Guidelines for Consensual Amorous Relationships

The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) strives to provide a friendly and supportive working and learning environment 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 may develop. UMMS recognizes this potential, particularly in an academic health care 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 faculty/student. Such relationships may compromise or be perceived as compromising the fairness and impartiality of a faculty member’s conduct toward the student or to others in subordinate positions. Further, there is potential impact on the learning environment and potential damage to the supervisory individual’s 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 may in fact become unwanted and unwelcome. Initial consent by 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 sexual harassment or hostile work or learning 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.

The UMMS policy with regard to faculty and students is:

  • A UMMS faculty member should not date, or have a romantic relationship with, a student over whom s/he has a direct or indirect teaching/advisory/mentoring/evaluative responsibility, or over whom there may be a perception of such responsibility.
  • A faculty member with questions/concerns should consult promptly with his/her department Chair, or may choose to consult with other individuals such as his/her dean, the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, the Vice Provost for Research, or the Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion. A student with concerns should consult with his/her Dean, advisor or the Diversity and Inclusion Office (DIO).
  • The Dean (or designee) will recommend a resolution in consultation with DIO.

Students and faculty are encouraged to contact the DIO (HI-728 or call 508-856-2179) with any questions about these guidelines, which can be found at http://www.umassmed.edu/dio/equal-opportunity/ppg-car-consensual/.

Applicability: All
Date Revised:  April 2006 (DIO)