Florida Gulf Coast University had a problem and an opportunity. We believe FGCU addressed both in developing guidelines for dating and even marriage among faculty and staff members and students.
The policy, or at least as we understand it so far, prohibits relationships in which one party has power over the other — unless that relationship is self-reported by the ranking member of that couple.
Failure to disclose, the policy says, could result in sanctions up to and including dismissal.
The advantage to coming forward, according to the policy, is access to a process that calls for case-by-case review within each senior staff member’s department. Official responses could include reassigning one of the partners to remove conflicts of interest or other misuse of power and influence.
The university has specific comments for concerns about the first kind of relationships that may come to mind — faculty-student. It stops short of an across-the-board ban, as long as a teacher does not date a student in his or her classes, and stresses that other remedies for unwanted, coercive advances on students by teachers remain firmly in place.
This policy addresses consensual relationships.
It takes into account that the people involved in relationships at this stage of life are adults. It also takes into account that the university is a dynamic place with myriad potential for abuse of power and funding.
FGCU got the job done in only six pages.
Time will tell if what’s on paper actually works on the problem as well as the opportunity. So far, it looks promising.
What is clear right now is that the university understands the gravity of the situation.