Consensual Sexual Relations

In their relationships, members of the Western Michigan University community are expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism, or bias. The relationships may constitute sexual harassment when one of the individuals is in a position to evaluate or otherwise influence the education, employment, housing or participation in a University activity of the other. The subtle yet powerful element of coercion that may exist in such relationships is a legitimate concern of the University. Such relationships give rise to a conflict of interest and are potentially exploitative. Moreover, such relationships may affect the environment for other students, administrators, faculty or staff member, or the manner in which they are treated.

An administrator, faculty or staff member should not make sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other communications of a sexual nature to a person if he or she exercises direct influence over a person’s activities within the University. If a sexual relationship develops, the administrator, faculty or staff member must take steps to eliminate any current or potential conflict of interest and distance himself or herself from decisions involving the other person. Failure to eliminate a conflict will constitute misconduct.

Further, administrators, faculty and staff should be aware that any romantic involvement with students or subordinates may require formal action against them if a complaint is filed. Because of the asymmetrical nature of such relationships, an administrator, faculty or staff member’s assertion that a relationship was consensual in defense of a complaint of sexual harassment is subject to doubt and will be thoroughly investigated.

(Approved: Board of Trustees, March 20, 1998)