Tips for Graduate Assistants

Graduate students are in a unique position, as you often teach, supervise or advise undergraduate students while being a student yourselves. As a result, you may be accused of harassment, be the targets of harassment, or observe or receive reports of harassing behavior from others.

The Ohio University Sexual Misconduct Policy expressly prohibits amorous relationships between a student and anyone having grading, advisory, or supervisory authority over that student. This means that as a graduate student you cannot pursue a romantic or intimate relationship with any student you teach, supervise or advise. It also means that a faculty member should not be pursuing you for amorous involvement when there is a teaching, supervisory, or advisory relationship. Either situation calls into question close social relationships that may be perceived as creating bias in favor of a student whom the graduate student teaches, supervises, or advises.

The reasons for the policy provision are:

  • Amorous relationships in the educational context raise concerns about the validity of consent.
  • The disparity of power between persons involved in amorous relationships (such as teacher and student, supervisor and subordinate) creates the possibility of exploitation.
  • Possibility of a future amorous relationship may distort the present instructional or advisory relationship.
  • A perception amongst students-peers may arise that there is unequal attention and/or resources given in your courses or program.

If you choose to become involved with a faculty or staff member who has academic or supervisory relationship with you, you need to disclose this to your department chair or school director, so the power relationship can be addressed. If you feel you are being sexually harassed, contact your department chair or school director, as well as the Office for Institutional Equity.

The following tips are to protect you in your teaching, supervisory and advisory duties from any perception or accusation that you are acting unprofessionally.

  • Be thoughtful about choosing the time and place to discuss any material with a student.
  • Consider leaving the door open during office hours or meetings with students.
  • Be selective about the details of your personal life you share with students. Avoid discussing sexual or intimate subjects that are unrelated to the course material.
  • Document and discuss with your department chair or school director any student behavior that is troubling.
  • Interrupt offensive or inappropriate comments from students in the classroom.
  • Be very cautious about sharing jokes, cartoons or other material that be misinterpreted by students as sexually provocative.
  • Do not distribute contact information of students in your class unless you have permission to do so.
  • You may not wish to provide your own home telephone number.
  • Remain aware of who you call on in class and how you respond to their comments. Try to call on male and female students with equal frequency and be aware of whose comments you validate.

For examples of harassing behavior, click here.

As a graduate student, you may receive complaints about harassment. Undergraduate students may feel more comfortable talking with you because you may be closer in age or "speak the same language."  Any member of the University community who receives a complaint of sexual harassment from a student or other member of the University community is required to report the behavior to the Office for Institutional Equity. If the complaint is about a staff member at the Office for Institutional Equity, report it to the Office of Legal Affairs.

If you witness another member of Ohio University being sexually harassed, you should report the harassment to the Office for Institutional Equity. Ohio University's sexual harassment policy protects a third-party complainant from retaliation. Any member of the University community who has a question about his or her responsibilities under this policy should call the Office for Institutional Equity or the Office of Legal Affairs.