Is there a bureaucratic definition of “romance”?

One of my moles inside the undergraduate mill at MIT got a mass email recently from three bureaucrats: the Provost, the Chancellor, and the VP of Human Resources:

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.

The last part is an interesting example of groupthink. How do these three bureaucrats know that all 4,500+ undergraduates have a “commitment to advancing a culture of respect, fairness, and equality”? Maybe some of them are committed only getting a degree and starting to repay their loans? Or maybe some of them think that a “culture of respect” prevents frank discussion of scientific errors and engineering shortcomings? Or maybe some of them support equal opportunity, but not “equality” (equal outcomes)?

The policy itself raises an interesting question. For example:

No MIT faculty or staff member may have a sexual or romantic relationship with any undergraduate student. [emphasis added]

In the age of Tinder, who decides what constitutes a “romantic relationship”?

14 thoughts on “Is there a bureaucratic definition of “romance”?

  1. Apparatchiks just need to state things so that they have the article in hand when there is a need to cover/punish something.

    The victim is going to be the one deciding that it was a (failed) romantic relationship!

  2. In my senior year at MIT I taught an undergraduate section of 18.02 while my fiancée was also an undergraduate. Would I have been forced to break up with her?

  3. Paid for by the parents/students! I remind myself that this type of BS is rampant every time I get hit up to ‘donate’ to the local state school, even though I’m already paying full sticker for one of my children.

  4. LOL… how about “To fuck, or to fraternize with the intent to eventually obtain access to fucking, by and between persons primarily getting paid to be in this institution and one who is primarily paying to be here.”

  5. No prohibitions to yelling, smacking, or threatening students with deadly weapons (in jest! obviously…). I’m good.

    Some colleagues who married their own PhD students (before final submission!) might have entertaining insight.

  6. “As President Reif recently wrote in a letter to the MIT community, MIT is taking … consensual relationships among community members.”

    There is a loophole in this policy. It does not prevent MIT community to have sexual or romantic relationship with Harvard community.

  7. They can just follow the old camp counselor’s adage: “If they pays to stay – I stays away”

    Also if the VP of HR is acting over students then why not have a blanket policy like most business of forbidding relationships between employees. That way the school is off the hook of having to discern the nature of relationships – everyone involved violated the policy – and get back to something more akin to teaching people.

  8. Einstein (the man had a roving eye himself – he would have been in big trouble today) used to try to fix up female grad students with unmarried junior professors on the theory that if they didn’t do this then no one would date the poor girls. If you are spending all your time working on a physics PhD then you don’t have a lot of extra time to spend on hair and makeup and clothes shopping.

    Mind you this was honorably directed at matching people up for matrimony, not for quick hook-ups, but still this is now verboten. Apparently the people pushing this think that it’s better for women end to up as childless cat ladies than to date men.

  9. @George A

    How is this a loophole? What authority would MIT have over Harvard students? An MIT employee can date high school students who are legal.

  10. Why does the Massachusetts Institute of TECHNOLOGY have a professor of political science? Did they read too much Dune and start believing “Law is the ultimate science”?

  11. @ScarletNumber: that’s my point. This policy doesn’t stop MIT’ers from having sex with Harvard’ers. Thus, the MIT Institute’s Committee is not thinking outside the box when they enacted this policy. Maybe Harvard will enforce a similar policy but close this loophole? But there will still be a loophole, having sex with legal high school’ers !!!!

  12. It is amusing this dictum is restricted to “with any undergraduate student”.

    I guess graduate students are fair game for the faculty and staff or vice versa. I wonder how they justified this.

  13. What can I say?
    Decades ago, as an undergraduate, I had an immense crush on the graduate student I was working with and was spurned. Perhaps, I can find peace, now that I have seen these rules.
    Also, apparently, the least expensive graduate school I applied to waitlisted and ultimately rejected me and instead accepted a comparable fellow student who must have had a stellar recommendation from the professor she later married (after breaking up his marriage).

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