Policy on Equal Opportunity Nondiscrimination Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Harassment at Colgate University Skip Navigation

Policy on Equal Opportunity, Nondiscrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Other Forms of Harassment

The following policy was approved in August 2012.

I. Introduction

Colgate University is committed to the goals of fairness and equity in all aspects of the educational enterprise, and to a learning and living environment where all members of the community feel safe and respected. Acts of discrimination and harassment are serious violations of our community values. This policy aims to promote a Colgate community where all members can study, live, and work together in a community characterized by mutual respect.

All policies contained herein are subject to resolution using the university’s Equity Grievance Process, as detailed below. The Equity Grievance Process applies regardless of the status of the parties involved, who may be students, student organizations, faculty, administrators, and/or staff. The university may also bring actions or effect remedies based on complaints by or against non-members of the community. The university reserves the right to act on incidents occurring on campus or off campus, when the off-campus conduct could have an on-campus impact or impact on the mission of the university.

The director for EEO/AA serves as the ADA Coordinator and oversees implementation of Colgate’s Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity procedures, disability compliance, and the university’s policy on nondiscrimination. The associate provost for equity and diversity serves as Title IX Coordinator and oversees implementation of the university’s policy on harassment as well as the Equity Grievance Process for responding to complaints of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other forms of discriminatory and bias-related harassment. 

Inquiries may be made to:

The Office of Equity and Diversity
102 Lathrop Hall
Colgate University
13 Oak Drive
Hamilton, NY 13346

- Back to top -

II. University Policy on Nondiscrimination

Colgate University fully subscribes to all federal and state civil rights laws banning discrimination in private institutions of higher education. Colgate will not discriminate against any student, employee, or applicant for employment because of race, color, sex, pregnancy, religion, creed, national origin (including ancestry), citizenship status, physical or mental disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, veteran or military status (including special disabled veteran, Vietnam-era veteran, or recently separated veteran), predisposing genetic characteristics, domestic violence victim status, or any other protected category under applicable local, state, or federal law, including protections for those opposing discrimination or participating in any complaint process at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or other human rights agencies. This policy covers nondiscrimination in employment and in access to educational opportunities.

- Back to top -

III. University Policy on Disabilities

Colgate University is committed to full compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and its amendments and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against qualified persons with disabilities, as well as other federal and state laws pertaining to individuals with disabilities. 

The director for EEO/AA has been designated as the ADA Coordinator responsible for coordinating efforts to comply with these disability laws, including investigation of any employee complaint alleging noncompliance. The Equity Grievance Process covers claims of disability-related harassment and discrimination. Disability accommodation requests are handled separately from the Equity Grievance process. 

Procedures for requesting accommodations are described elsewhere in the Faculty, Staff, and Student Handbooks. Employee requests for disability-related accommodations should be made to the employee’s supervisor and the associate provost for equity and diversity. Student requests for accommodations should be directed to the director of academic program support and disability services.

- Back to top -

IV.    University Policy on Harassment

Students, staff, administrators, and faculty are entitled to a professional working and educational environment, and Colgate is committed to providing a work and educational environment free of unlawful harassment. Colgate is a vibrant academic environment that encourages discussion of competing ideas both inside and outside the classroom and in both formal and informal settings. Consistent with the university’s policy on academic freedom (Section III.B of the Faculty Handbook), Colgate’s harassment policy is not meant to inhibit or prohibit germane educational content or discussions inside or outside of the classroom that include controversial or sensitive subject matters. The sections below describe the specific forms of legally prohibited harassment that are also prohibited under Colgate policy.

The university strives to comply with federal and state equal opportunity laws, but the scope of this policy is not limited by those laws. The university reserves the right to remedy harassment pursuant to this policy even if the behavior in question does not rise to the level of legally recognized or actionable discrimination or harassment. 

a. Discriminatory and Bias-Related Harassment 
Harassment constitutes a form of discrimination that is prohibited by law. Colgate’s harassment policy explicitly prohibits any form of harassment on the basis of actual or perceived membership in a protected class, by any member or group of the community, which creates a hostile environment, both objectively and subjectively. A hostile environment may be created by physical, oral, written, or graphic conduct (including electronic media) that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive so as to interfere with, limit or deny the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from educational programs or activities or employment access, benefits, or opportunities. Colgate condemns and will not tolerate harassment against any employee, student, or visitor to campus because of race, color, sex, pregnancy, religion, creed, national origin (including ancestry), citizenship status, physical or mental disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, veteran or military status (including special disabled veteran, Vietnam-era veteran, or recently separated veteran), predisposing genetic characteristics, domestic violence victim status, or any other protected category under applicable local, state, or federal law. 

b. Sexual Harassment 
Both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New York State Division of Human Rights regard sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination and, therefore, as an unlawful discriminatory practice. Sexual harassment prohibited by this policy includes but is not limited to: 

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, which constitutes sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic status, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis of employment or academic decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent that it has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working, educational, or social environment. Faculty and administrators need to be especially sensitive to the power/authority relation in their interactions with students. Actions or remarks that emphasize the sexuality or sexual identity of a student can take on a proportion that they would not have in other contexts, one that could ultimately impair the student’s access to the educational opportunities available at Colgate. Furthermore, amorous relations between faculty and students, between administrators and students, or between coaches and students, contradict both professional ethics and this policy and are prohibited by the University.

c. Sexual Misconduct
State law defines various violent and/or non-consensual sexual acts as crimes. Additionally, Colgate has defined categories of sexual misconduct, as stated below, for which disciplinary procedures may be imposed. Colgate reserves the right to impose any level of sanction, up to and including suspension or expulsion/termination for any act of Sexual Misconduct (I or II), Sexual Exploitation, or other gender-based offenses based on the facts and circumstances of the particular complaint. Acts of sexual misconduct may be committed by any person upon any other person, regardless of the sex, gender, sexual orientation and/or gender identity of those involved. The issue in any case is not the gender or gender identity of the persons involved but the acts.

i. Sexual Misconduct I
Sexual Misconduct I refers to any sexual penetration or intercourse (anal, oral or vaginal), however slight, with any object, by a person upon another person without consent. Sexual penetration includes vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, tongue, finger, or object, or oral copulation by mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact.

ii. Sexual Misconduct II
Sexual Misconduct II refers to any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object by a person upon another person without consent. Sexual touching includes any bodily contact with the breasts, groin, genitals, mouth, or other bodily orifice of another individual, or any other bodily contact in a sexual manner. Sexual Misconduct II also includes any disrobing of another or unwelcome exposure from one person to another without consent.

iii. Sexual Exploitation
Sexual Exploitation refers to a situation in which a person takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another, and situations in which the conduct does not fall within the definitions of Sexual Misconduct I or II. Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:
  • Sexual voyeurism (such as watching a person undressing, using the bathroom or engaged in sexual acts without the consent of the person observed).

  • Taking pictures or video or audio recording another in a sexual act, or in any other private activity without the consent of all involved in the activity, or exceeding the boundaries of consent (such as allowing another person to hide in a closet and observe sexual activity, or disseminating sexual pictures without or beyond the limits of the photographed person’s consent).

  • Sexual Exploitation also includes engaging in sexual activity with another person while knowingly infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or other sexually transmitted disease (STD) and without informing the other person of the infection, and further includes administering alcohol or drugs (such as “date rape” drugs) to another person without his or her knowledge or consent.
iv. Consent
Consent is knowing, voluntary and clear permission by word or action, by all participants to a sexual activity. Since individuals may experience the same interaction in different ways, it is the responsibility of each party to make certain that the other has consented before engaging in the activity. For consent to be valid, there must be a clear expression in words or actions that the other individual consented to that specific sexual conduct. 

A person cannot consent if he or she is unable to understand what is happening or is disoriented, helpless, asleep, or unconscious for any reason, including due to alcohol or other drugs. An individual who engages in sexual activity when the individual knows, or should know, that the other person is physically or mentally incapacitated has violated this policy. It is not an excuse that the individual respondent of sexual misconduct was intoxicated and, therefore, did not realize the incapacity of the other. 

Incapacitation is defined as a state where someone cannot make rational, reasonable decisions because they lack the capacity to give knowing consent (e.g., to understand the “who, what, when, where, why or how” of the sexual interaction). This policy also covers a person whose incapacity results from mental disability or physical restraint.

Consent to some sexual contact (such as kissing or fondling) cannot be presumed to be consent for other sexual activity (such as intercourse). A current or previous dating relationship is not sufficient to constitute consent. The existence of consent is based on the totality of the circumstances, including the context in which the alleged incident occurred and any similar previous patterns that may be evidenced. Silence or the absence of resistance alone is not consent. A person can withdraw consent at any time during sexual activity by expressing in words or actions that he or she no longer wants the act to continue, and, if that happens, the other person must stop immediately. 

In New York State, a minor (meaning a person under the age of 17 years) cannot consent to sexual activity. This means that sexual contact by an adult with a person younger than 17 years old is a crime as well as a violation of this policy, even if the minor wanted to engage in the act.

d. Relationship to Other Policies
Conduct that violates this Policy may also constitute violations of other university policies. The following is a non-exhaustive list of such situations:
  1. Threatening or causing physical harm, extreme verbal abuse, or other conduct which threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person on the basis of actual or perceived membership in a protected class.

  2. Intimidation, defined as implied threats or acts that cause a fear of harm in another on the basis of actual or perceived membership in a protected class. 

  3. Hazing, defined as acts likely to cause physical or psychological harm or social ostracism to any person within the university community, when related to the admission, initiation, pledging, joining, or any other group-affiliation activity (as defined further in the Hazing Policy) that involves either sexual misconduct, or harassment of members or non-members based on their actual or perceived membership in a protected class. Hazing is also illegal under New York State law and prohibited by university policy.

  4. Bullying and cyber-bullying, defined as repeated and/or severe aggressive behavior likely to intimidate or intentionally hurt, control or diminish another person, physically or mentally on the basis of actual or perceived membership in a protected class. 

  5. Violence between community members in an intimate relationship to each other. 

  6. Stalking and cyber-stalking, defined as repetitive and/or menacing pursuit, following, harassment and/or interference with the peace and/or safety of a member of the community or the safety of any of the immediate family of members of the community on the basis of actual or perceived membership in a protected class.
- Back to top -

V. Helping Students Understand Harassment

The University aims not only to respond to acts of harassment and bigotry but also to educate and thereby prevent unacceptable harassing and biased acts. This section is intended to illustrate the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable conduct in common scenarios that arise between students. This section should not be construed to alter in any way the scope of this university policy insofar as it is applicable to employees of the university, or to students with respect to issues other than those described in this section.

Colgate is proud to be a community comprised of diverse individuals from all backgrounds. Colgate values the social and intellectual vibrancy that occurs when students with different life experiences, viewpoints, and belief systems come together. Our goal is to maintain a living and learning environment where all feel safe and respected. 

Acts of harassment, bigotry, prejudice, hate crimes, and sexual misconduct are inconsistent with our mission and violate the policy that applies to all members of our community. Students are urged to read this section and to develop an understanding of the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Colgate encourages intellectual inquiry and debate and the open discussion of differing viewpoints. This policy is not intended to stifle academic exchange even when it may be offensive to some. While vigorous intellectual exchange is consistent with Colgate’s mission, acts of bigotry that are targeted at an individual or group within the community undermine Colgate’s educational purpose and are not part of legitimate academic inquiry. An underlying premise of this distinction between acceptable and unacceptable conduct is the notion of respect for each individual as a unique member of the Colgate community. 

a. Reporting Harassment
A student who believes that he or she has been the victim of harassment is encouraged to report it immediately to a member of the Equity Grievance Panel using the procedures described in the Equity Grievance Process. Some instances may rise to the level of criminal conduct, and Colgate strongly encourages the reporting of criminal conduct to the local police by dialing 911. Campus Safety will assist a student in reporting an incident to the police if the student so requests. The criminal process is separate and distinct from this policy. The fact that a criminal complaint has been filed, prosecuted or dismissed will not prevent Colgate from pursuing disciplinary action.

Each year, the University appoints faculty and staff to the Equity Grievance Panel. Members of the panel are available to consult with students regarding the definition of harassment in this policy as well as the University’s procedures and options available for addressing situations of concern. A list of current panel members' contact information can be found at here.

b. On-Campus and Off-Campus Behavior
This policy applies to conduct that occurs on any part of Colgate’s campus or property. As noted above, this policy also applies to off-campus conduct under certain circumstances. For example, it applies when students travel off campus as part of a university activity, team, organization, or event. Additionally, Colgate has the discretion to discipline student behavior that occurs off campus, and/or during a time when the university is not in session. In making these determinations, the university considers whether the behavior impacts the campus environment (as would be the case, for example, if one student harasses another student in an off-campus apartment or overseas during a semester abroad, or if a student sends another student racially demeaning or threatening emails while at home during the semester break) or otherwise implicates the interests or mission of the university. In understanding this aspect of Colgate’s expectations for student behavior, it may be helpful to think of student status as “portable” and therefore operative even when students are not on Colgate’s campus or property.

c. Definitions of Harassing Behavior
Federal and state laws and Colgate policy prohibit discrimination and harassment based on legally protected categories. However, as a supportive and collegial community, Colgate also prohibits bias-related student behavior that demeans or humiliates other community members even if the conduct is not so egregious as to violate the law. Harassing conduct can occur in various forms, including:

  1. Verbal - such as unwelcome sexually suggestive, demeaning, or graphic comments, using ethnic, racial, religious, or other slurs to refer to a person, or jokes or comments that demean a person on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.

  2. Physical - such as unwanted sexual contact, sexual intimidation through physical threats, physical threats toward or intimidation of another on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.

  3. Visual - such as exposing another person to unwanted pornographic images, creating or displaying racially, ethnically, religiously offensive pictures, symbols, cartoons, or graffiti.

  4. Communication-based - such as phone calls, e-mails, text messages, chats, or blogs that offend, demean, or intimidate another on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.
A determination as to whether harassment occurred depends on the totality of the circumstances, such as the severity of a particular incident, the context in which it occurred, whether the conduct was repeated, whether the conduct was verbal or physical, and whether it was threatening or merely annoying. For purposes of federal and state law, harassment has occurred if a reasonable person would have found the behavior offensive and his or her living, learning, or working environment would be impaired as a result of the conduct. However, Colgate reserves the right to remedy harassment pursuant to this policy even if the behavior in question does not rise to the level of legally recognized or actionable discrimination or harassment. Other portions of this policy define and prohibit specific forms of prohibited harassing behavior, such as bullying and stalking.

The use of alcohol or other drugs can impair judgment and self-control. However, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not a defense to an allegation of a violation of this policy.

d. Identifying Harassment in our Community
Colgate is a vibrant academic environment that encourages discussion of competing ideas both inside and outside the classroom and in both formal and informal settings. Some topics may make a person uncomfortable or take a student outside his or her comfort zone. This policy is not intended to ban debate over socially controversial or potentially offensive ideas or issues. 

As an example of this distinction, this policy would not prohibit civil and respectful debate in a social sciences class or a residence hall about same-sex marriage or immigration policies even if a student disagreed with others’ views and was offended by their statements. Similarly, this policy would not prohibit controversial figures from speaking on campus even if the individual’s viewpoint or speech were offensive to some, nor would this policy prohibit reasonable artistic expression. However, this policy would prohibit a student from making slurs, insults, or threats deemed to constitute gender- or bias-related harassment at any other individual or group of individuals.

e. Hate Crimes
For the purpose of this policy, a “hate crime” is defined as violence to a person or damage to property (or a threat to do so) or any other criminal act that is motivated entirely or partly by hostility toward or intolerance of another’s race, color, religion, creed, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, military or veteran status, age, disability, or any other personal characteristic protected by law.

The following example demonstrates the difference between a crime and a hate crime. A student who selects a car at random in a campus parking lot and smashes the windshield has committed criminal mischief. A student who is biased against Muslims and smashes a windshield because he or she knows that the car belongs to a Muslim student has likewise committed criminal mischief. However, this second incident is also a hate crime because the student was motivated by anti-Muslim bias.

Federal and state laws prohibit hate crimes, and hate crimes often result in enhanced criminal penalties. Students who commit hate crimes are subject to criminal prosecution in addition to discipline pursuant to this policy. The criminal process is separate and distinct from this policy. The fact that a criminal complaint has been filed, prosecuted, or dismissed will not prevent Colgate from pursuing disciplinary action.

- Back to top -

VI. Retaliation

Retaliation is defined as any adverse action taken against a person for participating in a protected activity. Retaliation against an individual for alleging harassment, supporting a complainant, or for assisting in providing information relevant to a claim of harassment is a serious violation of Colgate’s policy and will be treated as another possible instance of harassment or discrimination. Acts of alleged retaliation should be reported immediately to the associate provost for equity and diversity or to a member of the Equity Grievance Panel and will be promptly investigated. Colgate is prepared to take appropriate steps to protect individuals who fear that they may be subjected to retaliation.

- Back to top -

VII. Remedial Action

As appropriate, Colgate will implement initial remedial and responsive actions upon notice of alleged harassment, retaliation, and/or discrimination, and will take additional prompt remedial or disciplinary action with respect to any member of the community, guest, or visitor who has been found to engage in harassing or discriminatory behavior or retaliation. Procedures for handling reported incidents are fully described in the Equity Grievance Process. Deliberately false and/or malicious accusations of harassment, as opposed to complaints which, even if erroneous, are made in good faith, are a serious offense and will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.

- Back to top -

VIII. Confidentiality

Colgate will make every effort to handle complaints and investigations with sensitivity to both the rights of the person who complains and the rights of the accused individual (respondent) and will endeavor to maintain privacy throughout the investigatory process, to the extent practicable and appropriate under the circumstances. However, in order to conduct an effective investigation, Colgate may need to discuss the allegations with the alleged harasser or other potential witnesses. Records relating to harassment and discrimination complaints and investigations will be maintained only in private files, and all individuals receiving information about the allegations will be warned of the consequences of retaliation.

Colgate understands that an individual who has been the victim of harassment may wish to talk about the incident with the assurance that the discussion will be confidential. There are several support resources that students may utilize on a confidential basis. These include Counseling & Psychological Services, the Office of the Chaplains, and University Health Services. Students are encouraged to consult these sources for confidential emotional support. Employees may contact the Employee Assistance Program. Because these services are confidential, a discussion with any of these sources does not result in a complaint being filed with the university or result in action being taken by the university to respond to the incident. An individual who wishes to receive emotional support only should contact the confidential counseling resources listed above. Anyone wishing to have an incident investigated, mediated or adjudicated must make a complaint in accordance with the procedures described in the Equity Grievance Process.

The university endeavors to respect and follow the wishes of an individual who brings forward a discrimination or harassment concern. Colgate may, however, have ethical and legal obligations to investigate, attempt to resolve, or adjudicate incidents of misconduct that come to its attention. Therefore, depending on the circumstances, it may not be possible for a conversation with Campus Safety personnel, the associate provost for equity and diversity, EGP members, or other university employees to be kept in confidence always or, said another way, for these individuals simply to listen without taking action. The university reserves the right to inform law enforcement when allegations may involve criminal behavior, if and when the university deems necessary and appropriate.

- Back to top -