Proposal focuses on sexual misconduct

By Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

Faculty Senate discussed a proposal Tuesday regarding romantic and sexual relationships between Baylor faculty, supervisors and students.

The proposal would consolidate and modify Baylor’s existing policies on this form of sexual misconduct.

The policies which are currently split into at least four different sections of the faculty handbook, Dr. Rosalie Beck, professor of religion and chair of the Faculty Senate, said.

“This is really serious business that we’re dealing with,” Beck said, “because when you’re talking about romantic and sexual conduct, you’re talking about a person in a position of authority. Age is not really relevant. … Developing a relationship with a person who doesn’t have that authority, that can’t be fair.”

Baylor’s civil rights policy prohibits “an exchange, or just an explicit or implicit offer of an exchange, of sexual favors for employment or educational privileges,” including offering a student a better grade or a pay raise in return for sexual favors.

Furthermore, Baylor’s reaction to a violation of these or similar expectations for faculty and staff conduct could range from a verbal reprimand to firing.

Details on what policy modifications may be under consideration are not yet available, but the issue will be discussed in more detail at Faculty Senate’s next meeting on Nov. 8.

At that time, Beck said, the Senate will contribute feedback that could influence how detailed the definition of misconduct will be, whether appropriate punishments for misconduct should be explicitly indicated, and whether there should be special exceptions for certain types of romantic involvement.

The Senate also affirmed a proposal from the office of Dr. Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost, that would change how the university compensates faculty on leaves of absence doing grant-funded research.

Since the university is responsible for ensuring external grants reach the appropriate professor, it is typically considered part of the professor’s income. In the past, Beck said, these grants have been deducted from the income professors earn on sabbatical; the affirmed proposal would allow professors to receive at least part of that external funding as income over and above what they would normally receive on sabbatical.

“What this policy does is it just makes sure that professors don’t take a financial hit if they get grant money,” Beck said. “Say you go to live in London for a semester to do work at the British museum. Well, you still have a mortgage payment back in Waco, Texas, but you’re also having to pay for all the stuff in London … and if that entire amount is taken out of your salary, then financially you just can’t afford to do that.”

Davis, who attended part of Tuesday’s meeting, announced to the Senate that professors teaching unexpectedly small summer classes will not necessarily receive smaller salaries for their efforts in the future.

Under the previous arrangement, a professor teaching a summer class with at least 10 students would receive a monthly salary equal to his or her salary during a normal semester, but his or her salary would be docked by 10 percent for each student below that amount.

Now, a professor’s summer pay will be based on their average class enrollment in the three previous summers.

If the average is above 10 students, he or she will receive a full month’s salary to prevent one low-enrollment summer from having a severe immediate affect on pay.

“Provost Davis listened to the concerns voiced by the Senate over this issue and she … came up with a plan that I think is very fair,” Beck said. “What the provost’s policy has done is it’s given some stability to the issue.”

Dr. James Bennighof, vice provost for academic affairs and policy, and Tiffany Hogue, chief of staff to the provost, were contacted late Tuesday but were not available for comment by deadline.