Policy Number: III-1
Last Reviewed: February 18, 2013
Responsible Dept.: Human Resources
Virginia Western Community College acknowledges its responsibility to provide clear direction to the College community about the professional risks associated with consensual amorous and/or sexual relationships and in familial relationships in which a definite power differential between the parties exists. In as much as VWCC is committed to fostering the development of learning and work environments characterized by professional and ethical behavior, consenting amorous and!or sexual relationships between faculty members and students are discouraged. Familial relationships, where a faculty member or supervisor will have a power differential over a member of one's immediate or extended family, are generally prohibited in instruction, advising, counseling, or supervising work activities. VCCS Policy 3.3.3, Conflicts of Interests addresses nepotism in the employment environment. The intent of VCCS Policy 3.3.3 shall be applied to matters of consensual and familial relations in the academic and student affairs programs and is hereby set forth in this policy. Further, the college shall rely upon the requirements of the most recent American Counseling Association code of ethics and operating guidelines for any Licensed Professional Counselors employed by the college as counselors, advisors or instructors.
VWCC recognizes that it cannot regulate personal decisions regarding all consensual relationships, but the College views them as reason for concern for the following three reasons:
The College's educational mission is promoted by professionalism in faculty-student relationships. Faculty-student amorous and/or sexual relationships and/or familial relationships, even mutually consenting ones, are a basic violation of professional ethics when the faculty member has any professional responsibility for the student's academic performance or professional future. Common sense, reason and good judgment must be present and be the guide for faculty members in any consensual amorous and/or sexual relationships and/or familial relationships. Absent those factors, the potential for problems arising from the relationship rises significantly.
Faculty members' unbiased evaluation of students is an integral part of the College's mission. An amorous relationship and/or any familial relationship between a faculty member and a student, even if consensual, creates the potential for favoritism (or appearance thereof), thereby undermining the actual or perceived fairness of the evaluative process.
Accordingly, Virginia Western Community College prohibits consensual amorous and/or sexual relationships and familial relationships between faculty members and students for whom the faculty member has direct professional responsibility. For purposes of this policy, "faculty" shall include all full- or part-time college personnel who teach and administrators/professionals with faculty rank or who are appointed pursuant of policies of the VCCS Policy Manual. The term "direct professional responsibility" refers to many faculty roles, both within and outside of the classroom, including, but not limited to: teaching, academic advising, counseling, coaching (athletics, drama, etc.), service on evaluation committees (awards, prizes, scholarships, etc.), club or organization sponsorship, etc. In effect, "direct professional responsibility for students" includes the supervision of all college-sponsored academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.
Amorous and/or sexual relationships where one holds a distinct power differential over someone else may create conflicts of interest and perceptions of undue advantage. There are special risks in any amorous or romantic relationship between individuals in inherently unequal positions of power (instructor to student or supervisor to employee). Such relationships may undermine the trust inherent in the faculty-student relationship and also have the potential for other adverse consequences, including the filing of charges or complaints of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual assault and/or retaliation, favoritism, unequal treatment, preferential treatment, or where dual relationships may exist. This most often may occur when one party to the relationship wishes to terminate the relationship to the other party's objections. In these situations, the apparent consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect due to the fundamental asymmetry of power in the relationship and it thus may be difficult to establish consent as a defense to such charges. Even when both parties consented at the outset to an amorous involvement, this past consent does not remove grounds for or preclude a charge or subsequent finding of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct or sexual assault based upon subsequent unwelcome conduct. Even when the faculty member has no current direct professional responsibility for a student, consensual amorous and/or sexual relationships may limit the educational opportunities or options for the student's future academic, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities.
Familial relationships where one holds a distinct power differential over a member of the immediate or extended family may create conflicts of interest and perceptions of undue advantage. There are special risks in any familial relationship between individuals in inherently unequal positions of power (instructor to student, advisor to advisee, counselor to client or supervisor to employee). Such relationships may undermine the trust inherent in the faculty-student relationship/supervisor-employee relationship and also have the potential for other adverse consequences, including the filing of charges or complaints of third-party retaliation, favoritism, unequal treatment, preferential treatment, or where dual relationships exist.
EXCEPTION: The President is authorized to grant an exception to the familial relationships provisions of this policy only on the following bases:
The College's policy derives from the following principles that, in part, define the ethical and professional relationships of faculty members to their students.
Members of the college community who believe that violations of this policy have occurred may initiate a complaint with the appropriate Dean, Vice-President, or the President. A complaint alleging that a Dean, Vice-President or other academic or student services administrator or professional has violated this policy may be filed with the President. Complaints may also be filed with the College's Title IX Coordinator or the Human Resources Director. Complaints must be filed no more than two years after an alleged violation.
Violations of this policy will be considered misconduct on the part of a faculty member and will be subject to the Faculty Sanctions Policy #3.12, VCCS Policy Manual, including dismissal of the faculty member. Treatment of the allegations and imposition of sanctions will be governed by procedures specified in the Sexual Misconduct Policy #3.14.4, VCCS Policy Manual and in accord with the DHRM Policy 1.60, Standards of Conduct. The VCCS Code of Ethics and any supplemental policies, programs and procedures shall be applied in assessing allegations. Violations of the familial relations directives shall be governed by this policy and such other college and VCCS policies applicable to the given situation.
Nothing contained in this policy shall be deemed as supplanting or otherwise affecting the VCCS and VWCC Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Assault Policies, VCCS Policy Manual 3.14.1, 3.14.4 and 3.14.5, Department of Human Resources Management Policies 2.05, Equal Employment Opportunity and 1.60, Standards of Conduct, or any other policies of a similar nature as may be promulgated by the State Board for Community Colleges, Virginia Western Community College, or agencies of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
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