The University of Southern Mississippi recognizes that special problems can arise in a consensual relationship between individuals who are employed on campus and/or attend classes on campus. This policy addresses those concerns.
Reason for Policy/Purpose
Sexual misconduct is inconsistent with the standards and ideals of our community and will not be tolerated. The University is committed to fostering an academic, work, and living environment that is free from all forms of harassment, including sexual misconduct and sexual assault. Additionally, federal law views sexual misconduct and sexual assault as forms of sexual harassment prohibited under Title VII and Title IX. This policy assists the University to comply with federal and state legal mandates and University policies in relation to such misconduct.
Who Needs to Know This Policy
This policy is required for the effective communication of university policy regarding consensual relationships
Website Address for this Policy
There are special problems in any romantic or sexual relationship between individuals where one party possesses direct academic, administrative, supervisory, evaluative, counseling, or extracurricular authority over the other party.
Such positions include, but are not limited to, teacher and student or assistant, supervisor and employee, senior faculty and junior faculty, mentor and trainee, advisor and advisee, counselor and client, teaching assistant and student, coach and athlete, and the individuals who supervise the day-to-day student living environment and student residents.
A unique problem occurs when a consensual relationship takes place between a teacher and a student and the student is enrolled in one of the teacher's courses, or when the student is likely to be enrolled in such a course in the future. Such relationships are of significant concern to the university because of the ethical and administrative problems they can pose.
Because of the potential for conflict of interest, exploitation, favoritism, harassment and bias, such relationships may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided, and the trust inherent particularly in the teacher-student context.
There are numerous ways in which a consensual romantic or sexual relationship can create problems within the university community. For example:
No university employee shall enter into or maintain any romantic or sexual relationships with students or with employees over whom they exercise any academic, administrative, supervisory, evaluative, counseling or extracurricular authority or influence.
Similarly, no university employee shall exercise any academic, administrative, supervisory, evaluative, counseling or extracurricular authority over any student or employee with whom that employee had previously been involved in a romantic or sexual relationship.
Teaching professionals in particular are under a special obligation to preserve the integrity of their relationships with students, and therefore are expected to maintain at all times the highest level of professionalism with students, whether or not any real or perceived authority over the student exists.
NOTE: Non-consensual relationships are addressed in the university’s sexual harassment policy. Marital and family relationships are addressed in the university’s nepotism policy.
The Director of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity is responsible for the review of this policy every four years (or whenever circumstances require immediate review).
Sexual Harassment Policy: www.usm.edu/institutional-policies/policy-adma-aa-000-003
Amendments: Month, Day, Year – summary of changes
11/01/11: Formatted for Institutional Policies website.02/19/13: Formatted for template. Minor editing of punctuation and word usage throughout.