Blog

When University Employees Develop Intimate Relationships with Students

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Apr 08, 2022 | 0 Comments

A Real Risk of Job Dismissal

College and university employees at many schools can get into big trouble for dating, sexual, or other intimate relationships with the school's students. A recent New York Times article indicates that by 2014, fully eighty-four percent of colleges and universities prohibited sexual relationships between instructors and students. That figure has only grown since then with the advent of the Me Too movement. Harvard University and other prominent schools have since then joined the crowd of schools already prohibiting it. Employees at those schools with strict prohibitions face a real prospect of employment dismissal, even for tenured faculty or staff protected by a labor agreement.

Prohibitions May Cover All Employees

Whether you are a professor, adjunct professor, instructor, program director, staff member, athletic coach, or other university employee having some role in your college or university academic programs, your school very likely prohibits your dating or other intimate relationship with students. School prohibitions against employee intimate relationships with students may even extend to prohibit teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and other student employees, including resident advisors, from having intimate relationships with students whom they serve in their employment role.

Misunderstandings and Excuses May Not Matter

College and university employees tend to offer misunderstandings and excuses when charged with an inappropriate student sexual relationship if, in fact, the employee has had such a relationship. But college and university employment policies typically strictly prohibit any sexual relationship with any student, no matter the excuses. Misunderstandings and excuses won't usually relieve the employee of a misconduct finding, especially if the employee is unrepresented or represented by a poorly qualified local criminal attorney.

Effective College Misconduct Attorney Defense Matters

Effective representation from premier national college misconduct attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm may prove the charges false or may prove circumstances mitigating the harshness of the penalty the school imposes. The following common assertions typically have little or no bearing on the charge unless effective attorney representation can show that they constitute special or extenuating circumstances. Skilled and experienced representation may also show that these circumstances should mitigate any penalty. 

  • The conduct was only holding hands, massages, kissing, or other intimate touching but nothing further
  • The student consented to all conduct and continues to describe the relationship as voluntary
  • The student, rather than the employee, pursued the relationship and initiated the intimate conduct
  • Intimate sexual relations between the employee and student happened only once or were for only a short duration
  • The student was not the employee's student or was no longer the employee's student when the intimate relationship occurred
  • The employee wasn't aware of the policy and now assures that the conduct won't happen again

It is important to note that the above list is most applicable to a student employee versus a more traditionally-defined school employee.  With professors, faculty, coaches, and others working in a more traditionally-defined role at a college or university, any violation of school policies regarding student employee relationships are often zero-tolerance in nature and can easily result in termination.

That said, some relationships between a school employee and a student may exist in a gray area.  An arguably inappropriate platonic relationship with a student can lead to allegations, including Title IX sexual harassment charges, against a school employee.  Even if strictly platonic, however, if a school employee has made a poor decision leading to an inappropriate relationship with a student, the stakes regarding employment concerns can be as high as when school employees make more egregiously poor decisions regarding their interactions with a student.  Even in cases involving gray areas, in addition to an effective defense having to be mounted, other measures often need to be taken to minimize the potential consequences of such actions and professional help is an absolute must.

Retain a Premier National College Misconduct Attorney

If you face an employment proceeding at your college or university alleging that you have had an inappropriate relationship or an intimate relationship with a student, retain premier national college misconduct attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's college misconduct team to defend you. Attorney Lento and his expert team have helped hundreds of college and university employees and students successfully defend and defeat charges of sexual or other misconduct. Call 888-535-3686 or go online now for the help of a premier attorney and team.

About the Author