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Fort Hays State University
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Faculty and Unclassified Staff Handbook
Chapter 4 -- Faculty: Benefits, Responsibilities, and Specific Requirements

Consenting Relations Policy

Policy Statement on Consenting Relations


"Professional power differential" refers to any relationship or association that involves persons of unequal power (e.g., administrator and faculty, faculty and student, supervisor and employee). A "professional power differential" exists whenever one individual has authority over another individual. For example, a faculty member will always be treated as having a power differential in relation to a student if the student is in an educational experience where the faculty member has authority to assign grades, make recommendations for further study and future employment, or make other valuative judgments. These principles also apply to administrators and supervisors in their relationships with students, faculty, unclassified staff, and university support staff over whom they exercise any authority to make valuative judgments.


Fort Hays State University recognizes that administrators, supervisors, and faculty are entrusted with considerable power in their relationships with subordinates and with students. Administrators, supervisors, and faculty are expected to exercise that power in such a manner as to inspire trust and respect. This trust and respect is inevitably jeopardized when a member of the University community engages in a romantic or sexual relationship that involves a professional power differential. A power differential, by its very existence, compromises the subordinate or student's ability to decide freely. Moreover, other employees or students may be affected by such unprofessional behavior as it may create favoritism or the appearance of favoritism at the expense of others.


This policy does not seek to prohibit all sexual or amorous relationships between consenting adults within the University community. Rather, this policy strongly discourages any sexual or amorous relationship which involves a professional power differential, even where the relationship appears to be a consensual one.


1. It is the responsibility of the administrator, supervisor or faculty member to recognize that a power differential exists.

2. It is the responsibility of the administrator, supervisor, or faculty member to recognize that a conflict of interest may arise from these relationships.

3. It is recommended that the administrator, supervisor, or faculty member who is involved in such a relationship should either:

  a. remove him/herself from the position of authority (e.g., a faculty member serving on the merit, tenure, or promotion committee of a faculty member with whom he/she has become involved in a consensual relationship should remove him/herself from the committee), or

  b. should report the existence of the relationship to a superior (such as department chair, dean, vice president, or equal employment opportunity officer) so that fairness and equity can be monitored. 

4. It is further recommended that the administrator, supervisor, or faculty member should document the existence of the relationship and any actions taken under (a) and/or (b) above.


Individuals who choose not to follow the guidelines presented in this policy should understand that if a charge of sexual harassment is filed, it will be exceedingly difficult for the administrator, supervisor, or faculty member to prove immunity on the grounds of "mutual consent." In such circumstances consent will be considered questionable.

Based on the merits of a case an individual may be subject to University sanctions or civil liabilities.

Approved by President Edward H. Hammond (05-25-95).

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