University bans “intimate” relations between staff and students
The University of Oxford has announced a new policy on “intimate or close personal relationships” between students and staff.
Staff who have any responsibility for current students (including applicants) will be prohibited from entering into an intimate relationship with those students, and will be “strongly discouraged” from forming any other close personal relationships with current students that transgress “the boundaries of professional conduct.”
Previously, University policy held that close personal relationships between students and staff were strongly discouraged, and had to be declared to a line manager, rather than being prohibited.
Staff who fail to comply with the new policy will be subject to the University’s disciplinary procedures. These procedures state that, where possible, formal procedures should be “preceded by private and informal counseling.” Responsibility for disciplinary matters will generally lie with the relevant head of department who is responsible for “clarifying the required standards” and conducting a preliminary investigation into any concerns.
According to the University’s Statute XII, staff members who are not already under probation will first receive an oral warning by their head of department, before progressing to a written warning, which is kept on file for at least two years, even if there is “satisfactory conduct and performance” after the warning.
If there are pre-existing relationships between staff and students, the University have said they will focus on “avoiding conflicts of interest” by making sure that the staff member does not have any responsibility for the student.
The University have said that the new policy has not been developed in response to the recent Office for Students consultation, which has proposed a register of staff-student relationships, or “recent media reports”.
In 2020, It Happens Here, the SU-associated anti-sexual violence campaign, launched a campaign calling for a ban on relationships between students and the staff who are responsible for them.
A recent investigation by The Oxford Student found that Oxford staff found guilty of sexual misconduct have been allowed to remain at the university.
The new policy will be in place from the 17th April 2023.