Faculty are scheduled to vote on new rules this spring, completing a process that began well before the dean of UC's top law school left amid a sex scandal last fall.
The policy would make UC the latest school to ban the classroom courtships, joining such schools as the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa and Yale.
"It seems that more and more institutions are developing such policies in the hopes of avoiding having to deal with the issue when there's no policy in place," says Donna Euben of the American Association of University Professors.
Although UC doesn't have a no-dating decree — faculty recommended drafting a policy in 1983 but it was not made formal — there has always been an unwritten rule that getting involved with students is a bad idea, says Gayle Binion, chair of UC's Academic Senate and a political science professor at UC Santa Barbara.
Still, Binion says it's a good idea to get it in writing. Faculty have been working on a dating policy since late 2001, she said.
"Even though the vast majority already live by an ethical norm, you still need to ... show that the institution has a position and then to deal with the rare case of someone who violates it," said Binion.
The proposed policy would make it a breach of the code of conduct for a faculty member to engage in a "romantic or sexual relationship" with a student for whom he or she has, or should expect to have, academic responsibility.
Nationally, universities have taken different approaches to the question of professor-student relationships.
At Ohio Northern University, the faculty handbook dictates that "faculty and staff members should not have sexual relations with students to whom they are not married."
At the University of Michigan, romantic relationships are not forbidden but are considered to be a violation of ethics if the faculty member supervises the student. Faculty members are required to tell a supervisor if they are having a relationship with a student.
At the College of William and Mary in Virginia, all dating between professors and undergraduates was banned after a former instructor wrote an embarrassing article about his affair with a student.
At UC, some campuses, including Berkeley, already have guidelines on dating students, but the proposed systemwide policy, to be voted on by faculty in May, is more strongly worded.
Some outside the system think the new policy is a mistake.
"I think it's unethical. It's an intrusion into personal and private relationships," says Barry Dank, a sociology professor at California State University-Long Beach. "It's the bureaucratization of sexuality."
Dank married one of his students in 2000, although he notes the marriage raised no eyebrows, perhaps because his wife is his contemporary in age.
Dank argues there are laws forbidding illegal behavior such as sexual harassment and says dating policies confuse consensual relationships with harassment.
Others contend that the balance of power between professor and student is so lopsided that students must be protected.
In the Berkeley case, the law student alleges she was sexually molested two years ago by the former dean of UC Berkeley's Boalt law school, John P. Dwyer, after she passed out following a night of drinking with Dwyer and other students. Dwyer has acknowledged acting inappropriately but said the incident was consensual. He left Boalt in January.
The student's attorney, Laura Stevens, says Berkeley officials weren't helpful when the student first approached them so she kept quiet until after she graduated. Berkeley officials say they were responsive, but the student didn't give her full name or that of the dean. However, they are reviewing procedures.
Stevens says the new dating policy is long overdue.
"This subject has been shelved, back-burnered and ignored," she says. "It was necessary to have a public furor."