1) Statement of Values and Expectations
Northland Pioneer College is committed to maintaining learning and work environments as free as possible from conflicts of interest, exploitation, and favoritism. Where a party uses a position of authority to induce another person to enter into a non-consensual relationship, the harm, both to that person and to the institution, is clear. Even where the relationship is consensual, there is significant potential for harm when there is an institutional power difference between the parties involved, as is the case, for example, between supervisor and employee, faculty and student, or academic adviser and advisee. Such relationships may cast doubt on the objectivity of any supervision and evaluation provided. Likewise, any improper use of authority or position for personal gain or advantage is unethical, may be unlawful, and should be cause for discipline.
Having consensual relationships with subordinates is likely to interfere with the ability of a superior to act and make decisions fairly and without favoritism. Even if the superior is able to avoid being biased, the other people in the workplace or learning environment are likely to see themselves as being less favored and as disadvantaged by the personal relationship. In addition, the damage can continue long beyond the actual time span of the relationship and can make people suspicious of any future professional interactions between the parties. Because of the special relationship of trust supervisors and faculty have toward minor students or employees, consensual amorous relationships between supervisors or faculty and minors should be banned.
The following procedure is articulated in two parts, the first directed to employee relationships, the second to faculty-student relationships. Although these categories have many elements in common, the student-teacher relationship represents a special case because the integrity of this relationship is of such fundamental importance to the central mission of the college. Students look to faculty for guidance and depend upon them for assessment, advancement, and advice. Faculty-student consensual relationships create obvious dangers for abuse of authority and conflict of interest actual, potential, and apparent.
Northland Pioneer College has adopted a consensual relationship procedure for the following reasons: to avoid the types of problems outlined above, to protect people from the kind of injury that either a subordinate or superior party to such a relationship can suffer, and to provide information and guidance to members of the College community. Most of all, this procedure seeks to help ensure that each member of the College community is treated with dignity and without regard to any factors that are not relevant to that person's work.
For purposes of this procedure, the terms "employee," "supervisor," "faculty," "student," and "consensual relationships" are defined as follows:
Employee: anyone employed by Northland Pioneer College as faculty or staff, full-time or part-time.
Supervisor: anyone who oversees directs or evaluates the work of others, including, but not limited to, managers, administrators, directors, deans, chairs, and advisers, as well as faculty members in their roles as instructors, as supervisors of their staff, and as participants in decisions affecting the careers of other faculty members.
Faculty: all those charged with academic instruction, including all full-time and associate faculty, academic advisers, and others who have a role in educating, supervising, or advising students as part of the programs of the College. This definition of faculty is for purposes of this procedure only and is not meant to broaden the definition of faculty as used elsewhere in any college policy, procedure, manual or other governing documents.
Students: all those enrolled full-time or part-time at the College.
Consensual relationships: dating and sexual relationships willingly undertaken by the parties.
3) Procedure Regarding Employee/Employee Relationships and Employee/Faculty Relationships
No adult employed at Northland Pioneer College in a position of trust or authority over or who supervises any minor employee shall have a consensual relationship with that minor employee.
Except in unusual circumstances, where explicit authorization has been obtained from the appropriate superior, no one who is employed at Northland Pioneer College should participate in supervision, employment actions, evaluation, decisions pertaining to promotion, the direct setting of salary or wages for someone employed at Northland Pioneer College with whom that person has or has had a consensual relationship.
Except in special circumstances, where explicit authorization has been obtained from the appropriate superior, a supervisor should not employ anyone with whom he or she has or has had a consensual relationship.
Employees should be aware that entering into such a relationship with a supervisor creates the potential for risk to both parties. In particular, such a relationship will limit that supervisor's ability to direct work or promote that employee's career.
In the event that a personal relationship of this kind does exist in a supervisory context, the supervisor must disclose the relationship to the appropriate superior and initiate arrangements to address any issues of conflict of interest.
Misuse of position or authority for personal gain or improper purposes is unethical, may be unlawful and constitutes grounds for discipline up to and including termination. Failure of any employee to abide by the provisions of this Procedure shall subject the employee to discipline up to and including termination.
4) Procedure Regarding Faculty-Student Consensual Relationships and other Conflicts of Interest
No adult faculty member should have a consensual relationship with a minor student.
No faculty member should exercise authority over a student when engaged in a consensual relationship with that student. Situations of authority include, but are not limited to, teaching, formal mentoring, supervision, employment of a student as a teaching assistant; exercising substantial responsibility for grades, honors, or degrees; and considering disciplinary action involving the student.
No faculty member should accept authority over a student with whom he or she has or has had a consensual relationship without agreement of the Vice President of Learning and Student Services. Specifically, the faculty member should not, absent such agreement, allow the student to enroll for credit in a course which the faculty member is teaching or supervising; employ the student as a teaching assistant; participate in decisions pertaining to a student's grades, honors, degrees; or consider disciplinary action involving the student.
Students and faculty alike should be aware that entering into a consensual relationship will limit the faculty member's ability to teach and mentor, direct work, employ, and promote the career of a student involved with him or her in a consensual relationship, and that the relationship should be disclosed in any letter of recommendation the faculty member may write on the student's behalf. Furthermore, should the faculty member be the only supervisor available in a particular area of study or research, the student may be compelled to avoid or change the special area of his or her study or research.
If a consensual relationship exists or develops between a faculty member and a student involving any situation of authority, that situation of authority must be terminated. Termination includes, but is not limited to, the student withdrawing from a course taught by the faculty member; transfer of the student to another course or section, or assumption of the position of authority by a qualified alternative faculty member or teaching assistant; the student selecting or being assigned to another academic adviser; and changing the supervision of the student's teaching assistantship. In order for these changes to be made and ratified appropriately, the faculty must disclose the consensual relationship to the Vice President of Learning and Student Services, and reach an agreement for remediation. In case of failure to reach agreement, the Vice President of Learning and Student Services shall terminate the situation of authority. Failure to disclose a consensual relationship is grounds for discipline up to and including termination. Misuse of position or authority for personal gain or improper purposes is unethical and constitutes grounds for discipline up to and including termination.
The intent of the Procedure is primarily to be instructive and corrective. In addition, there is no intent either to intrude on the privacy of member of the College Community or to interfere with appropriate mentoring relationships.
Some examples of ways to help remove a conflict of interest include the following approaches:
- If a faculty member is interested in an adult student in his or her class, waiting until the end of the term before dating the student;
- Where a department chair has a personal relationship with any member of his or her department, seeing to it that the relationship is disclosed to the dean and arranging for the dean or other appropriate administrator to be responsible for evaluation or promotional decisions;
- When a manager has responsibility for supervising a romantic partner, arranging for an administrator senior to the manager to provide supervision of the subordinate. (Inserting a manager between the romantic parties in order to supervise the subordinate will not remove the conflict of interest, since the manager in the middle is still subject to pressure from above).