Faculty vote bars some professor-student romances

April 23, 1993|By New York Times News Service

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The University of Virginia faculty has rejected a proposal that would have barred romance between professors and undergraduates, and instead voted to ban relationships only between professors 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, evaluate or to whom they allocate money.

The measure, which was passed yesterday 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 pavilions and along the colonnades of 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.

Dr. 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 may 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.

Dr. Fulvio A. Iachetta, a mechanical engineering professor, was among those who opposed any policy. He recalled that when he was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia in the late 1940s, fraternities were required to have chaperones if they were to have women at their parties to discourage sexual encounters.

"We moved it from the bedroom of the fraternities to the back seat of automobiles," he said. "You are not going to legislate human behavior."

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