Archive for Wednesday, November 4, 1992


November 4, 1992


Kansas University faculty who engage in romantic and sexual relations with students do so in violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct, a KU professor said Tuesday.

"These relationships are unethical and a serious violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct," said Ellen Sward, who has extensive knowledge of the code.

Sward testified for the KU Committee on Tenure and Related Problems, which is presiding over the dismissal hearing for Emil Tonkovich, a tenured law professor.

KU Chancellor Gene Budig recommended Tonkovich be fired for alleged violations of moral turpitude and professional ethics provisions of the faculty code. Budig claims Tonkovich used his faculty position to coerce women law students into relationships.

One former law student has testified Tonkovich intimidated her into performing oral sex on him.

TONKOVICH acknowledged he has dated law students, but maintains he didn't violate the faculty code by doing so.

Sward, a member of the Tenure and Related Problems Committee during the 1989-90 dismissal hearing for an anthropology professor, said faculty have too much power over students' lives to get involved with them outside the classroom.

"Students may feel inordinate pressure to acquiesce in unwanted relationships," Sward said.

She said students could justifiably fear retribution if they reject a professor's advances. A professor could grade a student unfairly or provide prospective employers with a distorted job recommendation, she said.

PROFESSORS who engage in romances with students even if the students consent send an improper message to the student body, Sward said.

"It suggests to students this is one way to advance themselves, a way around the grading system," she said.

Under cross-examination by Tonkovich, Sward said she was among a half dozen law faculty who signed an October 1991 letter urging law students who thought they had been sexually harassed to come forward and tell their stories.

THE LETTER said faculty were concerned about the spreading of "second- and third-hand" allegations of sexual harassment involving a law school professor.

Tonkovich said the letter perpetuated rumors about himself.

"Doesn't this statement, in effect, start out with rumors?" Tonkovich asked Sward.

Sward said she didn't think the letter served to spread rumors.

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