Policy on Consensual Faculty-Student Relationships

Interactions between the faculty and students at Washington University in St. Louis are guided by mutual trust, confidence and professional ethics.

Professional faculty-student relationships have a power differential between faculty members and students; personal faculty-student relationships carry risks of conflict of interest, breach of trust, abuse of power and breach of professional ethics.


Faculty members shall not engage in consensual relationships with students whenever a faculty member has a professional “position of authority” with respect to the student in such matters as teaching a course or in otherwise evaluating, supervising or advising a student as part of a school program. Should a consensual relationship develop, or appear likely to develop, while the faculty member is in a position of authority, the faculty member and/or the student shall terminate the position of authority. Even when the faculty member has no professional responsibility for a student, the faculty member should be sensitive to the perceptions of other students that a student who has a consensual relationship with a faculty member may receive preferential treatment from the faculty member or the faculty member’s colleagues.


Faculty, for purposes of this policy only, consists of all full- or part-time faculty, teaching assistants, graders, members of dissertation committees and all other personnel who teach, coach, evaluate, allocate financial aid to, or guide research by students.

Students are all full- or part-time students.

A consensual relationship is any dating, romantic, sexual or marriage relationship.

Position of authority includes but may not be limited to situations in which the faculty member makes or is responsible for an evaluation of a student for admission, coursework, promotion, financial aid, research funding, suspension, expulsion or other discipline. (Faculty members providing instruction without evaluation are not necessarily in positions of authority.)


When a faculty-student consensual relationship exists or develops, a faculty position of authority with respect to the student must be avoided or terminated. Avoidance or termination includes but is not limited to the student not enrolling in a course; a qualified alternative faculty member or teaching assistant taking the position of authority; transfer of the student to another course, section, seminar, etc. taught by a different faculty member or teaching assistant; assigning or transferring the student to another academic adviser; the student dropping a course.

Noncompliance with Policy

Any credible allegation of a faculty member’s failure to avoid or terminate a position of authority while in a consensual faculty-student relationship obligates the department chair, dean or other responsible person to conduct a prompt and thorough inquiry to determine whether the allegation is true. Where it is concluded that a position of authority in a faculty-student consensual relationship exists and the faculty member and/or the student involved refuse(s) to terminate the position of authority, the department chair or dean shall terminate the position of authority and can impose sanctions against the parties involved.


Persons in violation of this policy shall be subject to sanctions ranging from verbal warnings to dismissal or termination. Persons who knowingly make false allegations that a faculty-student consensual relationship overlaps with a position of authority between the two shall be subject to the same sanctions.

Faculty Rights

Nothing herein shall abridge the rights of faculty as outlined in the Washington University Policy on Academic Freedom, Responsibility and Tenure.