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SHSU consensual relationship policy is overreaching, redundant

Web Editor

Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 23:01

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Consensual relationships present a range of complex administrative issues for private and public institutions like Sam Houston State University. The university recently released a draft of Human Resources Policy ER-10 Consensual Relationships that apparently attempts to stop those issues from continuing if they exist.

The problem is that the policy as it has been drafted is overreaching, vague and redundant.

The policy requires that any relationship between a university employee – including student workers – and an “employee, student, or student employee who is directly supervised, taught, evaluated, or advised by that university employee” be brought to the attention of their supervisor. From there the supervisor is supposed to meet with the couple and advise “that this type of relationship is discouraged,” and potentially try and basically alter the workplace situation.

Furthermore, if the employee who is in the position of authority continues in the relationship that has the appearance of a conflict of interest, they can be fired. For the most part, the policy is directed at relationships that provide a potential or inherent conflict of interest.

However because of the policy’s vague and confusing wording, it applies to more than what the university was intending.

An example of this problem with the policy is that it would potentially forbid students with campus jobs from dating other students who are working for them.

For example, I get paid from SHSU by working at The Houstonian. If my partner were to work for us under my section I would technically be in violation of this policy.

Texas State University System Board of Regents already has policies that cover any impropriety that could come from any possible relationships including students bribing professors with sex or money, administrators giving pay raises to their significant others, and any other benefit a university or system employee could get as a result of a relationship.

The drafted policy on consensual relationships is redundant and not in a good way.

Columbia University goes a step further, listing out the specific guidelines for relationships between students/faculty, staff/student, etc. along with detailed information about how to violate the policy. They explicitly forbid faculty-student relationships. If that’s what SHSU wants, that’s what they should craft.

The university also makes a statement in this policy that any faculty or staff member who dates a student, that relationship is “strongly discouraged.” We’re all adults and choose with whom we want to be. University employees and students can date so long as there’s no favoritism, which does exist from time to time. SHSU administration should rework this policy and enforce current policy to truly address inappropriate relationships.

Perhaps they use the rest of the University of Texas’s consensual relationship policy that appears to be almost a carbon copy of SHSU’s. The problem is SHSU cut out the section specifying that the definition of consensual relationship for the purposes of the policy included only those that had conflict of interest unlike SHSU’s policy. Ours is for any relationship where one supervises the other, which is inclusive of innocent ones without conflicts of interest.

The university should revise the draft to be more specific on conflicts of interest and define them further than just a relationship existing. There should be more concrete language about when conflicts arise like when the supervisor can control their significant other’s pay or has hiring abilities. The current policy is entirely too vague and lacks the depth that many universities maintain.

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