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University Policy 58

Improper Relationships between Students and Employees

Formerly Executive Memorandum 96-116
Initially approved July 8, 1996

Policy Topic: Personnel; Student Activities and Services
Administering Office: Chancellor's Office

On March 15, 1996, the Board of Governors adopted a policy concerning "Improper Relationships Between Students and Employees" for immediate implementation by all constituent institutions. In accordance with the Board of Governors' policy statement, WCU has adopted the following policy and procedures.


The University of North Carolina and Western Carolina University do not condone amorous relationships between students and employees. Members of the University community should avoid such liaisons, which can harm affected students and damage the integrity of the academic enterprise. Further, sexual relationships between unmarried persons can result in criminal liability. In two types of situations, University prohibition and punishment of amorous relationships is deemed necessary: (1) When the employee is responsible for evaluating or supervising the affected student. (2) When the student is a minor, as defined by North Carolina law.

A. Prohibited Conduct

It is misconduct, subject to disciplinary action, for a University employee, incident to any instructional, research, administrative or other University employment responsibility or authority, to evaluate or supervise any enrolled student of the institution with whom he or she has an amorous relationship or to whom he or she is related by blood, law or marriage.

It is misconduct, subject to disciplinary action, for a University employee to engage in sexual activity with any enrolled student of the institution, other than his or her spouse, who is a minor below the age of 18 years.

B. Definition of Terms

"Amorous relationship." An amorous relationship exists when, without the benefit of marriage, two persons as consenting partners (a) have a sexual union or (b) engage in a romantic partnering or courtship that may or may not have been consummated sexually.

"Related by blood, law or marriage" means:

  1. Parent and child
  2. Brother and sister
  3. Grandparent and grandchild
  4. Aunt and/or uncle and niece and/or nephew
  5. First cousins
  6. Step-parent and step-child
  7. Husband and wife
  8. Parents-in-law and children-in-law
  9. Brother-in-law and sisters-in-law
  10. Guardian and ward

"Evaluate or supervise" means:

  1. To assess, determine or influence (1) one's academic performance, progress or potential or (2) one's entitlement to or eligibility for any institutionally conferred right, benefit or opportunity, or
  2. To oversee, manage or direct one's academic or other institutionally prescribed activities.

C. Corrective Action

Complaints that an employee is violating this policy should be made to and investigated by the accused employee's supervisor. Before beginning an investigation, a supervisor may require a complaining party to submit a signed, written statement. While there are no time limits barring a complaint, delay may make it difficult for the supervisor to properly investigate the matter. The person charged with investigating the complaint may seek guidance as necessary from either higher level supervisors, the Equal Opportunity Director or University Legal Counsel. The Chancellor may assign the Equal Opportunity Director or the University Legal Counsel to assist in the investigation as necessary.

All complaints received pursuant to this section must be reported to the Vice Chancellor of the accused employee by the person receiving them. The report shall be in the form of a written statement identifying the complaining party, the conduct complained of, and the employee alleged to have engaged in it.

The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether there is a reasonable basis for believing that a violation of this policy has occurred. The investigator serves as a neutral fact finder. While there are no time limits placed on investigators, investigations must be completed as quickly as justice and fairness allow. Possible outcomes of the investigation include: (1) a judgment that a policy violation did not occur; (2) an agreement, in appropriate cases, to end the employees supervisory or evaluative responsibilities over the student; (3) institution of formal disciplinary action in accordance with existing disciplinary policies and procedures.

If disciplinary action is brought against an affected employee, it shall be conducted in accordance with existing institutional policies and procedures prescribed for prosecuting misconduct charges against members of the class of employment of which the affected employee is a member.

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