UConn President Susan Herbst’s Letter To The University Community

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Susan Herbst (File/Peter Morenus/UConn)

Susan Herbst (File/Peter Morenus/UConn)

To the University Community,

Academic and professional excellence can exist only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of mutual respect. The University is committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or discriminatory harassment directed toward any person or group within our community – students, employees, or visitors. I am pleased to announce that in furtherance of our commitment to institutional excellence, our Board of Trustees today approved a new University Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Inappropriate Romantic Relationships.

In addition to clarifying the University’s expectations for an environment free from all forms of discrimination and discriminatory harassment, the new policy also specifically prohibits romantic relationships between faculty or staff and undergraduate students; faculty or staff with graduate students over whom they have authority; graduate students with students over whom they have authority; and supervisors with subordinate employees. The power difference between faculty and staff as compared to students means that any romantic relationship between a faculty or staff member and a student is potentially exploitative or could at any time be perceived as exploitative.

It should be noted that the university has been shaping this policy for approximately one year and it is not in reaction to any specific instance or matter.

In the employment context, romantic relationships between supervisors and their subordinate employees often adversely affect decisions, distort judgment, and undermine workplace morale for all employees, including those not directly engaged in the relationship. While we have longstanding policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment and discouraging these romantic relationships, the new policy more forcefully reflects our institutional values and prevailing higher education non-discrimination and anti-harassment principles.

Every member of our community should take the time to carefully review the new policy and the Frequently Asked Questions. The policy more clearly identifies reporting obligations for deans, department heads, directors and supervisors, and also provides more information on the offices responsible for administering these issues on campus. If you have any questions, I encourage you to direct them to the Office of Diversity and Equity or the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations.

Sincerely,

Susan Herbst

President

University of Connecticut

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