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Guidelines on Consensual Relationships

Stanford has a detailed policy regarding consensual sexual and romantic relationships between people in inherently unequal positions. If you are in such a relationship—or thinking about becoming involved in one—there are important risks, prohibitions, and requirements that you should understand.

This page covers only the highlights. The rationale and specific details are important. Be sure to read the detailed policy.

This graphic representation provides a convenient overview. Click on it for a larger view.

What relationships does the policy prohibit or restrict?

Sexual or romantic relationships are PROHIBITED between:

  • teachers and undergraduate students -even if the teacher does not teach, evaluate, or advise the student, currently or in the future.
  • teachers and any students, when a teacher has had -or might be expected ever to have-academic responsibility* over the other party.
  • staff in certain authority roles (coach, academic adviser, residence dean or fellow, etc.) and undergraduate students.

*See sidebar for examples of activities included in the term "academic responsibility"

NOTIFICATION and RECUSAL are required in sexual or romantic relationships between:

  • students, when one is teaching and/or evaluating the other.
  • adult employees (including faculty) when one has authority over the other, even if the relationship is consensual.

The student teacher, or staff with authority or greater power, must recuse him/herself and notify the supervisor so that alternative evaluative or supervising arrangements can be put in place.

Why are romantic relationships between non-peers discouraged or prohibited?

Risks: These relationships have the potential to involve

  • Conflict of interest
  • Exploitation
  • Favoritism
  • Bias

Realities: such relationships may

  • Erode the trust inherent in mentor-mentee relationships.
  • Be less consensual than the more “powerful” person believes.
  • Be perceived in different ways by each of the parties, especially in retrospect.
  • Undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision or evaluation.
  • Change over time. Complaints my surface if behavior that was once welcome becomes unwelcome.
  • Give rise to third-party complaints when one party appears to have an unfair advantage and/or more access to the senior individual.
  • Have unintended, adverse effects on the climate of an academic or work environment, which may be impaired for others, either during the relationship or after a break-up.


Failure to comply with University policy governing sexual or romantic relationships may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, depending on the particular situation.