Big policy changes are happening at MSU. One of these is MSU’s stance on consensual relationships between faculty and students. This policy is stated in a paragraph at the bottom of MSU’s non-discrimination policy and has recently garnered attention. In SUB Ballroom A on Wednesday, Oct. 9, the Relationship Task Force provided an opportunity for the Bobcat community to openly discuss the new draft of this policy.

The new policy matured over biweekly task force meetings for one year leading up to the public feedback. A diverse representation of university groups including students, faculty and staff are on the force. The task force began when universities across the country reviewed policies regarding consensual relationships a year ago. The group took into account how other universities are handling the issue and considered what fits MSU best. They received feedback from two previous student input sessions and presentations to the deans of the various colleges on campus and ASMSU. “We have decided that this is something we need to pay attention to,” mentioned MSU Legal Counsel Kellie Peterson.

Consensual relationships become a problem when a power dynamic develops. This most often takes place between individuals with different statuses in the same college, such as someone taking classes from their partner. If not addressed properly, the concern exists for the difference in power to influence the other members of a class or group, or alter the consensuality of the relationship. 

Students offered feedback with sticky notes on the document, which was posted on the wall of the SUB Ballroom. Members of the Relationship Task Force were available throughout the day to discuss the draft. Comments can also be emailed to Kellie Peterson at kellie.peterson@montana.edu.

Using observations made by students, the task force plans to identify any consistent issues brought up in the draft and continue the iterative process. Areas of concern will be revised and more feedback sought until the draft is finalized. Peterson emphasized the need for the final policy to be a strong fit for the MSU community.

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