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Chapter 7: Consensual and Familial Interpersonal 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 are entrusted with advising and teaching students/trainees/housestaff, evaluating scholarly and professional progress, and recommending students/trainees/housestaff to other colleagues, they are in a delicate relationship of influence, authority, trust and power. A variety of students exist across the campus, and these terms are intended to include faculty’s interactions with all individuals at Vanderbilt University or at training, clinical affiliation, or other educational sites for the specific purpose of training/education.

In their relationships with students/trainees/housestaff, members of the faculty are expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism, bias, or other issues of professional ethics.

Section A: Prohibited Relationships and Disclosures

To ensure that the teaching, evaluation and supervision of students remain unbiased and professional, consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty and any pre-Baccalaureate students are prohibited and should not be initiated. If such a relationship predates the academic relationship this relationship must be disclosed to: 1) the Department Chair or Dean of the Faculty member’s school and; 2) the Provost (or Provost designee), or for faculty with primary appointments in a clinical department within the School of Medicine, the Dean of the School of Medicine (or Dean-SOM designee).

Consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between a post-Baccalaureate (graduate or professional) student/trainee/housestaff and a faculty member who is in a position to exercise influence, power or authority over that student/trainee/housestaff are prohibited and should not be initiated. If such a relationship predates the academic relationship this relationship must be disclosed to: 1) the Department Chair or Dean of the Faculty member’s school and; 2) the Provost (or Provost designee), or for faculty with primary appointments in a clinical department within the School of Medicine, the Dean of the School of Medicine (or Dean-SOM designee).

Consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between a post-Baccalaureate (graduate or professional) student/trainee/housestaff and a faculty member who is not in a position to exercise influence, power or authority over that student (e.g., when the student/trainee/housestaff is in a different school) may also be inappropriate because of a perception of power or influence. Any faculty member who wishes to engage in such a relationship must disclose this relationship, prior to initiation of the relationship to: 1) the Department Chair or Dean of the Faculty member’s school and; 2) the Provost (or Provost designee), or for faculty with primary appointments in a clinical department within the School of Medicine, the Dean of the School of Medicine (or Dean-SOM designee).

Consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between a faculty member and an employee[1] when the faculty member is in a position to exercise influence, power or authority over the employee requires disclosure prior to initiation to the Department Chair or Dean of the appropriate school(s). Consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty members when either of the faculty members is in a position to exercise influence, power or authority over the other also requires disclosure prior to initiation to the Department Chair or Dean of the appropriate school(s).

Section B: Family Relationships and Disclosure

To ensure that the teaching, evaluation and supervision of students/trainees/housestaff remain unbiased, it is also necessary that family relationships between student/trainee/housestaff and faculty be disclosed in advance to the Department Chair or Dean.  Here, “Family” is as defined in Part III, Chapter 3, for purposes of Vanderbilt employment.

Section C: Review of Disclosures and Development of Management Plans

Conflict of interest and the exercise influence, power or authority may potentially arise from a relationship between a faculty member and a student/trainee/housestaff, employee, or between faculty members.

Accordingly, all required disclosures described in this policy will result in a review by the Department Chair or Dean, and, where necessary and possible, development of a management plan by the Department Chair or Dean which must be approved by the Dean of the faculty member’s school.  Such management plans must require effective steps being taken to ensure unbiased evaluation and supervision of students/trainees/housestaff and employees as well as protection for a vulnerable population.  Faculty members are responsible for assuring all personal relationships do not result in a conflict of interest or raise other issues of professional ethics. To best assist the faculty member, any questions or concerns should be proactively addressed with the Dean or Chair and the Provost (or Provost designee). Nothing in this policy shall abrogate a faculty member’s responsibility to comply with the Conflict of Interest policy and process in Part III, Chapter 3.

 Section D: Discipline 

Any violation of the Consensual and Familial Interpersonal Relationships policy outlined above may be grounds for disciplinary action as provided for in Chapter 1, Part IV of the Faculty Manual.

 

[1] Such relationships require disclosure regardless of whether the University or the Vanderbilt University Medical Center is the employer.