Arizona State University
University Senate
Spring 2014

Senate Motion #2014-75

Motion Introduced by:         University Academic Council
 
Date of First Reading:          April 28, 2014
 
Date of Second Reading:       September 8, 2014   This motion has proposed amendments see below
 
Title of Motion/Resolution:  
 
Resolution on the Meaning of “Consensual” in Relationships Between Members of the Academic Assembly and Students

Click Here to Read the Proposed Amendments

 
Whereas, the Academic Assembly of Arizona State University has just completed a year-long, in-depth review of institutional policies and processes related to advancing a culture of integrity and ethical conduct at Arizona State University.
 
Whereas, members of the Academic Assembly of Arizona State University are firmly committed to practicing the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct.
 
Whereas, the Academic Assembly of Arizona State University is committed to creating an educational environment that maximizes the intellectual and social development of the undergraduate and graduate students attending Arizona State University.
 
Whereas, Academic Affairs Manual (ACD) policy 402 governs “Amorous Relationships” between faculty members and students and defines such a relationship as “a relationship in which two individuals mutually and consensually understand their relationship to be romantic and/or sexual in nature.”
 
Whereas, the policy does not define the term “consensual” as it relates to relationships between faculty members and students.  
 
Whereas, each faculty member has obligations to students under the “Code of Ethics” (ACD 204-01) and the “Standards of Professional Conduct for Faculty Members and Academic Professionals,” (ACD 204-02). 
 
Whereas, an inherent power imbalance exists between faculty members and students.  While this imbalance is greatest when the faculty member has direct academic authority over a student, such as when the student is currently enrolled in the faculty member’s class, a faculty member’s influence over a student’s education is not limited to that circumstance but is present in all professional activities.  For example, a faculty member may choose or decline to write letters of recommendation, offer research opportunities, provide career advice and mentorship, and lead extracurricular activities.  Further, even if a faculty member abstains from directly recommending the advancement of a student for an opportunity when that faculty member has a romantic interest in that student, the faculty member can still advance that student’s interest by refusing to recommend an equally or more-deserving student for the same opportunity. 
 
Whereas, given the powerful reach of a faculty member’s potential influence on the academic and professional careers of a student, determining whether such a relationship is truly consensual is difficult, if not impossible.  While a faculty member may perceive a relationship as consensual, the student may not feel the same way and may not be able to voice otherwise.  Even if the relationship truly begins consensually, the student may feel compelled to continue the relationship beyond its ordinary course in order to prevent damage to the student’s academic and professional careers that may result from offending the faculty member.  In addition, even if the relationship ends mutually, there is great risk of permanent and irreparable damage to the student’s academic and professional careers.
 
Therefore, be it RESOLVED
 
1. That the University Senate of Arizona State University, representing all faculty members and academic professionals, supports an interpretation of “consensual” that gives due consideration to the power imbalance between the faculty member and student. 
 
Because undergraduate students are the most vulnerable, we the University Senate support an interpretation of the word “consensual” for the purposes of ACD 402 in which there is a presumption that an intimate relationship between a faculty member and an undergraduate student is  notconsensual, and that such a relationship constitutes a violation of the “Code of Ethics” (ACD 204-01) and the “Standards of Professional Conduct for Faculty Members and Academic Professionals,” (ACD 204-02).   This presumption is rebuttable on a case-by-case basis, such as when the relationship between the faculty member and student commenced prior to the student’s enrollment, or where the student is enrolled in a completely different college than the faculty member, or where the faculty member played no role in the student’s admission.
 
With respect to graduate students, the University Senate recognizes that the power imbalance is different.  The University Senate resolves that these relationships should continue to be managed and evaluated carefully on a case-by-case basis pursuant to ACD 402, Amorous Relationships.
 
2. That by adoption of this resolution the University Senate indicates its intent to amend ACD 402 to embody this understanding.

Actions: 
Withdrawn by UAC 09-22-2014

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