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March 8, 2010 | by  | in News |
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When Your Lecturer Puts the ‘Stud’ in Study

Victoria to review staff-student relationship policy

Victoria University is to update policy governing staff-student sexual and romantic relationships, following a recent review undertaken by Otago University.

Otago’s review, which is yet to be released, follows the murder of student Sophie Elliot by her tutor and former boyfriend Clayton Weatherston in January 2008.

At Victoria, staff-student relationships are currently covered by the conduct policy, but the university has recently developed a conflict of interest policy, which is currently out for consultation.

Victoria’s Director of Human Resources Annemarie de Castro says under current regulations, staff-student relationships are discouraged at Victoria, but not prohibited.

“If a staff member does enter into a sexual/romantic relationship with a student, the staff member is expected to disclose this relationship, as outlined in the university’s conduct policy.”

Regulations outlined in the conduct policy fall under ‘Misconduct Involving a Conflict of Interest’, and refer only to alternative arrangements for assessment, but not to other issues that may arise from staff-student relationships.

In February, Sunday Star Times reported that the Elliot family had called for stricter measures in their submission to the review, such as the immediate resignation of staff members involved in such relationships and ongoing supervision and counselling for the student.

But while Otago’s upcoming review may result in far stricter guidelines, Victoria appears to be less affected by the issue.

De Castro says there are no current issues at Victoria.

“We have not been able to find any record of issues in the past which have resulted in dismissals or demotion. However, we have on record two instances where staff have been cautioned.”

Speaking to students about the issue, Salient found that staff-student relationships may be more prevalent than indicated by the university.

One student reported seeing a lecturer and student together in town very late at night on numerous occasions.

Another student knew of an ongoing relationship between a tutor and a student.

Students who are concerned about a relationship are advised to approach VUWSA for support. Issues can be discussed with Jon Everest, Facilitation and Disputes Adviser from Victoria’s Central Services team. Students may also make a formal complaint to their Head of School or Pro Vice-Chancellor.

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