Consensual Relationships Between Faculty, Staff and Students Policy
|Policy Approval Authority||President|
|Responsible University Office||Ethics and Compliance Office|
|Responsible Officer(s)||Ethics and Compliance Officer|
|Contact Person||Sarah Garner|
|Last Review Date||04-08-2021|
Ethics & Conduct
Human Resources / Employment
Policy Statement and Purpose
Employees at Northern Illinois University (“NIU”) have a responsibility to prevent real, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest, bias, and exploitation in their relationships with other members of the university community. This is especially true for relationships where a power differential may exist, such as faculty-student, supervisor-subordinate, coach-athlete, and housing professional-resident.
The trust accorded to faculty members by students and the powers faculty members exercise in evaluating students’ work, awarding grades, providing recommendations and the like will generally constrain a student’s actual freedom to choose whether to enter into or continue an intimate personal relationship with a faculty member. An employee likewise may not feel fully free to reject or end an intimate personal relationship with a supervisor.
Intimate personal relationships can also lead to uncomfortable situations for uninvolved peers. There may be perceptions of favoritism and impropriety by members of the university community that can be corrosive to the learning and working environment. Further, a party’s professional or academic reputation may suffer due to perceptions of favoritism or exploitation. Moreover, such relationships may lead to restricted opportunities, or a perception thereof, for others in the work or academic environment.
The purpose of the Consensual Relationships Between Faculty, Staff, and Students Policy (“Policy”) is to protect the integrity of the academic and work environment at NIU and to encourage the proactive management of real, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest or influence that may arise in such environments.
This Policy applies to all current students and employees of NIU, and current and pre-existing intimate personal relationships, as defined below.
For the purpose of this policy, the following terms have the following meanings:
Employee: A person who receives compensation from NIU for services performed and/or provides volunteer work for the university. This includes, but is not limited to, administrators, faculty, instructors, civil service staff, supportive professional staff, extra help staff, student employees, graduate/teaching/research assistants, and volunteers.
Intimate Personal Relationship: Any mutual and consensual relationship of a sexual, amorous, dating, or romantic nature. This definition will be applied based upon the nature, not the duration, of the relationship. Physical contact is not a required element of such relationships.
Student: A person admitted to NIU and/or enrolled in any course at NIU (for credit or not for credit), including but not limited to, undergraduate students, graduate students, and students-at-large. This includes those students in continuing status for the next semester or summer session.
Supervisory or Evaluative Authority: The actual or perceived power to control or influence another person’s employment, academic advancement or outcomes, or extracurricular participation, including but not limited to, hiring, work conditions, compensation, promotion, discipline, termination/discharge, supervision, evaluation, mentoring in an official capacity, admission, financial support, coaching, participation in co-curricular or extracurricular programs, counseling and advising, teaching, grades, assignments, recommendations, or supervision of dissertations, theses, research or independent studies. The supervisory and evaluative authority may be on or off-campus, including via electronic/remote means.
The initiation of or participation in an intimate personal relationship between an employee with supervisory or evaluative authority over a student or employee is not permitted without an approved exception. As stated throughout this Policy, this prohibition is the result of actual or perceived conflict or influence that an employee with supervisory or evaluative authority has over a student or employee.
The university understands situations in which an intimate personal relationship may exist, but not be subject to this Policy (i.e. student-student or subordinate-subordinate relationship). In the event that the intimate personal relationship becomes subject to this policy, such as through a promotion, acceptance of teaching position, or enrollment in courses at NIU, it is the obligation of the employee with supervisory or evaluative authority to disclose the relationship immediately to the department or division head.
This disclosure will allow for the department/division head to make arrangements to manage any real, potential, or perceived conflict or influence. This may generally be accomplished by arranging for alternative supervision or evaluative authority. In some situations, a written conflict management plan may be required, as set forth in the "Written Conflict Management Plan" of this policy.
Written Conflict Management Plan
In the following circumstances, a written conflict management plan will be required:
- Pre-existing intimate personal relationship wherein one individual assumes a position with supervisory or evaluative authority over the other individual;
- Initiation of or participation in an intimate personal relationship wherein one individual holds a position with supervisory or evaluative authority over the other individual and an exception to this Policy has been granted; or
- At the direction of the department/division head, such as instances in which one party does not have day-to-day supervisory or evaluative authority over the other individual, but may have such authority in limited circumstances, such as coverage for direct supervisors.
Conflict management plans should address the management or mitigation of real, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest or influence. The particular context of the relationship in question and the setting(s) in which the supervisory or evaluative authority exists should be taken into consideration during the development and implementation of the conflict management plan.
Conflict management plans will be developed by the department/division head and the individuals involved in the intimate personal relationship, in consultation with other university offices as needed. It is recommended that conflict management plans be reviewed if there is a change in the duties and responsibilities of either party.
The conflict management plan must be in writing and signed by the individuals involved in the intimate personal relationship and department/division head. Signed copies of the written conflict management plan will be provided to the parties and a copy will be maintained by the department wherein the employee with supervisory or evaluative authority is assigned.
This Policy is not intended to apply to relationships between spouses (marriage or civil union) when either (or both) is an employee at the university, so long as no supervisory or evaluative role currently exists. For additional information, please reference the Regulations of the Board of Trustees Section II, Subsection A.8 on Family Relationships. Additionally, this Policy is not intended to apply to relationships between undergraduate and graduate students, so long as no supervisory or evaluative role currently exists.
Requests for exceptions to this policy may be considered on a limited, case-by-case basis. Such requests should be made in writing to the Ethics and Compliance Office. The Ethics and Compliance Office will consult with the appropriate division/department heads. A written conflict management plan or other action may be required in such circumstances.
Employees who fail to disclose a pre-existing intimate personal relationship, initiate or participate in an intimate personal relationship without seeking an exception, or fail to follow a conflict management plan, are in violation of this Policy and will be subject to corrective action ranging from reprimand up to and including termination of employment, in accordance with applicable due process procedures.
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