University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Consensual Relationship Policy

Scope

This policy describes the university’s expectations with respect to consensual romantic or sexual relationships where a power differential exists. This policy covers all UWL employees, students, and affiliated individuals.

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the employment and academic environment is free from real or perceived conflicts of interest when UWL employees, students, and affiliated individuals, in positions of unequal power, are involved in consensual romantic or sexual relationships. This policy enacts the requirements set forth by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents in Regent Policy Document (RPD) 14-8.

Definitions

  1. Consensual Relationships: A consensual relationship refers to any relationship, either past or present, which is romantic, physically intimate, or sexual in nature, and to which the parties consent or consented. This includes marriage.
  2. Conflict of Interest: A conflict of interest exists when there is incompatibility between private/personal interests and official/professional responsibilities.
  3. Instructor: An instructor includes faculty and academic staff members who serve in instructional roles in relation to students. The instructional context includes: academic instruction, advising, direct or indirect evaluation of a student’s work, research collaboration or assistantships, and coaching.
  4. Power Differential: A power differential exists when individuals possess different degrees of power or influence due to their professional or student standing.
  5. Employees: Employees include, but are not limited to, administrators, faculty, academic staff, university staff, student staff, graduate assistants, and interns.
  6. Students: Students are individuals enrolled in courses at the university, including online.
  7. Affiliated Individuals: Affiliated individuals include, but are not limited to, volunteers, vendors, and contractors. In this policy, all references to employees should also be considered references to affiliated individuals.

Related Policies

The goals and scope of this policy are related to the goals and scope of other UWL policies, including (but not limited to): Policy Against Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Retaliation; Nepotism Policy; Spousal and Partner Hiring Policy; Student Conduct Code.

Relationships or physical contact that are nonconsensual, and other unwanted sexual comments or behaviors, are outside the scope of this policy. Such conduct may constitute sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other forms of misconduct prohibited by UWL policy and/or criminal law, and should be reported to the appropriate offices.

In situations where multiple policies may apply, the Director of Human Resources and the Director of Equity and Affirmative Action should be consulted in order to ensure compliance with all applicable policies.

Policy Statement

It is the policy of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse that consensual relationships that might be appropriate in other circumstances are not appropriate when they occur between (1) an employee of the university and a student over whom the employee has or potentially will have supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence, or (2) an employee of the university and another employee over whom the employee has or potentially will have supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence. Even where negative consequences to the participants do not result, such relationships create an environment charged with potential or perceived conflicts of interest and possible use of academic or supervisory leverage to maintain or promote the relationship. Romantic or sexual relationships that the parties may view as consensual may still raise questions of favoritism, as well as of an exploitative abuse of trust and power.

The following two types of consensual relationships are addressed in this policy: (1) employee with a student; and (2) employee with another employee.

A. Employee with a student:

  1. It is a violation of this policy for an instructor to commence a consensual relationship with a student currently under their instruction or whom the instructor reasonably believes in the future may be under the instructor’s instruction. If an instructor and a student are already in a consensual relationship when the student comes under the instructor’s instruction, then the provisions of A.2. apply.
  2. A consensual relationship between (1) an employee, who is not an instructor as defined by this policy, and a student over whom the employee has supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence, or (2) an instructor and a student where the instructor has supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence over the student, and where the instructor and student were already in a consensual relationship prior to the student coming under the instructor’s instruction, is a violation of this policy unless:
    1. The employee immediately reports the relationship to their supervisor/department chair, to the hiring official, or to the administrator who supervises the hiring official; and
    2. The employee cooperates in actions taken to eliminate any actual or potential conflicts of interest and to mitigate adverse effects on the other party to the relationship.
  3. The supervisor or university official who receives the report shall treat the information sensitively and shall promptly:
    1. Contact the Director of Human Resources and the Dean of Students; and
    2. In cooperation with the Director of Human Resources, the Dean of Students, the Director of Equity and Affirmative Action, and the Dean or Vice Chancellor with supervisory authority, eliminate conflicts of interest and mitigate adverse effects on the other party to the relationship, by:
      1. Documenting the steps taken, providing all parties a copy; and
      2. Transferring one of the individuals to another position; and/or
      3. Transferring the student into a different class or section; and/or
      4. Transferring supervisory, evaluative, academic, or advisory responsibilities; and/or
      5. Securing a source of funding for the student that is not dependent upon the employee with whom the student is in a consensual relationship, if applicable.
  4. If one of the parties to the relationship has the position of Dean, Director, or higher, the Chancellor shall be notified.  

B. Employee with another employee:

  1. A consensual relationship between an employee and another employee where one employee has supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence over the other employee or where the employee reasonably believes the employee will have supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence over the other employee, is a violation of this policy, unless:
    1. The employee with the supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence over the other employee immediately reports the relationship to their supervisor/department chair, to the hiring official, or to the administrator who supervises the hiring official; and
    2. The employee with the supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence over the other employee cooperates in actions taken to eliminate any actual or potential conflicts of interest and to mitigate adverse effects on the other employee.
  2. The supervisor or university official who receives the report shall treat the information sensitively and shall promptly:
    1. Contact the Director of Human Resources; and
    2. In cooperation with the Director of Human Resources, the Director of Equity and Affirmative Action, and the Dean or Vice Chancellor with supervisory authority, eliminate conflicts of interest and mitigate adverse effects on the other party to the relationship, by:
      1. Documenting the steps taken, providing all parties a copy; and
      2. Transferring supervisory, evaluative, academic, or advisory responsibilities; and/or
      3. Securing a source of funding for the employee that is not dependent upon the employee with supervisory, advisory, or evaluative responsibility with whom the employee is in a consensual relationship, if applicable.
  3. If one of the parties to the relationship has the position of Dean, Director, or higher, the Chancellor shall be notified. 

Violations

It is a violation of this policy for an instructor to commence a consensual relationship with a student currently under their instruction or whom the instructor reasonably believes in the future may be under the instructor’s instruction, and may result in disciplinary action against that employee. If an instructor or other employee fails to meet the requirements for disclosing the relationship with a student or another employee, or fails to cooperate in the actions described above, such a failure constitutes a violation of this policy and may result in disciplinary action taken against that employee. If the employee is also a student, it may also result in disciplinary actions under Chapter UWS 14 and/or 17, Wis. Admin. Code.

If a student engages in a consensual relationship with an employee, even where that employee is serving as an instructor for that student, the student shall not be subject to disciplinary action under this policy. A student is only subject to disciplinary action under this policy if the student is also an employee of the university and violates a provision of this policy that applies to employees.

To report potential violations of this policy, individuals should contact the Director of Human Resources. Concerns may also be reported to the Dean of Students and/or the Office of Equity and Affirmative Action. The appropriate offices will cooperate in the investigation and resolution of the matter.

Nothing in this policy shall limit the university’s ability to investigate or punish sexual harassment or other conduct that violates university policies.

Retaliation against persons who report concerns about potential violations of this policy is prohibited.

The university shall publish this policy in a location accessible to faculty, staff, students, and the public. The university shall educate faculty, staff, and students on the requirements of the policy.

Consensual Relationship FAQ

UWL Consensual Relationship FAQ

Updated policy effective July 31, 2018. Approved by Chancellor Gow, July 31, 2018. FAQ added September 18, 2018