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Policy Concerning Consensual Relationships

Definitions

Consensual Relationships : Relationships that are amorous, romantic or sexual in nature, legal within the state of Oregon, in which both parties are willing participants.

Power Differential : The actual or perceived imbalance of power that exists in a relationship when one of the parties in the relationship is an instructor or a supervisor and the other is a student or supervisee.

Instructor : All who teach at the University, who may be paid or volunteer employees of the University or of any University-affiliated, -supported or -sanctioned program, including faculty members, academic staff, administrative staff, other instructional personnel and undergraduate or graduate students or teaching assistants with teaching, advising, mentoring, or tutorial responsibility, and who are partly or wholly responsible for advising, evaluating or grading students' performance.

Student : Any person studying with an instructor, where that instructor is partly or wholly responsible for evaluating or grading that student's performance.

Supervisor : Any person who directly or indirectly controls or affects the terms and conditions of employment of other employees.

Supervisee : Any person whose terms and conditions of employment are directly or indirectly controlled or affected by a supervisor.

Rationale

It is a generally accepted principle, reflected in various nepotism policies, sexual harassment policies, and others, that anyone in a position of power or authority should avoid situations where he or she would make determinations or evaluations affecting the terms and conditions of employment or student status for relatives, family members, spouses or significant others with whom he or she has an intimate relationship. Such a relationship, combined with the power and responsibility of making such determinations or evaluations, is considered to be a conflict of interest.

Policy

The University recognizes that two consenting adults should be free to conduct a personal relationship if they so wish; however, if a consensual relationship should develop between an instructor or supervisor and a student or supervisee, where a power differential exists, the instructor or supervisor should report the matter, as soon as possible, to his or her immediate supervisor, i.e.; Department Chair, Professor in charge of the course, the unit supervisor, etc. This immediate supervisor, in consultation with the Director of Affirmative Action, will immediately make arrangements so that the official determination(s) affecting the terms and conditions of employment, study, or progress in a program of the person(s) involved in the consensual relationship can be carried out under the direction of a competent objective third party(s). This should be carried out in a manner that maintains the highest degree of confidentiality possible.

It should also be made clear that the instructor, mentor, tutor, or supervisor should not, thereafter, be allowed to have undirected responsibility for supervising, evaluating, or grading the consensual relationship partner's performance. This is due to the possibility of residual feelings resulting from the consensual relationship, which could preclude impartiality.

All instructors, supervisors, students and supervisees should understand that these situations are of concern to Portland State University . It is the instructors and supervisors, who, by virtue of their special power and responsibility, will bear the burden of accountability in such cases. There are substantial risks in an apparently consensual relationship where a power differential exists, even if the conflict of interest issues are resolved, involving potential charges of sexual harassment and/or violations of University policy. Such consensual relationships have the potential for very serious consequences and should be avoided, where possible.

Where such relationships cannot be, or are not avoided, this policy mandates the declaration to and intervention by a supervising authority, for the protection of both parties involved in the consensual relationship. Any instructor or supervisor who enters into such a relationship should be aware that liability protection under Oregon statutes may not apply in subsequent actions arising out of consensual relationship situations, where the instructor or supervisor failed to comply with this policy, and that failure to comply with this policy can lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Persons with concerns about risk or conflicts associated with Consensual Relationships should contact the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Office. Retaliation of any kind against anyone for expressing concerns about a Consensual Relationship or for participating any way in any proceeding pursuant to this Policy is prohibited.