Relationship ban passed

    In an effort to establish a UC-wide policy, the Academic Senate passed an amendment regulating romantic relationships between students and faculty on May 28.

    By a vote of 32-1-3, the senate approved an amendment to the Faculty Code of Conduct which would “”prohibit a faculty member from entering into a romantic or sexual relationship”” with any student he or she has or should “”reasonably expect to have”” academic responsibility over in the future.

    The proposal would also “”prohibit faculty from exercising academic responsibility for any student with whom a faculty member has a romantic or sexual relationship.””

    The issue arose in 2001, when it was discovered that the Faculty Code of Conduct failed to demarcate sexual relationships between students and faculty.

    “”We simply didn’t have a policy [regarding this issue],””UCA Academic Senate Chair Gayle Binion said.

    Although individual UC campuses hold varying policies in this matter, Binion said she believed that a clear, system wide policy was essential to the “”integrity of the educational mission.””

    “”I supported the changes,”” said Lawrence Pitts, senate vice chair. “”In academic situations there can be an unequal power structure not appropriate for a consensual relationship — even if the relationship is going well, it could disadvantage other students. They could feel alienated.””

    The UC Board of Regents will address the amendment over summer. With the regents’ approval, the proposed changes will take effect in Fall 2003.

    “”I think they’ll accept it,”” Pitts said, adding that the fact that the senate passed the amendment should have a “”tremendous”” impact on the Regents’ decision.

    The proposed changes to the Faculty Code of Conduct were modeled after the system used at Yale University and constitute a “”fairly moderate policy,”” according to UC spokesperson Abby Lunardini.

    Universities vary in the degree to which they regulate romantic relationships between students and faculty, with some schools simply discouraging such relationships and others strictly prohibiting them.

    According to Pitts, the amendment passed by the senate “”strikes a reasonable balance”” between these two ideologies.

    Some members of the UC Academic Senate, as well as the UCSD Academic Senate, had reservations regarding the proposed changes. Some representatives felt the amendment should have dealt with the problems of student-faculty relationships instead of prohibiting them altogether.

    Other members sought greater clarification in the amendment.

    “”While I agree with the spirit of the new regulation, I am sorry about the way it is structured,”” said history professor Michael Monteon, a senate representative for Thurgood Marshall College. “”Faculty members have known for some time that sexual involvement with any student is risky behavior and would probably invite censure. This broad and poorly written plank has more to do with lawyers and lawsuits against the university than actually changing campus conduct. We should have sent this one back to committee.””

    If the changes are implemented in Fall 2003, faculty caught in violation of the policy could be subject to a range of penalties, from reprimand to complete dismissal.

    Students involved in such relationships would not be punished.

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