UC Bans Student-Professor Dating

Friday July 18, 2003

The UC Board of Regents voted Thursday to ban romantic or sexual relationships between professors and the students they oversee or can reasonably expect to supervise in the future. 

The new policy supersedes a patchwork of policies at six of the nine UC campuses, including a UC Berkeley measure that simply called on professors to disqualify themselves from overseeing students with whom they are in a sexual relationship. 

“A universitywide policy ensures that there will be a clear and consistent standard or behavior expected on every campus,” said UC Academic Senate Chair Gayle Binion, who helped draft the policy change and is a non-voting member of the Board of Regents. 

Critics, including 60 UC Berkeley professors who signed a letter opposing the wording of the measure before it passed, have argued that the new policy will “criminalize” a host of healthy, responsible relationships—including many between young professors and older students. 

But supporters say the policy is necessary to ensure professors do not take advantage of students. 

“The very integrity of the university’s educational mission is dependent on the accountability of a faculty member as a mentor, educator and evaluator,” Binion said. 

The new policy comes eight months after UC Berkeley law school Dean John Dwyer resigned after a student filed a sexual harassment suit against him. But UC officials contend that the new policy is unrelated, noting that Regent Judith Hopkinson brought up the issue at a meeting in November 2001 and again last fall. 

The new policy imposes a range of six possible penalties for a faculty member who engages in an unauthorized relationship, ranging from a letter of censure to dismissal from the university. 

The Academic Senate, which represents the faculty, approved the new policy May 28, leaving it to the Board of Regents for final approval Thursday.