Harvard officially bans students from sleeping with their professors

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It's officially not okay for students and professors at Harvard University to sleep with each other.


This week, the Ivy League school formally banned sexual or romantic relationships between faculty and students.

The policy change comes as the Obama administration steps up its focus on how colleges handle accusations of sexual assault.


The administration has opened investigations, including at Harvard, into the handling of sexual assault allegations at schools around the country. In recent months, advocates at high profile schools like Columbia University and the University of Virginia have criticized colleges for failing to help victims.

The new policy is intended to prevent professors from coercing students into sexual relationships.

"It is the person in a position of greater authority who will be held responsible for problems that emerge from such relationships," it reads.

Most schools have discouraged professor-student relationships for decades, but few have actual bans in place. That seems to be changing now.


As the New York Times noted, after courts decided in the 1990s that schools could be held liable for sexual harassment, colleges began formalizing policies forbidding relationships between faculty and students.

In the last five years, Yale and the University of Connecticut have banned relationships between undergraduates and professors. While the penalties aren't spelled out, a Yale spokeswoman told Bloomberg News that the school has disciplined some faculty for inappropriate relationships.


Stanford University prohibits romantic relationships, the Los Angeles Times reported, and in the early 2000s, the University of California system barred relationships between faculty and students they might teach after a Berkeley student accused the law school dean of sexual harassment.

The College of William and Mary in Virginia and Ohio Wesleyan University have long had restrictions on faculty-student romances.


More recently, professors at Arizona State University supported a ban on relationships between faculty members and students they would oversee in class or in a job. The school's senate, which represents the faculty, determined a broader ban on faculty-student relationships would go too far, the Arizona Republic reported. The University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University have similar, limited bans in place.

"Institutions wouldn't go near it, just wanted to avoid pushback from faculty," Billie Dziech, a professor at the University of Cincinnati who has studied the issue, told the Washington Post. "We've come a long way from that time."


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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