Virginia Prohibits Student-Prof. Ties
Heated Debate Ends With New Policy
After a month of heated debate over a proposed policy to ban all faculty-student romantic relationships, the University of Virginia's Faculty Senate approved a more moderate resolution yesterday that would prohibit amorous ties among professors and students whom they currently teach.
The new policy, which resembles Harvard's guidelines on unprofessional conduct, prohibits any faculty member from having "amorous or sexual relations with a student over whom he or she holds a position of authority."
The plan applies to all teaching assistants, graders and other university personnel and defines "authority" as influence over academic and administrative judgments.
If the resolution is approved by the university's president and board of trustees, it will be the first of its kind at the University of Virginia, said Director of Women's Studies and Professor of History Anne J. Lane.
The new plan is based on the belief that a conflict of interest exists in any relationship between a person in a professorial or administrative position and a student he or she oversees, Faculty Senate Chair Robert Kretsinger said last night.
The original proposal--which was prepared by the university's President's Advisory Committee on Women's Concerns--was not discussed at the meeting, Lane said. She said the council discussed only alternative proposals, and then drafted the resolution which it ultimately accepted.
"It's a successful resolution," Lane said last night. "The faculty was very torn but have come together...all the feminists supported it and men who had qualms about freedom supported it."
Harvard officials yesterday said the original proposal, which has caused widespread controversy at Virginia, would have been difficult to enforce. Administrators stood behind Harvard's current regulations.
"I believe that our codes work reasonably well, though like any other rules, they need some level of sense and good will on all sides," said Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles.
Associate Dean of the Faculty for Academic Affairs Phyllis Keller said that when Harvard's policies first took effect in 1983, they were among the strictest in the nation.
"We've lived with them for quite a while, and we do pretty well," she said.