University Policies

Definition of Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Consent, and Sexual Harassment

Definition of Sexual Misconduct

Yale University is committed to maintaining and strengthening an educational, working, and living environment founded on civility and mutual respect. Sexual misconduct is antithetical to the standards and ideals of our community and will not be tolerated. Yale aims to eradicate sexual misconduct through education, training, clear policies, and serious consequences for violations of these policies. Sexual misconduct incorporates a range of behaviors including rape, sexual assault (which includes any kind of nonconsensual sexual contact), sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking, and any other conduct of a sexual nature that is nonconsensual, or has the purpose or effect of threatening, intimidating, or coercing a person or persons. When there is a lack of mutual consent about sexual activity, or there is ambiguity about whether consent has been given, a student can be charged with, and found guilty of, committing a sexual assault or another form of sexual misconduct.

Much sexual misconduct includes nonconsensual sexual contact, but this is not a necessary component. Threatening speech, which is sufficiently serious to constitute sexual harassment, for example, will constitute sexual misconduct. Photographs, video, or other visual or auditory records of sexual activity made without explicit consent constitute sexual misconduct, even if the activity documented was consensual. Similarly, sharing such recordings without explicit consent is a form of sexual misconduct. For example, forwarding a harassing electronic communication may also constitute an offense. Sexual misconduct also includes a violation of Yale's Policy on Teacher-Student Consensual Relations.

The University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) will formally and informally address allegations of sexual misconduct. Many forms of sexual misconduct are also prohibited by Connecticut and federal law including Title IX of the education amendments of 1972, and could result in criminal prosecution or civil liability.

Definition of Sexual Consent

Sexual activity requires consent, which is defined as clear, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity. Consent cannot be inferred from the absence of a "no"; a clear "yes," verbal or otherwise, is necessary. Although consent does not need to be verbal, verbal communication is the most reliable form of asking for and gauging consent, and students are thus urged to seek consent in verbal form. Talking with sexual partners about desires and limits may seem awkward, but serves as the basis for positive sexual experiences shaped by mutual willingness and respect.

Consent cannot be obtained from someone who is asleep or otherwise mentally or physically incapacitated, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or some other condition. Consent cannot be obtained by threat, coercion, or force. Agreement given under such conditions does not constitute consent.

Consent must be clear and unambiguous for each participant throughout any sexual encounter. Consent to some sexual acts does not imply consent to others, nor does past consent to a given act imply ongoing or future consent. Consent can be revoked at any time. For all of these reasons, sexual partners must evaluate consent in an ongoing fashion and should communicate clearly with each other throughout any sexual encounter.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is antithetical to academic values and to a work environment free from the fact or appearance of coercion. It is a violation of University policy and may result in serious disciplinary action. Sexual harassment consists of nonconsensual sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature on or off campus, when: (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of an individual's employment or academic standing; or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions or for academic evaluation, grades, or advancement; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating or hostile academic or work environment. Sexual harassment may be found in a single episode, as well as in persistent behavior. Conduct that occurs in the process of application for admission to a program or selection for employment is covered by this policy, as well as conduct directed toward University students, faculty, or staff members. In addition, conduct by third parties (i.e., individuals who are neither students nor employees, including but not limited to guests and consultants) is covered by this policy. Both men and women are protected from sexual harassment, and sexual harassment is prohibited regardless of the sex of the harasser. Sexual harassment is a matter of particular concern to an academic community in which students, faculty, and staff are related by strong bonds of intellectual dependence and trust. If members of the faculty, whether professors or teaching fellows, or other Yale employees, introduce sex into a professional relationship with a student, they abuse their position of authority. See the University's Policy of Teacher-Student Consensual Relations.

Student Grievances

University-wide grievance procedures are all listed on the web at http://smr.yale.edu/; students are encouraged to see the F&ES Title IX Coordinator Joanne DeBernardo for assistance with the process.

Policy on Teacher-Student Consensual Relations

The integrity of the teacher-student relationship is the foundation of the University’s educational mission. This relationship vests considerable trust in the teacher, who, in turn, bears authority and accountability as a mentor, educator, and evaluator. The unequal institutional power inherent in this relationship heightens the vulnerability of the student and the potential for coercion. The pedagogical relationship between teacher and student must be protected from influences or activities that can interfere with learning and personal development.

Whenever a teacher is or in the future might reasonably become responsible for teaching, advising, or directly supervising a student, a sexual relationship between them is inappropriate and must be avoided. In addition to creating the potential for coercion, any such relationship jeopardizes the integrity of the educational process by creating a conflict of interest and may impair the learning environment for other students. Finally, such situations may expose the University and the teacher to liability for violation of laws against sexual harassment and sex discrimination.

Therefore, teachers (see below) must avoid sexual relationships with students over whom they have or might reasonably expect to have direct pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities, regardless of whether the relationship is consensual. Conversely, a teacher must not directly supervise any student with whom he or she has a sexual relationship. Undergraduate students are particularly vulnerable to the unequal institutional power inherent in the teacher-student relationship and the potential for coercion, because of their age and relative lack of maturity. Therefore, no teacher shall have a sexual or amorous relationship with any undergraduate student, regardless of whether the teacher currently exercises or expects to have any pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities over that student.

Teachers or students with questions about this policy are advised to consult with the University’s Title IX Coordinator,  the Title IX Coordinator of his or her school, the department chair, the appropriate dean, the Provost, or one of his or her designees. A student or other member of the community may lodge a formal or informal complaint regarding an alleged violation of this policy with the University’s Title IX Coordinator, with the Title IX Coordinator of his or her school, or with the University-wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.

Violations of the above policies by a teacher will normally lead to disciplinary action. For purposes of this policy, “direct supervision” includes the following activities (on or off campus): course teaching, examining, grading, advising for a formal project such as a thesis or research, supervising required research or other academic activities, serving in such a capacity as Director of Undergraduate or Graduate Studies, and recommending in an institutional capacity for admissions, employment, fellowships or awards. “Teachers” includes, but is not limited to, all ladder and non-ladder faculty of the University.

It also includes graduate and professional students and postdoctoral fellows and associates only when they are serving as part-time acting instructors, teaching fellows or in similar institutional roles, with respect to the students they are currently teaching or supervising. “Students” refers to those enrolled in any and all educational and training programs of the University. Additionally, this policy applies to members of the Yale community who are not teachers as defined above, but have authority over or mentoring relationships with students, including athletic coaches, supervisors of student employees, advisors and directors of student organizations, Residential College Fellows, as well as others who advise, mentor, or evaluate students.

Implementation of Title IX

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in Federally assisted education programs. The law states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

A brief synopsis of some of the major provisions of the act should give you a better idea of what this means for you as a Yale student:

  1. Each School must designate a person responsible for implementation of the regulations. For the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies that person is Joanne DeBernardo.
  2. Schools may use no publications which suggest by their text or illustrations that applicants, students, or employees are treated differently on the basis of sex.
  3. Schools may not regulate access to any educational program, nor apply any rules concerning the treatment of students on the basis of sex.
  4. Schools may not discriminate on the basis of sex in counseling or advising students about course selection.
  5. Schools may not offer different types or amounts of assistance or other forms of financial aid on the basis of sex.
  6. Schools may not provide any assistance or facilities to any foundation, organization or person which grants financial aid in a manner discriminatory on the basis of sex.
  7. Schools may give no financial support to any organization which restricts membership on the basis of sex, including single-sex honorary societies but excluding social clubs (such as fraternities or sororities which are tax exempt and the active membership of which is primarily students in attendance).
  8. Schools must provide on-campus housing of comparable quality, cost and availability to both sexes.
  9. Schools must provide locker rooms, toilets, and other facilities of comparable quality and availability to both sexes.
  10. Schools which provide financial support for intramural athletics must do so comparably for both sexes.
  11. Schools must not regulate access to extra-curricular activities on the basis of sex.
  12. Materials used in student job counseling must not differ according to the sex of the student.
  13. Schools must not give students employment advice or counseling which discriminates on the basis of sex.
  14. Schools may not render placement services to any agency, organization, or person which discriminates on the basis of sex in its employment practices.
  15. Schools must have a grievance procedure for the prompt resolution of complaints alleging actions which would be in violation of the regulations.

University Policy Statement on Student Records (Buckley Amendment)

The entire Buckley Amendment is published each year in the September issue of the Yale Weekly Bulletin and Calendar. It is also available in the Registrar's Office, Room 108, Kroon Hall. The Buckley Amendment addresses the confidentiality of student records and the student's right to review his or her educational record.