Harvard has recently introduced a ban on sexual relationships between undergraduate students and faculty in order to maintain professionalism and the core value of learning. The incentive to ban student-faculty relationships is to help prevent sexual misconduct on campuses. Harvard joins other universities, including Arizona State University and Yale University, in changing their policy on this issue. The Foghorn considers Harvard’s stance on the ban and on these policies.
Some of the reasons why Harvard chose to implement the ban include, but are not limited to: a student being taken advantage of, a professor’s name being slandered, and disrupting an academic environment.
If this type of ban is improving a university’s ability to help promote a more comfortable and appropriate space for students and faculty, then we wholly support this policy change. As consenting adults, we should be able to think critically and make our own judgements about who we associate with romantically.
It is important to. note that Harvard’s recent policy change comes amid a recent federal review by the Department of Education on how they address sexual harassment on campus. This implies that sexual miscondudt on college and university campuses is a national problem, Harvard being looked at because of its prestige and reknown.
Currently, the University of San Francisco’s student handbook, The Fogcutter, defines sexual misconduct as: “sexual harassment, non-consensual sexual contact, non-consensual sexual intercourse, sexual exploitation, relationship violence, and stalking.” These are all things that could happen in a student-faculty relationship, because these are all things that could happen in any relationship. The Fogcutter, however, does not explicity specify whether a relationship between an undergraduate student and a member of faculty automatically constitutes as a form of sexual misconduct.
We have already established that the majority of both undergraduate students and faculty are consenting adults. As such, age is not an excuse for irresponsible behavior. Although sexual misconduct policies seem to exist to protect the students, professors and faculty members also have something to risk: their esteemed status in academia. With this said, we do not think that a student-faculty relationship is appropriate if the professor or faculty member is currently overseeing the student.
Sexual misconduct on campuses is an extremely serious and important issue, and should be addressed by universities if it occurs. However, different campuses are going to deal with issues of this nature in various ways, as their needs dictate. Yet, at USF, we do not feel that clairification on our sexual misconduct policy is needed, nor do we need a ban on undergraduate student-faculty relationships. Undegraduate students and faculty are responsible and capable adults, who should also be able to weigh the consequences of their decisions and actions.