Can I have sex with a professor?

James Vaughn

As long as there are no conflicts of interest, it is okay for faculty members to have “romantic relationships” with students.

The Faculty Senate spent its Jan. 25 meeting discussing details of a change proposing language to be reorganized and added to the faculty handbook regarding consensual relationships between faculty and students.

Faculty Senate President Paul Parkison said the purpose of the new language is to identify “power relationships,” such as influence over grades and scholarship recommendations.

“For example, in the Teacher Ed. Department, we have an admissions process, and I am on that committee,” Parkinson said. “So if I were dating a student and they wanted to be admitted to that program, I would have to have someone else review that application.”

The main difference between the existing language, which was last updated in December 2004, and the proposed language is clarity.

In the proposed draft, definitions and clarification are provided.

Stating that “faculty member” means any person with “instructional and/or supervisory academic responsibilities” is an example of clarification in the proposed language.

In the proposed language, employees are told to report any “sexual or romantic relationships” with a student to their immediate supervisor in order to determine the best course of action.

In the Jan. 25 meeting, Senate members attempted to clarify a “romantic relationship” in order to avoid a misunderstanding.

A consensus was not reached.

The Senate will be discussing the proposal and voting on it during the Feb. 8 meeting, Parkison said.

The initial charge was brought forward because the Provost’s office did not like the existing language.

The guidelines regarding faculty/student relationships were very vague, Parkison said.

Interim Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs Shelly Blunt said the proposed language places emphasis on relationships that existed prior to avoid any possible conflicts of interest.

“I think we have quite a bit of that going on,” Blunt said.

The main concern is regarding faculty members who have spouses who decide to take courses at USI, she said.

“We have to be careful when (faculty members) have partners that attend the university,” Blunt said.

Senior international studies major Molly Konkle said she sees no reason why faculty and students aren’t capable of making their own decisions.

“We are mostly all adults making adult decisions and leading adult lives,” she said. “If there was ever an ethical problem between the two involved, there should be a sufficient paper trail to follow the facts and examine them.”

Konkle defines a “romantic relationship” as something more than a friendship that has reached a physical level, she said.

“If I could pull it off, I would definitely try my best at getting a date with some of the faculty at USI, mainly the LA (Liberal Arts) professors,” Konkle said. “I haven’t in the past. But I can’t say I haven’t thought about it before.”