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Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday October 7, 2002

A proposed UA dating policy would require employees to inform a supervisor of romantic relationships with their subordinates but administrators shouldn't be surprised when they don't get the result they're hoping for.

The new Interim Policy for Management of Personal Conflicts of Interest was created to inform university officials of supervisor-subordinates or student-faculty relationships that may lead to conflicts of interests. The policy must be approved by all campus constituencies as well as President Peter Likins before going into permanent effect.

But safeguards are already in place to prevent any collusion that could result from a romantic relationship. Under current UA policy, dating between students and their current instructors is prohibited. And all employees can file a grievance any time they feel they have been sexually harassed or otherwise victimized by another employee.

But this new policy, well-meaning as it may be, will simply create awkwardness.

Imagine the dialogue when an employee tells his boss he's been sleeping with a coworker.

Employee (red-faced): "Uh, boss, I've been having sex with my assistant. Here's my written proposal for eliminating the conflict of interest."

Boss (even more red-faced but trying to be businesslike): "Okaaaay. Let's take a look at this plan."

A likely scenario? No. But it's required under the new policy.

What's next? A form requiring people to fill in boxes detailing the names and exact nature of their romantic relations?

The policy begs the question: What constitutes a romantic relationship? Sex? A kiss? A date? A longing look? Anything that could be interpreted as creating a conflict of interest? It's not clear.

Clearly, administrators meant no harm in enacting this policy. But it won't solve any problems. If two people want to keep a relationship secret, they're going to. If two people are being open about their relationship, the whole office will know anyway and the policy's intent will be fulfilled.

Under current policies, conflicts of interest can be dealt with as necessary when they occur. The proposed effort to stop them preemptively will likely achieve nothing but awkwardness in the workplace.

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