Push for Change: MSU Policy Has Just 345 Unclear Words About Faculty-Student Romances

April 09, 2019, 7:19 AM

Michigan's State great awakening about the need to better-protect students has a fresh focus -- an outdated, fuzzy policy on faculty-student intimacy.

(Posed image: DepositPhotos)

Megan Banta of the Lansing State Journal tells what's under way:

Faculty members on various boards are spearheading the first update in more than 20 years to the university policy governing romantic relationships between instructors and students, which they say lacks the strength and clarity needed to protect students from predatory relationships.

"As a community, I think, we have a much clearer sense of the possibilities of coercive relationships, what consent means," said Mark Waddell, an associate professor who chairs the University Committee on Faculty Affairs.

He's among those who want to bar faculty and academic staff members from any sexual relationships with undergraduates. Proposed reforms also would restrict graduate teaching assistants' ability to date undergrads and professors' ability to date graduate students or research assistants.

(MSU photo: Derrick L. Turner)

Current policy just discourages crossing those lines and says instructors should end “educational responsibility” if they have sex with a student.

At just 345 words, it lacks clarity on whether that applies only to undergraduates or to all students, and it also doesn't clearly define "educational responsibility."

The timing of a push for tighter rules is no coincidence on a campus shaken by serial scandals.

Proposed changes come in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal as former MSU [Medical School] Dean William Strampel faces charges of sexually assaulting students in his department.

The University of Michigan recently adopted a policy like the one proposed in East Lansing, Banta writes.

-- Alan Stamm

Read more:  Lansing State Journal

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