C23.0 INTERIM CONSENSUAL ROMANTIC OR SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS POLICY: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

Q: What are the basic rules about consensual romantic or sexual relationships at RIT?

Undergraduate Students: No RIT employee may engage or enter into a consensual romantic or sexual relationship with any undergraduate student. Graduate students: No RIT employee may engage or enter into a consensual romantic or sexual relationship with a graduate student if that employee is responsible for teaching, grading, advising, evaluating, or otherwise supervising that graduate student.  All supervisors are prohibited from having a consensual romantic or sexual relationship with any employee who reports to the supervisor.  Exceptions to this policy will be granted only if the consensual romantic or sexual relationship existed prior to any RIT-related professional or academic relationship, or if the relationship does not present a likelihood of abuse of power by either party as confirmed by both parties in writing.

Q: Does this policy address non-consensual relationships?

No. The Student Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy-Title IX (Policy D.19) and the Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment (Policy C.60) address non-consensual relationships, including sexual harassment, stalking, sexual violence, and sexual discrimination.  RIT is committed to investigating complaints of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault and other sexual misconduct, and to ensure that appropriate action is taken to stop the behavior, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects.  If you are concerned about a relationship you are involved in that no longer feels consensual to you, please contact the Title IX Office.

Q: What is a "power differential"?

A power differential exists when one person in the relationship has more power, influence or authority than another, has the potential to be more powerful, influential or authoritative than another, or is perceived to be more powerful, influential or authoritative than another.  The person with more power, authority or influence can directly affect the other person’s well-being, programs or activities in which that person is involved, the person’s terms of employment, or their access to resources.

Q: When does a power differential exist?

Although it’s not possible to list all the ways in which a power differential could arise, the following are some examples:

  • An advisor and an advisee;
  • A faculty member and a student;
  • A teaching/graduate assistant and a student;
  • A supervisor and a supervisee;
  • A coach/trainer and a student-athlete; and
  • A student employee who supervises another student employee

Q: Does this policy apply to clinical faculty?

Yes. Policy C.23 applies to all categories of and ranks of faculty outlined in RIT’s Policy on Faculty Rank and Promotion (E6.0), including clinical faculty and guest lecturers.

Q: Does this policy apply to students or prohibit students from entering into consensual sexual or romantic relationships with one another?

Yes, but only in very limited circumstances. Specifically, it only applies if one student has a position of academic or professional authority over another student with whom they have a sexual or romantic relationship. That would occur, for example, if a student is serving as a teaching assistant or a graduate resident advisor or graduate resident tutor and the other student is in that class or residence hall.  In those cases, the student in the position of authority must notify their faculty member or other supervisor, who must take appropriate steps consistent with the policy.  Otherwise, this policy does not apply to relationships between and among students – whether between undergraduates, between a graduate student and an undergraduate, or between graduate students.

It’s important to note, however, that the policy recognizes that relationships may develop between peers, and then one person’s role changes so that they now have authority over the other person. In such a case, the person with new authority must notify their supervisor and/or Human Resources. For example, if two undergraduates were dating and then one graduates and is employed by RIT while the other remains an undergraduate, that employee must notify their supervisor or Human Resources of their consensual relationship.  The policy provides an exception to pre-existing consensual or romantic relationships and, so long as there is no abuse or potential for abuse of power, the otherwise prohibited relationship would fall under the policy exception.

Q: I see that faculty or staff cannot have a relationship with undergraduate students. Why isn't there a bar against those relationships with graduate students?

The purpose of the policy is to address potential conflicts of interest or abuse of authority. For undergraduates, it is hard to identify which faculty, instructors, or staff might have authority over them. Since undergraduates take many classes across the university, they may be studying with a wide number of faculty, lecturers, or instructors. Also, because a significant number of undergraduates live on campus, they interact with many RIT staff who potentially have authority over them. Given these circumstances, the policy includes a bar on any faculty or staff member having a sexual or romantic relationship with any undergraduate student.

Graduate students’ studies tend to be more narrowly focused, and most graduate students live off campus. The number of RIT faculty and staff who could be in a position of authority over them is both more limited and more identifiable. Most graduate students are also older than undergraduates. So for graduate students, the policy focuses on situations where concerns of conflict of interest or abuse of authority are more likely to arise -- with faculty, other academic instructional staff, and other staff who have academic or professional authority over the particular graduate student.

Q: I am in a relationship that is allowed under the former policy, but which may be problematic under the new, interim policy. What should I do?

It is important to disclose the relationship and consult with Human Resources to explore options.  We ask that you do so in writing by November 30, 2018 to Amy Galiana, Associate Director of Human Resources, at asgpsn@rit.edu.

Q: What about special cases such as non-traditional students or pre-existing relationships?

The Policy does allow for exceptions to be granted by Human Resources only in “extenuating and extraordinary circumstances.” Requests should be submitted to Human Resources for consideration.

Q: I am an employee and my romantic partner wishes to enroll in an undergraduate degree program. Is this allowed?

Yes. This situation is covered by the exception to the policy. Upon disclosure of an otherwise prohibited Consensual Relationship, Human Resources, in consultation with appropriate division, may grant an exception.

Q: Upon disclosure, will Human Resources be investigating or asking about my private romantic or sexual relationship?

Human Resources will ask only about such aspects of the situation as are necessary to investigate the matter and/or formulate a management plan. They will never address the intimate details of the relationship unless the conduct or relationship is related to other university policies.

Q: Can the university guarantee confidentiality of the information I report?

No, because of the arrangements necessary to remove the conflict. However, the University will only disclose as much information as necessary to address the power differential.

Q: I think that two other people in my department are in a relationship that would violate this policy. Do I have to report this relationship?

No, there is no general duty under this policy to report a relationship between other people, although employees are encouraged to report in good faith violations of any RIT policies.  There are many reporting options, including anonymous reporting options that an employee may use to report any violation of RIT policy.  Supervisors who are aware of an otherwise prohibited relationship must disclose.

Q: Can I be retaliated against for making a report?

No.  The Consensual Relationship Policy prohibits retaliation against anyone who discloses a consensual relationship or reports a violation of the policy. The university will investigate retaliation complaints promptly.

Q: I am a supervisor. What must I do if my employee discloses a consensual relationship?

As a supervisor, you must disclose any violation of RIT policy to your supervisor and to Human Resources.

Q: If I still have questions about this policy, or I need to disclose a relationship, who can I contact?

Please contact Amy Galiana, Associate Director of Human Resources, at asgpsn@rit.edu, for any questions regarding this policy.

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