9.10 Academic Authority over Family Members

This policy was last updated January 12, 2022. See the update history page for more information.

Concerns of conflict of interest, favoritism, and unfair treatment may arise when a faculty member or other academic instructional staff member has academic authority over a member of their family; this concern may also arise with teaching assistants who grade work of a family member. While these concerns have particular weight when there is a romantic or sexual relationship (see Section 9.9), the concerns may also arise with any close family relationships.

Where possible, faculty, academic instructional staff, and teaching assistants should avoid exercising academic authority over family members who are registered MIT students. A family member is defined as a spouse, domestic partner, child/stepchild, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or member of one’s immediate household. Academic authority is defined in Section 9.9.2.

Where not possible —for example, when a faculty member teaches a course that a family member is required to take to pursue a degree – the faculty or academic instructional staff member must disclose the familial relationship, along with the scope and details of the academic authority, to their department head. The department head, who may consult with their dean, will decide whether the exercise of academic authority is acceptable, and if so, will take steps to eliminate or manage any potential conflict of interest or abuse of authority.

The goal is to put in place adequate alternative evaluative arrangements that are fair to the student and also to their fellow students or colleagues. The alternative arrangements may include measures like anonymous grading (where practical) or direct evaluation by another faculty or academic instructional staff member. Where an alternative evaluator is used, that alternative person cannot report to the faculty or academic instructional staff member. The department head and faculty or academic instructional staff member have a shared responsibility to ensure that a plan for alternative evaluation is designed, implemented, and communicated to the student in a timely manner. 

A complaint that this policy has been violated should be made to the department head or, if that does not address the concern, to the Dean of the respective School or College.

See also Section 4.4 Conflict of Interest; Section 7.2 Employment of Members of the Same Family; and Section 9.9 Consensual Sexual or Romantic Relationships in the Workplace or Academic Environment.