December 12, 2018 2:07 pm
Updated: December 12, 2018 11:41 pm

University of Manitoba students union calling for ban of student-faculty relationships

WATCH: Jakob Sanderson of the University of Manitoba Students' Union says they aren't calling for an all-out ban on relationships, just ones where there is an imbalance of power.


The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) is calling on the university to prohibit sexual relationships between students and staff, where there’s a direct power imbalance.

This comes after further allegations against faculty at the university.

READ MORE: Five sexual harassment investigations involving faculty ‘ongoing’ at the University of Manitoba

In September, the university’s president David Barnard said the school had five open investigations under the University of Manitoba’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy and Sexual Assault Policy involve faculty as the respondent.

  • One is for sexual assault and personal harassment
  • One is for sexual assault and sexual harassment
  • One is for sexual harassment
  • Two others are human rights investigations

WATCH: The University of Manitoba says they have policies in place relating to relationships between faculty and students

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The university has said they are unable to speak to the specific investigations in the interest of privacy and protection for the complainants.

“Ours is a culture that encourages individuals to report inappropriate behaviour. We cannot speak to specific investigations,” VP (Administration) Lynn Zapshala-Kelln said in a written statement.

READ MORE: Former U of M prof arrested for sexual assault of a student, Winnipeg police say

The university said they do have policies in place relating to relationships between faculty and students, which include evaluators, and that new guidelines are being developed for early 2019.

“These policies require disclosure of any close relationship between a student and evaluator, and require alternate arrangements be made in those cases so that nobody involved in the evaluation of a student is also in a close relationship with the student. There are also currently new updated intimate relationships guidelines under development,” a U of M spokesperson said.

READ MORE: Is it time for Canadian universities to ban student-professor relationships?

Jakob Sanderson, president of UMSU said they want the university to prioritize a clear change.

“It’s clear the U of M hasn’t always had the best policies in place for these types of realms in the past and so I think what we want to do is make sure we have a process that students can trust, that faculty can trust and the community can trust that the U of M is doing everything they can to provide a safe campus for students.”

Sanderson said although student-teacher relationships may start out as consensual, the imbalance of power that exists leaves the student at risk.

“What we want to see is that anyone who’s in a direct power position over a student doesn’t have the opportunity to date that student. We’re looking at direct power imbalances.”

“If the university takes our proposed policy, it would be that if you are a professor or faculty member you can’t date anyone under your supervision at all”

UMSU says any students who need support should contact the students’ union.

READ MORE: Video explains how to move forward after a sexual assault in Winnipeg

As for how other post-secondary institutions in Winnipeg handle the issue, both Red River College and the University of Winnipeg said they don’t allow these kinds of relationships between staff and students due to power imbalances and conflicts of interest.

“This policy is enforced with zero tolerance and if it’s reported to the college that someone has contravened the policy we conduct an immediate investigation to determine if this policy has been violated,” said Conor Lloyd, RRC director of public relations.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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