The University of Oregon Senate voted to approve a permanent policy that bans university faculty, staff or employees from having relationships with students on campus at its Wednesday afternoon meeting.
The committee on sexual and gender based violence created this policy to replace a temporary relationship policy that expired today.
Sonja Boos, co-chair of the committee on sexual and gender based violence, said the policy aims to protect students from authority figures abusing power.
“The undergrad is never at fault. That’s super important — this policy is to protect the students,” Boos said. “The fault will always be with the supervisory employee or the instructor.”
According to the policy, if a faculty or staff member is accused of an inappropriate relationship, the university will launch an investigation and proceed with disciplinary actions or termination.
The policy has some exceptions to student-graduate employee dating. For example, if a student and a GE are not in the same class or academic field they will be allowed to have a relationship; however, if a student dates the GE section leader in one of their classes, that will not be allowed.
Boos said the policy is necessary because the university sexual harassment policy does not extend to cover some student-teacher relationships.
“There’s sort of a grey-zone of soliciting relationships from students that wouldn’t qualify for sexual harassment, but are still abuses of power, and that’s why we need this policy,” Boos said.
One year ago, on Jan. 30, 2018, the Senate approved a temporary, six-month policy created by the committee on sexual and gender-based violence as a placeholder while they created the permanent policy.
The temporary policy expired in July 2018 but received another six-month extension by the Senate that expired Wednesday — the same day the permanent policy was approved.
Changes to the temporary policy include language clarification and distinguishing when employee relationships are appropriate.
“The temporary policy was conceptually not very different from the [permanent] policy. It’s just being cleaned up, simplified, clarified, organized in a better way,” Boos said.
The committee on sexual and gender based violence offered multiple avenues for students, faculty and staff to voice their opinions before the vote Wednesday.
They held two town hall meetings on Nov. 8 for students, faculty and staff to voice concerns and offer suggestions.
Boos said no undergraduate students came to the town halls, but many faculty and staff members came.
The committee also offered an anonymous suggestion portal on the senate website for critiques. They received 81 responses from faculty and staff and received no responses from undergraduate students.
Going forward, the committee will begin a push to inform students of the policy so they are aware of their rights, Boos said.
“The emphasis is not on policing the sexual behaviors of people. The emphasis is to change the culture where people with power can abuse that,” Boos said.