Definitions: Types of Relationships

When you become a member of the campus community—or any community, for that matter—whether you are a student, a member of the faculty, or on the university staff—you become part of a complex web of relationships. If you are living away from home for the first time, many of these relationships may be new to you: professor, sexual partner, mentor, roommate, classmate, friend, lab partner, employer.

Social relationships, working relationships, and academic relationships. This may be your first experience sharing a room or an apartment with people outside your family. You might be consulting medical professionals—physicians, nurses, or therapists—on your own for the first time. Maybe you didn't date in high school, and maybe you did, but now you've got a lot more freedom.

These connections and experiences can be enriching and memorable, adding depth to the academic experience. On the other hand, they can be complicated, difficult to navigate—even hurtful. Healthy, ethical relationships are all about equality, honesty, and clear boundaries. Appropriateness is another good measure of a healthy relationship. For example, friends should enjoy their similarities and their differences, not excluding others. Professors must be involved in their students' academic life, but not their social life. Romance—gay and straight—is about getting to know each other, not domination.

See the "Policies" section of this website for the information about the university policy on consensual relationships.

Go to, a comprehensive site that covers all aspects of women's sexual identity, and physical and mental health. Find thoughtful, in-depth information abut sexual relationships, body image, safer sex, communicating about sex, reproductive heath, and navigating the heath care system.

For an overview of the relationship between trainees and their research supervisors, go to