Relationships between Students and Faculty Members or Other University Employees

University Policy 101.3, Relationships between Students and Faculty Members or Other University Employees

Executive Summary: 

It is improper for a faculty member, instructional assistant, or other University employee to participate in the instruction, evaluation, or supervision of a student with whom there is an amorous relationship or familial relationship. Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary procedures.

This policy sets forth the responsibilities of all members of the faculty and all other employees of UNC Charlotte with respect to establishing personal relationships with students. It applies to all full- and part-time faculty (tenure and non-tenure track), lecturers, and graduate and undergraduate assistants, and all other employees.

I. Policy

A. Central to the educational mission of the University is the establishment of close working relationships between those who teach and those who learn. Although such relationships are encouraged, it is improper and professionally unethical for a faculty member, instructional assistant, or other University employee to participate in the instruction, evaluation, or supervision of a student with whom there is an amorous relationship or familial relationship

In this policy, to evaluate or supervise means:

  1. To assess, determine or influence (a) one's academic performance, progress, or potential or (b) one's entitlement to or eligibility for any institutionally conferred right, benefit, or opportunity, or
  2. To oversee, manage or direct one's academic or other institutionally prescribed activities.

In this policy, an amorous relationship exists when, without benefit of marriage, two persons as consenting partners (1) have a sexual union or (2) engage in romantic partnering or courtship that may or may not have been consummated sexually. A familial relationship exists when two persons are related by blood, law, or marriage in any of the following ways:

  1. Parent and child 
  2. Brother and sister 
  3. Grandparent and grandchild 
  4. Aunt and/or uncle and niece and/or nephew 
  5. First cousins 
  6. Step-parent and step-child 
  7. Step-brother and step-sister 
  8. Husband and wife 
  9. Parents-in-law and children-in-law 
  10. Brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law 
  11. Guardian and ward

Such amorous or familial relationships may compromise instruction, evaluation, or supervision, and thus may appear to create a conflict of interest for the faculty, instructional assistant or other employee involved. Such relationships are thus contrary to the interests of the University, its faculty and students, and the public which it serves.

B. It is misconduct, subject to disciplinary action, for a University employee to engage in sexual activity with any enrolled student of the institution, other than his or her spouse, who is a minor below the age of 18.

The University values and respects the privacy of its students, faculty, and other employees, but it is improper and professionally unethical for a University faculty member, instructional assistant, or other employee to simultaneously maintain an amorous or familial relationship with a student, and have direct professional responsibility for that student; one of the relationships must be terminated. If the employee's professional responsibility for a student is terminated, it must be done in such a way as not to compromise the student's progress toward the completion of his or her academic program. It is also improper and professionally unethical for a faculty member, instructional assistant, or other employee to fail to withdraw from participating in activities or decisions that may reward or penalize a student with whom the employee has an amorous or familial relationship.

II. Implementation Procedure

Essential to the implementation of this policy is avoidance of situations that may result in potential or actual conflicts of interest. Accordingly, it is important for members of the University community to be made aware of their responsibilities under the policy. Such awareness will be promoted by publication of the policy in the Catalog and in the Faculty Handbook, and distribution in faculty and student orientation sessions.

A. Self-Reporting Procedure.

Whenever a situation creates or appears to create a conflict of interest under the policy, the faculty member or other employee concerned shall report it promptly to his or her department head, department chair or, in the case of the chair, to the dean. The head, chair or dean should take immediate and effective action to ensure that the faculty or staff member will no longer participate in the evaluation or supervision of the student concerned and that there will be unconflicted evaluation or supervision of the student without compromising the student's progress toward the completion of his or her academic program. Evaluative/supervisory situations that may need attention include, but are not limited to: faculty involvement in the evaluation of academic performance; service on committees for academic awards and prizes for which the student may be considered; thesis supervision; and supervision of research and teaching assistants. Deans should be kept fully informed by chairs with respect to actions taken in response to self-reported conflicts of interest under this policy.

B. Complaint Procedure.

A member of the University community who believes that this policy governing employee-student relationships has been violated may initiate a complaint through the appropriate department head, department chair, the dean, or the vice chancellor of the division in which the University employee involved in the relationship is employed. In the balance of the policy, that vice chancellor is referred to as the "Administrator." Complaints filed with chairs or deans will be forwarded to the Administrator promptly for formal action.

  1. Complaints should be in writing and must be held in confidence. Disclosure concerning the existence, source, or substance of a complaint will be solely at the discretion of the Administrator and should be limited to those who, in the interests of fair treatment and elimination of the conflict of interest, have an immediate need to know. Disciplinary action under the appropriate policies concerning personal misconduct shall be taken against any person bringing a malicious or frivolous complaint in bad faith.
     
  2. The Administrator will conduct a preliminary inquiry to establish whether there is a reasonable basis for believing that the policy has been violated. The Administrator may conduct the inquiry directly or may ask one or more administrators or faculty members (including a dean and/or the department chair) to conduct the investigation and prepare a report for the Administrator's consideration. In any event, the Administrator bears sole and complete responsibility for the final decision and recommended disciplinary sanctions, if any.
     
  3. In conducting the inquiry, the Administrator (or designee) may interview the complainant, the faculty or staff member and student concerned, and any other person believed to have pertinent factual knowledge. The Administrator (or designee) may also obtain any University record deemed necessary to the inquiry and may request from relevant parties or other sources any documents or other information which will be of assistance. The inquiry should:
    1. Determine whether the reported relationship exists in fact, is consensual in nature, and has created an inappropriate conflict of interest;
       
    2. Determine whether the faculty or staff member has failed in his or her responsibility under this policy to remove an inappropriate conflict of interest;
       
    3. Explore and assist with options to end any inappropriate conflict of interest, including the transfer of responsibility for evaluating, supervising, or advising the student;
       
    4. Review the appropriateness of any academic decisions made by the faculty or staff member that may have been made when a conflict of interest existed; and
       
    5. Afford the faculty or staff member a full opportunity to respond to the complaint.
       
  4. After having considered the evidence collected and the report (if any) of a designated investigator(s), the Administrator will prepare a written Preliminary Report to the Chancellor which will describe the facts and announce a preliminary decision as to whether this policy has been violated. The faculty or staff member will be provided a reasonable opportunity to review and comment in writing upon the Preliminary Report.
     
  5. After considering such response to the preliminary decision as the faculty or staff member may choose to make, the Administrator will reach a final decision. The Administrator will:
    1. Determine that the complaint is malicious or frivolous and dismiss the complaint (see Section 7. concerning the disposition of records in such cases); or
       
    2. Determine that there is not sufficient factual basis to support the allegation and dismiss the complaint (see Section 7. concerning the disposition of records in such cases); or
       
    3. Conclude, using the procedures specified above, that the matter can be resolved informally to the Administrator's satisfaction through informal means and the elimination of the conflict of interest prohibited by the policy; or
       
    4. Conclude that the policy has been violated and recommend to the Chancellor or other appropriate administrator that the faculty or staff member should be subject to specific disciplinary sanctions. In determining whether disciplinary sanctions are appropriate, the Administrator shall consider such matters as the nature and length of the faculty-student relationship during which a conflict of interest could be said to exist, the number and significance of decisions made by the faculty or staff member during which the conflict existed, and evidence concerning his/her willful violation and disregard of this policy. 
       
  6. Any sanction imposed for a violation of this policy may be imposed only in accord with the disciplinary procedure applicable to the faculty or staff member's category of employment. Recommended sanctions may include a letter of reprimand, suspension (with or without pay), diminishment in rank, or discharge from employment, depending upon the seriousness of the offense. A faculty or staff member found to have violated the policy may agree voluntarily to the imposition of an appropriate sanction and the complaint will be resolved upon imposition of the sanction. If the faculty or staff member does not voluntarily agree to imposition of a sanction, the procedures governing discharge from employment or the imposition of serious sanctions applicable to his/her category of employment will be observed.
     
  7. Except for those actions which result in the imposition of a sanction for violation of this policy, no record of self-reported conflicts under Section II.A. of this policy or of complaints submitted under Section II.B. will be kept as part of any faculty or staff member's official personnel file.

In those cases in which the Administrator makes a determination under Section 5.a. that the complaint was frivolous or malicious, all records pertaining to the inquiry will be destroyed except where necessary to proceed with disciplinary action based upon a frivolous or malicious complaint. In all other cases, records will be forwarded by the Administrator to be held in confidence by the Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Compliance Officer for future reference by the Administrator in the event that additional complaints are filed concerning possible violations of this policy. The accused faculty or staff member will receive a copy of the Administrator's final report and any other documentation which will be maintained in the official personnel file.

Revision History: 

Initially approved December 9, 1994
Revised December 8, 1995
Revised June 7, 1996