Consensual Sexual Romantic Relationship Policy

 CONSENSUAL SEXUAL OR ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP POLICY    This policy highlights the risks in sexual or romantic relationships in the Saint Mary’s College of California workplace or academic setting between individuals in inherently unequal positions; prohibits certain relationships between teachers and students; and requires recusal (from supervision and evaluation) and notification in other relationships. 

1. In General

There are special risks in any sexual or romantic relationship between individuals in inherently unequal positions, and parties in such a relationship assume those risks. In the college context, such relationships include (but are not limited to) teacher and student, supervisor and employee, faculty at different ranks including adjunct faculty, mentor and trainee, adviser and advisee, teaching assistant and student, coach and athlete, and individuals who supervise the day-to-day student living environment and their students. Because of the potential for conflict of interest, exploitation, favoritism, and bias, such relationships may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided. Further, these relationships are often less consensual than the individual whose position confers power or authority believes. In addition, circumstances may change, and conduct that was previously welcome may become unwelcome. Even when both parties have consented at the outset to a sexual or romantic involvement, this past consent does not remove grounds for a charge of inappropriate behavior based upon subsequent unwelcome conduct. Such relationships may also have unintended, adverse effects on the climate of an academic program or work unit, thereby impairing the learning or working environment for others – both during such a relationship and after any break-up. Relationships in which one party is in a position to evaluate the work or influence the career of the other may provide grounds for complaint by third parties when that relationship gives undue access or advantage, restricts opportunities, or simply creates a perception of these problems. Additionally, even when a relationship ends, there may be bias (even if unintentional) for or against the former partner, or there could be an ongoing impression of such bias; in other words, the effects of a romantic or sexual relationship can extend beyond the relationship itself. Since these relationships can occur in multiple contexts on campus, this policy addresses certain contexts specifically below. However, the policy covers all sexual and romantic relationships involving individuals in unequal positions, even if not addressed explicitly in what follows.

2. With Students

In the Lasallian tradition, the teacher-student relationship is a sacred one; it lies at the heart of the College’s educational mission and its integrity must be maintained. The teacher’s influence and authority can extend far beyond the classroom and into the future, affecting the academic progress and careers of our students. Accordingly, the College expects teachers to maintain interactions with students free from influences that may interfere with the learning and personal development experiences to which students are 2 entitled. In this context, teachers include those who are entrusted by Saint Mary’s to teach, supervise, mentor and coach students, including faculty of all ranks, adjunct faculty and academic advisors. The specific policies on teachers outlined below do not apply to Saint Mary’s students (undergraduates, degree completion programs, and graduate/professional) who may at times take on the role of teachers or teaching assistants, policies for whom are addressed in a separate section below. As a general proposition, the College believes that a sexual or romantic relationship between a teacher and a student – even where consensual and whether or not the student is subject to supervision or evaluation by the teacher – is inconsistent with the proper role of the teacher. Consequently, the College has established the following parameters regarding sexual or romantic relationships with Saint Mary’s students:

First, because of the inherent vulnerability of traditional* undergraduates in such relationships, sexual or romantic relationships between teachers and traditional undergraduate students are prohibited regardless of current or future academic or supervisory responsibilities for that student.

Second, whenever a teacher has had, or in the future might reasonably be expected to have, academic responsibility over any student in a graduate or professional studies or certificate program, such relationships are prohibited.

No teacher shall exercise academic responsibility over any student with whom they have previously had a sexual or romantic relationship. “Academic responsibility” includes (but is not limited to) teaching, grading, mentoring, advising on or evaluating research or other academic activity, participating in decisions regarding funding or other resources, and recommending for admissions, employment, fellowships or awards.

Third, because certain staff (including and not limited to deans and other senior administrators, coaches, supervisors of student employees, and Resident Directors, as well as others who mentor, advise or have authority over students) also have broad influence on or authority over students and their experience at Saint Mary’s,

sexual or romantic relationships between such staff members and traditional undergraduate students are prohibited. Similarly, relationships between staff members and any students in a graduate or professional studies program over whom the staff member has had or is likely in the future to have such influence or authority are prohibited.

Preexisting sexual or romantic relationships between faculty/staff and students are not prohibited by this policy. However, in the case of such a preesisting sexual or romantic relationship, the employee must both recuse themselves from any supervisory or academic responsibility over the student, and notify their supervisor, department chair or dean about the situation so that adequate alternative

supervisory or evaluative arrangements can be put in place. This obligation to recuse and notify exists for past as well as for current relationships.

Failure to disclose the relationship in a timely fashion will itself be considered a violation of policy.

3. Between Students (Student Teachers, Teaching Assistants (TA), Resident Advisors (RA), and Graders)

Many existing policies govern student responsibilities towards each other (e.g. see Student Handbook or RA/TA agreements). This policy applies when undergraduate or graduate/professional students or post-doctoral scholars are serving in the teaching role as teachers, TAs, graders, RAs or research supervisors. The policy does not prohibit students from having consensual sexual or romantic relationships with fellow students. However, if such a relationship exists between a student teacher and a student in a setting for which the student teacher is serving in this capacity, they shall not exercise any evaluative or grading functions for that student.

The student teacher must notify their supervisor so that alternative evaluative or oversight arrangements can be put in place.2 Failure to notify a supervisor of past and current relationships and to recuse in the case of a current relationship in this situation will be subject to discipline under the Student Handbook codes of conduct.

There are certain circumstances in the context of student teachers where recusal can be complicated (e.g. SI/T leader). For these circumstances, the faculty or staff supervisor, upon notification from their student teacher, would be responsible to ensure impartiality in the evaluative or supervisory roles played by student teachers toward a student in their course with whom they have a current sexual or romantic relationship.

4. In Other Contexts

Consensual sexual or romantic relationships between adult employees (including faculty) are not in general prohibited by this policy. However, relationships between employees in which one has direct or indirect authority over the other are always potentially problematic. This includes not only relationships between supervisors and their staff but also between faculty of different ranks/adjuncts, between faculty of different ranks/adjuncts and academic/non-academic staff, and so forth. This concern exists even where the employees are in a pre-existing relationship, marriage or domestic partnership.

Where such a relationship develops, the person in the position of greater authority or power must recuse themselves from any direct supervisory or evaluative function over the other person in the relationship and must, in any situation of direct or indirect authority, notify their supervisor, department chair, dean or human resources manager, so that person can ensure adequate alternative supervisory or evaluative arrangements are put in place.***

The obligation to recuse and notify exists for past as well as for current relationships.

Failure to disclose the relationship in a timely fashion will itself be considered a violation of policy.

The College has the authority to take reasonable steps necessary or appropriate to carry out this policy, including transferring either or both employees to minimize disruption of the work group.

5. Additional Matters

If there is any doubt whether a relationship falls within this policy, individuals should disclose the facts and seek guidance rather than fail to disclose. Where the relationship among the individuals is that of marriage or domestic partnership, this policy will not prohibit the relationship, however all other conditions and procedures addressed in this policy will apply. Questions may be addressed to your supervisor or cognizant dean or to the Title IX Coordinator or the Associate Vice President for Human Resources. In those situations where it is programmatically infeasible to provide alternative supervision, academic responsibility and/or evaluation, the cognizant dean, director or supervisor must approve all (as applicable) academic responsibility, evaluative and compensation actions.

Employees who engage in sexual or romantic relationships with a student or other employee contrary to the guidance, prohibitions and requirements provided in the policy are subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, depending on the nature of and context for the violation. They will also be held accountable for adverse consequences that result from those relationships.

The procedures for investigating alleged violations of the Consensual Sexual or Romantic Relationships policy and the sanctions for violations of this policy are the same procedures and sanctions for violations of the Title IX Policy and other nondiscrimination College policies. This Policy applies to all students (undergraduate, graduate and professional, degree-completion, and certificate), faculty of different ranks, salaried adjunct and per-course adjunct faculty, staff and others who participate in Saint Mary’s College of California programs and activities. 

*Traditional undergraduate students include all undergraduates except those in degree completion programs like BALOS and LEAP. 
**It is not the responsibility of the supervisor to search out such sexual and romantic relationships between student teachers and their students but it is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that appropriate steps are taken when such relationships are made known to them. 
***Because of the varied ways in which faculty evaluate the work of other faculty, e.g. UEPC review of new course proposals, recusal may be infeasible in all situations. However, recusal is always required in situations of direct supervision (e.g. chair to faculty member in the department), and notification is required in all circumstances.