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SEXUAL HARASSMENT POLICY AND GUIDELINES
PART ONE: POLICY
Suffolk University Law School is committed to providing a successful learning and working environment for all members of its community, free from any harassing or discriminatory conduct. Sexual harassment in any form, including opposite and same sex harassment, or in any context will not be tolerated. It is discriminatory, unlawful, and clearly inconsistent with the nature of an academic community. The Law School regards such behavior as a violation of the standard of conduct required of all persons associated with the institution.
The Law School’s sexual harassment policy applies to all members of the law school community and all programs affiliated with the Law School including domestic and international internships and externships and international programs.
The Law School recognizes that sexual harassment may occur regardless of the formal position or status of each person involved. Sexual harassment is especially offensive, however, when it occurs in relationships between teacher and student, supervisor and subordinate, or between a student with a position of authority over another student. In those situations, the behavior exploits unfairly the power inherent in the position.
This policy also reflects the Law School's commitment to educate, counsel, and train all of the members of the Law School community about the nature of sexual harassment, its impact on individuals and the law school community as a whole, and the steps necessary to combat it.
Sexual harassment constitutes a form of sex discrimination which is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act of 1972, and state law. In addition to any sanctions that may be imposed by the Law School for violation of this policy, a person who sexually harasses another person may be held personally liable to the victim and be subject to sanctions independent of those imposed by the Law School.
The Dean of Students of the Law School shall serve as the law school’s Title IX coordinator and is charged with all duties of that position as described in Title IX.
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature when it meets any of the following criteria:
A. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic status.
B. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting such an individual.
It is difficult to define with precision what kinds of verbal or physical behavior constitute sexual harassment because it depends on circumstances such as the severity and/or pervasiveness of the conduct, the relationship between the harasser and the recipient of the harassment, whether it is part of a pattern, etc. However, Title IX regulations make clear that “a single or isolated incident of sexual harassment may, if sufficiently severe, create a hostile environment.” Although it is not possible to list all types of conduct that, if unwelcome, might under certain circumstances constitute sexual harassment, the following are some examples. The term “sexual harassment” includes, but is not limited to:
• Sexual advances, whether or not they involve physical touching;
• Some incidents of physical assault;
• Direct or implied threats that submission to sexual advances will be a condition of employment, work status, promotion, grades, references or letters of recommendation;
• Direct propositions of a sexual nature and/or subtle pressure for sexual activity that is unwanted and interferes with a person's work or academic environment;
• A pattern of conduct that unreasonably interferes with the work or academic environment (and is not legitimately related to the subject matter of a course) including:
Sexual comments or inappropriate references to gender;
Comments about or inappropriate touching of the body of another individual.
III. Prohibition on Romantic and/or Sexual Relationships between Faculty and Students
Individuals in positions of power must be aware that romantic or sexual relationships with students are fraught with danger for exploitation and pose a legal risk to both the individual and the institution.
There are special risks in any sexual or romantic relationship between individuals in inherently unequal positions of power. These relationships may be subject to concerns about the validity of consent and unfair treatment of other students or employees. Such relationships can undermine the atmosphere of trust essential to the educational process and the employment relationship. They may be less consensual than the individual whose position confers power believes. The apparent consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect due to the fundamental asymmetry of power in the relationship and it thus may be difficult to establish consent as a defense to an allegation of sexual harassment. The greater the institutional power differential that exists, the greater risk there is for exploited consent. Exploited consent exists when consent to a relationship is given as a function of the position of power one person occupies over another within an institution. Even when both parties consented at the outset to a romantic or sexual involvement, this past consent does not remove grounds for or preclude a charge or subsequent finding of sexual harassment based upon subsequent unwelcome conduct.
Romantic and/or sexual conduct between a member of the faculty (including adjunct faculty) and a student enrolled at the Law School may violate the faculty member's ethical obligation to the student and to the student body as a whole, may create a conflict of interest, and may contribute to a hostile environment for other students. Therefore such relationships are prohibited.
Faculty members must notify the Dean of any relationship that pre-exists the enrollment in the Law School of the student member of the relationship that would otherwise be prohibited by this policy.
A violation of this provision by a faculty member shall constitute a violation of the Suffolk University Law School Sexual Harassment Policy and Guidelines and shall subject the faculty member to the sanctions laid out in the Suffolk University Law School Sexual Harassment Policy and Guidelines.
IV. Information and Training
The Law School is committed to eliminating and preventing sexual harassment of faculty, staff, students, student employees, and volunteers and to fostering an environment of respect for all individuals. The Law School promotes educational programs coordinated by the Dean of Students Office to meet the following goals:
A. Inform all individuals about their rights through training and dissemination of the sexual harassment policy;
B. Include the sexual harassment policy in orientation materials for new faculty, staff, students, and volunteers;
C. Notify persons of prohibited conduct;
D. Inform all individuals of the appropriate procedures and reporting mechanisms for addressing concerns of sexual harassment;
E. Inform the community about the problems caused by sexual harassment;
PART TWO: SEXUAL HARASSMENT POLICY and GUIDELINES IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURES
This policy provides procedures available to complainants who are members of the Law School community, including students, professional and administrative staff, support staff, and faculty members. This policy, up to the commencement of formal complaint proceedings, also applies to all members of the Law School community who are accused of sexual harassment. The formal complaint proceedings outlined in this policy apply to faculty and students only. Any formal complaint resolution proceedings involving administrators or staff accused of a violation of this policy will be governed by Suffolk University personnel policies.
The informal and formal complaint procedures set forth below are internal administrative procedures of the Law School. As to those forms of sexual harassment that also violate state or federal law, an aggrieved party may also file a complaint with the appropriate local, state, or federal agency or in a court with jurisdiction.
Situations involving Law School Faculty member with the title of Dean or Associate Dean
II. PROCEDURES AVAILABLE TO COMPLAINANTS
A. Informal Information and Advice
Any Law School student, staff or faculty member who has a concern, inquiry, or complaint regarding prohibited harassment should feel free to seek information and advice concerning the Law School’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Guidelines, its formal and informal grievance procedures, and the counseling and other services that the Law School makes available to people who believe they have been subjected to prohibited sexual harassment. Informal information and advice should be imparted in as supportive and confidential a manner as reasonably possible.
2. Nature of Information and Advice
B. Informal Resolution Procedures
Informal complaints may be oral or written. In many instances, informal discussion and counseling can be useful in resolving perceived or actual instances of sexual harassment. Problems are sometimes easier to resolve when an informal atmosphere encourages people to identify the difficulty, talk it out, and agree on how to deal with it. Informal complaint resolution does not involve disciplinary proceedings against the alleged harasser. Use of the informal procedures set forth below is not a prerequisite to initiating a formal complaint.
1. Whom to Contact
The statutes of limitations for filing sexual harassment complaints under state and federal law vary and are far shorter than the time frames permitted under this policy. This policy is not intended to mirror or conform to those statutes of limitations determined by state and federal law. In cases where the alleged harasser is an administrator or staff member, Suffolk University Human Resources should be consulted for more information relating to deadlines for the filing of a formal complaint.
Resolution of the informal complaint process should be reached within forty-five (45) days of the report to a Sexual Harassment Advisor.
3. Sexual Harassment Advisor’s Role and Responsibilities
The Sexual Harassment Advisor will treat an informal complaint as confidential to the greatest extent possible, as described below.
The Sexual Harassment Advisor will advise the complaining individual about support services available at the Law School, and the availability of both formal and informal complaint resolution procedures.
If requested by the complaining party, the Sexual Harassment Advisor will assist in attempting to resolve the complaint informally. Such assistance may involve, for example, advising the complainant in writing a letter to the person complained of asking that the behavior stop. Alternatively, the complainant may ask the Sexual Harassment Advisor to meet with the alleged harasser, or to explore other possible resolutions. The Sexual Harassment Advisor may enlist the help of other Law School or University personnel, such as deans or administrators or Human Resources personnel, in resolving an informal complaint, but only with the written permission of the complaining student.
Anyone with an inquiry or informal complaint may bring another member of the Law School community to discussions with the designated Sexual Harassment Advisor, as long as that person agrees, in writing, to be bound by the confidentiality provisions of this policy.
Although every effort will be made to ensure confidentiality, this policy does not guarantee absolute confidentiality in all cases. In some instances the Sexual Harassment Advisor may be bound by law or otherwise required to initiate an investigation and/or to report the complaint to superiors to ensure the safety and well being of others in the Law School community.
Anyone who believes that he or she has been the victim of sexual harassment prohibited by Suffolk University Law School's Sexual Harassment Policy and Guidelines is entitled to file a formal complaint. Unlike an informal complaint, a formal complaint seeks a formal, institutional determination that a violation has occurred and the imposition of formal, disciplinary sanctions upon the alleged harasser.
Section II. C. applies only for situations where a faculty member or student has been accused of a violation of this policy. Administrators or staff accused of a violation of this policy will be governed by Suffolk University personnel policies.
1. Filing of Complaint
A formal complaint of sexual harassment shall state the name(s) of the alleged offender(s) if known and shall specifically describe the incident(s) of alleged sexual harassment. The complaint should identify the dates and places of such incidents with reasonable specificity and list any known witnesses. A formal complaint shall be signed and dated by the complainant.
2. Investigation/Probable Cause Finding
The purpose of the investigation is to establish whether there is a reasonable basis (probable cause) for believing that a violation of this policy has occurred. The Fact Finder may conduct the initial fact-finding upon a written record consisting of a statement by the complainant, a statement from the respondent, and reply statements from each party if desired. Written statements from witnesses may be submitted. If such witnesses’ statements are submitted, the parties are entitled to an opportunity to review and reply to such statements. The investigation also may entail interviews of the complainant, the accused, and other persons believed to have pertinent factual knowledge.
If a formal complaint is brought, both accuser and accused have the right to have counsel present for any proceedings, including the right to be accompanied by counsel during their own interviews with the Fact Finder.
During such investigations, every reasonable effort will be made to protect the privacy rights of all parties, but confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.
3. Notice and Opportunity To Be Heard
The Fact-Finder will inform all parties promptly, in writing, of the outcome of the investigation. Such report shall include findings of fact.
If the Fact Finder finds probable cause, the Fact Finder is authorized to seek an administrative resolution of the proceedings. An accused party may enter into an agreement with the Fact Finder to accept responsibility, to accept partial responsibility, or not to contest an allegation, thus waiving his or her right to a further hearing process and agreeing to an outcome or sanction which is not subject to appeal. The complainant must agree to this resolution or the matter must go forward.
The statutes of limitations for filing sexual harassment complaints under state and federal law may vary and are far shorter than the time frames permitted under this policy. This policy is not intended to mirror or conform to those statutes of limitations determined by state and federal law. Employees should contact Human Resources for more information relating to deadlines to file an employee complaint.
Resolution in the formal complaint process will be made as quickly as possible, but should take no longer than (60) days after the filing of a formal complaint.
7. Written Record
8. Formal Hearing
a. The Examiners Committee will consist of a group of three impartial members, all outside parties appointed by the Law School Dean from a list of approved Examiners presented by the Sexual Harassment Advisors Committee.
b. The formal hearing shall be closed, except for parties and necessary staff. A taped or stenographic record shall be made of the proceedings. Witnesses will be sequestered unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties. Formal rules of evidence will not apply, but the Examiners Committee may make such rulings as are necessary to ensure fairness and to expedite the proceedings.
All parties may be represented by counsel at the hearing. If any party intends to be represented by counsel, all parties must be notified at least five days prior to the hearing.
The Fact Finder who completed the investigation shall present the allegations and supporting evidence through witnesses and documents. In addition, parties or their representative shall be entitled to make an opening statement of not more than five minutes, to propose questions to the Examiners Committee to be asked of any witness, and to make a closing statement of not more than ten minutes.
A party also may submit a written list of questions that, if appropriate, will be asked by a member of the Examiners Committee. Such list of questions and any other documents a party wishes to present at the hearing shall be submitted to the Examiners Committee at least five days before the hearing. Members of the Examiners Committee may ask questions of any party or witness at any time but should exercise care not to take an adversarial role in the hearing. Such questions shall not be provided to the other party in advance of the relevant witness(es)’ testimony at the formal hearing.
The Examiners Committee will determine whether a violation has occurred based on the testimony and other evidence presented.
c. The Examiners Committee shall hear the evidence de novo and determine, by a majority vote, whether a violation of this policy has been established by a preponderance of the evidence.
d. If a violation has not been established by a preponderance of the evidence, the charges shall be dismissed. If the Examiners Committee finds that conduct constituting a violation has been established by a preponderance of the evidence it shall report to the Dean the nature of the conduct found, with a nonbinding recommendation as to the appropriate sanction under all the circumstances.
e. A copy of the Examiners Committee Report, which shall include findings of fact as well as the sanction, if any, recommended by the Examiners Committee, shall be sent to all parties.
f. Findings of fact by the Examiners Committee shall be final.
Unless and until a disciplinary sanction is imposed, the Examiners Committee shall maintain as much confidentiality as is reasonably practicable under the circumstances. In particular, the Examiners Committee shall generally strive to keep confidential, except from the parties and the Dean, the identity of the parties, and the content of all documents, conversations, and hearings pertaining to the complaint. After a sanction is imposed, release of the record or of information included in the record shall be at the discretion of the Examiners Committee. Records of the proceedings or their contents may also be disclosed if someone found to have engaged in sexual harassment is subsequently found in any formal proceeding to have committed any additional act(s) of sexual harassment, in which case the records of prior proceedings may be treated as relevant to the imposition of sanctions only. Nothing in this section is intended to preclude the disclosure of the record in a formal proceeding to other Law School or University officials as required in related proceedings.
D. Hearings Regarding Sexual Assault Cases
Sexual assault cases follow the same set of procedures as other cases. However, some
1. Testimony about Prior Sexual Conduct
In rare cases, if a party can demonstrate that the opposing party has reason to lie about the allegations made, testimony about prior sexual conduct may be allowed. For example, there may be a preexisting condition or factor that makes it advantageous for the complaining party to have others believe that he or she had been an unwilling participant in the sexual encounter.
Anyone seeking to offer evidence of prior sexual conduct must first confer with the Examiners Committee in private no later than 5 days before the hearing before such evidence may be admitted. Though the Committee has broad discretion to admit or exclude evidence in a hearing, any evidence concerning prior sexual conduct will rarely be admitted. The other party shall be notified in advance of the hearing if such evidence is sought to be introduced.
2. First Complaint
3. As in all cases, the complainant and/or the accused may submit a written list of questions that, if appropriate, will be asked by a member of the Examiners Committee.
1. Sanctions against Faculty Members
a. Upon a finding that a provision of this policy has been violated, the Dean of the Law School or, in the case of a violation committed by a Law School faculty member with the title of Dean or Associate Dean, the President of the University or his/her designee, shall determine sanctions based upon the severity and frequency of the offending conduct, any circumstances deemed to constitute mitigating factors, and the faculty member’s overall conduct with regard to past transgressions and/or past sanctions. These sanctions may include:
i. An instruction to stop the offending conduct;
b. If a violation is found the above sanctions will be imposed within 30 days of such finding unless the summer or vacation recess makes it impossible to do so.
c. Where deemed appropriate the Dean of the Law School will report sanctions to the Board of Bar Overseers or to any other appropriate bar authorities.
2. Sanctions against Students
a. If an accused student admits the conduct, or accepts the findings of the Fact Finder that such conduct has occurred, or, after a formal hearing, the Examiners Committee finds that such conduct has occurred, the Dean shall so report to the Faculty. The Dean shall also report the sanction recommendations of the Fact Finder and the Examiners Committee, if any, and his or her own recommendation for an appropriate sanction. The faculty will make a final determination as to the sanction to be imposed.
Both the complainant and the accused shall have an opportunity to make a statement to the Faculty, in writing, in person, or by counsel or another advisor, on the issue of the appropriate sanction.
Sanctions that may be imposed upon students include but are not limited to:
i. Instruction to stop the offending conduct;
The Office of the Dean shall keep a record of all proceedings, including any findings by the Fact Finder or Examiners Committee, and any sanctions imposed by the Dean or the Faculty.
b. Withdrawal during Pendency of Disciplinary Hearings
c. Outside Reporting
F. Additional Measures
Threats, other forms of intimidation, and retaliation in any form against any member of the Law School community who in good faith exercises his or her right to initiate a complaint or inquiry regarding sexual harassment, or who cooperates with the proceedings in any way (as a witness, etc.) under this policy is strictly prohibited, and will itself be cause for appropriate disciplinary action, regardless of the outcome of the harassment complaint.
H. Further General Policies
1. Duty of Good Faith
2. Representation, Advice, and Counsel
3. Accused’s Options to Defer Proceedings
4. Designation of Personnel
6. Counsel to Accused or Complainant May not be a Suffolk University Employee
If a complainant believes that the outcome of a formal hearing was substantially flawed by procedural error in the investigation or hearing, or finds new information not known at the time of the investigation that is sufficient to alter the outcome, he or she may request a review by the President of Suffolk University or his designee. Likewise, if an accused believes that the outcome of a formal hearing was substantially flawed by procedural error in the investigation or hearing, or finds new information not known at the time of the investigation that is sufficient to alter the outcome, he or she may request a review by the President of Suffolk University or his designee. The request for review by the President or his designee must be made within 5 working days of receipt of the result of the formal hearing. The President or his designee will review the written record and will submit a written decision to both parties within 30 working days of the receipt of the appeal.
J. Computation of Time Periods
In computing any period of time prescribed by these Guidelines the following rule shall apply: When the period of time prescribed is less than thirty days intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays, snow days and any other days when the University is closed for other reasons shall be excluded in the computation. For time periods of thirty days or more, all consecutive calendar days shall be counted. If the person investigating the complaint determines that additional working days are necessary to complete the investigation, she or he will notify the parties of the anticipated completion date of the investigation.
K. Filing Complaint with Government Agencies
Any employee or student who believes that he or she has been subjected to sexual harassment may file a formal complaint with either or both of the government agencies set forth below. Using the Law School’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Guidelines does not prohibit an employee or student from filing a complaint with these agencies:
1. United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
2. Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)
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