At UVU, a student tried to have a relationship with their current professor. The student brought the teacher gifts, visited the professor’s office, and even called the professor’s home and talked to his wife in attempts to reach him. The teacher immediately reported this situation to his department chair. After the school reviewed the situation, they suspended the student. But what happens when professors reciprocate feelings?
Mark Wiesenberg, Director of Humans Resources at UVU, explained that he could the university does not have a set procedure in dealing with theses cases and deal with these situations on a case by case basis.
“Most of those issues when they are dealt with are not public knowledge, employee discipline is traditionally private,” said Mark Wiesenberg, Director of Human Resources at UVU.
“It does happen, but as far as I know, it’s very rare,” said Jim Harris, a Biology professor at UVU for 26 years. “I know of some cases when it has happened, but I cannot think of any current ones.”
Davis explained when he was dean over the Biology department that he had to let a teacher go due to this issue. He mentioned it was the student who came forward, and it was the Vice President of Academic Affairs that notified him about the situation.
According to the policy for professors and adjuncts at UVU, teachers are instructed to not have any type of relationship with a current student. However, the university does not have any policy against a teacher having a relationship with a prior student or with a student that is not currently enrolled in the teacher’s class.
“You’ve got students at the university that are adults, so it makes a great deal of a difference about whether they are current students or past students,” Harris said. “I think the real issue is whether or not relationships become uncomfortable or of concern to one or other individuals.”
Another professor who has been at UVU for over ten years mentioned that he was not sure if there was anything in his contract about whether or not he could have a consensual relationship with a current student.
“I’d have to go back and look myself,” he said. The professor further explained that the university has made statements about sexual harassment, but nothing else.
When a teacher is hired to work for the school, they have to go through sexual harassment training online and must retake this training every three years. In the policy for teachers and adjuncts, the school briefly discusses how to appropriately interact with students. However, the university has not felt the need to take further steps to educate teachers on how to appropriately interact with students.
“Our policy is telling our faculty, you better be careful,” said Bob Rasmussen, dean of Student Affairs and assistant vice president of Student Life.
He explained that the policy talked about professionalism, the abuse of power and the indications of misuse.
“The responsibility lies with the faculty member much more than it lies with student,” Rasmussen said.
It is the teacher’s responsibility; they are the ones that need to set the guidelines.
“If a student wants to cross those lines, then it’s the faculty members place to say stop,” Rasmussen said.
“At universities you have so many more people now,” said Kathren Brown, Assistant vice president of Academic Affairs. “Those of us who are older have to remember that just because a student is our age, doesn’t mean that those boundaries can blur.”
Brown suggested that teachers and students consider the long-term consequences of their behavior.
“I would caution anybody in a position of power not to be involved with anyone that they have even the least amount of power over,” Brown said. “It can be a potentially bad situation for everybody.”
Wiesenberg mentions that he hopes students or teachers that are having questionable relationships come forward and get help.
People concerned about student-teacher relationships or people involved in this situation should seek help from the university. The university suggests that people contact academic affairs, student affairs, or human resources with questions and concerns.
By Emily Stephenson – News Writer