1.Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to set forth standards of professional and ethical conduct at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (the “University”) with respect to interpersonal relationships between employees and students. The University is committed to providing an equitable and accessible educational environment to all in our community. The intent of this policy is to provide assurance that all students are able to learn and work in an environment where they can be objectively supervised, instructed, and evaluated. 

Central to the educational mission of the University is the establishment of close working relationships between those charged with the responsibility to convey educational opportunities and those who benefit from them. Employee/student relationships characterized by familial, sexual, or romantic ties, however, create inherent complexities among members of a learning community. As noted in the University’s Policy on Undue Favoritism, the intimate nature of these relationships calls into question the ability of the employee to objectively evaluate, supervise, or make decisions about the student with whom they are in a relationship.  This can compromise the student’s access to an equitable educational environment and may provide grounds for complaint by other students when the relationship appears to convey undue advantage in the evaluation or supervision process.  Though the relationship between two consenting adults in these circumstances would normally be merely a private matter, the unequal status of the parties in the employment or academic setting provides opportunities for one in a position of authority to favor or advance the other’s University-related interests. Even where such influence is not exercised, the appearance of favoritism may lead those not so advantaged to doubt the integrity of the normal processes available for advancement. 

In addition, sexual or romantic relationships between employees and students may be viewed differently by the employee and student. Employees who supervise or evaluate students exercise power over them. In any situation where one person in a relationship has power over the other, the consensual nature of the relationship can be called into question, and/or the relationship may be viewed differently in retrospect. This may result in a hostile environment or concerns that benefits have been offered or given to students contingent on romantic relationships or sexual favors. 

Amorous or romantic relationships between employees and students occurring outside of a formal instructional, evaluative, or supervisory context also can create significant challenges. This is particularly true when the employee and student are in the same unit or program, or in units or programs that are closely related.  Though the relationship may begin at a time when there is not a direct evaluative relationship between the employee and student, changes in teaching assignments and roles and responsibilities may mean that employees find themselves in an evaluative position over a student with whom they are in, or have had, an amorous relationship.  

2.Scope

This policy applies to all employees, regardless of employment classification or appointment type (full- and part-time faculty and staff, whether SHRA or EHRA, including students who serve as graduate and undergraduate assistants) who have instructional, evaluative, supervisory, or mentorship responsibilities for students. 

3.Definitions

3.1Amorous Relationship:

A relationship in which two individuals are not married, but as consenting partners (a) have a sexual relationship; or (b) engage in romantic partnering or courtship that may or may not involve being sexually intimate. This includes virtual sexual intimacy.  

3.2Familial Relationship:

A relationship between two related persons. For purposes of this policy, “related persons” includes: 

  • Spouse 
  • Domestic Partner 
  • Parent/Child  
  • Sibling 
  • Grandparent/Grandchild 
  • Aunt/Uncle and Niece/Nephew 
  • First Cousin 
  • Guardian/Ward 
  • Anyone living in the same household or whose relationship is so closely identified with another as to suggest a conflict, or 
  • Ex-, Step-, Half-, and In-Law relationships as appropriate based on the above list.

3.3Evaluate or Supervise:

To assess, determine, or influence (a) one’s academic performance, progress, or potential or (b) one’s entitlement to or eligibility for any institutionally conferred right, benefit, or opportunity; or to oversee, manage, or direct one’s academic or other institutionally prescribed activities. This includes, but is not limited to, teaching a course; directing an independent study, thesis, or dissertation; participating on a graduate advisory committee; employing an undergraduate or graduate student assistant; making decisions regarding grades, honors, or degrees; making decisions regarding work hours, work assignments, and performance evaluations; considering disciplinary action for a student; determining entitlement to or eligibility for any institutionally conferred right, benefit, or opportunity; coaching a student-athlete; or any other action that assesses, determines, or influences academic performance, progress, or potential. 

3.4Conflict of Interest:

A situation in which financial or other personal considerations, circumstances, or relationships may compromise, may involve the potential for compromising, or may have the appearance of compromising an employee’s objectivity in fulfilling their University duties or responsibilities, including research, service and teaching activities, and administrative duties.  

3.5Conflict of Interest Management Plan:

A plan that provides transparency by acknowledging the conflictual situation, documenting planned actions to reduce the conflict, and specifying a process for monitoring the effectiveness of those actions. 

4.Policy

4.1Foundational UNC System Policy Statement

As adopted by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors on March 15, 1996 and amended in 2007, the following policy statement, in relevant part serves as the foundation for this campus-based policy: 

The University of North Carolina does not condone amorous relationships between students and employees.  Members of the University community should avoid such liaisons, which can harm affected students and damage the integrity of the academic enterprise… In two types of situations, University prohibition and punishment of amorous relationships is deemed necessary: (1) when the employee is responsible for evaluating or supervising the affected students; (2) when the student is a minor, as defined by North Carolina law.   

It is misconduct, subject to disciplinary action, for a University employee, incident to any instructional, research, administrative or other University employment responsibility or authority, to evaluate or supervise any enrolled student of the institution with whom they have an amorous relationship or to whom they are related by blood, law, or marriage. 

It is misconduct, subject to disciplinary action, for a University employee to engage in sexual activity with any enrolled student of the institution, other than a spouse, who is a minor below the age of 18 years.  

4.2Standards of Conduct

4.2.1Initiation of a New Amorous Relationship

It is misconduct for employees covered by this policy to enter into an amorous relationship with any student for whom they currently serve in an evaluative or supervisory role, regardless of whether the relationship is consensually sought by the student.   

4.2.2Evaluation and Supervision in the Context of Existing Amorous or Familial Relationships

It is misconduct for employees covered by this policy to serve in an evaluative or supervisory role for any student with whom they (a) have an existing familial or amorous relationship, or (b) have had a familial or amorous relationship that has ended but still presents an unmanageable conflict of interest.   

4.2.3Duty to Disclose Existing or Prior Amorous or Familial Relationships

In order to determine whether a conflict of interest exists and, if so, whether it can be managed, employees should disclose the potentially conflictual relationship as soon as they become aware they may be in a position to evaluate or supervise a student with whom they have an existing or prior amorous or familial relationship.  Failure to disclose a conflict of interest or failure to disclose in a timely manner shall constitute a violation of this policy. 

4.2.4Change in Status

A change in an individual’s relationship with the University that would establish a potential violation of this policy (where one did not exist previously) creates a duty to disclose any amorous or familial relationships that present a potential conflict of interest.  For example, an employment action (e.g., a student is hired as an employee and has an ongoing amorous relationship with another student whom they are now asked to supervise or evaluate) may result in a potential violation. 

4.2.5New Hires

Similarly, individuals who first join the University community as new employees have a duty to disclose any amorous or familial relationships that present a potential conflict of interest.   

4.2.6Retaliation

Any adverse action taken against a person for making a good faith report of an alleged violation of this policy will be considered retaliation.  Threatening, intimidating, harassing, coercing, or other adverse conduct directed toward a person who has made a good faith report is considered misconduct.  Retaliation does not include good faith actions pursued per policy or law in response to a reported violation of this policy.  

4.3Relationship to Sexual Harassment

Amorous relationships between employees covered by this policy and students can lead to conditions creating a hostile environment as defined in the University’s Title IX or Unlawful Workplace Harassment Policies, even when the relationship begins as a consensual one.   

Amorous relationships between employees covered by this policy and students formed for the exchange of sexual favors for positive evaluative or supervisory outcomes (i.e., quid pro quo) will be considered violations under the University’s Title IX and/or Unlawful Workplace Harassment Policies and addressed accordingly.  

4.4Disclosure and Reporting Process

4.4.1Self-Disclosure of Existing or Prior Familial Relationships or Prior Amorous Relationships

Employees with any concern regarding the potential for a current or prior relationship to create a conflict of interest in their ability to evaluate or supervise a student should disclose the relationship to their immediate supervisor.  The immediate supervisor should consult with Human Resources if the concerned individual is EHRA nonfaculty or an SHRA staff member; the immediate supervisor should consult with Faculty Personnel Services if the concerned individual is a faculty member.  Human Resources or Faculty Personnel Services, as appropriate, will determine whether a conflict of interest exists and if so, whether it can be managed through a documented conflict of interest management plan, or whether the circumstances creating the conflict of interest must be altered.  Regardless, the disclosure should be documented in the individual’s personnel file to create a historical record, should questions be raised in the future. 

4.4.2Reporting Alleged Violations of this Policy

Alleged violations of this policy should be resported to the Title IX Coordinator, who will review in consultation with the Dean of Students Office, Human Resources, Faculty Personnel Services.  Other offices where an alleged violation is reported will share information with the other relevant offices, as appropriate.  Given the potential for violations of this policy to result in circumstances that implicate the University’s non discrimination policies, investigations of alleged violations will be conducted following the procedures stated in those policies. 

5.Compliance and Enforcement

The Chancellor or Chancellor’s designee is responsible for the enforcement of this policy.  Any violation of this policy by a student employee is subject to the Student Code of Conduct and disciplinary action, up to and including termination, in accordance with departmental policies. For staff employees, violation of this policy will be subject to consideration as “misconduct” under applicable policies.  For faculty, violations of this policy will be considered “violations of professional ethics” and “mistreatment of students” under applicable regulations. Disciplinary action will be conducted in accordance with existing policies and procedures as defined by the class of employment of which the affected employee is a member.  

Additionally, violations of this policy may result in termination or suspension of access, in whole or in part, to University information systems at the discretion of Information Technology Services, where such action is reasonable to protect the University or the University information infrastructure. 

If violation of this policy also results in a violation of law, the violation may also be referred for criminal or civil prosecution. 

6.Additional Information

6.3Approval Authority

Chancellor

6.4Contacts for Additional Information and Reporting

6.4.1Responsible Executive:

  • Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, 201 Mossman Building, 336.334.5494 

6.4.2Responsible Administrators:

  • Director of EEO and Affirmative Action and Interim Director of Employee Relations, Human Resources,  720 Kenilworth Street, 336.334.5009 
  • Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Personnel Services, 201 Mossman Building, 336.334.5494 

Revisions

Revision Date Revision Summary
08/22/2022 Policy Adopted

- Interpersonal Relationships. Retrieved 12/02/2022. Official version at https://policy.uncg.edu/university_policies/interpersonal-relationships/. Copyright © 2022 The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.