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University Senate Proposes Ban On Relationships Between Undergraduates And Faculty, Including Undergrad TAs

The University Senate adopted a resolution on Friday proposing a ban on all relationships between faculty and undergraduates. Any relationship between “officers of instruction, research, administration, and the libraries,” “graduate students with appointments as student officers of instruction and research,” and “graduate teaching assistants, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, and tutors, during any period of time they are teaching, advising or supervising an undergraduate student” must be reported to the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office (EOAA). Before the resolution becomes University policy, however, it must be reviewed by the General Affairs Committee and the EEOA.

This action comes after William Harris, a professor of Greco-Roman history, retired as part of a sexual harassment lawsuit settlement. The case raised questions about what Columbia does to prevent students from being exploited by professors and the process in which the University punishes professors who exploit students romantically and/or sexually.

The resolution addresses the power imbalance, noting that: “because of the power differential, romantic and sexual relationships between faculty and students are highly susceptible to being experienced as non-consensual or coercive.” If university workers do not comply with this policy, repercussions could include “disciplinary action up to and including termination and may adversely affect decisions on promotion and tenure.”

However, as the resolution is currently written, its language would forbid undergraduate TAs from having any relationships at Columbia. They themselves are undergraduates and therefore cannot date faculty, but the resolution also bans them from dating any other undergraduates because of their status as TAs.

The resolution does provide for “certain unusual circumstances,” although it does not define what those might be. In such a case, “explicit written authorization” must be obtained from either the Provost or Vice President of Human Resources.

SEAS undergraduate Senator Izzet Kebudi said, “SAC [Student Affairs Caucus] worked on this effort in order to change the policy concerning faculty, but we understand students’ concern with the current wording. As SAC leadership, we are reviewing possibilities of refining the policy recommendation. This policy is yet to go through reviews of different offices and is not adopted for now. Current policy bans TAs from having a relationship with an undergraduate under their direct supervision.” He emphasized that this is not the final version of the policy and that there is “room for change.”

Bwog has reached out to the other undergraduate Senators for comment.

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9 Comments

  • SEAS '18 says:

    @SEAS '18 I believe this ambiguous wording is very intentional. By having an interpretation be the very Orwellian blanket ban, the university can now protect themselves better in events of sexual assault and misconduct. I believe having a complete ban infringes on the rights of these TA’s as general human beings. Becoming a TA is not like becoming a monk. Another very narrow sighted policy measure by good ole CU, nice! The War on Fun has turned into a War on Students

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous From a sexual violence standpoint, this policy makes sexual violence WORSE because now people can’t report anything without fear of being labeled perpetrators because they’re TAs.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Every other ivy already has this policy.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous If this policy had existed at PrezBo’s undergraduate school, he would’ve been responsible for gender-based misconduct. He was an undergrad TA when he met his wife, also an undergrad. Epic fail.

    1. waiting for op to post proof says:

      @waiting for op to post proof proof or gtfo

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous It’s public knowledge he met his wife while they weee both undergrads at Oregon and he was a TA (not necessarily her TA). Google. Wikipedia.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I feel like this would make more sense if professors/TAs were not allowed to date students over whom they have some sort of academic power. Why the hell can’t a physics TA date an undergrad English major?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous i really hope that is what happens in the end, it should basically follow the conflict of interest baseline, don’t date someone that would create a current conflict of interest, that basically ends up covering the same people

    2. Sensible Alum says:

      @Sensible Alum Should have language about a specific fiduciary relationship. Unfortunately, when you allow children to write policy, there’s no end to their capacity to fuck it up.

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