Abuse of Power and Professional Authority

Date : October 2022

The teacher-student relationship is at the core of Bowdoin College’s educational mission where all can achieve to their highest potential. The integrity of this relationship commands our highest attention and, as teachers, we are accountable as mentors, educators, and evaluators. The unequal institutional roles between teachers and students must be protected from influences or activities that can interfere with learning and personal development. For this reason, the College prohibits faculty members to engage in any sexual relationships with students even if they believe the relationship to be consensual. (Exception: Spouses/Domestic Partners of faculty/staff who take courses through the Educational Assistance Policy).

In these relationships there exists the potential for sexual harassment, conflict of interests, and the abuse of authority, with adverse effects on employees, students and the overall College community. This policy applies even if the student is not enrolled in the faculty member’s class. Also prohibited are sexual relationships between staff and students.* For purposes of this policy faculty is defined as all those in any type of teaching/mentoring positions that might include tenured and tenure track faculty, coaches, teaching assistants, post-docs, lecturers, lab instructors, etc.

Faculty and staff must be able to mentor, educate, advise, and evaluate students without potential for coercion. All employees should be aware that consensual relationships between those with unequal institutional power and those with institutionally conferred differences in status may create perceptions of favoritism or unfair treatment and may expose the College and the employee (faculty or staff member) to claims of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Those who violate this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions up to and including termination of employment. With respect to a complaint against a faculty, any termination decision shall be subject to the procedural requirements set forth in the Faculty Handbook.

*In rare situations there may be a preexisting relationship at the time of employment. These may be permitted but must be immediately disclosed to one’s supervisor for review by the Vice President for Human Resources to understand and minimize potential areas of conflict. For example, a recent Bowdoin grad is hired in residential life and is in a relationship with a rising senior. Measures will be taken to be sure there is no supervisory aspect or preferential treatment.