It happens that some students offer sex for grade. Just considering the fact that popularity of this strategy can strongly weaken the quality of education, administrators should take some actions to avoid this.

What should a department head do to control this problem in his department?

  1. How to punish?

  2. Who to be punished? Student or professor? Or both ?

I am not asking about legal actions or university policies or discipline matters. I just wish to know What should a head/dean do in this regard to preserve the education quality.

  • 11
    "Just considering the fact that popularity of this strategy" say what?
    – xLeitix
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 15:44
  • 8
    I don't think this is a duplicate. The other question asks how an individual prof should respond to an offer; this question appears to be asking how the institution should respond to an abundance of offers.
    – JeffE
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 16:11
  • 5
    In most US universities, student discipline is outside the scope of a department head's duties; it is handled by a dean, or a university-wide disciplinary body. Faculty discipline might involve the department head, but for a serious issue like this, it would probably be handled at a higher level. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 16:20
  • 3
    Although I think this is a perfectly good question, it seems very hard to answer: any kind of practical answer is going to have at least a large legalistic component which details the rules of some particular university of group of universities. That is not very inspiring for an international audience. Is the OP perhaps interested also in the theoretical/ethical aspects of the question: i.e., never mind what the rules currently are at University X: what should they be? That's still tough but at least answerable, and it seems important. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 21:23
  • 2
    @Insulin69 I was not critizing the grammar mistake, but the casual assertion that this concept (that I have never seen outside of silly movies and newspaper articles) is "popular".
    – xLeitix
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 10:54

3 Answers 3


Initially, like xLeitix, my response to this question was "Say what?"

Then I did some reading. For those who are interested, here are some articles on the subject:

Given this context: if sex-for-grades is sufficiently "popular" in your department that it can "strongly weaken the quality of education," then you have a bigger problem then how and whom to punish the next time it happens.

What should a head/dean do in this regard to preserve the education quality?

In a department where sex-for-grades is common, you can't stop it by punishing it in an ad-hoc manner. You have to create a comprehensive policy; educate students, faculty, and administration about this policy; and then enforce it.

If you don't have a university policy (or your university policy is not sufficient), you can create a school-wide or departmental policy, depending on the scope of your position.

Your sexual harassment policy should clearly describe:

  • Exactly what constitutes sexual harassment,
  • What the consequences will be for those involved,
  • and (the most important of all), How to safely report harassment.

In addition, you should then take steps to educate

  • Faculty, on how to protect themselves against sexual advances from students (steps such as: keep a strictly professional tone in emails and other communication with students, have meetings with students with office door open, etc.)
  • Administration, on how to respond to allegations against students/faculty with sensitivity and discretion
  • Students, on how they can report harassment without fear of retaliation

Who to be punished? Student or professor? Or both ?

As for who to punish: any faculty or administrative staff member who

  • solicits sex from a student in return for grades, or threatens to fail a student who won't have sex with them, or
  • responds to an offer of sex for grades with anything other than a firm "NO"

should be punished. Of course, it must say so in your policy and you must make sure to educate faculty about this policy.

Students are usually the disadvantaged group in this scenario, and punishing students could deter them from reporting sexual harassment. Therefore, I would advise against punishing students in most cases. I can think of a few exceptions, where it is appropriate to punish students: e.g., students who make repeated sexual advances, despite being warned more than once in an official capacity not to do so.

How to punish?

depends entirely on what kind of punishment you can enforce, as a department head/dean. I have no idea what kind of power you have as a department head/dean in your educational system.

Typically in the U.S. it would be handled at a higher level, as Nate Eldredge pointed out, because department heads in the U.S. don't usually handle disciplinary matters.


In my university there is a rule which means markers are not allowed to have a 'conflict of interest' so if a professor is sexually involved with a student that is not against the rules however the professor would not be allowed to mark the student's work because it would be seen as a conflict of interest.

I think it's fair for professors and students to get involved with one another as long as they are consenting adults but I do agree that if that happens it would be unfair on the other students for that professor to mark the student's work (as I am sure most people would) and this is why I think a rule against that would prevent unfair advantage (or disadvantage - relationships can go terribly wrong!) so a rule against marker conflict of interest is a good way to prevent that happening.

If your institution does not have a rule about it, then I would say you need to accept what is done is done and learn from it because it is the responsibility of the institution to have rules about these things. You cannot really make it up as you go along because when you think about it, that is not fair either.

One final point: A student making unwanted advances and a professor has made it clear to the student that he/she is uncomfortable with those advances this is a different issue altogether because that falls under the 'sexual harrassment' banner and is unlawful in many countries and most likely against the rules too. The best way to deal with that is sort of carry on is to support the lecturer if the lecturer was unable to resolve the situation after step one e.g of steps:

Step 1. professor speaks to student and tells them they feel uncomfortable about the advances

If the problem persists

Step 2. verbal warning from the students personal tutor

If the problem persists

Step 3. written warning from the school/institution

If the problem persists

Step 4. final written warning

If the problem persists

Step 5. Expel student

If the problem persists

Step 6. Inform Police.

If the problem persists then the police would probably sort out a restraining order so just liaise with them and see what they can do according to the laws in your country.

Obviously, if the lecturer is trying to get sex and offering better grades then the same logic would apply. That is sexual harrassment and if a student complained about that I would go through the steps but step one would be to not allow the professor to mark work of the student (and probably not any other student either) until the matter had been resolved completely.


About hose situations, I have came to be witness of two situations (taking away the part that there is a consensus between the two parts to get involved in some sort of romantic/sex situation; so I am supposing before hand that there is no harassment involved).

  1. The lecturer or the student proposes intimate relations for a grade change
  2. The teacher and student were involved in a romantic situation, also in this kind of scenario I believe is the same as case 1. Just because I believe there would be a bias for the lecturer or favoritism for her/his romantic partner

In any case, about your questions:

  • How to punish? This is not an easy one. I have seen one case in a Faculty in which the Dean decided to keep the lecturer involved in a romantic situation, just because he was very good in the topic he was teaching. The Dean only talked with him, and after some advices it was like nothing happened. For me it was a big mistake, they should have at least suspend him for at least one or two terms. I said that because after this guy was dumped by the girl, he still continue getting involved with other girls in the Faculty, but being more careful about his behavior for not getting caught.

In any case, I believe that people involved in these situations should be, at least, punished with a suspension. It cannot be left unattended.

  • Who to punish? Here the situation needs to be taken with enough care, mostly for the part of the student. I mean if you make a public suspension to the student, and make public the reasons behind that decision; the student will mostly be facing harassment from their own classroom mates.

In this case, I believe to have a long talk with the student involved is enough, but the lecturer is the one who should be punished just because he is allowing that situation to happens and also if the is starting it, he is taking advantage of its position as a lecturer.

Hope this could help you in taking a decision. Good luck!

  • 1
    Although both are problematic, a romantic relationship between teachers and students is quite different from sexual harassment. Age difference may be small, in case of a TA they live in the same residence and the relationship might even predate the student-teacher-relationship. I believe romantic relationships can be dealt with professionally (delegate all grading to a 3rd party etc.), unlike sexual harassment, which is unconditionally wrong morally and a criminal offence.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 13:43

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