Policy on relationships

Introduction

Close relationships (eg friendship, sexual, business, political) between members of the University community may be positive but can undermine the confidence of others in the impartiality and fairness of the University's procedures. Members of the University community should take care so to conduct themselves that this confidence is not undermined

Improper use of power

Particular care is needed when the parties are in a relationship of unequal power. This can arise not only in relations between staff and students but in any circumstances where one party is dominant in personality, physical strength or number, or in circumstances in which one party is in a position to confer a benefit or impose a disadvantage.

All harassment and unjustified discrimination are against the University's policy and may therefore involve a breach of discipline but, because such behaviour by a member of staff may involve the abuse of an authority that derives from the University itself, the University will regard it as particularly serious and will normally take disciplinary action.

In particular the University would regard it as a breach of discipline if a member of staff made improper use of authority, for example by offering benefits in return for personal favours or threatening or imposing penalties if personal favours are withheld.

Assessment and career progression

The University requires that where a member of staff is responsible for the assessment of a student with whom s/he has a close personal or other relationship, the member of staff will ensure that the assessment of the student's work is undertaken by another, independent, member of staff. In such circumstances, a member of staff is not obliged to reveal the nature of the relationship. In cases of doubt, the member of staff should seek advice, in confidence, from their Dean of Faculty.

Similarly, any member of staff, whether teaching or support staff, who must make decisions concerning the progress and future of a student or other member of staff with whoms/he has a close personal or other relationship must ensure that such decisions are taken or validated by another, independent, member of staff The guiding principle is that staff should not place themselves in a situation where others might reasonably believe that there has been improper conduct.

General

It is not harassment to develop friendships, sexual or otherwise, if both people freely consent. The University has no concern with the private lives of its staff or students unless they affect its proper operation.