Harvard Profs Can't Have Sex With Undergrads Anymore

Ban replaces looser policy discouraging relationships between faculty, students
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2015 2:45 PM CST
Harvard Profs Can't Have Sex With Undergrads Anymore
No more "after-hours activity" between Harvard professors and undergrads.   (Shutterstock)

Still under the microscope of the Education Department for how it's handled sexual assault cases, Harvard University has been revamping its policies. The latest revision ends what some believe is an inappropriate practice: romantic and sexual relationships between professors and undergrads. The Ivy League school joins other colleges like Yale and UConn with the prohibition, which replaces Harvard's looser policy of instructors discouraged from such relationships with only "one's students." The ban, which affects the Arts and Sciences faculty—the ones who teach most of the school's undergrads, Bloomberg Business reports—also nixes such relationships between instructors and grad students they supervise, as well as between grad students and undergrads they may "grade, supervise, or evaluate."

An American Association of University Professors officer doesn't agree a "blanket prohibition" is needed. "These relationships are going to occur ... and you must put as many ethical checks on them as possible, but … you don’t throw the whole thing into darkness by prohibiting it," Anita Levy tells Bloomberg. But some experts don't feel discouragement is strong enough to prevent exploitative situations. "Some schools have a tiny minority of professors who use their popularity and prestige to empower themselves, and students respond," a University of Cincinnati professor tells Bloomberg. "This is a very, very serious problem." Alison Johnson, a Harvard prof who chaired the policy panel, put it more bluntly: "Undergraduates come to college to learn from us. We're not here to have sexual or romantic relationships with them." (Another apparent Harvard problem: profs handing out too many good grades.)

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