from, or suspended from an undergraduate degree program; non-degree-seeking students enrolled in only undergraduate classes; and undergraduate special students. Graduate/professional students are students enrolled in, on leave from, or suspended from a graduate or professional degree program and non-degree-seeking students enrolled in any graduate or professional classes.

Does this policy apply to visiting faculty?

Visiting faculty are held to the same standards as all other Cornell faculty. It is incumbent upon the unit hiring the individual to communicate the existence and importance of Policy 6.x. The visitor’s home institution may have a very different consensual relationships policy or none at all.

What happens if I allege that a relationship is nonconsensual but the 6.4 investigation does not come to the same conclusion?

Policy 6.X is separate from Policy 6.4. An investigation of a violation of any university policy may prompt an investigation into a violation of any other university policy.

I am a faculty member and my romantic partner wishes to enroll in an undergraduate degree program. Is that allowed?

Yes. This situation is covered by the exception clause. A prohibition does not apply if it limits the educational opportunities of the subordinate which would be the case in this example. Disclosure with a Recusal Plan would be required before matriculation in order to protect the academic environment. Note that if you became involved with a current undergraduate, then the exception clause would not apply. That is because lifting the ban does not increase educational opportunity.

I am a faculty member and my romantic partner wishes to enroll in  a graduate or professional degree program with whom I am affiliated. Is that allowed

Yes. This situation is covered by the exception clause. A prohibition does not apply if it limits the educational opportunities of the subordinate. which would be the case in this example. Disclosure with a Recusal Plan would be required before matriculation in order to protect the academic environment. Note that if you became involved with a student who is currently enrolled your degree program, then the exception clause does not apply. That is because lifting the ban does not increase educational opportunity.

I am in a relationship that is “legal now” but which would be problematic if Policy 6.x becomes official. What should I do?

Consult with the Policy 6.x Office to explore “grandfathering” options.

I am a faculty member and do not belong to my romantic partner’s graduate field. I am not on my partner’s special committee. Is it necessary to disclose the relationship

You should disclose if you have a graduate field colleague or a department colleague who is a member of your partner’s special committee.

I am a graduate/professional student and have to take a course in another department/field that is taught by my romantic partner. What should I do?

If the course is required by your program or essential to your research, then disclosure is required and a workaround needs to be developed with the director of your degree program. Possibilities include just auditing the course or taking it when it is taught be someone else.

The policy requires disclosure when the subordinate’s partner is in a professional or academic relationship with a third party who has academic influence over the subordinate. What relationships might this cover?

This includes faculty in the subordinate’s minor field of study or in the subordinate’s department but not field. It could also include faculty who share research projects with the subordinate’s supervisor(s), staff in the same office that oversees resource distribution, or others.

I am a faculty member and my romantic partner is a student in a professional degree program with whom I have no academic connection.  Is it necessary for me to disclose the relationship?

No.

Why notify the subordinate when a relationship is disclosed?

The subordinate has a right to know that such a disclosure concerning them has been made. In addition, if they are surprised to learn that the authority considers them to be in a romantic or sexual relationship, we see this information as critical for the subordinate to be aware of. This provision also ensures that lines of communication between the Office and the subordinate are open to provide the subordinate with resources for managing the conflict of interest.

Upon disclosure, will the Policy 6.X Office be investigating or asking about my private romantic or sexual relationship?

The Policy 6.X Office will ask only about such aspects of the situation as are necessary to formulate a recusal plan. They will never address the intimate details of the relationship: its existence and the circumstances of the workplace are sufficient.

Will not  disclosure endanger some individuals, especially LGBTQ+ students who may not be public about their sexuality?

We recognize that, in certain cases, disclosure could be extremely risky. Where the safety of a student is at stake, there is a provision for disclosure to be made only to the trained professionals in the 6.X Office rather than a broader group that includes faculty.

If CRP-A is adopted, then what would the department/filed prohibition mean for masters students and students in the Law School, the Johnson School of Business, and Veterinary Medicine?

The requirements for this group of students  are such that the whole school/degree program would  be treated as a field of study and  therefore subject to the department/field prohibition. Being unable to work with specific faculty in these units may well prevent the student from pursuing a specific specialization or even career path.

I am  a TA/grader  in a course and I have a romantic partner who is enrolled in  the course. What should I do?

You must disclose the relationship to the faculty member who is responsible for the course. A Recusal Plan needs to be developed so that you do not participate in any evaluation of your partner. If the course involves multiple TAs and graders, then it is usually easy to adjust your role in the course so that this is possible. If not, then you must exit the course.

A graduate or professional student has a preexisting relationship (outside their field) and then wishes to take a course with the authority. Is this possible?

Normally, such a course will not be required, and it will not be possible to take it with the authority teaching. If the course is required for their degree, the relationship should already have been disclosed, if not prohibited.

I am a graduate student/postgraduate who works in a faculty member’s lab and with somewhat informal academic authority  over other students who work in the lab. What should I do if my romantic partner is among those students?

Disclose the relationship to the supervising faculty member and develop a Recusal Plan that treats informal authority as formal authority.

What if an attraction develops between an authority and subordinate, e.g., a T.A. in a large course and student, Freshman Writing Instructor and student, or special committee member and graduate advisee?

Where possible, we would encourage removing the power imbalance, whether by asking the supervisor of a large course for another T.A. to take on grading the subordinate’s work or by finding a new special committee member (perhaps as an external committee member from an institution outside Cornell). Where such is not possible, the policy does require waiting to initiate a relationship, in these examples either until after the relevant course is completed or the dissertation has been defended.

What would be some examples of retaliation against an individual who in good faith reported a violation of the policy?

Examples that come to mind include making it difficult for the reporter to obtain (a) funding, (b) access to resources, (c) fair T.A. assignments, or (d) an objective letter of recommendation. Retaliating by bad-mouthing the reporter to an influential colleague is also a violation.

Who forms the panel for adjudication of sanctions?

When the authority is a student, their immediate supervisor is their supervising faculty member and the individual responsible for the affected workplace would be the chair of the relevant department or director of the center. When the authority is a veterinary resident/intern, the relevant parties are their supervisor and the Dean of Students of the Veterinary College. When the authority is another postgraduate, the relevant parties are their supervising faculty member and the chair of the department or director of the center. When the authority is a staff member, the relevant parties are their supervisor and their unit head.

Last Updated: April 15, 2018 at 10:52 am