WMU News

Board approves policy on consensual sexual relations

March 20, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- The Western Michigan University Board of Trustees has approved a policy on consensual sexual relations that urges members of the University community "to be aware of their professional responsibilities."

The policy, approved by the board March 20, states that "members of the University community are expected to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism or bias."

"The subtle yet powerful element of coercion that may exist in such relationships is a legitimate concern of the University," the policy states. "Such relationships give rise to a conflict of interest and are potentially exploitative."

The policy states that an administrator, faculty or staff member should not engage in any communications of a sexual nature with a person if he or she has direct influence over a person's activities at the University.

If a sexual relationship develops, the employee must "eliminate any current or potential conflict of interest," the policy states. Failure to do so "will constitute misconduct." In addition, the policy warns employees that "any romantic involvement with students or with subordinates may require formal action against them if a complaint is filed."

Because such a relationship is asymmetrical, the policy states, an employee's "assertion that the relationship was consensual in defense of a complaint of sexual harassment is subject to doubt and will be thoroughly investigated."

Media contact: Mike Matthews; michael.matthews@wmich.edu

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