A consensual romantic and/or sexual relationship may develop between a supervisor and employee or an employee and a student. However, if such relationship involves a person with the ability to influence employment decisions or academic decisions over the other person, it is considered a power differential and creates a conflict of interest. This would include individuals who are in advising or mentor roles or relationships with student organizations, student academics or other similar activities, and the administration of student services. In addition to a power differential between the parties, other employees or students may perceive that their rights to a fair and neutral work or academic environment has been violated due to an imbalance of power. Individuals entering such relationships must recognize that:
1. Those who abuse or appear to abuse their power in such a context violate their duty to the UW-Whitewater community. The University will regard it as unethical if employees of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater engage in amorous relations with persons enrolled in their classes or subject to their supervision.
2. Since power differentials exist between UW-Whitewater employees and the persons they evaluate or supervise, a risk of conflict of interest is assumed to exist in a consensual relationship. The person holding the preponderance of power in the relationship is vulnerable to complaints under the provisions of UWS 6, Wisconsin Administrative Code, and under the provisions of UW-Whitewater Personnel Rules for faculty and academic staff.
3. The presence in the classroom of spouses of instructional staff members may not involve a power differential, but it should be understood by the instructor that the conflict of interest implicit in this situation may be a cause for complaint.