Consensual Sexual or Romantic Relationships Between Employees and Students

Policy Statement

The University of Evansville is committed to maintaining a safe, positive, and respectful environment where students, faculty, administrators, and staff study, learn, and work without concern that potentially exploitative or coercive sexual or romantic relationships may damage the associations essential to our educational mission, create real or perceived conflicts of interest, or jeopardize the fair treatment of members of our community.

Reason for Policy

The purpose of the Policy on Consensual Sexual or Romantic Relationships Between Employees, Trustees, and Students is to ensure that the University's academic and work environment remains free from real or apparent conflicts of interest when individuals in positions of unequal power and authority at the University are involved in consensual sexual or romantic relationships.

The relationships identified in this policy invariably involve individuals occupying positions of asymmetrical power and authority. That asymmetry has the potential to compromise the integrity of the academic or work environment and creates an inherent risk of exploitative or coercive sexual or romantic relationships. The existence of a relationship in this context, even where consensual, may also create the perception of favoritism or preferential treatment that damages the integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided and may harm third parties. These types of relationships may also raise concerns that the person in authority has violated standards of professional conduct, raise the potential for conflicts of interest or bias, and undermine the respectful and productive educational and supervisory affiliations between individuals, and may lead to actual or perceived sexual harassment, discrimination, and other behavior harmful to members of our community.

Consensual Sexual or Romantic Relationships and Evaluative Authority

When individuals involved in a consensual sexual or romantic relationship are in positions of unequal power and authority at the University, such as faculty-student, graduate assistant-student, supervisor- subordinate employee, advisor-advisee, or coach-student athlete, there is the potential for a conflict of interest, favoritism, and exploitation. These relationships may be less voluntary than the person with greater power and authority perceives, or circumstances may change and conduct that was once welcome may become unwelcome. The fact that a relationship was initially consensual does not insulate the person with greater power and authority from a claim of sexual harassment. Further, a party's professional or academic reputation may suffer due to perceptions of favoritism or exploitation. Moreover, such relationships may lead to restricted opportunities, or a perception thereof, for others in the academic or work environment.

Therefore, this policy prohibits, with few exceptions, as identified in this policy:

  • Sexual or romantic relationships between undergraduate students at the University and faculty, coaches, administrators, staff, and certain other individuals, as identified in this policy.
  • Sexual or romantic relationships between graduate students at the University and faculty, coaches, administrators, staff, and certain other individuals, as identified in this policy, who have or may have in the future an instructional, evaluative or supervisory responsibility over the graduate student while the graduate student is at the University.
  • Sexual or romantic relationships between supervisors and subordinate employees.
  • Sexual or romantic relationships involving members of the University Board of Trustees and any
    student or employee.

Definitions

For purposes of this policy:

  • A “faculty member” is someone who teaches, educates, supervises, or evaluates students and includes but is not limited to regular, part time, adjunct, or visiting faculty. It includes faculty who may not be teaching during a particular semester or academic year but who serve as an academic administrator, as well as faculty who are on sabbatical or on some other form of leave. It also includes individuals who are graduate assistants who teach, supervise or evaluate students in connection with their academic endeavors.
  • “Staff and administrators” include University employees, administrators, athletic coaches, contractors, volunteers, and others who coach, mentor, counsel, advise, employ, supervise, manage, or evaluate students for or on behalf of the University. For purposes of this policy, except for Resident Assistants, staff and administrators does not include undergraduate student employees who are primarily students.
  • “University Trustees” are individuals who have been elected or appointed to the University of Evansville Board of Trustees.
  • “Romantic” means showing, expressing, or relating to sexual interest, intimacy or relations, irrespective of whether such conduct is welcome.
  • An “Undergraduate student” is someone who has not previously earned an undergraduate degree. Students who are pursuing a second or later degree are considered “graduate students” for purposes of this policy. Students with unclear registration status or a registration status other than as a graduate or undergraduate student, and graduate students who are members of a University athletics team based on NCAA eligibility rules, are considered undergraduates for purposes of this policy.

Prohibited Relationships with Undergraduate Students

No faculty member, staff, or administrator (except for graduate assistants, as provided below) may have a sexual or romantic relationship with any undergraduate student at the University. No graduate assistant may have a sexual or romantic relationship with any undergraduate student at the University who is enrolled in a course in the department in which the graduate assistant is performing their duties.

No faculty member, administrator, or staff member may teach, instruct, evaluate, recommend (or serve as a reference for), supervise, or manage an undergraduate student with whom they have previously had a sexual or romantic relationship.

Prohibited Relationships with Graduate Students

No faculty member, administrator, or staff member may have a sexual or romantic relationship with a graduate student in the department or program they instruct and/or supervise. Further, no faculty member, administrator, or staff member may have a sexual or romantic relationship with a graduate student over whom they have, or likely will have a future instructional, evaluative, supervisory, or managerial relationship while the graduate student is matriculating at the University, including one who may be called upon to formally or informally provide a recommendation (or serve as a reference) for future employment or fellowship, research or other educational positions.

No faculty member, administrator, or staff member may teach, instruct, evaluate, recommend, supervise, or manage a graduate student with whom they have or previously had a sexual or romantic relationship.

Prohibited Relationships Between Supervisors and Subordinate Employees

Individuals in supervisory or managerial roles are prohibited from having a sexual or romantic relationship with any subordinate employee that reports to them. Individuals in supervisory or managerial roles are required to disclose a sexual or romantic relationship with an employee who does not report to them but works in their division, college, or department.

Employees are encouraged to review the Employment of Relatives Policy in the University's Code of Conduct for rules regarding the supervision or evaluation of employees to whom a supervisor is related.

Prohibited Relationships Involving Board of Trustees Members

University Trustees are prohibited from having a sexual or romantic relationship with any student at the University, whether the student is an undergraduate or graduate student. In the event a Board of Trustees member has a romantic or sexual relationship with an employee of the University, the University Trustee must disclose the existence of that relationship to the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the President. Depending upon the nature of the employee's position as it relates to the Board of Trustees, the University may take steps to address any resulting concerns. Those steps may include but are not limited to ensuring the University Trustee does not supervise or manage the employee with whom they have pre-existing romantic or sexual relationship. If the University is unable to resolve a concern, the University may prohibit the individual from serving as a University Trustee.

Pre-Existing Relationships

To protect the integrity of the academic and work environment, the University requires that when a consensual sexual or romantic relationship exists or has existed between people in positions of unequal authority at the University, the person with the greater power and authority must not hold any supervisory or evaluative authority over the other person in the relationship.

Should a pre-existing sexual or romantic relationship exist that pre-dates one or both parties' affiliation with the University and that otherwise would be prohibited under this policy, the person in the position of greater authority within the University must immediately report the relationship to the Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs/Provost in the case of a faculty member, the Executive Director of Human Resources and Institutional Equity in the case of an administrator or staff member, or the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the President in the case of a University trustee. It is the responsibility of both the person with the greater power and authority in the relationship and the individual to whom the relationship is reported to ensure that the party with the greater power is removed from any supervisory or evaluative authority over the other party to the relationship. In extraordinary circumstances where removal of supervisory or evaluative authority is not practicable, the parties must work with the Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs/Provost in the case of a faculty member, the Executive Director of Human Resources and Institutional Equity in the case of an administrator or staff member, or the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the President in the case of a University trustee to determine whether a written management plan can be developed to manage the conflict of interest. Failure to comply with the notification, removal, or management plan requirement is a violation of this policy.

Consequences of Violations of this Policy

If any faculty member, administrator, staff member, or student of the University of Evansville violates the terms of this Policy, disciplinary action may be taken in accordance with relevant disciplinary procedures contained in the relevant handbooks, policies, procedures, practices, or contracts. Violations of this policy may result in disciplinary actions, which can include, but are not limited to training, counseling, a written warning, suspension (including suspension of relevant responsibilities such as teaching or advising), or termination of employment. The disciplinary and/or corrective action will depend on the particular circumstances of the violation, including but not limited to whether the person in the position of greater authority promptly reported the relationship prohibited under this policy.

If any University Trustee violates the terms of this Policy, disciplinary action may be taken in accordance with relevant disciplinary procedures contained in the relevant policies, procedures, or practices. Violations of this policy may result in disciplinary actions, which can include, but are not limited to training, counseling, a written warning, suspension (including suspension of relevant responsibilities), or removal from service to the University, including as a member of the Board of Trustees. The disciplinary and/or corrective action will depend on the particular circumstances of the violation, including but not limited to whether the person in the position of greater authority promptly reported the relationship prohibited under this policy.

Nothing in this policy prohibits a member of the University community from bringing a complaint under the University's Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy, if, for example, the individual believes that the sexual or romantic relationship was not welcome or consensual. Further, in cases where there is a finding under the Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy that a relationship was welcome or consensual, an investigation and appropriate action may still be taken for violations of this policy.

Document History

Policy Revision Date: August 17, 2022
Policy Origination Date: October 9, 2019

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Office Email
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