Title: Consensual Relationship Policy
Responsible Official: Senior Associate Vice President for Equity
Responsible University Office: Office of Equity
Review Period: 5 Years
Date of Last Review: 2023
Relates to: All Faculty, Students, Employees, Postdoctoral Fellows and Scholars, and Third Parties
Case Western Reserve University is a community that values an environment of inclusion, trust, and respect as beneficial for the working and learning environment of all its constituents. Romantic or sexual relationships may occur in a University environment given the numbers of people on a University campus. All relationships must be consensual; but, even though the relationship is consensual, it can raise serious concerns about the validity of the consent, conflicts of interest, and preferential treatment.
There are certain circumstances when romantic or sexual relationships are expressly prohibited, unless managed as described below:
- if between a supervisor and his/her supervised employee,
- if between a faculty member and his/her student (including without limitation graduate students),
- if between a supervising staff or student (including graduate student or teaching assistant) and his/her student, and/or
- if between a senior faculty member and a junior faculty member supervised by the senior faculty member.
The University considers sexual relationships between faculty (including teaching assistants and laboratory supervisors) and their students or between supervisors and their employees, even if deemed to be mutually consenting relationships, to be a basic violation of professional ethics and responsibility when one party has any professional responsibility for the other’s academic or job performance or professional future. Because of the asymmetry of these relationships, “consent” may be difficult to assess, may be deemed not possible, and may be construed as coercive. Such relationships also may have the potential to result in claims of sexual harassment.
Romantic or sexual relationships between 1) faculty (including without limitation teaching assistants, graders, and laboratory supervisors) and their students, or 2) a supervisor and his/her supervised employee, or 3) a supervising staff or student (including graduate student or teaching assistant) and his/her student, and/or 4) a senior faculty member and junior faculty member supervised by the senior faculty member are prohibited while the faculty member/supervisor has direct supervision of or any influence on the student’s/staff member’s/junior faculty member’s evaluation or progress academically or professionally. A pre-existing relationship which could reasonably be perceived as having any influence on the objective evaluation of the student, staff member, or junior faculty member by the faculty member/supervisor must be immediately disclosed by the faculty member/supervisor to an appropriate administrator (Department Chair, Dean, Course Coordinator, or Staff Supervisor) and a management plan, acceptable to Case Western Reserve University (Human Resources and Provost’s Office or their designated representatives), must be implemented to assure that the student/staff member/junior faculty member receives objective evaluation and supervision. Such management plan may include, for example, changing the supervisor, having a different faculty member evaluate academic or job-related work, or having the student change courses and may require cessation of either the personal or supervisory professional relationship. See also the anti-nepotism policy contained in Chapter 4, Section X of the Faculty Handbook and the Human Resources Policies & Procedures, Policy I-4, Ethics – Professional Relationships. The designated administrator must document the provision of objective evaluation and submit copies, as applicable, to the relevant Chair (or Dean if a school without departments), Office of Equity (faculty & staff), or the Office of Student Affairs (students, student supervisors, teaching assistants, and residential staff) and to Human Resources.
Noncompliance with Policy
Allegations, reports, or other information relating to unreported romantic or sexual relationships where one party has evaluative or supervisory responsibilities over the other party will be investigated. Supervisors, department chairs, deans, or other responsible persons must report all allegations to the Office of Equity (if the alleged violation is by a faculty or staff member) or the Office of Student Affairs (student or residential staff member). Potential noncompliance with the policy will be reported by the above-listed supervisors, department chairs, deans, or other responsible persons to Human Resources and investigated by the appropriate offices listed above. If noncompliance is ascertained, measures will be taken to ensure suitable supervision/evaluation of the student or supervisee, and appropriate disciplinary measures with regard to the supervisor/faculty member will be taken.
Persons in violation of this policy shall be subject to sanctions ranging from verbal warnings to termination, as provided by applicable University policies. The University reserves the right to discipline members of the University community who make false allegations of unreported consensual relationships. No complaint will be considered “false” solely because it cannot be corroborated.
In the Event of a Charge of Sexual Harassment
Faculty, staff, and students may not use in a sexual harassment proceeding a defense based upon consent when the facts establish that a faculty-student, staff-student, senior faculty-junior faculty, or supervisor-employee power differential existed within the relationship.
Any faculty, student, or staff may seek advice about the policy from the Office of Equity (Faculty and Staff) or the Office of Student Affairs (Students).
References: Faculty Handbook and Student Handbook(s)