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C23.0 Policy on Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships

Scope

This Policy applies to all Rochester Institute of Technology (“RIT” or “University”) Employees at all times, whether on or off RIT campus, at RIT-sponsored events, during employment-related activities, or during non-working time. This Policy also applies to any individual under contract or on assignment at the University.  The Policy does not apply to student employees to the extent that such student employees do not have the authority and/or the responsibility to hire, promote, discipline, evaluate, assign, or direct a Student with whom they are engaged in a Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship.  Nothing in this Policy replaces University policies on prohibited discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.  Nor does it replace other University policies that may be related to conduct or relationships covered by this Policy.  The provisions of this Policy apply regardless of the gender or the sexual orientation of the parties involved.

Policy Statement

RIT is dedicated to preparing its students for successful careers in a global society through a unique blend of curricular, experiential, and research programs.  This mission is achieved, in part, by engaging students, faculty, and staff in stimulating and collaborative experiences.  In doing so, the University is committed to creating learning environments and working relationships in which students, faculty, and staff trust and respect one another.  RIT recognizes that consensual romantic or sexual relationships between certain individuals in an educational environment may compromise the fairness and objectivity of educational decisions and the discharge of professional duties.  Indeed, consensual romantic or sexual relationships that occur in the context of educating, supervising, evaluating or mentoring students can be disruptive to the educational environment, not only to those involved in the romantic or sexual relationship but also to people around them.  Therefore, the University has adopted this Policy on Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships to ensure that such relationships do not hinder the fulfillment of the University’s mission.

Policy Rationale

Faculty and staff who educate, supervise, evaluate, employ, counsel, coach, or otherwise have real or perceived authority to make decisions or recommendations as to another in connection with their employment or education at the University, should understand the fundamental asymmetry of romantic and/or sexual relationships between members of the University community in unequal positions of power or authority.  This inherent power differential undermines the possibility of meaningful consent.  Such relationships can also raise significant legal, administrative, and ethical risks, such as concerns of sexual harassment, and perceptions of favoritism and preferential treatment.

Definitions

A. “Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship” means any consensual interaction between two individuals that is romantic or sexual in nature, and can include even a single incident or occurrence in the form of visual, physical or verbal conduct.

Non-consensual sexual contact or relationships are always prohibited by RIT and may be in violation of applicable law.  Such contact is addressed in other University policies.  (See, RIT’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment (Policy C6.0); Student Gender-Based Sexual Misconduct Policy – Title IX (Policy D19.0).)

B. “Employee(s)” means all individuals employed by the University, including but not limited to, all regular faculty and staff, adjuncts and student employees.  RIT’s Employee Work Classification Policy (E1.0) further defines employee classifications.

C. “Faculty” means all categories and ranks outlined in RIT’s Policies on Faculty Rank and Promotion (E6.0).

D. “Student” means Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, non-matriculated Students and Students in not-for-credit programs.

  • "Undergraduate Student” means individuals enrolled at RIT who do not qualify as Graduate Students. Undergraduate Students shall also include matriculated individuals enrolled at RIT as candidates in a combined master’s and bachelor’s program who have not reached the appropriate number of credit hours to be classified as Graduate Students.

  • “Graduate Students” means matriculated individuals with a bachelor’s degree and enrolled as candidates for an advanced degree. Graduate Students shall also include candidates in a combined master’s and bachelor’s program who have reached the appropriate credit hours sufficient to receive in their field of study, but not yet holding, a bachelor’s degree.

E. “Supervisor” means any person in a position at RIT which requires that person to supervise other individuals and to write performance evaluations on them.

Where doubts exist regarding the specific meaning of the terms used in this Policy, Employees should make reasonable judgments based on the overall spirit and intent of this Policy.

Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships Involving Undergraduate Students

The university prohibits Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships between Employees and Undergraduate Students at all times.  For purposes of this Policy, it is irrelevant whether the Employee holds a position of academic or professional authority with respect to the Student.

Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships Involving Graduate Students

No Employee shall pursue, have, or maintain a Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship with any Graduate Student for whom the Employee is responsible for teaching, grading, advising, evaluating, or otherwise supervising. In the event such a relationship exists, the Employee shall report the relationship immediately to their Supervisor and Human Resources, who shall take appropriate steps consistent with this Policy, including the removal of any reporting, grading, teaching, advising, or similar relationship between the Employee and the Graduate Student.

Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships Involving Employees

No Supervisor shall have, pursue, or maintain a Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship with any Employee who reports to the Supervisor, or over whom the Supervisor has the authority and/or the responsibility to hire, promote, discipline, evaluate, assign, or direct.  If such a relationship exists, both the Supervisor and the Employee shall report the relationship to the next-level Supervisor to whom the Supervisor reports, and Human Resources.  Human Resources, in consultation with the appropriate divisional vice president, shall have the authority to determine appropriate action consistent with this Policy.

Employees should be aware that entering into a Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship with a Supervisor creates the potential for risk to both parties. In particular, such relationships will limit that Supervisor’s ability to direct work or promote that Employee’s career.   In the context of a complaint, there will be no presumption that the relationship was consensual to the complainant. When allegations of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual violence, or stalking arise in connection with a Consensual Relationship, the university shall address such allegations in accordance with RIT’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment (Policy C6.0).

Exceptions

Any and all requests for exceptions to this Policy must be directed to Human Resources and such requests will be granted only in extenuating and extraordinary circumstances. Upon disclosure of an otherwise prohibited Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship, Human Resources, in consultation with the appropriate divisional vice president, shall have the authority to grant exceptions to this Policy where a determination is made that the relationship:  (1) existed prior to the professional or academic relationship between the parties at the University, or (2) does not present a likelihood of abuse of power by either party as confirmed by both parties to the Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship in writing.

Policy Violations

Individuals found to be in violation of this Policy on Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships are subject to a range of disciplinary action, up to and including immediate termination for Staff, the cancellation of contractual obligations for adjunct employees or non-RIT employees serving as clinical faculty or guest lecturers, or the initiation of dismissal for cause proceedings for tenured-track and non-tenure track faculty. A violation of this Policy shall be considered personal conduct that substantially impairs one’s fulfillment of institutional responsibilities and shall be adequate cause as defined in RIT’s Dismissal of a Tenure-Track Faculty Member for Cause (E23.0) and Dismissal of a Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Member for Cause (E23.1).

Frequently Asked Questions: The FAQs can be found by clicking C23.0 INTERIM CONSENSUAL ROMANTIC OR SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS POLICY: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS).

Responsible Office: Human Resources 

Effective Date: August 2018

Policy History
Approved April 12, 2010, by University Council
Revision approved August 2018 - Interim Policy

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