Sunday, November 18, 2001

WILLIAMSBURG (AP) The College of William and Mary has banned affairs between professors and undergraduates a year after a former instructor caused a furor by writing a magazine article about his romance with a student.
Provost Gillian T. Cell called Friday’s unanimous vote by the Board of Visitors “an important statement of professional ethics.”
“Students are more hurt by these kind of relationships than faculty members are, and I think we have the responsibility to try to protect our students,” Mr. Cell said.
The policy bans “consensual amorous relations” between professors and undergraduates. It also applies to graduate students “for whom the faculty member has direct professional responsibility.”
The college’s deans may grant exemptions “in exceptional circumstances.” Faculty members who violate the rule face dismissal.
William and Mary’s previous policy required professors to tell their bosses if they were involved with a student they were teaching or supervising. College spokesman William T. Walker Jr. said six violations have been reported since the policy was adopted in 1991.
In the fall of 2000, GQ magazine published an article by former writing instructor Sam Kashner detailing his affair with a married student. The woman’s husband later committed suicide, he wrote.
His article also suggested it wasn’t unusual for female students at the college to make sexual advances toward male professors. Administrators and students vigorously disputed his portrayal, but the article provoked a review of the policy.
The college’s Faculty Assembly drafted the new policy. The group’s president, Colleen S. Kennedy, said professors decided it wasn’t enough to prohibit relationships between faculty and students in their departments.
“We’re small, and our students don’t declare their [majors] until their junior or senior years,” said Ms. Kennedy, an associate professor of English. “We encourage them to take classes broadly. Freshmen and sophomores don’t always know where they’re going to concentrate.”
Ms. Kennedy said she didn’t think the policy would discourage professors from working closely with students: “We clearly delineate what relationships are prohibited to make professors more comfortable with other kinds of relationships that are important to the college.”
Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said he wasn’t sure the policy could withstand a legal challenge.
“The bottom line is that these are adults, and the college is preventing them from engaging in consensual relationships,” he said. “To ban all such relationships, they cast the net too broadly.”
But Joan Murphy, a lawyer in the state Attorney General’s Office, told board members the policy is “clearly legally defensible.”

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