Va. faculty OKs limited ban on sex with students

April 23, 1993|By New York Times News Service

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The University of Virginia faculty rejected yesterday a proposal that would have barred romance between professors and undergraduates, instead voting to ban relationships only between teachers and the students they supervise.

The proposed ban, which must be approved by the university president, Dr. John T. Casteen III, would forbid professors and graduate teaching assistants from amorous or sexual relationships or overtures involving students whom they teach, coach or evaluate or to whom they allocate money.

The measure, passed by a vote of 31-4 after two hours of debate, was similar to rules adopted at several other universities in recent years.

Sarah Alexander, a junior from Reston, Va., who is majoring in women's studies, said about 55 students have come to her in the last few weeks with what she called horror stories about overtures by faculty members.

"This was a few professors doing a lot of damage," Ms. Alexander said. "Now students won't have to wonder if a professor is more interested in their intellects than their bodies."

The issue drew network crews to campus and provoked weeks of debate in the university, founded by Thomas Jefferson. Some professors said they feared regulation by "sex cops."

Dr. Ann J. Lane, the university's director of women's studies, had worked for more stringent rules, but said after the vote that she was satisfied with the compromise. "I feel this debate has raised the consciousness of the faculty and the students and the nation," she said.

Mr. Casteen said that he had to resolve several questions about how to enact the ban, but that he hoped to complete the process before a new faculty handbook is published in the fall.

Many professors said the original proposal, which might have been the nation's strictest code barring sexual relations between professors and students of either sex, went too far.

Matthew J. Cooper, a senior from Florence, Ala., who is president of the student council, asserted that 90 percent of the students opposed regulation of faculty-student relationships outside the classrooms. "They're both adults," he said.

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