Conduct that is prohibited and encompassed by this policy includes sexual harassment, sex and gender discrimination, sexual assault, rape, stalking, and relationship abuse (including domestic and dating violence). These acts are also a violation of federal and state law (including Title IX, Title VII, the Campus SaVE Act, and the Violence Against Women Act). These acts are prohibited in any sex or gender configuration (i.e., between the same or differing genders), regardless of sex and gender identity, or in any power configuration. Individuals found responsible for violating these policies will face sanctions that are commensurate with the severity of the policy violation, ranging from warning to expulsion or termination of employment.
Many of the behaviors outlined in this policy may be felony or misdemeanor crimes in addition to violations of this policy. Victims are encouraged to explore legal options for prosecution if they desire. Austin College will conduct its own investigation and resolution process for a complaint, regardless of whether the alleged misconduct is also being pursued through the criminal justice system. Acts of harassment or sex- and gender-based discrimination may vary in severity and include the following categories:
A. Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a form of sexual misconduct that is a violation of the College policy as well as federal and state statutes. Austin College defines sexual assault as actual or attempted sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent. Sexual assault includes:
- intentional touching of another person’s intimate body parts without that person’s consent;
- other intentional sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent;
- coercing, forcing, or attempting to coerce or force a person to touch another person’s intimate parts without that person’s consent; or
- rape, which consists of penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.
Sexual assault can be committed by persons of the same sex as well as those of different sex.
Students, employees, and third-parties should understand that forced or unwanted sexual intercourse or sexual contact (as defined above), whether it involves a stranger or an acquaintance, is sexual assault. The severity of the violation is the same whether the responding participant is a stranger or known to the reporting participant.
B. Sexual Exploitation
Sexual exploitation occurs when a person takes non-consensual, unjust, or abusive sexual advantage of another for their own advantage or benefit, or for the benefit or advantage of anyone other than the one being exploited. This behavior may not fall within the definition of non-consensual sexual contact/activity, or sexual harassment, but it is still a violation of policy. There are many degrees and types of sexual exploitation. Examples of sexual exploitation are described below.
- Photographing or taping someone (via audio or video) involved in sexual activity, or in a state of undress without their consent or knowledge constitutes prohibited sexual exploitation (even if a person consented to the sexual activity or the state of undress, photographing or taping someone without their knowledge goes beyond the boundaries of that consent).
- Disseminating photographs or video/audio of someone involved in sexual activity or in a state of undress without their knowledge or consent constitutes a separate and additional act prohibited by this policy.
- Voyeurism, which is the act of observing a person involved in sexual contact/activity or in a state of undress without their knowledge or consent, is prohibited by this policy.
- Inducing intoxication/incapacitation for the purpose of sexual activity (i.e., offering drugs, alcohol, or other substances to a person with or without their knowledge with the intent to impair their ability to withhold consent or their ability to knowingly consent to sexual activity) is a violation of this policy. This type of conduct constitutes sexual exploitation regardless of whether any sexual activity takes place.
C. Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. Examples of this type of harassment are:
- unwanted sexual advances that may take the form of
- inappropriate sexual or suggestive comments,
- sounds or jokes;
- unsolicited touching or fondling;
- unwanted intercourse or
- unwelcome requests for sexual favors; or
- other behavior of a sexual nature where:
- Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly as a term or condition of an individual’s employment or participation in a college-sponsored educational program or activity. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual (often referred to as quid pro quo harassment), or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance, as well as creating an intimidating or offensive educational, social, living, or working environment.
D. Harassment Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender, or Gender Identity
Harassment based on sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity is defined as derogatory comments, actions, or conduct that may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, cyber, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature. Such conduct is directed toward an individual by virtue of their actual or presumed sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity and humiliates or intimidates an individual, impedes academic or work performance, or interferes with college life.
E. Hostile Environment
A hostile environment is created when harassing conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent, pervasive, or offensive that it denies, limits, or interferes with an employee’s or student’s ability to participate in or benefit from
- educational programs, services, opportunities, or
- activities or employment access, benefits, or opportunities.
Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that is unwelcome and would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety, fear for the safety of others, or suffer emotional distress.
Stalking can occur between strangers, individuals who know each other, or individuals who are or were previously in a relationship. Stalking behaviors may include unwanted following or watching, unwelcome gifts, or communications in person, in writing, or through the use of technology. It also includes accessing personal information to monitor a person’s activity.
G. Relationship Abuse
Relationship abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, or digital. It is unwanted and causes physical or emotional harm. At Austin College, relationship abuse encompasses dating violence and domestic violence and can involve current or former intimate partners, spouses, or dating relationships. Relationship violence can occur in both same-sex and different-sex relationships. Examples of relationship abuse include:
- physical abuse, such as hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, or throwing objects at a person.
- sexual abuse, such as attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence, treating one in a sexually demeaning manner, coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent, or marital rape.
- psychological or emotional abuse, such as a pattern of behavior undermining a person’s sense of self-worth or self-esteem, constant criticism, possessiveness, damaging possessions, threats, intimidation, diminishing a person’s abilities, name-calling, public humiliation, or damaging a person’s relationship with their friends or family.
- financial abuse, such as taking money from or prohibiting access to bank accounts.
- digital abuse, such as controlling social media accounts, or harassment through social media or other forms of technology.
Retaliation occurs when an adverse action is taken against an individual for raising concerns about conduct which is prohibited by law or policy. All members of the Austin College community have the right to raise concerns or file a complaint without fear of retaliation. Additionally, it is a violation of college policy to retaliate against an individual for filing a report of sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination. Retaliation is also prohibited against reporting participant, responding participant, and anyone who participates in an investigation of sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination. Examples of retaliation include hostility, intimidation, threats, exclusion, or discrimination.
Complicity is any act taken with the purpose of aiding, facilitating, promoting, or encouraging the commission of an act of prohibited conduct by another person.
K. Consensual Relationships
Sexual, romantic, or dating relationships between employees and students are inconsistent with the mission of the College and inappropriate because they carry a risk of damaging the student’s educational experience and the faculty or staff member’s career. The College thus prohibits sexual, romantic, or dating relationships, even of a consensual nature, between employees and currently enrolled students. Enrolled students who are employed by College are considered students for consensual relationships.
There are exceptional circumstances in which the spouse or partner of a faculty or staff member is a student at the College. This policy does not apply in such circumstances. The Dean of the Faculty or the appropriate vice president is the administrative officer who determines whether a circumstance is exceptional.