Consensual Relations Policy
The well-being of the learning community at Sewanee depends on a relationship of trust, respect, and fairness between the faculty and the students. Romantic and/or sexual relations, even if consensual, between faculty members and their students have the potential to jeopardize the quality of the academic environment of the community. The faculty-student relationship is inherently asymmetrical. In addition, the respect and trust accorded a faculty member by a student, as well as the power exercised by the faculty member in giving praise or blame, grades, and recommendations for further study and future employment, greatly diminish the student's freedom of choice regarding romantic and/or sexual relations with a faculty member. Such a relationship may also cast doubt on the faculty member’s impartiality, thus creating unfavorable circumstances for the intellectual development of other students. Therefore, Sewanee prohibits a faculty member’s involvement in a consensual relationship with a student in his or her class or under his or her supervision. Further, a faculty member who is in a position requiring evaluation of students outside of the classroom (such as during a comprehensive exam) or who is involved in activities that may reward or punish a student (such as the Disciplinary Committee or on a fellowship committee) must recuse him or herself if he or she is or has been involved in a consensual relationship with the student being evaluated. The policy is made in the interest of maintaining the atmosphere of trust and respect vital to the success of the College's educational mission. A faculty member’s failure to adhere to these standards constitutes unprofessional conduct.
Complaints related to a situation involving a consensual relationship may be handled according to either informal or formal procedures. Individuals are encouraged to pursue informal resolution methods before filing a formal complaint. Informal complaints may be discussed with a senior administrative officer, who may be helpful in advising and aiding the complainant’s own efforts to resolve a problem. The administrative office might also meet with the faculty member in question. Confidentiality of complaints will be protected to the extent possible; information will be disclosed only to those who need to know about it. Merely discussing a complaint does not commit one to making a formal charge. Anyone who intentionally makes a false complaint is subject to disciplinary action. A complaint may be initiated by either party in the consensual relationship, or by a third party (faculty or student) who is directly and adversely affected.
If the parties involved are unable to resolve their concerns through informal methods, complainants may file a formal complaint. The formal complaint procedure would follow the same process as Sewanee’s Harassment Policy, which includes a timetable for resolution, an investigative process, and the option of appeal of any decision. As with the Harassment Policy, any penalty would depend on the nature of the grievance. Sanctions may range from reprimand to dismissal.