In a final vote Monday afternoon, the ASU Faculty Senate passed a new student-faculty "amorous relationship" policy.
The vote was 76 to 11, with four abstentions, and came after months of vigorous and contentious debate.
ASU is no stranger to sex scandals. Last May, it was put on a list of 55 universities under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for possible Title IX violations. While it's unlikely that most of these have anything to do with students and teachers dating, ASU has reported that it has dismissed at least 20 faculty members in recent years for having inappropriate relationships with students. Earlier this month, New Times reported that student-faculty relationships are a particular problem at Barrett, the university's honors college.
Some saw the previous policy as flawed because it only barred a relationship if a student was "enrolled in a course being taught by the faculty member or graduate assistant" or when a student's "performance is currently being supervised or evaluated by the faculty member or graduate student."
The wording left a lot of loopholes. Professors could, for instance, date students after final grades were submitted, and they could have romantic and sexual relationships with students not in their courses. Hence the importance of making the language of a new policy more specific.
Last year, the Senate created a special task force, chaired by Professor Cynthia Tompkins, to examine the university's policy. In November 2014, the group presented a proposal to prohibit any student-faculty relations. The Senate rejected it, with critics calling it impractical and over-reaching. The task force met four more times, and came up with the revised version debated yesterday.
Senate President Helen Ossipov rushed through the opening formalities, wanting to ensure that there was plenty of time for what she called, "the moment we've all been waiting for."
She opened the floor to debate, and speakers lined up. The president of graduate and professional students said students were "worried about power dynamics," and therefore "want a very clear boundary" set. The president of undergraduate students reminded the faculty that "professors are here to help protect us."
One professor said that if the policy allows any relationships, "it leaves the door open for other students to say they aren't being treated fairly." His remark elicited murmurs of agreement. The debate continued as someone proposed a word change -- it was not approved -- and another person told a story about two student-faculty relationships: In one case, the student dropped out, and in the other, the girl became an alcoholic.
When the list of speakers was exhausted, it was time to vote on whether "faculty and academic professionals [should be] prohibited from engaging in a romantic or sexual relationship with a student over whom the faculty member or academic professional exercises, or can reasonably be expected to exercise, academic or employment authority or influence?"
Yes, was the response.
"I'm very glad this passed," Ossipov told New Times, declining to comment further.
Tompkins was a little more talkative, saying that "it aligns us with other universities, and shows that ASU is putting students in the center, and that they are our priority."
Read the full text of the new Academic Affairs Manual policy 402 below:
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