I. Scope

This policy applies to all employees and students of Earlham College and the Earlham School of Religion.

II. Introduction

When employees interact with students, they are in a position of trust and power. These relationships must not jeopardize the effective functioning of the College by the presence or appearance of either favoritism or unfairness in the exercise of professional judgment. In relationships with students, the employee is expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, abuse of power, harassment, exploitation, bias or favoritism.

An employee-student amorous relationship, even when consensual, involves inherent risk of perceived or actual conflicts of interest, favoritism, and exploitation. Further, the perception of the integrity of the academic program may suffer due to perceptions of favoritism or exploitation. Moreover, such relationships may lead to restricted opportunities, or a perception thereof, for others in the work or academic environment.

III. Policy Statement

Regardless of position or contact, an employee’s professional responsibilities make it possible for that employee to influence the status or circumstances of any student; therefore, Earlham prohibits all employees from entering into amorous relationships with students.

Efforts by employees to initiate or oblige romantic or sexual relationships with students is considered a violation of this policy and subject disciplinary action, including but not limited to termination of employment.

IV. Definitions

  1. Amorous Relationship: A consensual relationship or encounter of a romantic, intimate, sexual nature between persons.
  2. Employee: An individual who is not a degree-seeking student and who is employed full-time or part-time by Earlham College and the Earlham School of Religion.
  3. Familial Relationship: A person who is a spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner, or any person who is related to such an employee, whether by blood, marriage or adoption.
  4. Student: For the purposes of this policy, a student is someone who is enrolled in, or has applied for admission to, an undergraduate or graduate program of Earlham College or Earlham School of Religion.
  5. Supervisory or Evaluative Authority: The power to control or influence another person’s academic advancement or extracurricular participation, including but not limited to admission, compensation, discipline, grades, hiring, assignments, recommendations, financial support, promotion, or work conditions.

V. Where Students Hold Supervisory or Evaluative Authority

  1. Students who serve as Graduate Assistant (GA), Teaching Assistants (TA), Resident Assistant (RA), or Student Workers are prohibited from engaging or entering into amorous relationships with students over whom the GA, TA, RA or Student Worker has direct influence or over whom the Resident Assistant is in a position to exercise authority.
  2. Consensual relationships that exist prior to or develop after establishing a direct authority relationship require disclosure to the Faculty or Staff supervisor.
  3. The Faculty or Staff supervisor shall develop a plan to eliminate identified conflicts of interest and mitigate adverse effects on the involved parties and other third parties.
  4. Failure to comply with any of the provisions noted above will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

VI. Responsibility to Disclose

  1. When there is a preexisting amorous or familial relationship between an employee and a student, the employee must disclose this relationship to their supervisor and Human Resources within 30 days of the effective date of this policy.
  2. A department head, supervisor or other manager who learns of a current or prior amorous or familial relationship also has a responsibility to disclose such knowledge to the Office of Human Resources, and working with Human Resources, take steps to eliminate or manage the potential conflict of interest or abuse of authority.
  3. Any employee with actual or constructive knowledge of an amorous or familial relationship between an Earlham employee and a student has a responsibility to disclose such knowledge to the Office of Human Resources. Failure to disclose the relationship in a timely fashion will itself be considered a violation of this policy.
  4. If there is any doubt whether a relationship falls within this policy, individuals should disclose the facts and seek guidance rather than fail to disclose. Questions may be addressed to supervisors, Human Resources, or in confidence to the Earlham Ombudsperson.

VII. Consequences of violations of this Policy

Employees found in violation of this policy may be subject to discipline up to and including termination.

Clerical Notes

On March 9, 2024, the Board of Trustees adopted this fully revised policy following this review timeline:

  • June 12 – September 12, 2023: Open Comment Period
  • November 30, 2023: Campus Life Advisory Committee Approval
  • February 21, 2024: Presented to Faculty Meeting for information and feedback
  • March 1, 2024: Audit, Risk, Compliance Committee, Board of Trustees
  • March 9, 2024: Approval by the Board of Trustees

On May 8, 1996, the Faculty approved a statement on “Sexual Relationships with Students.” That action was recorded as a single-sentence position statement in the Employment Policies and Procedures handbook: “It is expected that Earlham employees will refrain from sexual relationships with Earlham College students.”

Policy specifications

Last revision: 03/09/2024
Approval date: 05/08/1996
Effective date: 03/09/2024
Associated division(s):
Associated audience(s):

Associated container(s):
Policy home: https://earlham.edu/policy/employee-student-amorous-relationships-policy