University faculty dating students
In 1977, female students at Yale filed a lawsuit alleging that their male professors had tried to proposition them with offers of better grades in exchange for sexual favors, though it was eventually dismissed. Sofie Karasek, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley and one of the leaders of the school’s anti-sexual assault movement, told Al Jazeera in an email that while most of the cases she hears about involve students, it’s important to halt harassment on campuses across the board.
Next week, professors at the University of Virginia will decide whether or not they can date students. The announcement last month of the school's new proposed legislation--the most restrictive in the country--has set off a string of debates among students and faculty at the school about the fairness of such limitations and the feasibility of enforcement.
Laura Kipnis, a professor in Northwestern's School of Communication, criticized her school's policy in a controversial essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, arguing that the ban assumes that professors are predators, and also that these policies infantilize students.
Her essay was met with outrage by some students, two of whom filed a Title IX suit against her, claiming Kipnis was retaliating against students at her school who had filed a complaint against a professor.
"This warrants the implementation of some kind of guidance." In general, people inside and outside of academia agree that teachers shouldn't date students in their classes.
But the University of Virginia proposal goes farther, seeking to restrict teachers from having romantic liaisons with any undergraduates.
As administrators discussed the school’s sexual harassment policies as a whole, they decided they wanted to more explicitly state that undergraduates and faculty should be barred from romantic involvement, regardless of whether a student was in the professor’s course.
The previous policy discussed “unequal status relationships,” discouraging professors from having relationships with students who were enrolled in their classes.
Harvard has been reviewing its sexual harassment and assault policies in part because it is one of more than 90 colleges and universities that are under investigation by the Department of Education because of students’ complaints about how their sexual assault cases were handled.
Johnson told Al Jazeera that the committee had wanted to create a more comprehensive statement on sexual harassment-related issues, and emphasized that the policy update was not based on any particular complaint on campus about student-faculty relationships. “I think this is consistent with already existing culture at Harvard,” she said.
Other universities already have similar bans in place.