Senate to vote on faculty code

Jennifer Niemela

The University’s sexual harassment code could undergo revisions if the University Senate adopts a plan introduced Thursday at its monthly meeting.
The revisions, which were introduced by the Sexual Harassment Board, include clarification of the consensual relationships code. The harassment board is a Board of Regents-appointed body charged with overseeing sexual harassment policies.
Currently, the consensual relationships code states that consensual relationships between supervisors and subordinates or faculty members and students are “unwise.” The proposed policy would prohibit “sexual or romantic relationships between instructors and advisers and their current students, and between supervisors and their immediate subordinates,” according to documents distributed Thursday.
“This is meant to eliminate conflicts of interest, not prohibit relationships,” said Pat Frazier, chairwoman of the Sexual Harassment Board.
The policy defines an immediate supervisor as a person in the position to hire, fire or evaluate the subordinate.
Frazier, who introduced the proposal to the Senate, said the board tried to be flexible with the policy by allowing relationships when indirect lines of supervision are involved.
“The goal is to get broad support from faculty, students and staff,” Frazier said. “I think we have a policy that is supported throughout the University community.”
Biochemistry professor Victor Bloomfield raised the question of ambiguities caused by the categories of faculty, subordinates and supervisors.
“What about a consensual relationship between a professor and a lab technician, or an administrator with a staff member? All of these would be prohibited by the policy, and … I don’t think that’s the intent,” Bloomfield said. “These are grown-ups entering relationships. I don’t think it’s in the University’s interest to prohibit that.”
Kris Lockhart, associate to the director of equal opportunity and affirmative action, said it would be impossible to categorize every single type of relationship between employees.
“There’s really a narrow window of people who are prohibited from having relationships,” she said.
The current sexual harassment policy has been in place since 1984. The Board of Regents requested a report from the Sexual Harassment Board in 1994 to determine the policy’s effectiveness. The proposed changes will be voted on in next month’s Senate meeting.
Here are some other matters on which the Senate voted:
ù The original semester conversion calendar called for spring semester to begin after Martin Luther King Day, the third Monday in January. The calendar also said spring semester would begin on the third Tuesday of January. However, when January begins on a Tuesday, Martin Luther King day falls before the third Tuesday, contradicting the calendar’s two stipulations. The Senate unanimously passed a motion to allow spring semester to start on the Tuesday following the third Monday of January in 1999-2000.
ù The Senate also unanimously approved a motion to allow individual departments to decide whether to accept transfer credits from Minnesota technical colleges. The University doesn’t currently accept credit from technical schools; transfer students often must retake classes they might have already taken elsewhere for University credit.
ù An as-yet unnamed and unfunded award will be given annually to 10 graduate and professional faculty members, the Senate decided. The award will recognize faculty members who excel in instructing and helping students in graduate-level research.
ù Each campus in the University system will be allowed to decide whether to have a study day or a five- or six-day finals week, the Senate unanimously voted.