The University already prohibits teacher-student relationships, but a proposed policy change could mean that certain student-to-student relationships would also be against the rules.
A September 25 draft from the Office of the President of the University of California would alter University policy to prohibit “romantic, physically intimate and/or sexual” relationships in which one individual has power or authority over the other person. This would include relationships between fellow students if one had the potential to exercise influence over the other in terms of employment, such as a supervisor over subordinate employee. The policy would also cover relationships in which one person has evaluative or advisory authority over the other, such as between a coach or professional counselor and a student.
It was unclear when the proposed policy will come before the UC Academic Senate and Board of Regents for approval.
One student employee disagreed with the possible rule.
“I think it’s extremely unfair to try to control the personal lives of people that aren’t professors or teacher’s assistants,” said Greg Zielinski, a senior sociology major and supervisor at Nicoletti’s cafe in the UCen. “Just because a student works a few hours a week for the University doesn’t mean they can control who they have relationships with.”
According to the draft, such consensual relationships could lead to an abuse of power or favoritism, and may evolve into situations that lead to charges of sexual harassment from either those involved or third parties that believe the relationship creates a discriminatory environment.
Another student employee wondered how the proposed policy would be enforced.
“Personally, I’d like to see them try to pass this thing,” said Ross Colburn, a senior cultural anthropology major and employee at The Corner Store. “What are they going to do, follow me around on a Saturday night? It’s ridiculous for them to think they can regulate relationships between students.”
The draft, if it becomes policy, would serve as an expansion of Academic Personnel Policy 015 (APM-015) in the UC Faculty Code of Conduct, which became rule July 17. APM-015 classified as unacceptable any consensual relationships between faculty members and students “for whom the faculty member has, or should reasonably expect to have in the future, academic responsibility.”
“Future academic relationships” are defined in the Faculty Code of Conduct as between faculty members and students whose academic program will require them to enroll in a class taught by the faculty member, students known to the faculty member to have an interest in the area of the faculty member’s expertise, or students for whom the faculty member must have academic responsibility in the pursuit of a degree.
Dean of Students Yonie Harris said the rule against relationships between students and faculty helps students have more confidence in their grades and the university.
“It feels like a reasonable policy to ensure the instructional process here is without reproach,” Harris said.
A UC spokesperson said the policy existed to prevent future problems.
“The policy isn’t in response to any specific infractions,” said Abby Lunardini, spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President, concerning the passage of APM-015. “There was no existing systemwide policy regarding this issue, so we thought we should be more proactive in establishing one.”
Will Scilacci, an English graduate student who is married to an undergraduate at UCSB, said APM-015’s codification was unnecessary.
“The rule was pretty much common sense, and it’s kind of an insult to have actually codified it,” Scilacci said. “If the relationship [between the faculty member and student] is strong enough, then you just try to avoid having any sort of academic relationship with them.”
One administrator seemed to view APM-015 as a formality.
“My personal feeling is that it’s nice to have the policy codified, to let people know their limits,” said Claudia Chapman, executive director of the Academic Senate of UCSB. “I’ve just got to wonder if this sort of thing can be administered effectively.”