UH might formally ban student-faculty romantic relationships

UH might formally ban student-faculty romantic relationships

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Following a national trend, the University of Hawaii might formally prohibit romantic relationships between faculty and students.

UH is one of more than 50 universities across the country that is under investigation by the U.S. Education Department for how it handles sexual assault allegations.

For years, UH had a policy that discourages sexual relationships between faculty and students but did not prohibit them.

Philip Kitamura, a UH Manoa sophomore, said student-faculty relationships are no big deal.

"We have a biology teacher and we know that he goes out with a student of his from an upper class but it doesn't seem to be a problem at all.  It doesn't seem to be a problem at all.  We don't hear about her getting away with stuff, or getting away without passing tests," Kitamura said.

A committee of UH faculty and staff from campuses across the state is working to come up with a "draft policy on consensual relationships that is consistent with policies at educational institutions across the country," the UH said in a written statement.

UH Manoa Women's Studies Chair Meda Chesney-Lind sits on the panel and said, "We're in the process, I think, of crafting a policy that's going to be a lot clearer and will avoid the kind of terrible problems that we've had over the years with students who felt coerced."

Chesney-Lind said she hopes the policy is changed to prohibit romantic relationships between professors and students.

"We have to clean up our policies, we have to take these kinds of situations a lot more seriously, because obviously, other people in positions of authority have reviewed what's happening, especially on this campus, and concluded that we need to tighten things up," she added.

In February, Harvard University barred student-faculty relationships, as have other large schools such as Yale and Arizona State University.

But UH students Hawaii News Now spoke to Tuesday don't think such a prohibition is necessary.

"I don't think it's really a problem here at UH.  I don't really hear of any teachers coercing any students into sexual relationships," said Alexis Brissette, a UH Manoa sophomore biology major.

Anthony Le, a UH freshman from South Carolina, said, "What you do outside of class is their own business. If they want to get a relationship outside of class, that's alright."

The university said any proposed relationship policy will involve consultation across the UH system statewide, including discussions with unions representing UH faculty and staff, along with student organizations and administrators.

"For many years, we've had an ineffective policy, in my view, and the ineffective policy basically said 'These kinds of relationships are a bad idea,'" Chesney-Lind said.

A longtime UH policy that has now been rescinded said a UH faculty member or employee who enters into a romantic or sexual relationship with a subordinate "should make arrangements with a supervisor that will ensure all present and future, instructional, supervisory, and evaluative obligations will be competently and objectively handled by someone else."

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