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Employment or Evaluation of Relatives

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Policy Statement

In order to protect the integrity of the university academic and work environment, Northwestern University has limitations on supervisory or evaluative relationships between relatives.

Reason for Policy/Purpose

The purpose of the policy on Employment or Evaluation of Relatives is to protect the integrity of Northwestern University’s academic and work environment and ensure that it remains free from real or apparent conflicts of interest when individuals in positions of unequal power at the university are family members. When family members are in positions of unequal power at the university, such as faculty-student, graduate assistant-student, supervisor-supervisee, advisor/advisee, coach-student, senior faculty-junior faculty, senior staff-junior staff, or faculty-staff, there is the potential for a conflict of interest, favoritism, and exploitation. Moreover, such relationships may lead to restricted opportunities, or a perception thereof, for others in the work or academic environment. Further, a party’s professional or academic reputation may suffer due to perceptions of favoritism or exploitation.


  • Family members include spouses or domestic partners, parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, and grandchildren (whether related by blood, marriage, civil union, University-recognized domestic partnership, legal guardianship or adoption).
  • Family relationship is a relationship between two family members, as defined above.
  • Supervisory or evaluative authority is the power to control or influence another person’s employment, academics, or extracurricular participation, including but not limited to, hiring, work conditions, compensation, promotion, discipline, admission, grades, assignments, supervision of dissertations, recommendations, financial support, or participation in extracurricular programs.


1.0 Employment and Evaluation of Relatives

Northwestern requires that when a family relationship exists or has existed between people in positions of unequal power at the university, the person with the greater power must not hold any supervisory or evaluative authority over the other person in the relationship, except as provided below.

If such a relationship exists or develops, the person in the position of greater power must immediately report the relationship to his or her department chair, dean, Human Resources, or the Provost. It is the responsibility of both the person with the greater power in the relationship and the individual to whom the relationship is reported to ensure that the party with the greater power is removed from any supervisory or evaluative authority over the other party to the relationship. In extraordinary circumstances where removal of authority is not practicable, the parties must work with the department chair, dean, and the Office of the Provost (in the case of a faculty member), or the Office of Human Resources (in the case of a staff member), to determine whether a written Page 3 management plan can be developed to manage the conflict of interest. Failure to comply with the notification, removal, or management plan requirement is a violation of this policy.

2.0 Consequences of Violations of this Policy

If any faculty, staff, or student of Northwestern violates the terms of this Policy, disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with relevant disciplinary procedures contained in the relevant handbooks, policies, procedures, practices, or contracts.

Responsible Office: Office of the Provost and Office of Human Resources

Who Needs to Know This Policy: All faculty, staff and students at Northwestern


If you have any questions about this policy, you may contact:

  • Office of Human Resources, (847) 491-7507
  • Office of the Provost, (847) 491-5117

Dated: October 1, 2014