March 6, 2012 | News from the Chancellor
At The City University of New York, we are deeply committed to maintaining learning and work environments in which members of the University community may pursue their goals and objectives in an atmosphere of respect, sensitivity, and tolerance. To that end, I read with interest a recent request from one of the University’s longstanding college governance organizations-the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Faculty Senate-that the University administration revise the University’s Policy on Sexual Harassment to include provisions similar to those currently in place at Yale University relating to intimate relationships between faculty and students. Although Yale’s policies may not necessarily be the appropriate model for this University, this suggestion provoked thoughtful and serious consideration of what essentially would involve a further strengthening of protections for students, faculty, and staff in ways that are intended to promote the values of respect, sensitivity, and tolerance.
I asked Frederick Schaffer, the University’s general counsel and senior vice chancellor for legal affairs, to coordinate an appropriate policy review in consultation with the University’s Office of Human Resources Management. Please find at the end of this message an initial draft of a proposed amendment to the section on consensual relationships in the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy, with new language regarding intimate relationships between faculty or staff and students and, in a separate revision, between supervisors and non-student employees at the University. The original language can be found at: http://policy.cuny.edu/text/toc/mgp/ARTICLE%20VI/Policy%206.8/.
There are two principal changes from the existing policy. First, the proposed amendment would prohibit (not merely discourage) intimate relationships between a faculty member or other employee and a student for whom he or she has professional responsibility. Second, the proposed amendment would continue the policy that strongly discourages an employee from having an intimate relationship with a non-student employee whom he or she supervises but adds a requirement that such supervising employee must disclose that relationship to his or her supervisor in order to avoid or mitigate conflicts of interest with respect to the supervision and evaluation of the employee.
I am sharing this draft with all college presidents and deans of university professional schools, the Professional Staff Congress and other unions representing CUNY employees, the University Faculty Senate, the University Student Senate, college governance organizations, and college student governments, and welcome suggestions, comments, and questions by May 1. Please share your views with the appropriate faculty, staff, or student governance organizations and unions, as the chancellery will be in touch with their leadership. It is my intention to present recommendations on the policy for adoption by the Board of Trustees in June.
Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.
Draft of a proposed amendment to the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy
1. Relationships between faculty or employees and students
Amorous, dating or sexual relationships, even when apparently consensual, (“intimate relationships”) are inappropriate when they occur between a faculty member or employee and any student for whom he or she has professional responsibility. Those relationships are inappropriate because of the unequal power dynamic between students and faculty members and between students and employees who advise or evaluate them, such as athletic coaches or workplace supervisors. Such relationships necessarily involve issues of student vulnerability and have the potential for coercion. In addition, conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest may arise when a faculty member or employee is required to evaluate the work or make personnel or academic decisions with respect to a student with whom he or she is having an intimate relationship. Finally, if the relationship ends in a way that is not amicable, the relationship may lead to charges of and possible liability for sexual harassment.
Therefore, faculty members and other employees are prohibited from engaging in intimate relationships with students for whom they have professional responsibility, including undergraduates, graduate and professional students and postdoctoral fellows.
For purposes of this section, professional responsibility for a student means teaching, counseling, grading, advising for a formal project such as a thesis or research, evaluating, hiring, supervising, coaching, making decisions or recommendations that confer benefits such as admissions, registration, financial aid, other awards, remuneration, or fellowships, or performing any other function that might affect academic or employment opportunities.
Any complaints filed under this provision shall be processed under the procedures of this sexual harassment policy.
2. Relationships between supervisors and non-student employees
Many of the concerns about intimate relationships between faculty members or employees and students also apply to relationships between employees and non-student employees they supervise. Those relationships therefore are strongly discouraged. Supervisors shall disclose any such relationships to their supervisors in order to avoid or mitigate conflicts of interest in connection with the supervision and evaluation of the employees with whom they have a consensual relationship.
For purposes of this section, supervising an employee means hiring, evaluating, supervising, or making decisions or recommendations that confer benefits such as promotions, raises or other remuneration, or performing any other function that might affect employment opportunities.