Consensual Relationships Policy


In keeping with its mission and guiding values, Marquette University ("University") is committed to fostering a community of personal and professional excellence free from conflicts of interest, favoritism, bias, and exploitation. This policy addresses Consensual Relationships between members of the University community in inherently unequal positions of power.

Consensual Relationships defined as prohibited below risk undermining the real or perceived supervision or evaluation provided and can disrupt the workplace and learning environment. Moreover, these relationships can be less consensual than the individual of higher power believes.

In all of the Consensual Relationship types defined below, the voluntary nature of the relationship is paramount and must be ongoing for the duration of the relationship. It is important to note that if conduct that was previously welcome becomes unwelcome, it may violate the University’s Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination Policy, the Employee Handbook, the Faculty Handbook, and/or the Student Code of Conduct.

What is the Policy?

This policy applies to all University Employees, Students and Affiliates.

  1. Key Definitions 
    1. Affiliate: Any individual with a relationship with the University outside of traditional employment, regardless of whether the individual is paid by the University, who has Direct Authority over a University Student, student-athlete, or Employee.
    2. Consensual Relationship: A romantic, sexual, or intimate relationship in which each involved party voluntarily agrees to engage in the relationship.
    3. Direct Authority: Actual or apparent authority one has to educate, evaluate, coach, counsel, supervise, employ, or otherwise make decisions or recommendations regarding another’s education, employment, or participation in activities at the University. Direct Authority includes, but is not limited to assignments, recommendation, compensation, admission, discipline, grading, financial aid, mentoring, research funding, extracurricular participation, dissertation supervision, and other forms of control or influence.
    4. Employee: A compensated individual, including but not limited to faculty, administrative and professional staff, and post-doctoral researchers. For purposes of this policy, it does not include student employees.
    5. Mitigation Plan: A written plan, acknowledged and signed by the parties involved, that mitigates the conflict of interest and the potential for real or perceived favoritism, bias, or exploitation created by a Consensual Relationship.
    6. Student: Any individual who is enrolled in courses at the University, including but not limited to undergraduate, graduate, professional, non-degree, and visiting Students.
    7. Supervisee: Any individual whose terms and conditions of employment, Student, student-athlete, or Affiliate status are controlled or affected by a Supervisor, as defined by this policy.
    8. Supervisor: An Employee, Student, or Affiliate who: teaches, manages, supervises, advises, coaches, or evaluates in any way other Employees, Students, or student-athletes; and/or has a position of power, control, or the ability to influence decisions with regard to other individuals in the learning, intercollegiate athletics, or working environment of the University.
  2. Prohibited Relationships
    The following Consensual Relationships are prohibited and thus cannot be mitigated by a Mitigation Plan (exemptions may be made on a case-by-case basis, see “How Do I Implement this Policy” section II):
    1. A relationship between an Employee or Affiliate and any Student currently enrolled as an undergraduate at the University, regardless of whether the Employee or Affiliate exercises Direct Authority over the undergraduate Student (see *Note 1); and
    2. A relationship between an Employee or Affiliate and any graduate Student or professional Student over whom the Employee or Affiliate exercises Direct Authority.
  3. Permitted Relationships 
    The following type of relationship is permitted without a Mitigation Plan:
    1. A relationship between an Employee or Affiliate and any graduate Student or professional Student over whom the Employee or Affiliate currently does not (or could not reasonably expect to) exercise Direct Authority. If there is any doubt whether a relationship falls within this policy, individuals should disclose the facts and seek guidance rather than fail to disclose.
  4. The following relationships are permitted with a Mitigation Plan in place:
    1. A relationship between two Students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) in which one Student is teaching, evaluating, and/or supervising the other Student;
    2. A relationship between two Employees in which one has Supervisory or evaluative authority over the other; and
    3. A relationship that already exists between two Employees in which one is presented with the opportunity to teach, manage, supervise, advise, or evaluate the other. 

How Do I Implement This Policy?

  1. Notification and Mitigation of Permitted Relationships
    1. For relationships that fall under Section III (b) and (c) and (d) of the “Permitted Relationships” section above, the individual in the position of greater authority must immediately report the Consensual Relationship to the Title IX Coordinator. In the event the individual in the position of greater authority reports the relationship to their Supervisor, the Supervisor must promptly inform the Title IX Coordinator.
    2. The Title IX Coordinator will consult with the individuals in the relationship and other appropriate university personnel as necessary to determine how to proceed.  
    3. If the relationship can be mitigated by a Mitigation Plan, the Supervisor of the individual in the position of greater authority, the Title IX Coordinator, and other appropriate departmental or divisional leaders will collaborate with the participants in the relationship to write a Mitigation Plan within 10 business days of the report (unless there are reasonable grounds for additional time).
    4. The Mitigation Plan will:
      1. provide an alternative means for managing, supervising, teaching, evaluating and/or advising of the Supervisee or otherwise mitigate the real or perceived conflict of interest;
      2. give priority to the interest of the Supervisee;
      3. be in writing and signed by both parties to the Consensual Relationship;
      4. be reassessed on an annual basis (or sooner, if circumstances warrant) by the parties, and the applicable department/unit, and the Title IX Coordinator for necessary modification.
      5. have a copy stored with the Title IX Coordinator for record keeping and reassessment purposes.
  2. Exemptions

    Exemptions to Sections Prohibited Relationships (section II of “What is the Policy”) and Permitted Relationships (section III of “What is the Policy”) will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Requests for exemptions must be made to the Title IX Coordinator and reviewed by the Title IX Coordinator and appropriate departmental or divisional leaders.

    As an example, a relationship between an Employee and their partner who enrolls as an undergraduate at the University through the Tuition Remission Program may qualify for an exemption.

    Appeals for exemption denials will follow appeal procedures set forth in the Faculty Handbook for Faculty, the Employee Handbook for Staff, and be handled by the Dean of Students for Students. Exemption denials for Affiliates are not appealable.

Offenses and Resources

  1. Employees who in engage in Consensual Relationships with a Student or other Employee contrary to the prohibitions in this policy are subject to disciplinary action. Alleged violations of this policy, including allegations of conflicts of interest, favoritism, and/or exploitation will be investigated by the Title IX Office, Human Resources, or the Office of Student Development.

    Disciplinary action against faculty and staff will be handled under the University’s policies for discipline and termination of faculty and staff. Disciplinary actions may include, but are not limited to, written reprimands, the imposition of conditions, reassignment, suspension, and termination. Affiliates in violation of this policy may be disciplined as appropriate.

  2. It is a violation of University policy to retaliate against any individual reporting a potential violation under this policy, assisting someone with a report, or participating in an investigation of a report. Retaliation is any adverse action including, but is not limited to, threats, intimidation, or reprisals related to an individual's employment or education. The University will take appropriate steps to ensure that a person who in good faith reports, complains about, or participates in an investigation pursuant to this policy will not be subjected to retaliation.

    Individuals who believe they are experiencing retaliation are strongly encouraged to report it to the Title IX Coordinator.

For guidance on this policy please see the FAQs on Title IX’s website or contact the Title IX Coordinator.


*Note 1: Please note that a relationship between an Intercollegiate Athletics coach, Employee, or Affiliate and a Student-athlete is prohibited under this subsection. The NCAA describes these relationships as "a serious problem" that can cause widespread harm. See the NCAA policy's Staying in Bounds