Datingpolicymight change

Nancy Ngo

After almost 20 drafts since revisions began in September, a policy on regulating nepotism and consensual relationships at the University nears a final vote.
The latest outline, discussed by a Faculty Senate committee Thursday, makes a bolder statement than past policies about how sexual or romantic relationships between faculty, students and staff should be handled. Such relationships must be reported by all members of the University whether a conflict is apparent or not.
“It’s not saying you can’t have a personal relationship, but you won’t be able to do any hiring, promotion or grading of the other person,” said Pat Frazier, chairwoman of the sexual harassment board and associate professor in psychology.
The draft on nepotism and consensual relationships was approved with little discussion last week by the Faculty Consultative Committee. It was the latest step in a five-year policy formulating process that officials say was not in response to any particular incident.
Although the most recent draft does not ban relationships — which University officials earlier worried would be in violation of freedom of association rights — the policy might still pose constitutional issues.
“The draft that’s been discussed is a substantial improvement over previous drafts,” said General Counsel Mark Rotenberg. “There are many privacy, due process issues.”
Before leaving office, former President Nils Hasselmo sent the policy back to the University Senate in May to rework the language about consensual relationships. He said the clause banning relationships would be difficult to enforce.
Kent Bales, committee chairman and professor in the English department, said he believes later drafts fixed those concerns.
“I think we’re okay with the administration,” Bales said. “Rather than prohibit relationships, we’re prohibiting conflicts.”
Those involved in romantic relationships would now be required to alert a supervisor or another manager. Bales said a “work-around” would be made so that the two parties involved would not collaborate with each other directly.
During the draft process, authors of the policy were concerned that privacy issues would keep some people from reporting their relationships. Bales said the policy committee tried to ensure that coming to a supervisor would not jeopardize job security or compromise privacy.
The senate committee expects to review the policy once more before they pass it on to administrators, which could come as early as April.
To become official, the policy still needs approval by University President Mark Yudof and the Board of Regents. The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action would be responsible for enforcing the policy.
Those who fail to report such relationships could face disciplinary action determined by their departments. Unreported cases of nepotism — favoring relatives in workplace decisions — could also bring department-determined penalties.
Authors of the draft policy merged an existing nepotism policy with one on consensual relationships.
“It’s the same types of issues of conflict of interest when you have a dual relationship,” Frazier said of the decision to combine the two policies.
Committee members have been discussing policy changes with administrators throughout the process and they expect Yudof to accept the changes.