Consensual Relationships | Webster University

Consensual Relationships

Consensual Relationships

This statement applies to relationships between faculty/staff and students or between supervisors and those whom they supervise. This statement was developed by a task force of students, faculty, and staff and approved by their respective governing bodies and the Administrative Council.

Webster University strives to be a center of academic excellence. As such, it is our paramount goal to ensure the opportunity for students to learn and inquire freely. Faculty and staff are accorded a great amount of respect and trust by students. They also exercise power in giving praise or blame, recommendations, grades, etc. Because of these roles, a student's actual freedom of choice is greatly diminished should a request for a romantic or sexual relationship be made.

Should the request come from the student, the faculty or staff member's freedom of choice may also be diminished for fear of a charge of sexual harassment. Therefore, faculty and staff are cautioned that a romantic or sexual relationship with a student has the significant potential of interfering with a student's right to learn and inquire freely, even though it appears to be consensual. The same caution is offered for relationships involving supervisors and those whom they supervise on campus, whether between administrators, faculty, staff, or students.

Consensual Relationships Within an Instructional or Supervisory Context

When one person is in a position to provide a benefit, service, or evaluation, the potential for abuse of power exists not only during the relationship but also after it ends. Consistent with the American Association of University Professors'(AAUP) Statement of Professional Ethics, the University views romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and students to be professionally irresponsible and unethical if the faculty member has any evaluative responsibility for the student either in or out of the classroom.

Similarly, relationships between supervisors and those whom they supervise are also considered potentially irresponsible and unethical. Any University employee who enters into a romantic or sexual relationship with a student or another employee where a supervisory relationship exists should realize that if a charge of sexual harassment is subsequently lodged, it will be exceedingly difficult to defend oneself against a charge of a sexual offense on grounds of mutual consent.

Consensual Relationships Outside of an Instructional or Supervisory Context

Consensual romantic or sexual relationships that develop between faculty or staff members and students or between employees that are outside of the instructional or supervisory context can also lead to difficulties and perceptions of, or genuine, conflicts of interest. This is particularly true when the parties involved are in the same instructional or working department.

In such cases, the University employee should use due diligence to act professionally and responsibly and should make arrangements with the appropriate administrative supervisor to withdraw from activities or decisions that reward or penalize the student (or other employee) with whom the employee is having or has had a romantic or sexual relationship.

Questions or Concerns

Questions or concerns regarding this statement and/or appropriate behavior for maintaining compliance with this statement may be directed to the President of the Faculty Senate, the Academic Deans, the Dean of Students or the Director of Human Resources.

Updated: 9/8/02