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Office of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access
Consensual Amorous Relationships

ESF expectations on relationships between faculty and students/managers and employees

ESF strives to provide a friendly, supportive work and learning atmosphere for its employees and students. As well, it must promote an environment where all work/academic decisions are made professionally and fairly, unencumbered by the effect of personal relationships. Nevertheless, in any work or academic setting, it is possible – even likely – that consensual romantic relationships will develop. ESF recognizes this potential, particularly in a milieu where individuals work closely together in circumstances that are frequently demanding and complex.

There are certain potential risks inherent in all workplace romantic relationships between individuals in unequal positions within the institution, such as supervisor/employee or faculty member/student. Such relationships may compromise or be perceived as compromising the fairness and impartiality of a supervisor's/faculty member's conduct toward the subordinate or to others in subordinate positions. Further, there is potential impact on the work environment and potential damage to the supervisory individual's own credibility and standing, within the department and within the organization as a whole.

Given the power imbalance between the two individuals, the relationship may in fact be far less voluntary for the subordinate than it appears to the supervisory individual. Also, circumstances may change, and conduct that was previously welcomed by the subordinate party may in fact become unwanted and unwelcome. Initial consent of both parties to the relationship may not prevent later charges of sexual harassment by the subordinate. Legally, the supervisory individual and the organization could be challenged if a consensual amorous relationship results in allegations of hostile work environment by the subordinate or by any others in the department who feel they themselves have been treated unfairly as a result of the relationship.

SUNY Resolution Regarding Consensual Relationship Policy

On March 19, 2018, SUNY administration shared with ESF President Quentin Wheeler the SUNY resolution regarding the consensual relationship policy. Below is an excerpt from this resolution:

"Whereas when SUNY faculty and staff members exercise power and authority over SUNY students and employees for whom they have current supervisory, instructional, or other professional responsibility, a power imbalance is created which makes consent within any sexual or romantic relationship between them problematic, and may impede the real or perceived freedom of the student or employee to terminate or alter the relationship."