The University of Iowa

Consensual Relationships in the Academic Context

Consensual Relationships between Students and Faculty

The University's Policy on Consensual Relationships Involving Students (Operations Manual, II-5) prohibits a faculty member or teaching assistant from having a sexual relationship (consensual or not) with a student enrolled in a course he or she is teaching. It also prohibits a faculty member from having a sexual relationship with a student whose academic work he or she is supervising, including work as a teaching or research assistant.

Even outside the instructional and supervisory context, the policy discourages such relationships because they easily lead to violations of the ethical obligations of teachers to students and pose grave danger of exploitation. To prevent a conflict of interest, the faculty member or teaching assistant must remove him or herself from any decisions that affects a student with whom he or she has or has had a sexual relationship. The Conflict of Interest in Employment Policy may also apply (see Operations Manual, III-8).

Consensual Relationships between Departmental Faculty

When two faculty members in a department are partners in a consensual relationship, conflict of interest issues arise.  Neither partner in such a relationship may participate in departmental decisions affecting the other.  The DEO must ensure that the department follows the process described above under the UI policy on the Employment of Relatives.  The persons in the consensual relationship must agree and sign a document of procedures, which will be reviewed by the UI’s Committee on the Conflict of Interest in Employment. 

The faculty members involved in a consensual relationship are responsible for reporting it to the DEO, who is then responsible for seeing that the document of procedures is formulated, approved by the Dean, and applied.  Some typical examples of consensual relationships that require attention under this policy are: the DEO and a faculty member; two faculty members who hold leadership positions within the department; two faculty members who co-direct a program; two faculty members who serve on the same faculty committee within the department; two faculty members who serve on the same student committee within the department, e.g., a graduate student committee (in view of the Graduate College policy that requires two negative votes for a student to fail an exam).