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The University’s educational mission is promoted by professionalism in University employee relationships with other employees and students. University employees may be in positions of authority; trust and respect are diminished when those in positions of authority abuse or appear to abuse their power.   There are special risks in any sexual or romantic relationship between individuals of inherently unequal power. Such relationships have the potential for conflict of interest, favoritism, exploitation, and bias, and may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided. There is the potential for sexual harassment when inappropriate personal attention occurs between individuals of inherently unequal power. Such relationships seriously undermine the atmosphere of professionalism, trust and respect essential to the University and hinder fulfillment of the University’s educational mission.   For these reasons, sexual or romantic relationships or encounters – whether regarded as consensual or otherwise – between individuals of inherently unequal power are strongly discouraged, and in some circumstances, are strictly prohibited by this policy. The fact that a relationship was initially consensual does not insulate the person with greater power from a sexual harassment or sexual misconduct complaint.  

Consensual Relationships between Faculty and Undergraduate Students*

No Gallaudet University faculty member shall initiate or accept offers for sexual or romantic encounters or relationships with any undergraduate student.  

Consensual Relationships between Faculty and Graduate Students*

Sexual or romantic encounters or relationships between faculty and graduate students in the instructional context, or under their academic supervision is prohibited. Sexual encounters or romantic relationships outside of the instructional context or academic supervision can lead to difficulties.  Instructors or other officers should be sensitive to the possibility that he or she may unexpectedly be placed in a position of responsibility for a graduate student’s instruction or evaluation, including mentoring, advising, serving on an admissions or selection committee or being called upon to write a letter of recommendation.  Even in consensual relationships there are certain conditions where a faculty member, by virtue of their special responsibilities and the core educational mission of the University, could be held accountable should a problem arise.

* The Handbook of the University Faculty, #3.2, contains a more detailed policy governing faculty/student relationships.  

Consensual Relationships in Other Contexts between Staff and Students

Relationships between staff with direct or indirect authority over the other (deans and directors of any rank, coaches, academic advisors, residence hall professional staff, security personnel, and other similar employees who advise, mentor or evaluate students) and students can be potentially problematic and is prohibited. Other consensual sexual or romantic relationships between staff and students is not prohibited but should generally be avoided; one needs to be mindful that one may unexpectedly be placed in a position of power over the student in the future.  

Consensual Relationships between Student Paraprofessionals and Students

Sexual or romantic encounters or relationships between students and student paraprofessionals in a teaching, evaluating, advising, mentoring, disciplinary or other position of inherently unequal power is prohibited. Existing relationships that existed prior to obtaining such paraprofessional relationships must be disclosed.

Consensual Relationships between Employees

Consensual relationships between employees is not prohibited by this policy. However, relationships between employees who have direct or indirect authority over the other are potentially problematic and must be disclosed. This includes relationships between supervisors and their employees.   

Consensual Relationships between Clerc Center Employees and Students

The Clerc Center prohibits relationships between all employees and Clerc Center students. Refer to Administration and Operations Policy 1.13: Code of Conduct With Clerc Center Students.

Notification and Recusal for Prior Relationships

The University is a small community, where there exist many opportunities for faculty, staff and students to form relationships prior to a situation that creates a potential power imbalance. In such instances, employees and student paraprofessionals are required to disclose to their supervisor(s) in writing of the relationship prior to or immediately when there will be inherently unequal power. It may require recusal from certain supervision, evaluation, or oversight over individuals with whom they have a prior relationship. This ensures that alternate supervisory or evaluative arrangements are put in place. Such notification is always required where recusal is required. This obligation to notify and recuse is required, and the failure to disclose a prior relationship in a timely fashion will itself be considered a violation of the consensual relationship policy.

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