Only four days after St. Valentine’s Day, an email was sent out to the entirety of The University of Edinburgh’s staff and student body; the headline: ‘New Policy on Disclosure of Intimate Relationships.’ At first glance I thought it was a less-than-subtle dig at those of us lone wolves who had not found a date for the fourteenth and perhaps never would have an intimate relationship to disclose. But, perhaps that was just my post-V-Day blues talking.
In actuality the email was simply a short notification about an addendum to the University’s policy on staff-student relationships. However, as I read over the new policy, I realised my surprise was not going away and was maybe even greater than if the email was just passive aggressively calling me out for being single. What is so remarkable about the policy isn’t that it requires staff and student staff members to ‘disclose, in writing, if they are in, or have been in an intimate relationship with an incoming/current student’ but only encourages students to do the same. Nor is it surprising that the policy bluntly discourages ‘intimate contact’ between all staff and students.
In fact, these are quite common policies in universities all over the globe since educational institutions seek, as does the University of Edinburgh, to protect their community from ‘conflicts of interest,’ ‘misuse of power,’ ‘exploited consent,’ and especially allegations of ‘improper conduct’ such as favouritism, bias, victimisation, or harassment. Human resources and public relations departments of most workplaces have had similar protections put in place for decades (and many, including Pawnee’s Parks and Recreation department, have been the cause for some of television’s best secret romances). However, all the precautions and protections are not what surprised me. Instead, it was the fact that the university had not already instituted a disclosure policy long before now.
Sure, there will always be arguments about staff and student privacy, but administration can easily override these complaints if they are not in majority. Furthermore, the university already had a disclosure policy intact for staff-staff relationships far before the establishment of this recent policy. Why a staff-student addendum has only been added now is concerning.
That being said, the policy is extremely topical considering the widespread and pressing topic of sexual harassment across broadcast media and the spotlight on consent in relationships with an unequal power distribution like staff and student, or boss and employee.
In reviewing their policy, The University of Edinburgh tested a variety of opinions to ensure a democratic decision, representative of the entire student body (not exclusively the staff and administrators), since they collaborated with the ‘Students’ Association, the Advice Place and the joint unions.’
But, did you hear anything about it before it was passed? Me neither. This rash and unexpected passing of a policy many of us were not aware did not already exist, prompts the question of whether the university simply made the change, not to highlight its social progressivism, but to quickly brush past the fact that they had not already formally instituted a disclosure policy to protect its community.
Is it just worrying that this policy was not already in place? Is it better late than never? Or, better yet, do you disagree with the policy altogether and believe it is an unfair invasion of privacy?
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