Rights and Responsibilities Rights and Responsibilities
Concordia University
About problem behaviours: Relationships between students and faculty


Concordia does not forbid intimate relationships between faculty and students that are consensual. However, such relationships are fraught with danger and the recommendation from the Advisor is that it is better to avoid them.

There are several reasons for this recommendation, not the least of which is the observation that when such relationships sour — and they often do — it is the student who usually loses, not the faculty member. Offices that provide services to students often hear these tales, and know that, more often than not, the student drops out of a course, a program or even the university. Professionally speaking, faculty should be encouraging students to learn, not taking risks with their academic futures.

What faculty members may not realize is that they also place themselves and the University at risk by crossing this particular boundary. If a student who has entered a relationship with a professor decides, upon its termination, to file a complaint of sexual harassment, the case will turn on the issue of consent. There is a view that, given the considerable power differential between student and professor, a student's consent to a relationship is always compromised. Whether one subscribes to this argument or not, human rights tribunals have supported it. The question becomes, is it worth the risk?

There are other, less controversial legal arguments that suggest that faculty refrain from such relationships, namely breach of trust and conflict of interest. Here too, human rights tribunals and arbitration boards have found against faculty members. Faculty have a duty to avoid conflict of interest and to exercise their power over students only in the students' interests, not in their own interests.

Faculty members should be mindful of Concordia's own Code of Ethics, which defines the conflicts of interest that arise when there is a personal relationship between a faculty member and a student.

The requirement is that if the relationship cannot be avoided, the faculty member should excuse him- or herself from any supervisory or evaluative role with regard to the student concerned. It is not necessary to declare the reasons for the conflict. So at the very least, if you cannot avoid the relationship, you should declare it.

As for students, the advice given by a student quoted in a University Affairs article is: "Do not have sex with anyone you sometimes have to call Mister, Doctor or Professor" — it may cost you dearly.

If you would like to discuss a situation of this nature — from any perspective — with the Advisor, you may do so with the assurance that the consultation will be in complete confidence.

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To consult the Advisor, Louise Shiller, drop in at GM-1120, 1550 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., call 848-2424 ext.4857, or send an e-mail message to advisor@alcor.concordia.ca.

Consultations are confidential.


Discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment

Relationships between students and faculty

"Stalking"

Problems related to mental illness


It is the student who usually loses