Last month, Harvard University officially banned all sexual and/or romantic student-teacher relationships. They did so as part of reviewing the school’s Title IX policy, which prohibits sexual discrimination in education.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ committee decided on three points: an undergraduate cannot date a professor, a graduate student cannot date a professor if the professor is supervising the student, and a grad student can’t date an undergrad if that student is working closely with the undergrad.
The university had previously banned relationships between faculty members and students only if they were in the same class. It had also classified any other student-teacher sexual or romantic relationships as “inappropriate.”
But why is Harvard acting now? Susan Svrluga at “The Washington Post” has the answer:
The new policy comes at a time when sex and gender issues — all the ways that people define themselves, their sexuality, their relationships, and how they interact with one another — are relentlessly discussed on college campuses.
Harvard is also in the middle of reviewing, and revising, its Title IX policy. It’s one of 55 schools that had previously gotten attention from the U.S. Department of Education due to its “handling of sexual assault cases.” (And we all know how that goes.)
Another aspect of the ban is that it prevents professors from abusing their power as educators by sleeping with students under their care. The measure ensures that exploitation and student favoritism doesn’t happen as a result. This makes sense, as many courts cases tried in the ’90s found universities liable for sexual assault cases.
Other schools already have measures in place regarding student-teacher relationships. Yale instituted their own ban in 2010, and the University of Connecticut put one in place in 2013. Arizona State University proposed a tougher measure on student-teacher relationships earlier this year.
It’ll be interesting to see if other schools follow their example in the coming months and/or years, or if this ban will remain an anomaly.