University Policies

Definitions of Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Consent, and Sexual Harassment

Sexual Misconduct Policies at Yale

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. Therefore, Yale University prohibits all forms of sexual misconduct.

Yale aims to eradicate sexual misconduct through education, training, clear policies, and serious consequences for violations of these policies. The University’s Title IX Coordinator has responsibility for ensuring compliance with Yale’s policies regarding sexual misconduct. The University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) and the Title IX coordinators in each school will address allegations of sexual misconduct.

These policies apply to all members of the Yale community as well as to conduct by third parties (i.e., individuals who are not students, faculty, or staff, including but not limited to guests and consultants) directed toward University students, faculty, or staff members. Conduct that occurs in the process of application for admission to a program or selection for employment is covered by these policies.

Many forms of sexual misconduct are also prohibited by federal law, including Title IX of the education amendments of 1972, and by Connecticut statutes relating to sexual offenses, and could result in criminal prosecution or civil liability.

Definition of Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct incorporates a range of behaviors including sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking, voyeurism, and any other conduct of a sexual nature that is nonconsensual, or has the purpose or effect of threatening, intimidating, or coercing a person.

Much sexual misconduct includes nonconsensual sexual contact, but this is not a necessary component. For example, threatening speech that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute sexual harassment will constitute sexual misconduct. Making photographs, video, or other visual or auditory recordings of a sexual nature of another person without consent constitutes sexual misconduct, even if the activity documented was consensual. Similarly, sharing such recordings or other sexually harassing electronic communications without consent is a form of sexual misconduct. All members of our community are protected from sexual misconduct, and sexual misconduct is prohibited regardless of the sex or gender of the harasser.

Violations of Yale's Policy on Teacher-Student Consensual Relations and its Policy on Relationships between Staff Members are also forms of sexual misconduct.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome 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 as 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. All members of our community are protected from sexual harassment, and sexual harassment is prohibited regardless of the gender of the harasser.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any kind of nonconsensual sexual contact, including rape, groping, and any other nonconsensual sexual touching.

Definition of Sexual Consent

Under Yale’s policies, sexual activity requires consent, which is defined as positive, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity throughout a sexual encounter. Consent cannot be inferred from the absence of a "no"; a clear "yes," verbal or otherwise, is necessary. Consent to some sexual acts does not constitute consent to others, nor does past consent to a given act constitute present or future consent. Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time.

Consent cannot be obtained by threat, coercion, or force. Agreement under such circumstances does not constitute consent.

Consent cannot be obtained from someone who is asleep or otherwise mentally or physically incapacitated due to alcohol, drugs, or some other condition. A person is mentally or physically incapacitated when that person lacks the ability to make or act on considered decisions to engage in sexual activity. Engaging in sexual activity with a person whom you know -- or reasonably should know -- to be incapacitated constitutes sexual misconduct.

Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs when a current or former intimate partner uses or threatens physical or sexual violence. IPV also may take the form of a pattern of behavior that seeks to establish power and control by causing fear of physical or sexual violence. Stalking may also constitute IPV.

Stalking

Stalking is repeated or obsessive unwanted attention directed toward an individual or group that is likely to cause alarm, fear, or substantial emotional distress. Stalking may take many forms, including following, lying in wait, monitoring, and pursuing contact. Stalking may occur in person or through a medium of communication, such as letters, e-mail, text messages, or telephone calls. In some circumstances, two instances of such behavior may be sufficient to constitute stalking.

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 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 they have 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 their school, the department chair, the appropriate dean, the Provost, or one of their designees. Students or other members 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 their 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 Alyssa Student.
  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.

Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. For complete details go to: registrar.yale.edu/rights-privacy/student-rights-under-ferpa