Proposed policy bans relationships between Duke undergrads, faculty

Proposed policy bans relationships between Duke undergrads, faculty

DURHAM, NC (WNCN) - If a new Duke University policy passes, students will have to make sure their lust for learning doesn't include their professors.

"It could help make campus a little safer for students," said John Malik, a graduate student at Duke. "Not to say that faculty are aggressive here, but if something does arise then there's a legal precedent for intervening and making sure students are safe."

Duke University is considering a new policy that would prohibit romantic relationships between faculty and undergrad students.

According to the Duke Chronicle, Duke University's academic council will vote on the policy on May 10.

Duke senior Alex Barbet thinks it's a good thing.

He believes faculty-student relationships could lead to favoritism in the classroom.

"There's definitely a power dynamic between professors and undergrads and there's definitely a potential for unethical grading to happen and other gray areas that definitely need to be taken care of," Barbet said.

The proposed change to the faculty handbook would prohibit sexual and romantic relationships between undergrads and faculty and puts restrictions on relationships between grad students and faculty.

If the faculty member doesn't have a supervisory role over the grad student the relationship is allowed.

"I'm not gonna say that age difference is like the sole factor, but I think the maturity difference between someone who is in a faculty position and someone who is just studying should be large enough that a relationship is not sustainable," said Malik.

Faculty members who violate the policy could face suspension, demotion or even termination.

"The graduate student's situation is actually a little more delicate because I think graduate students work a little more closely with faculty," Malik said "The student supervisor relationship is very close and having boundaries there could even be more useful than having boundaries between faculty and undergrad students."

The new policy is tougher than the current one, which only prohibits consensual romances between faculty and students if the faculty has any authoritative role over the student.

"I don't think it's appropriate while they're in school," said Kirsten Burdett, former Grad student at Duke. "I definitely think it can influence the professor and create some bias."

There is one exception; grad students and faculty who study and work in different schools or departments. Those relationships would not have to be reported.

CBS 17 News reached out to Duke University officials for comment on the proposed policy change, but so far they have not commented.