Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Yale Sex Ban

Yale University has banned all romantic and sexual contact between faculty and undergraduate students. It had previously been in place that it was unacceptable between any faculty member and any student where there was “direct pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities,” but this is a ban for the entire class of undergraduate students and the entire class of faculty members, so the question is not one of harassment or trading favors. Graduate students are not affected in either direction.

Those arguing in its favor contend that even if there is no academic threat from such relationships, in an overwhelming number of cases they turn out badly for the student because of the power differential. It causes rifts in the faculty and leads to morale issues. On these utilitarian grounds, they argue the ban is appropriate.

There is also a duty-based argument against which is that the students are under the care of the institution and since they exercise in loco parentis authority in other ways, this is just a reasonable extension.

The argument against the ban is rights-based. These are adults and there is no professional relationship that is being unfairly compromised, so what gives the administration the right to tell these autonomous individuals whom they can and cannot sleep with.

Which argument seems stronger, or is there one not considered?