The New School is committed to creating and sustaining a university environment in which students, faculty and staff can study and work in an open atmosphere, unhampered by discrimination. This commitment is explicitly stated in all descriptions of university programs and in all the official catalogs of the academic divisions of the university. The university's statement on non-discrimination is:
"The New School, as well as its individual divisions, is committed to a policy of equal opportunity in all its educational activities, privileges, programs, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs and employment. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, religion, religious practices, gender, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability, veteran or marital status."
As a necessary part of its commitment to create and sustain an environment free of any kind of discrimination, The New School commits itself to prohibit sexual harassment and to confront and deal with it when it occurs. Sexual harassment is defined in this policy and procedures have been established for responding to concerns, allegations and questions about sexual harassment brought by any member of the university community.
The university's goal is to create a community free of sexual harassment. To do so requires good judgment, awareness and intelligence. To sustain this kind of community also requires directness and clarity, since many members of the community may not immediately recognize instances of sexual harassment and the consequences of such conduct on individuals and the community. In order to achieve the goal of a community free of sexual harassment, standards of behavior and procedures for dealing with breaches of those standards must be established and implemented within the context of academic freedom. Education of the community on this issue will also be necessary. The university seeks to sustain a high standard of behavior and to correct breaches of that standard, regardless of whether the offending behavior would meet external legal standards of the term sexual harassment.
Our goal is to deal directly and clearly with this complex issue. As in the case of any disciplinary issue, formal procedures may be invoked when complaints cannot be resolved informally.
Definition of Sexual Harassment
Generally, sexual harassment is conduct that exploits power or authority in order to elicit sexual submission, or inappropriate sexual conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile or abusive environment for working, learning or enjoying other opportunities and activities. Sexual harassment can include a wide range of behaviors, from the actual coercing of sexual relations to inappropriate sexualization of the working or learning environment with words, materials or behavior. It may involve women being harassed by men, men being harassed by women, or harassment between persons of the same sex.
The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has issued guidelines that provide a basic definition of sexual harassment. While the EEOC guidelines apply only to faculty and other employees, the university prohibits sexual harassment of any member of the university community, whether such harassment is aimed at students, faculty or other employees.
Based upon the EEOC guidelines, and for the purposes of this policy, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other expressive or physical conduct of a sexual nature where:
- Submission to such conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of employment or status in a course, program or activity; or
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for an employment or academic decision affecting the individual, or for a decision regarding an individual's status in a course, program or activity; or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect, when judged from the perspective of a reasonable person in the position of the complaining individual, of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance, or with an individual's enjoyment of other university opportunities, programs and activities; or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect, when judged from the perspective of a reasonable person in the position of the complaining individual, of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for working, learning, or enjoying other university opportunities, programs and activities.
Sexual harassment is generally found to be in two distinct forms:
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an individual makes an explicit proposition for sexual favors in return for express or implied job benefits or academic decisions, or where rejection of such a proposition is to be used for, or negatively effects, job benefits or academic decisions.
- Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when conduct (either through its severity and/or its repetitive or consistent nature) has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work or academic performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or learning environment. Unwanted flirtations, advances or propositions of a sexual nature, or unwelcome comments of a sexual nature about an individual's body or clothing, whether conveyed orally, in writing or by electronic transmission, or unwelcome touching, such as patting, pinching, hugging or brushing against an individual's body are illustrations of the kinds of conduct, if engaged in by an individual repeatedly and consistently, which could constitute hostile environment sexual harassment.
Other Issues Concerning the Conduct of Members of the University
The EEOC definition refers to legal standards for identifying sexual harassment. There are, however, other standards for conduct among its members that are important in a university setting. Although we do not wish to discourage collegial relationships which are essential to the educational mission of a university, members of the university must recognize the professional responsibility that faculty have for students' education and the considerable power that faculty have over students' careers. As a result, our standards for relationships between faculty and students at the university, and between other members of the university community, may be more restrictive than those encompassed in the EEOC definition which pertains to employment.
Faculty members (and administrative staff) should be aware that any romantic involvement with students (or staff members who report to them) is considered inappropriate, and it might make them liable to formal action. Romantic involvements between faculty and students outside the instructional context also have the potential to lead to difficulties. Beyond these difficulties, and the risk of formal action, these involvements can have a negative effect on the community. Suspicions of favoritism may arise that affect the academic and/or work environment; there may be the appearance of exploitation even if the relationship is consensual. In addition, there is always the possibility that relationships that begin consensually will be subject to misinterpretation and that after they end the faculty (or administrative staff member) will be vulnerable to accusations and recriminations.
The foregoing paragraphs refer generally to faculty and students, or administrative staff members and those who report to them, but it is equally important that relations between students in all programs of the university adhere to a high standard of collegiality and mutual respect. The foregoing paragraphs are included within the purview of this policy statement, because it is important to keep this highest standard of professional behavior in mind and to avoid even the semblance of exploitation. At a university, in situations where colleagues, co-workers, teachers and students work together as equals, and where the atmosphere is collaborative, there will be a tendency to ignore distinctions and to behave as if they do not exist. Particularly, in the case of senior faculty and junior faculty and in the case of faculty and graduate students (when students are older, working adults) it may be easy to ignore differences in responsibility and power. But even in the case of non-traditional students, teachers have power and authority over all students -- this asymmetry should be acknowledged and respected. The same is true for the relations between supervisors and staff.
At the same time as we respect the differences in our roles, we want to sustain a collegial atmosphere and the informality of the university environment so that our mission - the process of education - can flourish. At no point, however, should the freedom, openness and collegiality of the university permit an abandonment of responsibility.
The highest standards of professional conduct pertain to all members of the faculty in their dealings with one another as well as with staff and students; the relationships between supervisors and members of the staff at all levels should also be governed by these standards. No member of the university should feel that the fulfillment of her or his duties is obstructed or impeded by sexual harassment from a teacher, colleague or supervisor.
The standards we have outlined above have their parallel in relationships among students in all academic divisions of the university. We expect those relations to be collegial and civil. Students should not engage in any behaviors that coerce, demean or threaten other students.