Harassment on Campus
The following information is provided by the Affirmative Action Committee, a standing committee of the Purchase College Senate. It is meant to detail your rights as a member of the Purchase College faculty in the event that you experience or are accused of harassment on campus. Please note, however, that the following information is subject to change; questions should be directed to the affirmative action officer (AAO) at (914) 251-5982. You also have representation provided by your union (UUP) and always have the right to confer with your union representative, who can help you determine what your rights are and how best to proceed.
Before reading any further, please review the college’s Community Standards of Conduct, published under College Policies and the Student Handbook on the Purchase site, and the information specific to sexual harassment in this section.
- Harassment of a faculty member by a student
If you believe a student is treating you in a way that violates the Community Standards of Conduct, you have several avenues open to you. You may decide to pursue any one of these avenues or all of them simultaneously.
- If a student (or anyone else) on campus is physically or otherwise threatening you, call the University Police immediately. For example, if you find a threatening note on your door, your voicemail, or your email, contact the police. Anything that feels threatening to you should be investigated. Request that the police write a report, get the number of that police report, and follow up by requesting a copy of the report. It may be easier to bring a case against a harasser if you have a police report. However, keep in mind that if you decide to file a formal complaint through the police (i.e., press charges), the other avenues detailed below will no longer be available to you.
- Contact the Office of Community Standards in Student Affairs. This office will write a report and then conduct a meeting with the accused student. If the student rejects the recommended sanctions, he or she can request a hearing. Trained students, faculty, and staff will be selected by the Office of Community Standards to constitute a committee of three to five people to hear the case. This Hearing Committee makes a decision and, if relevant, hands down sanctions. The range of sanctions for various kinds of violations is listed in the college’s Community Standards of Conduct. Because of privacy laws, you may not be privy to what sanctions, if any, are handed down. Student Affairs may only release the outcome to the complainant if he or she is the recipient of aggressive physical or sexual harassment. Students have a right to appeal.
- See the affirmative action officer (AAO) as soon as possible after the incident. You will be asked if you want to file an informal or a formal complaint. In response to an informal complaint, the AAO will facilitate a discussion between the involved parties and try to broker a resolution.
If you choose to file a formal complaint, you will be asked to write a report detailing the incident or incidents. SUNY policy states that employees must file the written complaint with the affirmative action officer within 90 calendar days following the alleged discriminatory act or the date on which the complainant first knew or reasonably should have known of such act. (When the complainant is a student, he or she must file a complaint within 90 calendar days following the alleged discriminatory act or 90 calendar days after a final grade is received for the semester during which the alleged discriminatory act occurred, if that date is later.) The accused (respondent) will receive a copy, and then you will be asked to select one member from a list of trained members of the college community to serve on a three-person panel. The respondent will also select one member. The two members chosen then choose a chair from the list. The resulting Tripartite Panel hears all evidence and makes a recommendation to the president. The president decides on sanctions, if any. You can always switch from an informal to a formal complaint.
It is important to realize that the last two options (A.2 and A.3) are available to you simultaneously. Also, if you believe the college has not handled your complaint appropriately, you can always take your case to an external state or federal agency:
- A complainant is not required to pursue the SUNY internal procedure before filing a complaint with a state or federal agency.
- If a complainant chooses to pursue the SUNY internal procedure, the complainant is also free to file a complaint with the appropriate state or federal agency at any point during the process.
- Upon filing with an external agency, however, the SUNY internal complaint procedure will be terminated and the matter referred to the Office of University Counsel for review, defense, or, if deemed appropriate by counsel, involvement in mediation, conciliation, or settlement with the external agency where the complaint was filed, or such other actions as may be in the interests of the university.
- Harassment of a faculty member by a member of the faculty, administration, or staff
If you feel threatened, call the University Police and ask that a report be filed, as discussed above. If you want to pursue a harassment complaint, see the affirmative action officer as discussed above. Again, you have the option to take your case to an external state or federal agency if you believe the college has not handled your complaint appropriately.
- If you are accused of harassment
Please refer to the preceding information in this section. For formal complaints that are pursued internally, you (as the respondent) will choose one member from a list of trained members of the college community to serve on a Tripartite Panel that hears the case; refer to A.3 above for more information. However, please note that faculty members are not obligated to participate in noncontractual hearings of this nature. That is why it is imperative that faculty members see their union representative immediately and ascertain their rights.
Definitions of harassment can be found in the SUNY policy, Equal Opportunity: Access, Employment, and Fair Treatment.
Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII, §703), and sexual harassment in any form will not be tolerated at the college. In addition, the Governor’s Executive Order No. 28 prohibits all state agencies from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 also prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity. One type of sex discrimination is sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence.
Academic freedom, creativity, professional achievement, and personal development flourish in a healthy environment. Such an environment must be one in which all employees and students can pursue their work free from coercion, intimidation, and exploitation. Harassment is antithetical to the mission of the college, and violations of this policy will result in disciplinary action up to and including expulsion or termination.
By law and SUNY policy, sexual harassment is defined as:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- submission to such contact is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education
- submission or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or educational decisions affecting the individual
- such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s welfare, academic or work performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or demeaning learning or work environment
Sexual harassment may include:
- subtle persistent pressure for sexual activity
- unnecessary touching, pinching, and/or brushing against a person
- sexual coercion or assault
- demanding sexual favors with implied or overt threats concerning work or academic decision or preferential treatment
- unwelcome verbal/expressive behavior of a sexual nature (e.g., jokes, sounds, obscene phone calls, demeaning graphic portrayals)
- stalking, cyberstalking, and failure to accept the termination of a consensual relationship with repeated overtures or other aberrant or negative behavior
Sexual violence has been defined as “physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent,” including rape, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.
The full text of the college’s sexual harassment policy is available on the Human Resources site. Please refer to Faculty-Student Consensual Relationships in this handbook for additional information.
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