New Consensual Relationships Policy

A Memo From:

Martin Schmidt, Provost
Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor
Lorraine Goffe, Lorraine Goffe

To members of the MIT community,

As President Reif recently wrote in a letter to the MIT community, MIT is taking a number of actions to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. We write today to update you on an expanded conflict of interest policy on consensual relationships among community members.

The new policy was initiated and championed by the Institute’s Committee on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response (CSMPR), led by Professor David Singer, Political Science, and has been adopted by MIT’s senior administration. We appreciate the many faculty, students, and staff who provided valuable input during the development of the policy. The final policy is stronger thanks to your engagement, and your commitment to advancing a culture of respect, fairness, and equality.

Policy on Consensual Relationships

The Consensual Sexual or Romantic Relationships in the Workplace or Academic Environment policy expands MIT’s current policy to avoid potential abuses of authority or conflicts of interest because one person in a relationship holds a position of power or authority over the other person.

Briefly, the new policy covers the following relationships:

  • Undergraduate students: No MIT faculty or staff member may have a sexual or romantic relationship with any undergraduate student.
  • Graduate students: No MIT faculty or staff member may have a sexual or romantic relationship with a graduate student if that faculty or staff member is (or might reasonably be expected to be) in a position of authority over that graduate student.
  • Special rules apply to undergraduate and graduate students, like Teaching Assistants or Graduate Resident Tutors, when they have authority over other students.
  • Principal Investigators (PIs) are prohibited from having a sexual or romantic relationship with a graduate student or postdoctoral scholar over whom the PI has direct or indirect authority.
  • All supervisors (including faculty supervisors) are prohibited from having a sexual or romantic relationship with anyone they supervise, evaluate, or over whom they otherwise have direct or indirect influence or authority.
  • Certain other members of the MIT community are also covered by this policy: individuals with visitor appointments, postdoctoral fellows as well as postdoctoral associates, affiliates, and any other individual who conducts business with or on behalf of the Institute.

We encourage you to take a moment to review the policy as well as these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). The FAQs also provide guidance about who to contact if you have a question or concern about this new policy.

By learning more about — and adhering to — this new policy, you can help us address the power dynamic we know is far too often at the root of sexual misconduct and harassment and, as President Reif articulated in November, to “invent a better MIT community for those who are here today, and for those who will follow us tomorrow.”

Sincerely,

Martin Schmidt, Provost
Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor
Lorraine Goffe, Lorraine Goffe