ANU academic disciplined after failing to disclose sexual relationship with student

ANU academic disciplined after failing to disclose sexual relationship with student

A lecturer at the Australian National University was stood down after an internal investigation revealed he maintained a sexual relationship with a student.

The revelations sparked a review of practices within the esteemed Crawford School of Public Policy with the university accepting his serious misconduct was unacceptable.

According to a confidential report seen by Fairfax Media, the man failed to disclose his intimate relationship with the student and continued to see her while supervising her study.

The report, prepared by the university's human resource division, revealed the teacher was immediately suspended with pay in August 2015 while allegations were investigated. He no longer works at the university.

The misconduct, detailed in stream of text messages and email correspondence, was only brought to the university's attention when the student complained about the emotional trauma it caused her.

The student alleged the staff member told her he was a polyamorist and was involved with two other students previously. She also claimed he once told her he was old enough to be her father.


In email correspondence the pair discussed monogamy, marriage and Christianity.

"I have never thought a lecturer at ANU would abuse his power and the trust from his student in such a disgraceful way and I do not want any other student to have this experience," the student said in a complaint to the university.

The staff member was provided an opportunity to respond to the allegations, although the report found he did not provide sufficient information to dispute them. He maintained his behaviour should not be considered as serious misconduct.

He told the university the student made numerous unwelcome advances towards him but characterised his own behaviour as foolish and unprofessional.

"He stated that he tried to keep the relationship hidden, which was a poor decision, and he conceded that he had breached the ANU Code of Conduct," the report said.

"[He] stated that he feels great remorse and shame over this incident, is disappointed in himself, and is concerned about how this damages the perception of the university."

The university said the staff member had "abused his position of power" given he was responsible for her supervision, assessment, and examination of the student in his class.

The report found the "proportionate disciplinary action should be the termination of [his] employment…".

"It was incumbent on [the staff member] to immediately take steps to avoid perceived, actual or potential conflicts of interest in respect of the staff-student relationship," the report said.

The report said the staff member took complete responsibility for his actions.

"As an academic staff member, I must take responsibility for failing to prevent this from occurring and for not disclosing it," he told the university.

An ANU spokesman said the university discouraged relationships between academic staff and "treats serious any allegation of inappropriate behaviour".

"Any student who reports such an incident will receive ongoing support from the Dean of Students and the ANU Counselling Centre," he said.

"A student would also have access to student support services while the incident was being investigated."

Henry Belot

Henry Belot is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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