A. Reason for Policy
Tulane's mission includes enriching the capacity of individuals to learn and to lead with integrity. Every member of the University has a fundamental interest in participating in activities free from conflicts of interests, favoritism, and exploitation. Tulane is committed to ensure equal educational opportunity for all students as the law requires. Academic freedom imposes a correlative obligation of professionalism and professional ethics. Because of the power asymmetry of the teacher-student relationship, romantic and sexual relationships between faculty and students may compromise faculty members’ judgments of students, endanger students’ right to equal educational opportunity, and create the appearance of bias and unprofessionalism among third parties disrupting the climate of the academic unit or work group. Romantic and sexual relationships between students and faculty risk undermining the essential educational purpose of the University, call the academic integrity of the professoriate and the institution into question, and create risk for the University.
The role of the teacher is multifaceted, including serving as intellectual guide, mentor, role model and advisor. This role is at the heart of the University’s educational mission and its integrity must be maintained. The teacher’s influence and authority can extend far beyond the classroom and into the future, affecting the academic progress and careers of our students. Accordingly, the University expects teachers to maintain interactions with students free from influences that may interfere with the learning and personal development experiences to which students are entitled. In this context, teachers include those who are entrusted with academic responsibility over students by Tulane to teach, supervise, mentor and coach students, including faculty and consulting faculty of all ranks, lecturers, academic advisors, and principal investigators.
As a general proposition, the University believes that a sexual or romantic relationship between a teacher and a student is inconsistent with the proper role of the teacher. Not only can these relationships harm the educational environment for the individual student involved, they also undermine the educational environment for other students. Furthermore, such relationships also expose the teacher to charges of misconduct.
B. Who is Covered by this Policy?
All University employees and students are covered by this policy. Such positions include (but are not limited to) teacher and student, supervisor and employee, senior faculty and junior faculty, mentor and trainee, adviser and advisee, teaching assistant and student, principal investigator and postdoctoral scholar or research assistant, coach and athlete, attending physician and resident or fellow, and individuals who supervise the day-to-day student living environment and their students.
I. Teachers and Undergraduates
Because of the inherent power imbalance, sexual or romantic relationships between teachers and undergraduate students are prohibited—regardless of past, current, or future academic or supervisory responsibilities for that student. (In the rare case where there may be an exception, see disclosure section.)
II. Teachers and Graduate Students
Whenever a teacher has had, or in the future might reasonably be expected to have, academic responsibility over any student, such relationships are prohibited. (In a case where there may be an exception, see disclosure section.) This includes, for example, any faculty member who teaches in a graduate student’s department, interdisciplinary program, or center because even informal channels of authority are problematic. Conversely, no teacher shall exercise academic responsibility over a student with whom they have previously had a sexual or romantic relationship. “Academic responsibility” includes (but is not limited to) teaching, grading, mentoring, advising on or evaluating research or other academic activity, participating in decisions regarding funding or other resources, clinical supervision, and recommending for admissions, employment, fellowships or awards. In this context, students include graduate and professional school students, postdoctoral scholars, and clinical residents or fellows. It is the responsibility of the academic unit to support students in implementing this policy.
Certain staff roles (including but not limited to deans and other senior administrators, coaches, supervisors of student employees, residence directors, as well as others who mentor, advise or have authority over students) also have broad influence on or authority over students and their experience at Tulane. For this reason, sexual or romantic relationships between such staff members and undergraduate students are prohibited. Similarly, relationships between staff members and graduate students over whom the staff member has had or is likely in the future to have such influence or authority are prohibited.
When a preexisting sexual or romantic relationship between a University employee and a student falls under this policy—or if the policy covers a relationship due to a change in circumstances—the employee must both recuse themselves from any supervisory or academic responsibility over the student, and notify their supervisor, department chair, dean, human resources manager, or the Office of Institutional Equity about the situation so that adequate alternative supervisory or evaluative arrangements can be put in place. This obligation to recuse and notify exists for past as well as for current relationships. Failure to disclose the relationship in a timely fashion will itself be considered a violation of policy. The University understands that sexual or romantic relationships are private and treats such information to the extent practicable as confidential.
IV. Student Teachers, Teaching Assistants and Graders
Existing policies govern student responsibilities towards one other. The current policy applies when undergraduate or graduate students or post-doctoral scholars are serving in the teaching role as teachers, TAs, graders or research supervisors. The policy does not prohibit students from having consensual sexual or romantic relationships with fellow students. However, if such a relationship exists between a student teacher and a student in a setting in which the student teacher is serving in this capacity, they shall not exercise any evaluative or teaching function for that student. Furthermore, the student teacher must recuse themselves and notify their supervisor or the Office of Institutional Equity so that alternative evaluative, oversight or teaching arrangements can be put in place. This obligation to recuse and notify exists for past as well as for current relationships. Failure to notify and recuse in this situation will be subject to discipline under the Faculty Handbook.
V. Relationship Between Employees
Consensual sexual or romantic relationships between employees (including faculty) are not in general prohibited by this policy; however, relationships between employees in which one has direct or indirect authority over the other are always potentially problematic, including not only relationships between supervisors and their staff, but also between senior faculty and junior faculty, faculty and both academic and non-academic staff.
Where such a relationship develops, the person in the position of greater authority or power must recuse themselves to ensure that they do not exercise any supervisory or evaluative function over the other person in the relationship. Where such recusal is required, the recusing party must also notify their supervisor, department chair, dean, human resources manager, or the Office of Institutional Equity so that person can ensure adequate alternative supervisory or evaluative arrangements are put in place. Such notification is always required where recusal is required. This obligation to recuse and notify exists for past as well as for current relationships. Failure to disclose the relationship in a timely fashion will itself be considered a violation of policy. The University understands that sexual or romantic relationships are often private in nature and the University treats such information sensitively and (to the extent practicable) confidentially.
The University has the option to take any action necessary to ensure compliance with the spirit of this policy, including transferring either or both employees to minimize disruption of the work group.
The academic unit has the responsibility to support students in ensuring this policy.
D. Duty to Disclose
If there is any doubt whether a relationship falls within this policy, individuals should disclose the facts and seek guidance rather than fail to disclose. Questions may be addressed to your supervisor, department chair, relevant dean, human resources manager, or to the Office of Institutional Equity. In those rare situations where it is programmatically infeasible to provide alternative supervision, academic responsibility and/or evaluation, the dean, director or supervisor must approve all (as applicable) academic responsibility, evaluative, and compensation actions.
Employees who engage in sexual or romantic relationships with a student or other employee contrary to the guidance, prohibitions and requirements provided in the policy are subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, depending on the nature of and context for the violation. They will also be held accountable for any adverse consequences that result from those relationships.
Tulane’s policy with regard to nepotism can be found in the Faculty Handbook. Nothing herein shall abridge the rights of faculty as outlined in the University's Faculty Handbook.”*
*[The above language is the new Consensual Relationships Policy, appended by the University Senate on May 4, 2020.]