Harvard has formally banned sexual relationships between professors and undergraduate students. The new policy comes on the heels of similar decisions at other institutions.
The university says the decision to clarify the acceptable limits of a professor's relations was the result of a formal review process, and not prompted by any incidents of sexual misconduct.
"Undergraduates come to college to learn from us," Alison Johnson, a Harvard history professor who spearheaded the review, told Bloomberg, which first reported the change Thursday. "We’re not here to have sexual or romantic relationships with them.”
The policy bars professors from sleeping with any undergraduate student. The decision also bars relations with any graduate student, lab worker and dissertation advisee who may be under their direct supervision.
Officials declined to say how a professor who breaks the rules might be punished, the Boston Globe reports.
"It’s just a statement of principle," Johnson told the Boston Globe about the policy, "and it felt to us very noncontroversial.”
"Nobody said, ‘You’re treating me like a child, trampling on my civil rights, I’ll have sex with whomever I please. That would be the only argument against it – that it’s paternalistic,” Johnson added to the Washington Post. “I like to think of it not as telling students who they may not have sex with, but telling faculty who they may not have sex with.
Harvard explained its decision in a media statement the Washington Post labeled "decidedly unsexy:"
As part of a formal process to review Harvard University’s Title IX policy, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Committee on Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures, led by Professor Alison Johnson, determined that the existing language on relationships of unequal status did not explicitly reflect the faculty’s expectations of what constituted an appropriate relationship between undergraduate students and faculty members. Therefore, the Committee revised the policy to include a clear prohibition to better accord with these expectations.