What to know about the new relationship and sexual conduct policies

    Early Monday morning, Provost Dan Linzer sent an email to members of the University community, announcing new policies concerning consensual relationships and sexual misconduct. The policies intend to unify standards for students, faculty and staff and bring internal policies in line with the best practices across the country.

    I think my professor/TA/coach is kinda cute. Can I ask them out on a date?

    No, according to the new policy entitled “Consensual romantic or sexual relationships between faculty, staff and students.” Faculty and coaches are forbidden from engaging in romantic, dating or sexual relationships with undergraduate students. Even if the staffperson holds no evaluative authority over the student, “the difference in institutional power and the inherent risk of coercion [is] great,” the policy reads.

    What if I’m a graduate student and in a relationship with a faculty adviser?

    The policy only forbids relationships between graduate students and faculty when the student is under the faculty member’s supervision. A faculty member is required to disclose a relationship with a graduate student to the department chair if the two are “in the same department or affiliated with the same graduate or professional program.” These relationships will be managed on a “case-by-case basis.”

    What is sexual misconduct and how can I report it?

    The second new policy, entitled “Sexual misconduct, stalking, and dating and domestic violence,” describes prohibited conduct between any members of the University community. Nonconsensual sexual activities, sexual exploitation, stalking, sexual harassment, dating violence and domestic violence are all covered by the policy. The policy details outlines examples of the broader categories, and also offers a definition of consent. As a reminder, one cannot offer consent if under the influence of alcohol.

    Students should report sexual misconduct to the Northwestern's Title IX Coordinator Joan Slavin. Individuals should report all cases of sexual misconduct to this email address, and sexual harassment complaints can be reported here. A complete list of resources is available at NUHelp.

    I witnessed an instance of sexual misconduct, but I was intoxicated and am afraid I will be punished. What should I do?

    Report the incident and have no fear of retribution. The University will offer amnesty to individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol who witnessed sexual misconduct. However, the University is entitled “initiate an educational discussion or pursue other educational interventions regarding alcohol or other drugs,” but it cannot force a student to take involuntary leave. 

    I’m a University employee that became aware of sexual misconduct. Do I need to report it?

    Yes. All University employees are required to report incidents of sexual misconduct.

    What accommodations are available to victims of sexual misconduct? What counseling services are available to students?

    Regardless of whether the incident is reported to the University or the police, all community members are entitled to seek “reasonable accommodations in their academic, living, transportation or working situations.”

    The University offers a number of counseling options to students, which can be found on the Center for Awareness, Response and Care website.

    Why did the University issue these policies? What is Title IX and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act?

    The consensual relationship policy was created to unify procedures for all students, faculty and staff, according to Linzer’s email. The second policy regarding sexual misconduct was written to incorporate best practices under two important pieces of federal legislation, the Title IX and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA).

    Title IX protects students from discrimination on the basis of sex, and has been applied to everything from sports to sexual assault. VAWA, which goes into effect Mar. 7, requires Universities to discloses cases of sexual misconduct, create policies and train personnel to be equipped to handle instances of sexual misconduct.


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