The University of Michigan is moving ahead to create a new policy that prohibits faculty members from having romantic or sexual relationships with undergraduate students across all three campuses.
Faculty will be explicitly prohibited from having any romantic, sexual or amorous relationships with undergraduate students under the new policy that will take effect in early 2019.
Additionally, faculty will be prohibited from having romantic or sexual relationships with any graduate or professional student in the same discipline or academic program as the faculty member, or over whom the faculty member had, has or might reasonably be expected to have “academic or supervisory authority” through instruction, supervision, evaluation or grading.
Graduate student instructors and postdoctoral fellows will be prohibited from having romantic or sexual relationships with any students (undergraduate or graduate) in the classes the GSI is teaching or grading, or over whom the GSI or postdoc has academic or supervisory authority.
These policy changes come from recommendations outlined in a report from a working group, established in early October, that comprises faculty members on the Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses.
The current policy requires faculty members to disclose certain romantic relationships with students, but does not categorically prohibit them.
“This is a clear, cogent, concise report that has as its mainstay our collective values and shared principles as a university community,” said Martin Philbert, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “I would like to thank the working group for being timely, responsive and thorough in addressing these sensitive issues. I fully support their recommendations.”
The policy change is the latest in a series of commitments made this year by university leaders to further combat all forms of sexual misconduct.
Other action includes:
• External reviews of policies and practices around sexual misconduct prevention and reporting.
• Mandatory training for all faculty and staff on understanding and reducing sexual and gender-based misconduct.
• An awareness campaign on how to report misconduct and receive support.
• Participation in a third campus climate survey on sexual misconduct experiences and perceptions among students.
The working group was charged by the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint provosts with the following objectives:
• Review the current state of the faculty-student relationship policies at peer institutions.
• Develop recommendations to revise SPG 601.22 that reflect the university’s shared community values, and align U-M policy with best practices.
• Develop recommendations for implementing a revised policy, including raising awareness of the policy.
The provosts and the U-M executive officers — including President Mark Schlissel — have now accepted the recommendations of the working group.
In its executive summary, the working group noted it “relied on principles and values embodied in our Faculty Handbook and historic statements by our Senate Assembly, expressed by our peer institutions and other leaders in the field, and inherent in the collective responsibility that the faculty have to the student experience as members and representatives of the university community.”
The revisions to SPG 601.22 are expected to be finalized and announced in February. A companion policy applying to staff will be updated at the same time.
The report states that the recommendations recognize the structural asymmetry of the faculty-student relationship and meet the goal of creating a safe and equitable environment for independent learning and academic growth.
The new policy will affect all those at the university who teach, supervise, evaluate or have grading authority over students, including regular and supplemental instructional faculty, graduate student instructors and postdoctoral fellows.
Violations of the policy may lead to discipline, up to and including separation from the university.
Narrow exceptions may be appropriate for relationships that pre-date a student’s enrollment at the university, but will require disclosure by the faculty member to a dean or designee, written approval and an appropriate management plan.