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Consensual Sexual or Romantic Relationships

There are special risks in any sexual or romantic relationship between individuals in inherently unequal positions. In the university context, such positions include but are not limited to teacher and student, supervisor and employee, senior faculty and junior faculty, adviser and advisee, coach and athlete, and individuals supervising the day-to-day student living environment and student residents. Because of the potential for conflict of interest, exploitation, favoritism, and bias, such relationships may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided, and the trust inherent particularly in the teacher-student context. Moreover, these relationships may be less consensual than the individual whose position confers power believes. The relationship is likely to be perceived in different ways by each of the parties to it, especially in retrospect.

Such relationships also have the potential to cause harm to others in the academic or work environment. Relationships in which one party is in a position to review the work or influence the career of the other may provide grounds for complaint by third parties when that relationship gives special access or advantage, restricts opportunities for others, or creates a perception of these problems. Furthermore, circumstances may change, and conduct that was previously welcome may become unwelcome. Even when both parties have consented at the outset to romantic or sexual involvement, past consent does not remove grounds for a charge based upon subsequent unwelcome conduct.

In the interest of maintaining high standards of professional conduct, and of avoiding behavior that could interfere or could easily be construed to interfere with the discharge of an employee’s professional responsibilities, Linfield University prohibits sexual or romantic relationships between any university employee and a student or between any supervisor and a subordinate, even when the parties have consented to enter into such a relationship. This policy applies to an employee and a student even when no actual or apparent professional relationship exists at the time, because the potential always exists for the involved employee to be placed unexpectedly into a position of responsibility concerning the student (e.g., instruction, evaluation, counseling, coaching, and advising).

Any university employee involved with a student or supervisor involved with a subordinate in violation of this policy will be held accountable and may be subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal. Standard procedures outlined in the relevant employee handbook will be followed in the enforcement of this policy.

Exclusions and Clarifications:

  1. Relationships between individuals married to each other or in a same-sex domestic partnership are exempt from this policy.
  2. A part-time student employee of the university in a consensual relationship with another student is exempt from the above policy.
  3. This policy does not apply to a supervisor and a non-student employee who is not a subordinate.
  4. A Linfield student who within one year after graduation becomes employed by the university and is dating a Linfield student at the time of the employment offer is not expected to end that relationship unless the job responsibilities include supervision, instruction, counseling, coaching or advising. This includes any position where the employee has authority over the student in the decision of any matter that may directly affect the academic status, evaluation, employment or promotion of a student. When such a pre-existing relationship exists, the new employee must notify his or her immediate supervisor and the senior director for human resources at the time of his or her employment. If the pre-existing relationship ends, the employee is subject to this policy and is prohibited from entering other romantic relationships with students.