Consenting Relationships, University of Kansas Policy on
To address situations in which two persons have an apparently voluntary romantic or sexual relationship, but where a power differential exists because of their roles within the university, e.g., faculty/student or supervisor/employee.
All faculty, staff, and students, Lawrence campus
The University of Kansas has a tradition of commitment to providing an academic community environment that, without discrimination, fosters intellectual, professional and personal growth. Central to the preservation of this environment is the trust that should characterize all interactions among those working toward the common goal of the institution, namely, our students, faculty, unclassified staff, and university support staff. This trust is put at risk when members of the University community engage in consenting romantic or sexual relationships that involve persons of unequal power, for example, administrator and faculty, faculty and student, supervisor and employee. Because the University of Kansas strongly disapproves of consenting relationships where a professional power differential exists, this policy statement is being promulgated.
- A faculty member will always be treated as having such a power differential if the student is in an educational experience where the faculty member has authority to assign grades. The same holds in other circumstances as well, for example, when a faculty member serves on thesis, dissertation, or scholarship awards committees.
These principles also apply to administrators and supervisors in their relationships with students, faculty, unclassified staff, and university support staff.
- In the view of the University of Kansas, romantic or sexual relationships between persons of unequal power, even if consenting, are unwise and often contrary to professional ethics. Such a relationship tends to impair one's ability to make an objective judgment of the performance of the student or employee.
Those who choose to ignore these standards will stand responsible for their actions and risk the loss of support of the University community.
- Decisions concerning grades, degrees, promotions, evaluations, merit increases, and awards must be made free from any trace of bias or favor. Such decisions come under a cloud when made by those who have an emotional relationship, beyond the purely professional or academic one, with those who benefit from those decisions.
Even the mere appearance of bias may seriously disrupt the academic or work environment.
- The individual in authority bears the primary responsibility for any negative consequences resulting from an even apparently consenting romantic or sexual relationship. It is the student or the employee, not the instructor or supervisor, who is most at risk in these relationships. In particular, the respect and trust accorded a professor by a student, as well as the legitimate power exercised by the professor in giving grades, criticism, praise, recommendations for further study, future employment, etc., greatly diminish the student's actual freedom of choice, should sexual favors be added to the professor's demands. Although it is proper for a student to decline any personal relationship of this kind, a student may feel that few options are available when a professor asks for a date.
If an employee's supervisor attempts to initiate a personal relationship, the employee may feel that the employee's options are similarly limited. As a result, the degree of informed consent that exists within such a relationship is difficult to establish. Should a charge of sexual harassment follow, a claim of mutual consent may be difficult to sustain.
- Commonly accepted standards of professional behavior and ethics require that faculty members not hold evaluative power over any student with whom they have a romantic or sexual relationship. Thus, faculty members should not initiate or accept such a relationship with a student over whom they have an evaluative role. Should such a relationship exist between a faculty member and a student, the faculty member shall not evaluate the student's work. Failure to do so will be a violation of Article IV, Section 5.g. of the Faculty Code of Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct.
Similar proscription applies to administrators and supervisors in their relationships with students and employees over whom they have an evaluative role. A supervisor who is in a romantic or sexual relationship with another individual where an evaluative responsibility must be removed from personnel decisions concerning that individual, such as appointment, retention, promotion, discipline, tenure, or salary. Failure to do so will be a conflict of interest.
University Business Travel: University employees may not share a hotel room (i.e., a room behind a locking door) or equivalent overnight accommodations with any KU student, regardless of whether the student is also a university employee, unless the employee and student have a legally recognized family relationship. Subject to this and all other university policies, the following special circumstances apply:
- University employees may share multi-room accommodations (e.g., rental house) with KU student(s) if the student(s) are provided with a room behind a locking door separate from any university employee; or
- If the nature of the travel makes separate accommodations structurally impossible (e.g., tents for field work), provided that in all such circumstances (1) every effort is made to maximize privacy, and (2) the student(s) are made aware as early in advance as possible of the accommodations and informed that they are not obligated to travel.
If a romantic or sexual relationship exists between a faculty member and a student over whom the faculty member has an evaluative role, the faculty member shall not evaluate the student's work. This obligation continues even after the relationship has ended. Failure to do so will be a violation of Article IV, Section 5.g of the Faculty Code of Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct and the faculty member may be subject to one of the sanctions listed in Article VI of the Faculty Code of Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct (warning, restitution, recommendation of censure, recommendation of suspension, recommendation of dismissal).
Similar proscription applies to administrators and supervisors in their relationships with students and employees over whom they have an evaluative role. A supervisor who is in a romantic or sexual relationship with another individual over where an evaluative responsibility exists must be removed from personnel decisions concerning that individual, such as appointment, retention, promotion, discipline, tenure, or salary. Failure to do so will be a conflict of interest and will be subject to disciplinary action for violation of University policy, up to and including dismissal.
Office of the Provost
University of Kansas
1450 Jayhawk Blvd.
Strong Hall, Room 250
Lawrence, KS 66045
Policy initially developed by the administration in summer 1993 based on recommendations submitted by a task force on sexual harassment appointed by the Executive Vice Chancellor; approved by the Chancellor on July 23, 1993, to be effective August 20, 1993. Reviewed by a University Governance task force in fall 1993, with final revisions approved by University Council [now University Senate] January 27, 1994. Approved by the Chancellor February 1, 1994. Reviewed biennially since that date to ensure that the policy reflects current university structure and nomenclature. There have been no substantive changes to the policy approved in 1994.
Since 1994, the only substantive change has been the addition of the Exclusions or Special Circumstances section in August 2018.
07/21/2021: Added link in Related Policy section.
08/21/2018: Added Exclusions or Special Circumstances statement.
08/01/2017: Fixed broken links. Updated Contact section.
07/01/2016: Updated to remove gendered pronouns.
11/25/2014: Policy formatting cleanup (e.g., bolding, spacing).
04/2009: Reviewed biennially, most recently in April 2009, by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor and the Office of the General Counsel. There have been no substantive changes since the policy was adopted in 1994.
12/2006: Reviewed by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor and the Office of the General Counsel.
02/01/1994: Approved by the Chancellor and implemented.
01/27/1994: Final revisions approved by University Council [now University Senate].
08/1993: Reviewed by a University Governance task force in fall 1993.
07/23/1993: Approved by the Chancellor, to be effective August 20,1993.
07/1993: Policy initially developed by the administration in summer 1993 based on recommendations submitted by a task force on sexual harassment appointed by the Executive Vice Chancellor.