Many members of the Mitchell Hamline School of Law community form important personal and professional relationships with other members; this is as it should be. Some of these relationships are consensual and romantic in nature. While some consensual romantic relationships may be appropriate, others pose problems because they cross professional boundaries, thereby undermining the employment and educational environments that the law school seeks to provide its faculty, staff, and students.
This policy addresses consensual relationships. Nonconsensual, or unwelcome, conduct of a sexual nature is addressed in the law school’s Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy (Student Respondent) and Sex Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Policy (Student Respondent) found in the Policies section of this Catalog.
A romantic relationship is problematic when:
- It involves one participant who is in a position of power over the other participant, and/or
- One participant has the ability to give employment-related or education-related preference to the other participant.
For purposes of this policy, Faculty is intended to include assistant, associate, and professor of law, resident adjuncts, adjuncts, assistant adjuncts, field supervisors, tutors, and any other roles that serve the law school in a teaching or advising capacity.
Mitchell Hamline School of Law is committed to maintaining an academic and work environment in which the principles of mutual respect and professional ethics are honored and apparent or actual conflicts of interest, favoritism, or bias are avoided. Central to this commitment are the interactions among those in whom the law school has placed its trust to uphold these principles. This trust is put at risk when faculty, staff, or students engage is consenting romantic relationships that involve persons of unequal power.
It is a violation of this policy for a faculty or staff member to engage in a problematic consensual romantic relationship. Students are strongly discouraged from engaging in a problematic romantic relationship.
When a prohibited problematic romantic relationship arises that involves a faculty or staff member, the faculty or staff member shall promptly disclose it to the following:
- Faculty: To the Vice Dean, Academic and Faculty Affairs or the President and Dean;
- Staff: To the employee’s manager, the employee’s senior manager, the Manager of Human Resources, or the President and Dean.
The law school’s response will depend on the specific situation. In all situations, the response will include amelioration of the situation. For example, where feasible a subordinate’s or manager’s job responsibilities may be modified. As another example, a professor-student romantic relationship will cease until the student no longer is a student in the professor’s class.
The following are examples of problematic romantic relationships that are prohibited:
- Faculty member and their student whom the faculty member currently teaches or advises.
- Faculty member and their research assistant.
- Staff member and a student over whom the staff member has an evaluative, decision-making responsibility, or where the staff member coaches or counsels the student.
- Manager and a subordinate (including student employees) reporting directly or indirectly to that manager.
These relationships are prohibited whether or not the power is exercised or preference is given, because the appearance of bias can seriously disrupt the academic or work environment.
Strongly Discouraged Relationships
The following romantic relationships are strongly discouraged. The faculty member or manager involved must promptly disclose the relationship as set out below to determine if a conflict of interest exists and if any changes need to be implemented to maintain a culture of objectivity and avoidance of bias.
- Faculty and a student who is not currently in the professor’s class.
- Faculty member or manager and a staff member who does not have a direct or indirect reporting relationship with that faculty member or manager.
Consensual romantic relationships between two co-workers where no workplace power differential exists in the workplace are not “problematic relationships” as defined by this policy.
- Faculty: To the Vice Dean, Academic and Faculty Affairs, Manager of Human Resources, or the President and Dean;
- Staff: To the employee’s manager, a member of the President and Dean’s Senior Leadership Team, Manager of Human Resources, or the President and Dean.
A faculty or staff member found to have committed a violation of this policy may be subject to a broad range of consequences, up to and including termination of employment. If necessary, a matter will be referred to the appropriate disciplinary authority as required by law school policy and by existing agreements with the faculty to determine what corrective action is appropriate.
Please direct any questions to the appropriate office: for Staff – Human Resources; for Faculty – Vice Dean, Academic and Faculty Affairs or Human Resources.
Faculty and staff are responsible for comporting themselves in a manner consistent with this policy.