Section 1000: Campus Policy

Effective: June 12, 1998
Revised: October 2007
Review Date: October 2009
Responsible Party: Director of Human Resources

Montana State University-Northern is committed to maintaining a learning environment characterized by professional and ethical behavior. The University takes the position that amorous relationships between faculty members and students or between any supervisory/subordinate pair of employees are a basic violation of professional ethics, regardless of the appearance of mutual consent.

Because those who teach are entrusted with guiding students, judging their work and giving grades for papers and courses, instructors are in a delicate relationship of trust and power. This relationship must not be jeopardized by possible doubt of intent or the appearance to other students of favoritism. Therefore, it is inappropriate for faculty to have amorous relations with students they teach in a class, or recommend for awards, scholarships, or employment.

The same principles apply to other relationships within the campus community where a disparity of power exists, such as supervisor-subordinate.

Further, it must be recognized that a student’s or employee’s implied or explicit consent to an amorous relationship, or that of a subordinate employee, does not preclude an assertion at some future time that the presumed consent was based on a perception of intimidation or other compromise of free choice based on disparity of authority.

In the event of a charge of sexual harassment, Montana State University-Northern and the Montana University System will, in general, be unsympathetic to a defense based upon consent when the facts establish that a power differential existed between the parties involved.

  1. It is a violation of this policy for a faculty or staff member to undertake an amorous relationship or permit one to develop with a student or supervisee who is enrolled in the person’s class or is subject to that person’s supervision or evaluation, even though both parties appear to have consented to the relationship. 
  2. Amorous relationships between faculty or staff members and students outside the instructional and supervisory context are strongly discouraged. 
  3. MSU-Northern recognizes that consensual amorous relationships may exist prior to the time a student is assigned to a faculty member or a staff member is assigned to a supervisor. It is also recognized that such a relationship may exist between co-employees prior to the time when one of those employees becomes the supervisor of the other. An amorous relationship is recent if it is ongoing or has been in existence at any time within the six (6) months immediately preceding the assignment of the student or supervisee to the faculty or staff member. Where the faculty or staff member has, or has had, a recent amorous relationship with the student or supervisee the following procedures shall be followed:
    1. If, at all possible, the student should be advised in his or her course selections to avoid course sections taught by the instructor with whom the student has or has had a recent consensual relationship. Efforts should likewise be made not to place a subordinate under the supervision of a supervisor who has or has had a recent amorous relationship with the subordinate.
    2. In the event it is not possible for the student to avoid the class taught by the faculty member or for the supervisee to avoid the supervision of the supervisor, the faculty member shall advise his or her department chair or director and that chair or director shall advise his or her supervisor of the present or recent consensual amorous relationship and the following steps shall be taken:
      1. The department chair shall appoint another instructor to evaluate the student’s written work, such as essays, research papers, essay tests, or any other major academic projects upon which the student’s grade will be determined.
      2. The chair shall appoint another instructor to evaluate the student’s non-written work or performance such as cooperative education experiences, internships, or teaching or clinical practica.
      3. When an appropriate instructor is not available to evaluate the student’s work, the chair will provide the evaluation.
      4. A supervisor will request that his or her supervisor evaluate the subordinate employee and if such evaluation is not available, he or she will request that a supervisor of a related department evaluate the employee.
      5. The supervisor will remove himself or herself from the consideration of the employee for promotion, hiring or determination of salary.
      6. A student should not be assigned to a faculty advisor with whom that student has or has had a recent amorous relationship. The faculty advisor should request that the student be reassigned.
    3. Persons who are married - or have been married - to each other, are included within the definition of those persons having, or who have had, a consensual amorous relationship.

Faculty members or other University employees who engage in such a personal relationship as described above will be advised in writing that the action violates Montana State University- Northern’s policy and will be provided with a copy of this policy. Should the relationship continue in spite of such counsel, the individual will be subject to sanctions no less than an unpaid leave of absence to termination for cause.

The terms faculty or faculty member in this policy mean all those who teach at Montana State University- Northern, and include graduate students with teaching or supervisory responsibilities and other instructional personnel. The term staff means all other full and part-time employees of MSU-Northern.