Penn State has policy statements and a student Code of Conduct, which address behavior that is inconsistent with the mission of the University.
The term “Complainant” refers to an individual who is reported to have experienced an incident of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct.
A University employee who is exempt from reporting to the Title IX Coordinator incidents of gender-based harassment, sexual violence, sexual harassment, or any other sexual misconduct in a way that identifies the victim. This includes professional and pastoral counselors and non-professional counselors or advocates. The University designates confidential employees and those individuals are notified of their designation.Professional and pastoral counselors includes licensed mental health counselors, pastors, priests, or any other pastoral counselor whose official responsibilities include providing mental health counseling to the campus community. It also includes individuals who are supervised by these people.
Non-professional counselors or advocates includes individuals who are not professional or pastoral counselors, but work or volunteer in on-campus sexual assault centers, victim advocacy offices, women’s centers, or health centers, including front desk staff and students, social workers, doctors, medical staff, or any other person with a professional license requiring confidentiality.
Employees who are designated as Confidential Employees are not required to report any information they learn about an incident involving Prohibited Conduct in a way that identifies the victim. Some Confidential Employees, such as non-professional counselors or advocates, may be required to report aggregate data only.
While not expressly prohibited, romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty and students, staff and students or supervisors and subordinate employees are strongly discouraged. Such relationships have the potential for adverse consequences, including the filing of charges of sexual harassment. Given the fundamentally asymmetric nature of the relationship where one party has the power to give grades, thesis advice, evaluations, recommendations, promotions, salary increases or performance evaluations, the consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect.
Even when both parties have consented to the relationship, there may be perceptions of conflicts of interest or unfair treatment of others. Such perceptions undermine the atmosphere of trust essential to the educational process or the employment relationship. Accordingly, the person in the position of supervision or academic responsibility must promptly report the relationship to his or her immediate supervisor. Once the consensual relationship is reported, the immediate supervisor is responsible for eliminating or mitigating the conflict of interest to the fullest feasible extent and ensuring that fair and objective processes are in place for decisions relative to grading, thesis advice, evaluations, recommendations, promotions, salary increases, or performance evaluations. The new supervisory or academic arrangement should be documented.
Consent must be informed, freely given and mutual. If coercion, intimidation, threats or physical force are used there is no consent. If a person is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that such person cannot understand the fact, nature or extent of the sexual situation, there is no consent. This includes impairment or incapacitation due to alcohol or drug consumption, or being asleep or unconscious, where the respondent knew or reasonably should have known that the person was incapacitated. Inducement of incapacitation of another with the intent to affect the ability of an individual to consent or refuse to consent to sexual contact almost always, if not always, negates consent. Silence does not necessarily constitute consent. Whether a person has taken advantage of a position of influence over an alleged victim may be a factor in determining consent.
means violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim. The existence of such a relationship will be based on the reporting party’s statement and with consideration of the length and type of relationship and the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. Dating violence includes but is not limited to sexual or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse. However, it is important to recognize that emotional, verbal, and economic abuse are part of the web of dating violence and can exist without the presence of physical abuse.
Domestic Violence includes crimes of violence committed against a victim by:
- a current or former spouse
- a person with whom the victim shares a child
- a person who is or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse
- a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim
- any other person against whom the victim is protected under Pennsylvania’s domestic and family violence laws.
It is important to recognize that emotional, verbal, and economic abuse are part of the web of domestic violence and can exist without the presence of physical abuse.
The term “Respondent” refers to an individual who is reported to have committed an act of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct.
Most faculty and staff at Penn State are responsible employees. A responsible employee is a University employee who has the authority to take action to redress sexual violence; who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual violence, sexual harassment, or any other misconduct covered by University policy AD85 to the Title IX Coordinator; or who a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty. At Penn State, all employees who are not confidential employees are responsible employees. Responsible employees are required to report incidents of gender-based discrimination or harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, or retaliation that may violate Title IX to the Title IX Coordinator.
Responsible Employees are not required to report information disclosed (1) at public awareness events (e.g., “Take Back the Night,” candlelight vigils, protests, or other public forums in which individuals may disclose incidents of Prohibited Conduct, collectively “Public Awareness Events”); or (2) during an individual’s participation as a subject in an Institutional Review Board (“IRB”)-approved human subjects research protocol. The University may provide information about individuals’ rights under Title IX and about available University and Community resources and support at Public Awareness Events, however, and Institutional Review Boards may, in appropriate cases, require researchers to provide such information to all student subjects of IRB research.
Retaliation as defined in University Policy AD67, is also prohibited by this policy and may subject the individual who retaliates in violation of this or other University policy to discipline or sanctions.
Sexual exploitation includes, but is not limited to: prostituting another person; non-consensual visual or audio recording of sexual activity; non-consensual display or distribution of photos, images or information of an individual’s sexual activity or intimate body parts; non-consensual voyeurism; coercing someone against their will to engage in sexual activity, or; knowingly transmitting sexually transmitted disease (STD) without disclosing STD status.
Sexual Harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted, inappropriate, or unconsented to. Any type of Sexual Harassment is prohibited at the University. For purposes of student discipline, the term Sexual Harassment is defined in the Student Code of Conduct.
Sexual Harassment committed by an employee or third-party can lead to discipline or corrective action when:
- Submission to such conduct is made implicitly or explicitly a condition for employment, promotion, grades, academic status, or participation in the University’s activities; or
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment or academic or other decisions affecting an individual; or
- Such conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to substantially interfere with the harassed individual’s employment, education or access to University programs, activities and opportunities, or creates a hostile or offensive environment for that individual or others.
Sexual Misconduct is a form of sexual harassment and refers to sexual offenses including but not limited to rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual exploitation, sexual coercion and any other forms of nonconsensual sexual activity. Sexual misconduct can be committed by strangers, acquaintances and family members, as well as casual and long-term dating partners.
Sexual assault occurs when a person engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with a complainant without the victim’s consent, and includes rape, fondling, incest, or statutory rape. Sexual assault also includes, but is not limited to, attempted or unwanted sexual activity, such as sexual touching and fondling. This includes the touching of an unwilling person’s intimate parts (defined as genitalia, groin, breast or buttock, or clothing covering them), or forcing an unwilling person to touch another’s intimate parts.
Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his/her safety or the safety of others, or to suffer emotional distress. Stalking may include repeatedly following, harassing, threatening, or intimidating another by telephone, mail, electronic communication, social media, or any other action, device or method.