Musical staff

‘Intimate’ relationships between staff and students are prohibited at Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria University staff will not be allowed to have intimate or close personal relationships with students for whom they are responsible, under a new policy.  (File photo)

MONIQUE FORD/Stuff

Victoria University staff will not be allowed to have intimate or close personal relationships with students for whom they are responsible, under a new policy. (File photo)

Victoria University of Wellington staff will not be allowed to have intimate or close personal relationships with students for whom they have academic or welfare responsibility, thanks to a new policy.

While relationships between staff and students have long been discouraged, its new policy on intimate and close personal relationships formalizes this position.

At what was believed to be a premier New Zealand university, isolated, intimate and consensual encounters between staff responsible for a student’s academic learning and/or emotional safety and well-being would officially be prohibited.

Staff with existing intimate relationships with students should report them before the policy goes into effect in the coming month, the university said, with any violations being dealt with under the staff conduct policy.

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The rise of the #MeToo movement has shed light on power imbalances and abuses of power, with the new policy aimed to ensure that “appropriate safeguards and processes were in place” to prevent such abuses and sexual harassment, it reads. in politics.

In May 2021, an external investigator was called in to investigate a formal complaint regarding a relationship between a student and a member of staff at Victoria University.

In January, the university also issued a general apology to a group of former students who were allegedly harassed and sexually assaulted by famed composer and professor Jack Body – a lecturer at the School of Music from 1980 to his retirement in 2012.

The #MeToo movement in New Zealand gained traction after allegations of sexual misconduct were made by University of Victoria law students working at the prestigious Russell McVeagh firm in the summer of 2015/2016 .

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

University of Victoria students are launching a #metoo blog to collect stories of sexual violence and harassment. (video first published in August 2018)

As a result, James Gardner-Hopkins was censured and suspended from practicing law for three years by the Lawyers and Conveyors Disciplinary Tribunal, after being found guilty of six counts of professional misconduct involving five women.

Currently, the university’s staff conduct policy states that staff members are “strongly discouraged” from having intimate personal relationships with students, especially students for whom they are directly responsible.

“Such a relationship risks taking advantage of the intrinsic trust, power and status differential implicit in the staff-student relationship. If such a relationship arises, the staff member must follow the procedures set out in the Conflict of Interest Act. »

Senior professor Wendy Larner said the new intimate relationship policy reflected the university’s core values.

“When Te Herenga Waka introduced its new Sexual Harassment Response Policy and Procedures in 2020, the issue of inappropriate relationships between staff and students surfaced regularly.

“At the international level, there are a number of examples of such policies which we have drawn inspiration from in developing our own position.”