Story by Brendon Donoho / Contributing Writer
Middle Tennessee State University has introduced a new policy set to address “Consensual Relationships,” which has been approved by President Sidney McPhee and sent to the Business and Finance division of MTSU with an as-of-yet unannounced effective date.
In outlining the policy’s purpose, it is stated that, “All employees serve a public interest role and thus have a clear obligation to conduct all affairs of the University in a manner consistent with this concept.”
The policy itself applies to “all persons employed by MTSU either as full-time, part-time, or temporary employees and regardless of the sex/gender of the employee involved with an employee or student in a consensual relationship.”
Essentially, MTSU is simply aiming to codify a set of standards for identifying and addressing any perceived conflicts of interest which might arise from a consensual relationship.
While the school does not outright prohibit such relationships, it does state that “intimate relationships between supervisors and their subordinates and between faculty members and students are strongly discouraged due to the inherent inequality of power.”
The new rules come at a time in which recent national conversations have drawn attention to the nature of such inequalities of power and their interplay with concepts like romantic consent.
The rule states strongly that a relationship between a teacher and a student over which that teacher holds “either grading, supervisory or other evaluative authority” is prohibited as it “is inappropriate and constitutes a conflict of interest.” There are also multiple steps which can be taken to address such a conflict which range from changing the student’s supervisor to “terminating the relationship.”
A similar prohibition is given against a “consensual relationship with a subordinate over whom they have evaluative or supervisory authority.”
While similar steps must be taken to avoid such a conflict of interest, this situation is unique in that it requires that the solution be “approved by any of the following: Dean, Chair, Supervisor/Manager, and/or Vice President.”
No revisions have been made to the rule to date and implementation is expected to begin soon.
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