Yale's administration has announced that it will ban all sexual relations between faculty members and students, both undergraduate and graduate.
The decision came one year after a sexual harassment grievance board at Yale ruled that an assistant mathematics professor at Yale, Jay Jorgenson, had sexually harassed a female first-year.
Harvard adopted a similar policy in 1995 after a Faculty meeting with little debate.
"It became apparent that the guidelines in terms of relations and sexual harassment needed to be clarified," said Kimberly Taylor, president of Yale's student body. "The past guidelines have been nebulous or unclear and there was a great deal of room for interpretation--which causes a problem."
The key element of the new proposal is the "conflict of interests" rule, which "defines any student-teacher sexual relationship as an inherent conflict of interest which could jeopardize the learning environment," according to the Yale Daily News.
The prior regulations only stipulated that teaching assistants could not have sex with their students. There was no provision made for professors.
The proposed policy allows students to make complaints about a faculty member's behavior to administrators, or file a formal "conflict of interests complaint" with the dean of their school, or the dean of the school to which the professor belongs.
The new proposal is not yet final. A joint student-faculty committee, which first convened in March, recently submitted the policy change to Yale's provost. Twelve Yale deans have been asked to comment on it. A formal decision by the administration is expected by Jan. 1.
Taylor, the student body president, said most Yale students agree that the new proposal is a "wise policy."
But at Harvard, the policy passed over objections from some faculty and students who argued that University officials were wrong--and unrealistic--to regulate love.
Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. '53, who married a student, has long expressed opposition to the prohibition of sex between students and faculty.
"Where are professors going to find their wives and husbands?" he said.
Mansfield said he believed there should be no sexual relations between faculty members and students enrolled in their courses. Of Yale's proposal to ban student-faculty sex, he said: "in practice they would find that very difficult to administer."
If such a policy had existed at Harvard in 1937, Walburg Professor of Economics, Emeritus, John Kenneth Galbraith '50, would have been prohibited from marrying the woman who is still his wife.
But Galbraith has changed with the times. He said his strict Canadian upbringing guides him on the issue.
The action taken by Harvard and Yale is "a good warning" and "a wise policy" for the respective administrations to adopt, he said.