Policy Details

Date of Last Update

Approved By
  • Senior Leadership Team

Responsible Office
Inclusion and Equity/Office of Affirmative Action


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Consensual Relationship Policy

SLT 9.2

Policy Statement

Possessing and mastering a range of thoughtful perspectives is necessary for open inquiry, a liberal education, and a healthy community. Recognizing this, the University seeks to include, engage, and support a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff. The institution values a multiplicity of opinions and backgrounds, and is dedicated to incorporating multiple voices and experiences into every aspect of its operations. We are committed to building institutional capacity and strengthening our liberal education through providing an inclusive environment for all of our University constituents.

Article I. Purpose

The University’s goals are to maintain a positive work environment and a climate conducive to learning for students. The unequal institutional power inherent in academic and work relationships may heighten the vulnerability of those in subordinate positions. Accordingly, individuals holding positions of authority at the University must be aware of and sensitive to the potential conflict of interest, ethical concerns, and issues of sexual harassment that may occur in consensual relationships. Specifically, the parties to a consensual relationship must be aware that such relationships can create in co-workers and students perceived and real conflicts of interest. These relationships also create an environment of fear of unfair treatment in terms of promotions, grades, professional and/or educational opportunities, etc. This Policy outlines expectations for institutional and individual conduct that apply to all University faculty and staff members and students. 

Article II. Consensual Relationships

Consensual romantic and sexual relationships between faculty and their students or between supervisors and their subordinates are inappropriate. Individuals should be aware that these relationships may create a perception of favoritism while the relationships continue. These relationships may be less consensual than perceived by the individual whose position confers power. The relationship also may be viewed in different ways by each of the parties, particularly in retrospect. Furthermore, circumstances may change and the conduct that was previously welcome may become unwelcome. If a sexual harassment complaint is subsequently filed, the argument that the relationship was consensual will be evaluated in light of the power differential in determining whether the University’s Anti-Harassment Policy has been violated. Under these circumstances, it will be extremely difficult to use mutual consent as a defense. 

Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships between Faculty/Staff and Students. A faculty or staff member who has educational, supervisory, evaluation, advising, coaching, or counseling responsibilities for students shall not assume or maintain those responsibilities for a student with whom the faculty or staff member has engaged in romantic or sexual relations, even if such relations were consensual. Whether such romantic or sexual relationships predate the assumption of educational, supervisory, evaluation, advising, coaching, or counseling responsibility for the student, or arise out of the educational relationship, the faculty or staff member shall immediately disclose the romantic or sexual relationship to his or her Unit Head or supervisor, who shall promptly arrange alternate oversight of the student.

Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships between Supervisors and Subordinates. If a romantic or sexual relationship exists or develops between a supervisor, manager, or administrator and an employee for whom they have professional responsibility, the individuals involved in the relationship must promptly consult the next highest level of supervision (e.g., a supervisor, department head, Vice President, Dean) to determine whether arrangements can be made to eliminate all conflicts of interest. If such arrangements can be made that do not disadvantage the subordinate and are acceptable to the supervisor, manager, or administrator, they must be documented, and ensure that the supervisor does not hire, supervise, advise, evaluate, or otherwise directly influence the subordinate’s employment. Relationships between supervisors, managers, or administrators and their subordinates are prohibited when the working relationship is such that it is not possible to eliminate the conflicts of interest. Students employed by the University who supervise other student employees are covered by this section. 

Consensual romantic or sexual relationships between students. Complaints concerning relationships between students are governed by the GVSU Student Code. 

Article III. Disciplinary Actions
Disciplinary action will be taken against faculty or staff members who violate this Policy, either by entering into or engaging in a sexual relationship with a student or subordinate for whom they have educational, supervisory, evaluation, advisory, coaching, or counseling responsibilities or by failing to report such relationship or failing to cooperate in making alternative arrangements.

Article IV. Confidentiality
Confidentiality of the disclosure of consensual romantic or sexual relationships will be observed to the extent permitted by law and that is consistent with protecting the welfare of faculty, staff, and students and the interests of the University.