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SAN FRANCISCO — Spurred by a scandal that toppled UC Berkeley's law school dean last year, University of California regents on Thursday approved a policy prohibiting professors and other faculty from having romantic or sexual relationships with their students.

With the new policy, which takes effect immediately, the university joins a growing number of American higher educational institutions that have restricted such relationships, saying they may exploit students.

It would also require professors to recuse themselves from academic responsibility for students with whom the professors have an existing relationship.

Faculty members found to have violated the rules would be subject to disciplinary action, ranging from written censure to demotion or dismissal.

Binion added that the situation is especially clear-cut regarding law school deans because they are typically asked to write letters attesting to the good character of graduates before students are allowed to take the state bar exam. Lansing applauded the new policy and called it "long overdue."Regulating consensual relationships between faculty and students is "an extraordinarily controversial issue," she said.

The regents' action "shows we are taking a stand against the abuse of these relationships."But Murray, the student regent who is an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, said he opposed the policy for two reasons: He thought students had too little input in its development, and it went "too far" in regulating what he described as private relationships between consenting adults.

The regents approved the policy on a voice vote, with two of them -- Regent Velma Montoya and student Regent Matt Murray -- asking that their opposition be registered.

They and other critics said the policy was too broad and would be difficult to enforce."This could be a legal nightmare," Montoya said.The new policy says it is unacceptable for professors to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship with a student for whom they have "or should reasonably expect to have in the future" any teaching, evaluative or supervisory responsibility.Such students, it says, would include those whose academic program requires them to enroll in a class taught by the professor as well as those known to the faculty member to "have an interest" in an academic subject within the professor's area of expertise.Suzanne Kessler, Associate Professor of Psychology at SUNY Purchase."But most of what we're talking about is not what falls under a strict definition of sexual harassment.Dwyer fondled her after she passed out following a night of heavy drinking. Regent Judith Hopkinson, who pushed for the policy change, said work on the proposal began in 2001 but gained momentum after the widely publicized episode.