Blogs > Cliopatria > Consensual Relationship Policies

May 11, 2004 2:41 pm

Consensual Relationship Policies

After three years of study and debate, my own Pasadena City College is on the verge of adopting a consensual relationships policy for the first time. In the meantime, the University of California has put a moderately restrictive (and commonsensical) policy into place. As the chair of the PCC Faculty Senate's ad-hoc committee on consensual relationships, allow me to present the wording of our brand-spanking new code:

A consensual relationship, for purposes of this policy, is defined as one in which two individuals are involved by mutual consent in a romantic, physically intimate, and/or sexual relationship. A consensual relationship that might be appropriate in other circumstances is inappropriate when it occurs between members of the College community if one individual has power or authority over the other.

Accordingly, relationships of the following nature are strictly prohibited:
a. Between an academic manager and any student within the area with whom the manager is required to interact in an official capacity.
b. Between an instructor, coach, counselor, or individual in any other position of instructive, evaluative, or advisory authority over students and any student for whom the instructor, coach, counselor, or individual has direct instructive, evaluative, or advisory authority.
c. Between a direct supervisor and a student.

Exceptions to the above restrictions may be approved by the College President in extraordinary circumstances.

I know, all the Cliopatriarchs are dying to know why we give our college president the authority to suspend the rules. Let me make clear that at California community colleges, college presidents have infinitely more power than they do in four-year universities. Even the power, apparently, to transform the unethical into the acceptable by executive fiat.

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Derek Charles Catsam - 5/13/2004

Hugo --
Though one can easily imagine situations where the seemingly "most basic and obvious of rules" could play second fiddle to political and personal agendas. university departments are not often the most harmonious of places . . .

Hugo Schwyzer - 5/12/2004

Van, under our policy, that would not be a problem. Dating students who are not enrolled in your class -- or likely to be enrolled in the future -- is perfectly okay. Dating former students is also acceptable (once the grades are turned in).

Ours imposes only the most basic and obvious of limits.

Van L. Hayhow - 5/12/2004

So, if I am a chemistry professor and I get involved in a mutual romantic relationship with an adult student (meaning not a precocious 16 or 17 year old) who is never going to take chemistry (she completed her science GER by taking earth science courses before we met, that would be ok? Just curoius, as at the University where I am an adjunct I would be fired on the spot.

Adam Kotsko - 5/11/2004

No rule is going to correspond perfectly to the demands of justice. There may very well be a situation that falls within the rubric of the rules you list, yet is still ethical. Allowing someone the sovereign power to suspend the rules in particular cases is in that case a way of serving justice -- as with the governor's traditional power of pardon and clemency.

Michael C Tinkler - 5/11/2004

indeed. We're messing with out policies and procedures for faculty-faculty and faculty-staff problems, having discovered that the policies were not nearly as useful or clearcut as one might have hoped.

The problem with regulating desire is that pretty soon we'll be back to the Oxbridge model of the celibacy requirement for fellowships....

Jonathan Dresner - 5/11/2004

Interestingly, the policy doesn't address relationships between colleagues. That's probably part of the faculty handbook, though it would be interesting to see if the two policies are consistent.

Oscar Chamberlain - 5/11/2004

Actually in this case the college presidents' near godlike powers make sense. There are just too many possible exceptions. The one I thought of first was an instructor whose significant other decided to return to school.

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