By Alexander Slavitz
The University’s official policy on student-faculty intimate relationships received a major addition at Tuesday’s University faculty meeting. The Faculty and Academic Personnel Committee (FAPC) presented the updated policy at the meeting which, due to difficulty in settling on the right wording, took an extensive amount of time to write.
The newest policy contains a section that forbids non-consensual relationships between students and faculty, a section that forbids student-faculty intimate relations if academically related and a final section which is intended to extend to the areas not previous covered.
It reads: “Any sexual or romantic relationship between a faculty member and a student may damage the integrity of the academic and living environment at Bucknell, and is therefore strongly discouraged.” The presenter of this policy, Ben Marsh, professor of geography and environmental studies, emphasized that the main goal is not to guarantee enforcement but awareness.
This vague writing in the definition of what a student is was the topic of much controversy for the majority of the faculty meeting. The question was raised whether the definition of a “student” should include only undergraduates or whether it should extend to graduates as well. An amendment was proposed to limit the policy just to undergraduates, as graduate students can vary in age. The speaker pointed out that his wife was currently a graduate student, so in theory this policy would be forbidding their marriage.
To answer this, an audience member evoked the idea that if a 42-year-old graduate student meets a faculty member and there is no academic relationship between them, then there should really be no reason that a relationship cannot develop between these two people.
Eventually, an amendment to the policy was offered, reading “a full-time residential undergraduate” in place of the general word “student.” After a series of discussions ensued from this proposed amendment, it was decided to eliminate this amendment due to the possibility for loopholes and controversy. The final decision was to accept the initial, unmodified policy that was initially proposed at the beginning of the meeting.
This decision to deem intimate relationships between faculty and students inappropriate was based on the policies at many other comparable universities. When drafting the new policy, a list of U.S. colleges in a similar rural setting to the University was compiled and their policies on faculty-student relations examined. Out of all of the policies, most schools have declared the development of relations between students and faculty to be highly discouraged. If there was a concurrent academic relationship between these two parties, all of these policies deemed this a violation of their school code of conduct and deserving of disciplinary action.
While most schools do prohibit intimate relations between faculty members and students, this is not a uniform policy for all schools, as some have exceptions. Those who don’t directly discourage intimate relations between students and faculty still make a point to emphasis the huge risk that a faculty member is taking by engaging in intimate relations with the student. If a complaint is made by a student or employee about the relationship with the faculty member, the faculty member immediately becomes liable to disciplinary action.