21 Oct 2010

University says no to ban on intimate relationships

6:53 am on 21 October 2010

Otago University has stopped short of banning staff from having intimate relationships with students, following a review prompted by the murder of Sophie Elliott.

The student was 22 when she was stabbed to death by her former boyfriend and tutor Clayton Weatherston at her Dunedin home in 2008.

Weatherston was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years.

The university's new Ethical Behaviour Policy strongly discourages staff from having intimate relationships with students, but has no official sanctions against them.

Tertiary Education Union president Tom Ryan says the Weatherston case has highlighted the urgency of regulating such situations.

Dr Ryan says staff-student relationships should be avoided where possible, but it would not be fair to ban them, because there are many types of employment situations within a university.

The new standards are more explicit about the way to avoid issues and resolve them, he says.

Sophie Elliott's father, Gil Elliott, says says there's always an inherent power imbalance involved in relationships between staff and students and the university should prohibited such links and specify disciplinary procedures.