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Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences now formally bans sexual relationships between professors and undergraduate students.
That’s not because they think there’s all kinds of professor-student dating on campus: The professor who led the panel that wrote the policy said she has never heard of it happening, in years of studying and teaching at Harvard.
The new policy is there just to clarify that it would not be okay.
“We’re using this opportunity to reaffirm our priorities as teachers,” said Alison Johnson, a Harvard history professor, “and to imagine what we’re seeing when we’re looking at these students, and what we’re not seeing. We are seeing students.” A small but growing number of colleges, including Yale and the University of Connecticut, now have written policies banning such relationships, Bloomberg reported.
“Sexual relations between students and faculty members with whom they also have an academic or evaluative relationship are fraught with the potential for exploitation,” the AAUP said in a statement.“In their relationships with students, members of the faculty are expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism, or bias.When a sexual relationship exists, effective steps should be taken to ensure unbiased evaluation or supervision of the student.” In some ways, it’s easier for schools to ban such relationships so they’re not forced into taking sides — or acting as judge and jury — in cases where a student or faculty member complains about harassment, or worse, Dziech said.Scores of universities are under scrutiny from the federal government for its handling of sexual assault cases, as the Obama administration uses Title IX legislation, which bars discrimination based on gender, to pressure colleges on the issue.Under a settlement with the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, Harvard University and its law school promised to revise sexual harassment and assault policies to ensure a safe campus.
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The committee had meetings all fall with students, faculty and staff who eagerly participated and asked tough questions, Johnson said.