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Faculty upset at HR consensual relationship policy

Contributing Reporter

Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 00:01

Faculty Senate

Kassidy Turnpaugh | The Houstonian

Members of the Faculty Senate discuss agenda items at Thursday's meeting.

A new policy statement regarding consensual relationships drafted by Sam Houston State University’s Human Resource department has sparked controversy among some faculty.

The statement, which was obtained by The Houstonian, outlined the importance of consensual, or mutually acceptable, relationships. It attempted to establish the policy and procedures of what constitutes relationships that are consensual and not a conflict of interest, such as a faculty member and a student who is not in his or her class, and ones that are an unethical conflict of interest, such as supervisory, teacher or advisor relationships.

“For the personal protection of member of our campus community, relationships in which power differentials are inherent (faculty-student, staff-student, administrator-student, are strongly discouraged,” the policy states.

Relationships in which one maintains a direct supervisory or evaluative role over the other party are unethical and a conflict of interest, the policy states.

Some faculty members said the policy was not clear, and faculty senate members said the policy was in violation of privacy and “creepy” during their Jan. 23 meeting.

The policy states that if a supervisor and his or her employee do get into a relationship, that it must be disclosed to a supervisor, so that alternatives can be found to end the conflict of interest.

“The University does not wish to interfere with private choices regarding personal relationships when these relationships do not interfere with its goals, policies and mission,” the statement read.

Faculty senate members speculated that the sudden policy was issued after an on-campus relationship had occurred.

“I don’t know what the driver was for this particular policy,” Faculty Senate Chair Renee James, Ph.D., said. “I think it’s kind of weird that we don’t already have something written down about this sort of thing.”

However, David Hammonds, associate vice president for human resources and risk management, said that is primarily rumor.

“We just want to be prepared in case a situation does happen,” Hammonds said.

The statement released is just a draft, according to Hammonds, and it is not official campus policy.

“This isn’t the final product,” Hammonds said. “We’ve still got time to work on this.”

Hammonds and his team said they are looking for comments and concerns from the university, as well as teachers and students, before finalizing the policy.

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