Date Established: 11/17/2020
Date Last Updated:
Vice President for Finance and Administration
UB employees will not form romantic and/or sexual relationships with students or employees for whom they exercise professional responsibility, and will disclose pre-existing relationships with such students or employees.
The University at Buffalo (UB, university) is committed to ensuring that our students, faculty, and staff can learn and work in an environment that is free from nepotism, harassment, exploitation, and conflicts of interest. UB is also committed to promoting fairness in grading, evaluation, and career opportunities. In order to achieve this, it is vital that all university personnel maintain professional boundaries with students, and with employees over whom there is or will be a supervisory relationship.
UB employees exercise power and authority over students and employees for whom they have current supervisory, instructional, or other professional responsibility, which creates a power imbalance. This makes consent within any romantic relationship between a supervisor and employee or between an employee and a student problematic and may impede the real or perceived freedom of the student or employee to terminate or alter the relationship. Further, it may cause individuals outside of that relationship to believe that they are treated in an unequal manner during such a relationship or after it terminates, or it may cause individuals to feel that entering such a relationship is necessary or assistive in attaining their academic or career goals. Such a relationship may damage the credibility or reputation of the student, employee, the department or unit, and the university as a whole and may expose individuals or the institution to legal action and liability.
In the academic context, romantic relationships that might be appropriate in other circumstances have inherent dangers when they occur between employees and students. Implicit in the idea of professionalism is the recognition by those in positions of authority that in their relationships with students and employees there is an element of power.
Because inherent power differentials exist, employees are prohibited from entering romantic relationships with students for whom such employees have current supervisory, instructional, or other professional responsibility. State University of New York (SUNY) policy strongly discourages romantic relationships between employees and any students for whom such employees have no current supervisory, instructional, or other professional responsibility. It is understood that any intimate activity between employees and another employee or a student shall never take place while the employee is on duty or on campus. In regard to University Police, such relations shall also never occur during an officer’s tour of duty.
In the case of pre-existing relationships, employees shall be required to recuse themselves from any evaluation of the student and from any activity or decision which may appear to reward, penalize, or otherwise affect the student or student employee and to otherwise take appropriate action to minimize any potential preferential or adverse consequences to the student or other members of the university community.
In the employment context, there is a presumption against romantic relationships between employees where there is a current supervisory or authority imbalance. In cases where there is or has been a consensual romantic relationship between two individuals employed by the university, it is important that any sphere of influence or authority by one such employee over another be removed. Where one person is in the direct line of supervision over the other, the supervisor must notify university administration so that alternative arrangements for supervision can be made.
Where neither individual is in the direct line of supervision over the other, but authority exists wherein one individual could impact any employment-related decision regarding the other, such as participating in decisions regarding hiring, termination, appointment, reappointment, promotion, assignment of duties, evaluation, or changes in compensation or benefits for the other individual, such person must either recuse themselves from the decision-making process or, in the alternative, notify university administration so that they can be removed from the decision-making process.
Non-consensual relationships are always prohibited and may involve other policies or laws.
Employees are prohibited from entering into romantic relationships with any undergraduate students for whom such staff or personnel have current supervisory, instructional, or other professional responsibility.
Employees are prohibited from entering into romantic relationships with any graduate or professional student in their academic department or unit or over whom they have current supervisory, instructional, or other professional responsibility.
Employees are prohibited from supervising any employee with whom they are currently involved or in the past have been involved in a romantic relationship. Professional staff or other university personnel who enter a romantic relationship with any employee for whom they provide direct line supervision must notify their direct supervisor or department/unit head, and Director of Human Resources or Employee Relations or designee. The employee’s supervisor or department/unit head, in concert with the Director of Human Resources or Employee Relations or designee, shall determine whether an alternative supervisory structure is possible and, if so, shall direct the employees to the alternative supervisory structure. The conclusion of the relationship (whether amicably or not), does not change the prohibition stated herein.
There is no prohibition or reporting requirement for employees who enter, are currently involved in, or in the past have been involved in romantic relationships with other faculty and staff where there is no direct line supervisory relationship. However, where a romantic relationship exists or has existed, professional staff or other university personnel shall recuse themselves from any personnel decisions regarding the other individual including hiring, termination, appointment, reappointment, promotion, assignment of duties, evaluation, or changes in compensation or benefits for the other individual or, in the alternative, notify university administration so that they can be removed from the decision-making process.
There are no prohibitions or reporting requirements for consensual social interactions between employees, regardless of supervisory relationships, that are not romantic in nature.
Relationships between employees and an undergraduate, graduate/professional student, or employee for whom the employee will have supervisory, instructional, or other professional responsibility that pre-date enrollment as a student, the existence of a supervisory, instructional, or professional responsibility, or hire as staff are permissible provided that employee notifies their direct supervisor or department/unit head and the Director of Human Resources or Employee Relations or designee. The supervisor or department/unit head and the Director of Human Resources or Employee Relations or designee will work with the covered individuals to ensure that they are not in a direct supervisory or instructional relationship (and, if so, will develop a management plan for the employee), but there is no prohibition on maintaining the relationship. Individuals with hiring or admission authority may not be directly responsible for hiring or admitting an employee or student of any level, with whom they are currently involved or have in the past been involved in a romantic, intimate, and/or sexual relationship.
While the primary reporting office for violations of this policy is the Office of Human Resources or Employee Relations, reports of violations of this policy may be brought to the campus Title IX Coordinator, the Director of Human Resources or Employee Relations or their designee, or the Office of the Provost.
Monitoring the status of alternative supervision is the responsibility of the Associate Vice President of Human Resources or Employee Relations or designee. All documentation under this policy shall be maintained in the Office of Human Resources or Employee Relations.
Retaliation for making a report or participating in a process under this policy is prohibited. The university prohibits an individual from knowingly filing a false complaint or making misrepresentations of sexual misconduct. A complaint made in good faith is not considered false merely because the evidence does not ultimately support the allegation of sexual misconduct. If an investigation results in a finding that a person who has accused another of sexual misconduct has acted maliciously or has recklessly made false accusations, the reporting party will be subject to appropriate sanctions. It is important to note that due process considerations may limit the ability to investigate or resolve anonymous complaints.
Violations of this policy may result in disciplinary charges up to and including termination. Any disciplinary action will be taken pursuant to the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
This policy is based upon the State University of New York Model SUNY Consensual Relationship Policy issued on August 12, 2019. The policy supplements UB’s Nepotism Policy, which requires university representatives to make decisions regarding employment, academic, research, and procurement situations free from the appearance of favoritism or impropriety that can result from family, personal, and/or romantic relationships.
This policy governs faculty, professional staff, or other university personnel, whether employed full-time, part-time, or in volunteer status, whether or not they receive monetary compensation. This policy does not apply to undergraduate or graduate student employees on the student assistant or College Work-Study payroll; it does apply to graduate students with appointments as graduate assistants, research assistants, or teaching assistants in their teaching or supervisory roles. Conflicts of interest and limitations on supervisory relationships by student employees may be covered separately by the Code of Conduct or other policy.
Academic Department or Unit
Department or unit devoted to a particular academic discipline or operational area.
Department or Unit
An academic department or unit or a professional department or unit.
Health Care Professional
For purposes of this policy, a health care professional includes any individual (employee, volunteer, student, resident, intern, and/or trainee) who has responsibility for providing physical and/or mental health care services to students. Examples of physical health care professionals include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, registered nurses, medical assistants, dieticians, radiologists, and health educators. Examples of mental health care professionals include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners, and mental health counselors.
Professional Department or Unit
Department or unit devoted to providing professional services to students. This includes, but is not limited to, dining services, facilities services, student life/activities, financial aid, registrar, bursar, career services, library services, residential life, athletics, academic advisement, accessibility resources, counseling services, health center, information technology, and safety, security and police.
For the purposes of this policy only, professional staff and other college personnel shall be deemed to have professional responsibility to an undergraduate student or graduate student when that person has a job-related duty that can impact the student’s educational or professional career; specifically, where they have decision-making authority that may impact student learning, student life or student welfare, they have professional responsibility.
In addition, a University Police Officer shall be deemed to have a professional responsibility at any time that they are on duty, or when the member is directly involved in an ongoing investigation in which the student is a target, witness, person of interest, or subject of an investigation, criminal matter, inquiry, or campus administrative action, or when the member is involved in an open case or action in which the student or other staff is either the plaintiff/complainant/defendant or potential plaintiff/complainant/defendant.
A health care professional working in a campus student health service, counseling service, or wellness center shall not commence a romantic relationship with a student for whom they are providing direct patient medical care or counseling. In addition, such health care provider shall not provide direct patient medical care or counseling to a student with whom they have had or are having a consensual romantic relationship (unless it is an emergency and no other health care provider is available on campus).
An intimate, sexual and/or any other type of amorous encounter or relationship, whether casual or serious, short-term or long-term. Such a relationship exists in a marriage, a domestic partnership, or outside of marriage or domestic partnership between two persons who have a sexual union or who engage in a romantic partnering or courtship that may or may not have been consummated sexually.
An individual who is either an undergraduate or graduate student.
An individual whose primary relationship to the campus is in their role as a matriculated or non-matriculated student in a Bachelor level program, including certificates and other traditional and non-traditional academic programs. This definition does not include employees who are taking a non-matriculated course that is not part of an academic program. Status begins at payment of deposit to enroll or equivalent and continues through completion of all academic requirements and graduation. This applies regardless of the age of the Undergraduate Student and age of the faculty or staff member.
Graduate or Professional Student
An individual whose primary relationship to the campus is in their role as an enrolled or non-matriculated student in a Masters, Doctoral, post Bachelor Certificate or Professional level program. It also includes such individuals in the status of academically-required employment, such as residency, internship, practicum, fellowship, and equivalent. Depending on employment status, this group of students may also be covered employees as professional staff or other college personnel.
A relationship in which an employee has the authority to make, recommend, or impact decisions regarding hiring, termination, appointment, reappointment, promotion, assignment of duties, evaluation, or changes in compensation or benefits for another individual.