Indiana University Teaching Handbook
Preparing to Teach
Adapted with permission from Farris, 1985, and the Indiana University Academic Handbook
The universitys educational mission is promoted by professionalism in instructor-student relationships. Professionalism is fostered by an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. Actions of instructors and students that harm this atmosphere undermine professionalism and hinder fulfillment of the universitys educational mission. Trust and respect are diminished when those in positions of authority abuse or appear to abuse their power. Those who abuse their power in such a context violate their duty to the university community.
Instructors exercise power over students, whether in giving them praise or criticism, evaluating them, making recommendations for their further studies or employment, etc. All amorous or sexual relationships between instructors and students are unacceptable when the instructor has any professional responsibility for the student. Such situations greatly increase the chances that the instructor will abuse his or her power and sexually exploit the student. Voluntary consent by the student in such a relationship is suspect, given the fundamentally asymmetric nature of the relationship. Moreover, other students and instructors may be affected by such behavior because it places the instructor in a position to favor one students interest at the expense of others and implicitly makes obtaining benefits contingent on amorous or sexual favors. Therefore, the university will view it as a violation of the Code of Academic Ethics if instructors engage in amorous or sexual relations with students for whom they have professional responsibility, either in an instructional context (a student enrolled in your class) or a non-instructional context (any decisions that may reward or penalize a student with whom he or she has or has had an amorous or sexual relationship, especially when the instructor and student are in the same academic unit or in allied units).
Issues of sexual harassment can be especially tricky for associate instructors because they occupy the roles of both instructor and student. Associate instructors are in a particularly vulnerable position: as an instructor you have some power over your own students, and as a graduate student you are subject to the power of the faculty over your academic record and letters of recommendation. Therefore, the issue of sexual harassment must be addressed from two directions; your potential for harassing (or being perceived as harassing) your students, and the potential for you to be harassed by those who instruct and supervise you.
The following are some general guidelines for protecting yourself and the students you teach from sexual harassment:
- Dont ask students to do favors for you, of any kind. This will help to avoid misunderstandings concerning the singling out of students for what might appear to be preferential treatment.
- Schedule meetings with students during office hours or by appointment. For more informal meetings with individuals or groups, meet in public settings such as the Union or a nearby cafe. Students should not be able to misconstrue the sentiment behind informal get-togethers and read inappropriate meanings into your invitations.
- Attempt to resolve disputes or disagreements with students in the presence (or within hearing distance) of witnesses. This may prevent a disgruntled student from making false accusations out of anger over academic matters. For AIs, another alternative is to meet with the supervising professor for the course and the student simultaneously in order to avoid similar misunderstandings.
More information, including the formal definition of harassment and the procedures to follow in such cases, can be found in the IU Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct, Part I. A. 3 (1-2) and Appendix 2 (41-42).