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Consensual Relationships

Policy Statement

WNE strives to provide an educational and work environment that is collegial, respectful, and productive. This policy establishes rules for the conduct of consensual relationships between employees and between employees and students, including supervisory personnel, in an attempt to prevent conflicts and maintain a productive and professional work environment.

Reason for Policy

Entering into a sexual, dating, or romantic relationship (“Consensual Relationship”) when one individual has power or authority over the other may compromise freely given consent, put the academic and professional development of the individuals at risk, and seriously undermine the foundation of trust, fairness, and integrity that is essential to WNE’s academic mission.

Faculty, administrators, and others who educate, supervise, evaluate, employ, counsel, coach, or otherwise make decisions or recommendations as to the other person in connection with their employment or education at the University, or who otherwise have actual or apparent authority over a student or subordinate, must understand the fundamentally unbalanced nature of the relationship.

In the context of the University’s educational and employment context, Consensual Relationships in circumstances where one individual has greater power or authority over another individual may raise sexual harassment concerns and can create perceptions of favoritism and preferential treatment. For these reasons, such relationships are prohibited.

Who Is Governed by this Policy

All Faculty, Staff, University volunteers, individuals who are under contract with the University such as independent contractors, consultants, or temporary staff, and individuals employed by host sites for student clinical and fieldwork, practicums, and internships. 

For purposes of this Policy, “employee” does not include a University student who is also employed by the College as part of a work-study or similar program. Such shall be deemed “students” for purposes of this Policy.  


Consensual Relationships between the following individuals are specifically prohibited:

  • A faculty member and an undergraduate student;
  • A faculty member and a graduate student in the same discipline or academic program or where the faculty member evaluates or supervises that student in any way;
  • An academic or faculty advisor and an advisee;
  • A teaching assistant and a student in the teaching assistant’s class;
  • A coach and a student-athlete; and,
  • A manager/supervisor/dean and an employee over whom they have supervisory authority.

This list is not exhaustive; other circumstances in which one individual has greater power or authority over another may also violate this policy. In the employment context, supervisory authority means the ability to affect or impact an employee’s terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because the manager/supervisor/dean can take or impact action such as hiring, firing, promoting, disciplining, scheduling, training, or deciding how to compensate that employee. 

Pre-Existing Relationships: On occasion, an employee or a student may have a pre-existing Consensual Relationship with an individual who then becomes employed by the University or enrolled as a student. In such cases the WNE Nepotism Policy applies.

Although it is recognized that the student or subordinate may be a full and willing participant in a Consensual Relationship, both the responsibility for adhering to this policy and the consequences for violating it fall upon the person in a position of power or authority, rather than the student or subordinate. Violations of this policy are referred to the Office of Human Resources outlined below based on the status of the employee in the position of greater power or authority over the other individual.

If allegations of sexual misconduct, relationship violence, or stalking arise in connection with a Consensual Relationship, the University will address such charges in accordance with WNE’s Title IX Sexual Misconduct Policy.


WNE reserves the right to take prompt action if an actual or potential conflict of interest arises concerning individuals who engage in a Consensual Relationship that may affect terms and conditions of employment of the person supervised. Supervisors and managers are prohibited from dating subordinates and may be disciplined for such actions, up to and including termination.

When a conflict or the potential for conflict arises because of a Consensual Relationship between employees, even if there is no line of authority or reporting involved, the employees may be separated by reassignment, or other interventional measures as determined by the University. If such a Consensual Relationship between non-supervisory employees develops, it is the responsibility and obligation of the employees involved to disclose the existence of the relationship to the Department Head, Supervisor, or Dean if a conflict or the potential for conflict arises.

When a conflict or a potential for conflict affecting terms or conditions of employment arises because of the relationship, the Office of Human Resources will meet with the individuals concerned about the next steps to be taken to eliminate the conflicts and resolve the situation.


Consensual Relationship: A consensual relationship is defined as a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. 

Document History

Policy Origination Date: August 3, 2023

Who Approved This Policy

Associate Vice President of Human Resources


Associate Director of Human Resources
Rivers Memorial