By Lucy Rudman
Enacted officially on April 15, 2019, the University drafted a new policy regarding consensual student-faculty and student-staff relationships. The policy, described by Nancy Berner, University Provost, as an “employee policy,” was sent out only to faculty and staff.
The policy details the process of reporting relationships and what the University deems an acceptable relationship. According to the policy, which acknowledges the possible detrimental effects of the power dynamics involved in a student-faculty relationship, any student-faculty relationship in which the faculty has “authority” over a student or the “ability to impact students’ academic/career choices” creates a conflict of interest or has an “inherently unequal” dynamic.
It also clarifies such relationships are “not prohibited” but that employees must “assume a supervision or responsibility role vis a vis the other, and must report to their next-level supervisor.”
First drafted by a small group including Dr. Berner, the policy then went to a committee of faculty and students for further review. The School of Theology student body was represented by Mark Nabors (T’19), the past president of the St. Luke’s Community, while, by recommendation of outgoing SGA President Mac Bouldin (C’19), Kaylei Goodine (C’19) represented the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Having policies in line to protect an individual’s education from unequal power dynamics is extremely important… if the procedures are not clear the whole purpose [of the policy] would be ineffective,” Goodine explained, “By taking that into consideration, I used my perspective student as a student to create concise reporting options that will hopeful empower students.”
Dr. Sylvia Gray, Title IX coordinator was among the faculty on the committee, and explained her role was largely to “represent a constituency and to report back to the committee items from the constituency groups.” There was no specific event, according to Berner, that catalyzed the policy change, but rather expressed that “It is best… to review and revise all policies on a regular basis.”
Berner cited two notable changes in the new version. Previously, it “pertained only to college faculty and students” whereas now it applies to “all employees and all students”– which includes the University and the School of Theology.
The second change focused on clarity, specifically in the process of “reporting or managing a complaint,” and the responsibility of filing for a relationship falls on the employee. It also covers employee-employee relationships. Because the policy was just released, no reports have yet been filed under the new system.