Regent Policy Documents



(Formerly 91-8)

It is in the interest of the University of Wisconsin System to provide clear direction and educational opportunities to the university community about the professional risks associated with consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships where a definite power differential between the parties exists. These relationships are of concern for two primary reasons.

  1. Conflict of Interest: Conflicts of interest may arise in connection with consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty or other instructional staff and students, or between supervisors and subordinates. University policy and more general ethical principles preclude individuals from evaluating the work or academic performance of others with whom they have intimate familial relationships, or from making hiring, salary or similar financial decisions concerning such persons. The same principles apply to consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships, and require, at a minimum, that appropriate arrangements be made for objective decision-making with regard to the student, subordinate or prospective employee.
  2. Abuse of Power Differential: Although conflict of interest issues can be resolved, in a consensual romantic and/or sexual relationship involving a power differential the potential for serious consequences remains. Individuals entering into such relationships must recognize that:
    1. the reasons for entering such a relationship may be a function of the power differential:
    2. where power differentials exists, even in a seemingly consensual relationship, there are limited after-the-fact defenses against charges of sexual harassment; and
    3. the individual with the power in the relationship will bear the burden of accountability.
  3. Guidelines for Implementation: To make it clear that romantic and/or sexual relationships involving conflict of interest are unacceptable in the University of Wisconsin System and to ensure that members of the university community are alerted to the potential for abuse in power differential relationships, even where conflict of interest issues are resolved, each institution within the University of Wisconsin System shall develop a statement on Consensual Relationships that is consistent with the above.
    1. The statement shall be developed in consultation with faculty, academic staff and student governing bodies.
    2. The statement shall be published in faculty and student handbooks and comparable academic staff publications.
    3. A means of educating instructors, supervisors, and other employees and students on the meaning of the statement shall be provided.
    4. These guidelines shall be implemented by the end of the academic year 1991-92.

History: Res. 5867 adopted 7/12/91.

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The Regent Policy Documents were adopted and are maintained pursuant to the policy-making authority vested in the Board of Regents by Wis. Stats. § 36. The Regent Policy Documents manifest significant policies approved by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. This document is a ready reference for those charged with carrying out these policies. Unless noted otherwise, associated documents and reports may be obtained from the Office of the Secretary of the Board of Regents, 1860 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, ph 608-262-2324.