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University senate bans student-faculty relationships

<p>Robin Parker will retire from Miami in January and will be replaced by newly hired Amy Shoemaker. </p>

Robin Parker will retire from Miami in January and will be replaced by newly hired Amy Shoemaker.

Miami University Senate passed a resolution forbidding nearly all romantic relationships between students and faculty during its Feb. 22 meeting.

The current policy only bans relationships between students and faculty when the faculty member “exercises academic authority” over the student. For example, a professor may not date a student in their class or a student whose dissertation they are advising.

The new policy, authored by professor of English Liz Wardle, forbids any faculty member from dating any undergraduate student. Relationships between faculty and graduate students are permitted only if the two parties are not part of the same department and the faculty member has no authority over the student.

The only exceptions to this policy are relationships which existed before the student enrolled or the faculty member was employed at Miami. Professors must report these relationships in the ethics questionnaire they are required to fill out every year.

The text of the resolution does not provide a definition for “amorous relationships.”  If a faculty member is found guilty of violating this policy, they will be given a written or verbal warning by their department chair. Further violations will be noted in the faculty member’s personnel file.

Several senators said they approved of the policy but expressed concern that the university may be overstepping by regulating who they can and cannot date.

Bill Moser, associate professor of accountancy, said he strongly disapproves of relationships between students and faculty but also doesn't think relationships between consenting adults should be banned.

“This policy is not illegal in the laws of the United States, the state of Ohio or the City of Oxford,” Moser said. “Really, in order for them to enforce this policy, Miami University will be required to stick their noses into our proverbial bedrooms.” 

Professor of English Cathy Wagner proposed an amendment to the policy stating that faculty simply being on a dating app does not constitute pursuit of a romantic relationship with a student. This amendment passed unanimously.

Assistant professor of journalism Rosemary Pennington later proposed another amendment which would change the wording of the resolution to only ban relationships between students and faculty in the same department.

Many senators argued this wording was too similar to the existing policy, and the amendment was struck down with 27% approving, 66% dissenting and 7% abstaining.

Despite this, the resolution itself passed with 69% approving, 20% dissenting and 10% abstaining.

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The policy will now be sent to the Board of Trustees for final approval. The Board is scheduled to meet next on May 12, 13 and 14.