More than two years after KHON2’s Always Investigating revealed a troubling problem of sexual violence and harassment at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the university is banning consensual relationships between students and staff.
The policy aims to head off one source of those cases, romantic relations between staff and students, even while a years-long federal investigation continues.
University of Hawaii President David Lassner alerted the school Tuesday of a new executive policy stating that:
the University prohibits initiating or engaging in a new consensual relationship between employees and between employees and students wherein a power and control differential exists, including but not limited to situations in which one member has an evaluative and/or supervisory responsibility for the other. The University views these consensual relationships where a power and/or control differential exists as inadvisable and fraught with risk, especially when students are involved. It is important to note that the potential for sexual harassment exists in consensual relationships when there is a power and/or control differential.
Click here to read the entire policy.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has been digging into mishandled cases or lapses in policy on sexual assault, harassment and gender discrimination, hoping to end up with better procedures to protect these rights covered by the law known as Title IX.
That investigation is still not done, but meanwhile UH has been trying to change parts of its system with the promise of more protection for students.
Lassner said in a statement that “the mere appearance of bias or impropriety resulting from a consensual romantic, dating or sexual relationship may seriously disrupt the environment for learning, teaching, scholarship and working. Equally important, such relationships have the potential to undermine our university’s sense of community, mutual trust and respect.”
Always Investigating found 20 formal complaints involving sexual harassment against UH Manoa faculty and staff over a five-year period, only a fraction of them drawing consequences.
We’ll follow up to see if this new policy makes a dent in the number of complaints, and will be on the lookout for the federal investigation’s outcome.