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Chapter 7: Consensual Relationships

Vanderbilt University is committed to maintaining an academic environment in which members of the University community can freely work together, both in and out of the classroom, to further education and research. When members of the faculty and administrative staff are entrusted with advising and teaching students, evaluating students’ papers and course work, and recommending students to other colleagues, they are in a delicate relationship of trust and power. This relationship must not be jeopardized by the appearance of either favoritism or unfairness in the exercise of professional judgment.

In their relationships with students, members of the faculty and administrative staff are expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism, or bias.

Consensual sexual relationships are prohibited between a student and any faculty member, teaching assistant, or administrative staff member who teaches, supervises, evaluates, or otherwise is in a position to exercise power or authority over that student. Efforts by members of the faculty, teaching assistants, or administrative staff members to initiate these relationships are also prohibited. If a prohibited relationship arises, effective steps must be taken to ensure unbiased evaluation or supervision of the student. Violation of this policy may be grounds for discipline as provided for in Part IV, Chapter 1.

Consensual sexual relationships between a student and any faculty member, teaching assistant, or administrative staff member who is not in a position to exercise direct power or authority over that student (e.g., when the student is in a different school or department) may also be inappropriate because of a perception of power or influence. Any faculty member, teaching assistant, or administrative staff member who engages in such a relationship must accept responsibility for assuring that it does not result in a conflict of interest or raise other issues of professional ethics. In cases of doubt, advice and counsel should be sought from the Dean, department chair, or administrative supervisor.