Consensual Relationship Policy (INTERIM)

I. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the employment and academic environment is free from real or perceived conflicts of interest when Bradley University employees, students, and affiliated individuals, in positions of unequal authority or power, are involved in consensual romantic or sexual relationships.

II. Scope

This policy applies to all Bradley employees, students and affiliated individuals.

III. Definitions

Consensual Relationship: A consensual romantic and/or sexual relationship, either past or present and including marriage, where one individual has an evaluative, advisory, supervisory, or reporting role in regard to the other.

Employees: Employees include, but are not limited to, administrators, faculty, staff, part-time or adjunct employees, student employees, graduate assistants and interns.

Students: Any person registered for study at the university, including online and between academic periods for continuing students.

IV. Policy Statement

For reasons stated in this policy, Bradley University prohibits consensual relationships when they occur between (1) an employee of Bradley University and a student of whom the employee has or potentially will have supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence, or (2) an employee of Bradley University and another employee over whom the employee has or potentially will have supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence.

These relationships give rise to the potential for or the appearance of impropriety, a conflict of interest, favoritism, or bias. They may also undermine the real or perceived integrity of the evaluation or supervision given. An additional issue that may arise due to the reporting and/or evaluative nature of the relationship and the power differential inherent therein, is the potential for such relationships to become exploitive or cause actual harm to one of the parties. This may occur both during the relationship and after it ends. This type of relationship may also harm or injure others in the academic or work environment, providing grounds for complaints by third parties when that relationship gives undue access or advantage, restricts opportunities, or creates the perception that any of these problems exist. Moreover, although the individual who occupies a power or authority position may honestly believe that a relationship is consensual, that may not be the case.

Due to the imbalance of power, conflicting interests, and the perceptions of unfair advantage, the student’s or employee’s actual freedom of choice may be greatly diminished. The relationship is likely to be perceived in different ways by each of the parties, particularly in retrospect. Furthermore, circumstances may change, and conduct that was previously welcome may become unwelcome. Even when both parties consent to a relationship at its outset, such prior consent does not preclude a later complaint based upon subsequent unwelcome or inappropriate conduct.

Anyone who enters into a consensual relationship, as defined above, must realize that if a charge of sexual harassment or other wrongdoing is subsequently filed, the University may be charged with liability because of the nature of the alleged wrongdoer’s position. Bradley University does not wish to assume such liability and it is unfair to request that it do so. In the event a legal matter or proceeding arises out of an individual's participation in a consensual relationship, the university cannot be expected to defend an individual who entered into such relationship and who is accused of wrongdoing. That individual will be personally responsible for defending him/herself and will be expected to bear all of his/her own expenses in such defense, including, but not limited to, attorneys' fees and other costs.

Notwithstanding this general rule prohibiting consensual relationships as defined in this policy, Bradley University acknowledges that some consensual relationships may be acceptable, particularly in situations where a Bradley employee is married to or in a committed relationship with another individual, and that individual becomes enrolled as a student at Bradley University, or that individual becomes employed by Bradley University in a position that reports to the individual they are in a relationship with. Individuals in these relationships must follow the reporting procedure stated in this policy and the university will determine whether an exception is appropriate.

V. Reporting Procedure

Individuals in a consensual relationship covered by this policy who believe their circumstances merit an exception must report this relationship and their respective roles to Bradley University, so that the university can determine whether an exception is appropriate, and, if so, whether any changes in the evaluative, advisory, supervisory, or reporting role should be made, or whether other individuals should share or assume such role. In such a case: (a) a staff member must report the relationship to the Vice President overseeing the unit; and (b) a faculty member must report the relationship to the appropriate Dean or to the Provost. Exceptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

If an individual is aware of an alleged violation of this policy, or if an individual independently observes conduct that may be prohibited by this policy, the individual may report the matter as follows:

  • A staff member may report the matter to: (1) his/her immediate supervisor; or (2) Human Resources.
  • A faculty member may report the matter to: (1) the Dean; (2) the Provost; or (3) Human Resources.
  • A student may report the matter to: (1) the Executive Director of Student Support Services; (2) the Vice President for Student Affairs; or (3) Human Resources.
  • An affiliated individual such as a volunteer, vendor or contractor may report the matter to: (1) the primary point of contact at the University; or (2) Human Resources.

Charges of sexual harassment that may be reported by one individual against another with whom that individual has previously involved in a consensual relationship will be investigated in accordance with the process and procedures outlined in the Bradley University Statement on Sexual Harassment & Sexual Misconduct Policy & Procedures and the Faculty and Staff Handbooks.

VI. Violations

A violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

VII. Education and Distribution of Policy

A copy of this policy is provided to all new hires during orientation and also to current employees. A copy of this policy is available in print in Human Resources and online at the HR website A summary of this policy shall be provided in University Faculty and Staff Handbooks and may appear in other publications prepared by Human Resources. Questions regarding this policy may be directed to your department chair, vice president, college dean, or a representative of Human Resources.

Implemented as an interim policy on August 13, 2018