Teacher / Student Relationships and Conflicts of Interest
Faculty members, instructors and TAs who become romantically or sexually involved with a student they teach are in a conflict of interest, and must declare the conflict to their own supervisor, who will arrange for someone else to evaluate the student’s work. This is to safeguard the right of all students to fair treatment, and to protect the teacher.
Teachers should also be aware that sexual invitations or suggestions to their students leave them open to allegations of sexual harassment. Teachers have authority over students, and thus any intimate overture can readily be interpreted as coercive.
The University’s guidelines on conflict of interest and close personal relationships are available on the Office of the Vice-President & Provost website.
A teacher’s relation with students is a professional one: many personal comments or questions (about looks, personal life, sex life, etc.) are thus improper and potentially damaging. Remarks which focus on someone’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression can constitute sexual harassment. If you are unsure of the appropriateness of your comments, or your audience reacts negatively, you should desist.
Similarly, you should give careful consideration to your physical conduct with students. Many of us touch one another in conversation, or greet colleagues with a hug. This is fine with friends and peers, but it may not be fine with your students. Because of the possible overtones of such gestures, you should ask yourself how they might be understood. Is my conduct acceptable to this student? How do I know? Am I certain the student would tell me otherwise?