A policy statement strongly advising academics against sexual relationships with students or 'any other unequal relationship which could potentially compromise positions of trust', will be debated by Bradford members of the Association of University Teachers this month. Nationally, the association is working on its own guidelines.
There has been concern that marking and assessment must be seen to be uncompromised by personal ties and the possibility of harassment if a relationship went wrong. However, many relationships between tutors and students have led to happy marriages, it was pointed out.
Penalties for erring academics have eased since the 12th century when the scholar Peter Abelard lost his manhood along with his post as tutor to Eloise after their affair was discovered.
The association's national executive will be considering a draft statement from its women's committee in a fortnight.
Meanwhile, the Bradford statement, if passed, might provide grounds for charges of sexual harassment. The university authorities would be asked to adopt it.
Alan Carling, president of Bradford AUT, said that the proposed code strongly discouraged sexual relationships between staff and students but stopped short of a ban, although he said that was a possibility in the future. A staff and student women's group was founded at Bradford University after a student became a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper and subsequently broadened its concern for campus safety to problems of sexual harassment.
Next month a conference on Consensual Sexual Relations Between Staff and Students in Higher Education is to be held at the University of Central Lancashire.Reuse content