C23.0 Policy on Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships

I. Scope

This policy applies to all Rochester Institute of Technology (“RIT” or “university”) Employees at all times, where one is involved in an RIT-sponsored event or activity, or knowingly with a member of the RIT community over whom one has Authority. This policy also applies to any individual under contract or on assignment at the university.

This policy does not apply to student employees. Student employees must adhere to the Standards of Employment and Student Conduct located in the Student Handbook maintained and administered by RIT’s Office of Student Employment.

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.

II. Policy Statement

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. If an employee has a concern as to whether a relationship falls under this policy, the employee may seek confidential guidance from the Ombuds Office.

III. Policy Rationale

Any faculty, staff, or administrator who is in a romantic or sexual relationship with another member of the RIT community over whom they have Authority, because of the inherent power differential that comes with that Authority, raises significant ethical, administrative, and legal risks, such as sexual harassment and perceptions of favoritism and preferential treatment.

Therefore, employees should be aware that entering into a Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship where there is a power differential creates the potential for risk to both parties.

IV. Definitions

  1. “Authority” is the reasonable understanding that one individual has the ability to exercise power over another individual.
  2. “Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship” means any consensual interaction between two individuals that is romantic or sexual in nature, and may include incidents or occurrences in the form of electronic, physical or verbal conduct. Non-consensual sexual conduct is always prohibited by the university and may be in violation of applicable law. Such conduct is addressed in other university policies. (See RIT’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment (C6.0); Student Gender-Based Sexual Misconduct Policy – Title IX (D19.0).)
  3. “Employee(s)” means all regular and adjunct faculty and staff, and administrators. RIT’s policy on Employee Work Classification (E1.0) further defines employee classifications.
  4. “Faculty” means all categories and ranks outlined in RIT’s Policies on Faculty Rank and Promotion (E6.0).
  5. “Student” means Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, non-matriculated students and students in not-for-credit programs.
    1. “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 bachelor’s and master’s program who have not reached the appropriate number of credit hours to be classified as Graduate Students.
    2. “Graduate Students” means matriculated individuals enrolled as candidates for an advanced degree or advanced certificate. 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 a bachelor’s degree in their field of study, but who do not yet hold that degree.
  6. “Supervisor” means any Employee whose responsibility is the management of other RIT Employees. Management shall include, but is not limited to, directing the work of others, hiring, firing, evaluating, advancing, promoting, or otherwise having input into the employment status of other Employees.
  7. “Academic Responsibilities” include, but are not limited to, teaching, grading, mentoring, advising on or evaluating research or other academic activity, participating in decisions regarding funding or other resources, clinical supervision, and recommendations for admissions, employment, tenure, fellowships or awards.

V. Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships Involving Undergraduate Students

The university prohibits Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships between Employees and Undergraduate Students. For the purposes of this policy, it is irrelevant whether the Employee is a Supervisor or exercises Academic Responsibilities with respect to the Student.

VI. Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships Involving Graduate Students

The university prohibits Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships between a Graduate Student and the Student’s Supervisor or any Employee with Academic Responsibilities over the Student.

VII. Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships between Employees

The university prohibits any Supervisor from having, pursuing, or maintaining a Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship with any Employee who reports to the Supervisor.

VIII. Disclosure Procedures

  1. If a Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship exists between employees where one has a supervisory role over another, both the Supervisor and the Employee shall disclose the relationship to the next-level Supervisor and a human resources manager, who shall take appropriate steps consistent with this policy, to remove any supervisory responsibility between the individuals involved in the Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship.
  2. If a Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship involving a student that is prohibited by this policy exists or develops, or if a relationship becomes prohibited due to a change in circumstances, the Supervisor or individual with Academic Responsibilities shall disclose the relationship to their Supervisor and the associate director of Human Resources. The Employee shall recuse themselves from all supervisory or Academic Responsibilities over the individual until Human Resources and the appropriate divisional leader develops a management plan to eliminate the policy violation. Employees should disclose and recuse for past relationships that fall within the purview of this policy. The university understands that Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships are private and will treat such information sensitively and, to the extent practicable, confidentially.

IX. Request for Exceptions

While the policy prohibits certain Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships, the university understands that there may be the need for exceptions in rare circumstances. All requests for exceptions to this policy must be in writing and directed to the associate director of Human Resources. Upon disclosure of an otherwise prohibited Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship, the appropriate divisional vice president, in consultation with the associate vice president of Human Resources, 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 in writing. Married employees or those in a documented domestic relationship may be approved for an exception directly by the associate vice president of Human Resources.

The university grievance policies are available to employees who allege this policy or a procedure within it has been violated, misapplied, or misinterpreted; or a practice has been unfairly administered, and as a result one’s professional or academic standing has been adversely affected. (See Faculty Grievance (E24.0) and Staff Grievance Policy (E.30.0).)

X. Policy Violations

When allegations of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual violence, or stalking arise in connection with a Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship, the university shall address such allegations in accordance with RIT’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment (C6.0).

Individuals found to be in violation of this policy on Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships are subject to a range of disciplinary action, based on the totality of the circumstances, up to and including 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 tenure-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).

Failure to disclose an otherwise prohibited Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship will itself be considered a violation of policy.

Responsible Office: Human Resources 

Effective Date: April 2010

Policy History
Approved April 21, 2010 - Institute Council (now University Council)
Interim policy approved September 2018 
Revised March 6, 2019 – policy rewritten