Policy EI-PO6 Consensual Relationships


  1. Policy
  2. Definitions
  3. Relevant Federal and State Statutes
  4. Relevant UT System and UTA Policies, Procedures, and Forms
  5. Who Should Know
  6. UTA Officer(s) Responsible for Policy
  7. Dates Approved or Amended
  8. Contact Information AskHR@uta.edu
I. Policy

Policy Statement

UTA encourages collegial and professional relationships among all members of the campus community and is committed to a learning and work environment of civility and respect. The University is also committed to the principle that its personnel will carry out their duties in an objective and ethical fashion and in an atmosphere in which relationships causing a conflict of interest are avoided or identified and mitigated. 

The University recognizes that two consenting adults should be free to conduct a personal relationship if they so wish when these relationships do not interfere with the above stated principles and the policies of the University. Consensual relationships in which one party in a position of power and/or authority over the other are considered to be a conflict of interest. These types of consensual relationships are prohibited except in very limited circumstances in which they are disclosed pursuant to this policy and any conflict is mitigated as described herein. Where mitigation is not possible a consensual relationship is prohibited.

There are substantial risks in a consensual relationship where power over another exists, even if the conflict of interest issues are mitigated. Such consensual relationships have the potential for very serious consequences and must be avoided, where possible.

This policy does not apply to consensual relationships in which neither party is in a position of power over the other. 
 

Members of the Campus Community Subject to this Policy

This policy applies to all University employees and currently enrolled students. This policy also applies to University affiliates, volunteers, contractors, visiting faculty/staff, researchers or recent graduates who utilize university facilities to further the University’s research;  and any individuals who teach, manage, supervise, advise, coach or evaluate in any way other employees, students, student athletes, and/or who have a position of power, control or the ability to influence decisions with regard to other individuals in the learning, intercollegiate athletic or working environment of the University.

Consensual Relationships that are Prohibited and Cannot be Mitigated

Notwithstanding anything stated otherwise in this policy, the following relationships are strictly prohibited and may not be mitigated:
  
•        A consensual relationship between a coach/athletic staff member and a student athlete;

•        A consensual relationship between a faculty member and a student taking courses in the same college;

•        A consensual relationship between administration (academic and non-academic, including the president, vice presidents,  deans, asst./assoc. vice presidents and deans, department chairs and a student;

•        A consensual relationship between a unit head and an employee in the same unit; and

•        A consensual relationship between the President and an employee.

Preexisting Relationships

Employees who are married or otherwise in an existing relationship must be disclosed as provided for herein. Employees in preexisting relationships cannot supervise one another or be placed in a position that exerts influence of any kind over the spouse/partner or the spouse’s/partner’s position, including chain of command or temporary appointments to committees or other groups that may exert direct or indirect influence over the organizational position of the spouse/partner or the spouse’s/partner’s participation in any activity associated with the University.  Additional regulations regarding familial relationships can be found in the University’s Appointment of Relatives (Nepotism Rule) procedure HR-E-PR13 Appointment of Relatives.  A consensual relationship between students when one is an employee teaching and/or evaluating the other: If an ongoing consensual relationship began while both individuals were students and one of the parties becomes an employee of the University, the relationship must be disclosed at the time of hire, but is not prohibited unless the employee has the potential to be in a position of power over the non-employee student’s academic or professional status.

Responsibilities of the Party in the Position of Power in a Consensual Relationship

In the event that a consensual relationship exists or begins to develop, the person in the position of power over the other person in the relationship must immediately notify the unit’s vice president and Vice President for Human Resources of the relationship and cooperate in making the arrangements necessary to resolve the conflict of interest as required herein.  Unreported consensual relationships are a violation of this policy. Failure to report a consensual relationship may prevent the person from being entitled to defense or indemnification by the University in any subsequent action or demand arising from, or related to, the relationship. 


Immediate Supervisor Responsibility

 A supervisor who is notified, or becomes aware of, a consensual relationship will immediately notify the Vice President of Human Resources and in consultation therewith take immediate steps to mitigate the specific conditions that create the conflict of interest and/or the appearance of impropriety caused by the relationship.
 
The instructor or supervisor will not be allowed to have undirected responsibility for supervising, evaluating, or grading the consensual relationship partner's performance.

Mitigating Management Plan

Mitigation is accomplished by providing a management plan for the supervision, teaching, advising, and/or evaluation of the subordinate employee, student or student-employee. The Vice President for Human Resources will provide a written management plan to the individuals in the consensual relationship and the applicable vice president or unit head within seven (7) business days of the report unless there are reasonable grounds for additional time.  Mitigation should be carried out in a manner that maintains the highest degree of confidentiality possible. Any mitigation steps should look first to the best interests of the student or subordinate employee. Mitigation should only be implemented when it does not cause harm to a student or subordinate employee. The management plan must be signed by both parties. It must be clear that the plan is fully understood and agreed to by all parties. A copy of the plan will be maintained by the Vice President for Human Resources.  A consensual relationship will not be approved until the management plan is in effect. In the event a satisfactory management plan cannot be put in place, the consensual relationship will be prohibited.

Failure to Report or Cooperate

The individual in a position of power who enters into or persists in a consensual relationship without immediately reporting, or who fails to cooperate in efforts to eliminate the conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety, or comply with the management plan, must be reported immediately to the Vice President for Human Resources and are subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. In the event that a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct is brought by the subordinate party regarding an unreported relationship, there will be no presumption that the relationship was consensual in nature.  An individual in a supervisory role who is notified or becomes aware of an alleged violation of this policy must immediately report the information to the Vice President for Human Resources. 

Campus Culture

To further develop and maintain a campus culture where relationships in which a participant is in a position of power over the other are generally unacceptable and those violating this principal will be held accountable, the University has adopted recommendations from the  December 12, 2013 Report of the UTS Task Force on Employee/Student Relationship. Under the guidance of the Vice President of Human Resources, the University will continue to implement, the following practices:
 
1) The University will communicate a clear message regarding the general prohibition of consensual relationships where a position of power exists and reinforce this message through campus media;

2) Develop annual training for faculty members, employees, and students that enforce this policy and campus culture;

3) Instruct students and employees during orientation to reinforce (i) the student's/employee’s responsibility in avoiding consensual relationships, and (ii) helping students/employees understand the collateral damage that can result when such relationships occur.

Retaliation Prohibited

Retaliation against a person who reports a potential violation under this policy, assists someone with a report of a violation, or participates in any manner in an investigation or in the resolution of a complaint made under this policy is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated.
 
Nepotism and Non-Consensual Relationships

This policy is not intended to cover nepotism or non-consensual relationships, both of which are covered in separate policies and procedures.

 

 
II. Definitions

Consensual Relationship: A relationship that is amorous, romantic, dating or sexual in nature, legal within the state of Texas, in which both parties are consenting participants. Such consensual relationships include a single event.  A relationship falls within this definition even if both participants consider it to be casual, informal, temporary or episodic.

Faculty: Any employee with a faculty designation, regardless of title, including graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and graduate research assistants (GRAs).

Management Plan:  A written plan developed as provided in this policy that mitigates the specific conflicts created by a consensual relationship.  The management plan must be acknowledged and signed by both parties.

Position of Power: Actual or apparent authority or influence over another, bestowed by a position or office, which affects the person’s terms and conditions of employment, education or educational environment, or participation in official UTA activities. Examples include, but are not limited to: supervisor and a supervised employee; faculty and a current student; coach and a coached athlete; Dean and a faculty member; a subordinate employee and more senior employee within the same department; a graduate teaching assistant and a faculty member in the same college; a faculty advisor to a student organization and a student member of the organization; an advisor and an advisee; an employee accepting or exercising professional responsibility for an employee or student with whom the employee has had a previous consensual relationship;  a resident assistant and a resident in the same residence hall; tenured faculty and tenure tract, or non-tenure tract, or adjunct faculty in the same department


III. Relevant Federal and State Statutes

N/A


IV. Relevant UT System and UTA Policies, Procedures, and Forms

 December 12, 2013, Report of the UTS Task Force on Employee/Student Relationships


UTA Policy EI-PO8 Sexual Misconduct

University of Texas system Regents' Rules and Regulations, Rule 30105 Sexual Harassment and Misconduct and Inappropriate Consensual Relationships

Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Rule 31008, Termination of a Faculty Member


Staff Discipline and Discharge Policy



Student Conduct and Discipline


V. Who Should Know

All  employees, enrolled students, and affiliates at The University of Texas at Arlington


VI. UTA Officer(s) Responsible for Policy

Office of Human Resources

VII. Dates Approved or Amended

September 19, 2014

October 21, 2019

VIII. Contact Information

All questions concerning this Policy should be directed to the Vice President of Human Resources.