Amorous or Sexual Relations

No.  3-32a   Rev.  3-20-18   Date   6-1-95    



PPM 3-32, Discrimination and Harassment

PPM 9-5, Faculty Responsibilities to Students

PPM 9-6, Faculty Responsibilities to Colleagues

PPM 3-33, Discipline (Staff Employees)


Amorous or sexual relationships between University employees and either other employees or students where there exists a power imbalance in the relationship damages the perception of WSU's integrity as an academic institution in the eyes of the community at large, and imperil its commitment to a professional atmosphere in which individuals are judged solely by their ability and performance in the eyes of its own employees and students. Such amorous or sexual relations may also harm the persons involved, especially the individual who holds less administrative authority (or power). Hence, such amorous or sexual relationships entail the possibility of abuse and create concerns about conflicts of interest and the validity of consent.


A. Relationships of Concern

The University views amorous or sexual relationships between those in a position of authority or influence and an individual in a subordinate position, as a power relationship that undermines and/or eliminates the ability of the subordinate to provide consent to engage in a welcome amorous or sexual relationship.  Such relationships constitutes a serious conflict of interest that is prohibited unless resolved in accordance with this policy.  Unresolved conflicts as described herein are a violation of this policy.  They also violate PPM 9-5 when they involve relationships between students and faculty.

Examples of such relationships are where faculty or staff employees are in a teaching, evaluating, supervising, coaching, tutoring, or advising role over other employees or students as part of a school program or in an employment situation.

In addition, a faculty member may be considered to be in a position of authority or influence over a student when the faculty member is in a position to influence a student's academic or professional success, such as when assigning grades, evaluating clinical performance, serving on a student's graduate committee, or awarding scholarships.

It is recognized that faculty and staff members are often in a position to impact students, such as in giving them praise or criticism, making recommendations for their further studies or their future employment, or conferring other benefits on them.  Exploiting a relationship with a student for a faculty or staff member's personal benefit is a breach of University standards of conduct.

B. Retaliation

Those in a position of authority or influence may not use their position to penalize, retaliate against, or reward, either directly or indirectly, any person or subordinate with whom he or she is having, has had, or who has rejected, an amorous or sexual relationship.

C.  Mandatory Actions and Responsibilities

1.  Before an individual in a position of authority or influence expresses feelings or otherwise takes action toward engaging in, reciprocating, or continuing an amorous or sexual relationship with a person in a subordinate position, the University member in the position of authority or influence must notify his or her immediate supervisor or department chair and/or the Executive Director of AA/EO.  If the individual in the position of authority or influence chooses to notify their supervisor or department chair instead of the Executive Director of AA/EO, the supervisor or department chair must notify the Executive Director of AA/EO, who will work together with the person in the position of authority or influence to make alternate arrangements with other qualified personnel in order to eliminate or mitigate any conflicts, where possible.  The faculty or staff member may recommend individuals to be included in this decision making.

2.  A University employee or faculty member who fails to follow the procedures outlined in this policy, and implement the required alternative arrangements to eliminate or mitigate the conflict, violates this policy.  Such violation is also a breach of faculty ethics under PPM 9-5 when the relationship is between a faculty member and student, and PPM 9-6 when the relationship is between a faculty member and a colleague. (This applies the same rationale and technique employed in the similar situation of nepotism when family members' participation is limited - PPM 3-6.)  Such conduct may also violate PPM 3-32 unless the higher power individual complies with the procedures outlined herein to demonstrate that the relationship was welcome.

3.  Because third parties may be harmed by an amorous or sexual relationship in this circumstance, any individual or University official has the right to initiate a complaint under this policy.

Because engaging in an amorous or sexual relationship where there is a relationship of authority or influence without proper management may constitute a violation of PPM 3-32, all "responsible employees" as defined in PPM 3-32 must immediately report violations of this policy to the Executive Director of AA/EO, who will review any violations in accordance with PPM 3-32.