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Policy: Harassment

In keeping with its historic mission as a Catholic college with a special emphasis on women and action for social justice, Trinity seeks to ensure that all students, faculty, staff, vendors and personnel who work for Trinity’s vendors and contractors, tenants, conference and event participants, guests and visitors can conduct their business, work, teach and study in an atmosphere of respect for human dignity. Such an expectation of respect for the human person requires that Trinity articulate policies that safeguard members of the community against discrimination, intimidation and harassment in any form.

Trinity expects all members of the campus community, including visitors and guests and personnel who work for contractors, to exercise the highest level of care in their professional and personal conduct toward each other and all others on campus. This policy statement is rooted not only in Trinity’s understanding of legal requirements, but also in the College’s core philosophies of honor and justice, respect for women and all persons, and the sacred nature of human life.

Violations of this policy, including retaliation against any individual for raising a claim under this policy, will result in immediate disciplinary action up to and including dismissal for both employees and students. Procedures for making claims are included in the body of the policy statement. False claims are also subject to action up to and including dismissal.

Trinity also reserves the right to call the police and to refer instances of harassment to external authorities. Trinity will call the police and involve external legal authorities in any case in which a sexual assault is alleged.

The Policy on Sexual Misconduct (Title IX Policy) takes precedence over this policy statement in any case in which sexual harassment, sexual assault or violence occurs.

I. Definition of Harassment

For the purpose of this policy, “harassment” is the general term that includes actions that are discriminatory, intimidating, coercive or hostile. Trinity prohibits all forms of harassment by all persons on campus, including, faculty, staff, students, guests and visitors. Harassment is any oral, written, physical or other form of conduct that denigrates, seeks to intimidate or coerce, discriminates against or shows hostility toward any person on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, age, disability, language or other personal characteristics. Hazing is a form of harassment specifically prohibited by this policy.

Sexual harassment is a specific form of harassment that includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a factor in employment or academic decisions affecting the individual; or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive or demeaning employment or educational environment.

The Policy Statement on Sexual Misconduct (Title IX Policy) governs all cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault and violence.

Note: it is not harassment for an instructor to critique a student’s work, either orally or in writing, or to insist on improvements to a student’s work.  This may include, but is not limited to, requests from an instructor to repeat or modify an assignment, written comments on papers or tests or an instructor’s request to meet  to discuss academic progress.  All faculty have the right to enforce academic standards for a student to receive credit for a course or to progress through an academic program.

Violations of this policy can occur through direct actions and communications from one person to another, whether in-person or via mail or phone or other electronic communications; or through conduct that creates a hostile environment for students or employees or others on campus, which may include verbal or nonverbal forms of communication, visual displays including posters or photographs, anonymous messages, graffiti, or actions that bias other members of the community against an individual.

Retaliation is any action taken against an individual who brings a complaint under this policy. Retaliation includes but is not limited to direct communications from the person who is accused to the accuser, contrary to administrative direction to refrain from such communication; taking a negative action against the accuser (e.g., lowering a grade or assigning the accuser to an undesirable shift at work); spreading false information about the accuser; or engaging other people in creating a hostile environment for the accuser.

II. Responsibilities of Faculty, Staff and Students

Trinity expects its employees (full-time and part-time faculty and staff) as well as its students, contractors and visitors to exercise the highest level of care in their personal conduct toward each other and toward students.

A. Employee Conduct Toward Students

Employees (full-and-part-time faculty and staff) of Trinity, including employees of contractors and tenants, must observe the highest standards of propriety when working with students, communicating with or about students, and handling student records and information. Employees must make every effort to avoid characterizing students in ways that may be construed as hostile, discriminatory or defamatory. Written memos, private e-mails and oral conversations among employees about students must avoid the kinds of language and characterizations of students that could form the basis for claims under this policy. Employees who use epithets, vulgarities or other offensive language in reference to students will incur disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Trinity explicitly prohibits sexual relationships between students and members of the faculty or staff of the College, including contractors. Such relationships breach conventional standards of professional conduct in the academic workplace, and have high potential to give rise to claims of sexual harassment by students against the College. For the same reason, Trinity counsels faculty and staff to maintain appropriate professional distance in all other aspects of their relationships with students so as to reduce the potential for claims of harassment, discrimination or unethical conduct. Faculty and staff should refrain from conduct that could give rise to claims under this policy such as touching the student unless essential to the performance of duties (e.g., nurse or athletic trainer), personal comments unrelated to the professional relationship, inappropriate language in any communications, or initiating communications with students at unusual hours,

Faculty and staff should avoid other kinds of personal relationships with students that could be construed as inappropriate and even grounds for harassment or discrimination claims. This prohibition includes employing students to do private work for the Trinity employee, including but not limited to work that the student conducts in the private home of the employee; or housing a student in the employee’s home; or socializing with students outside of the normal course of institutional business.

From time to time employees of Trinity may travel with students or may entertain students for institutional reasons in their homes or in public places. An example might be a dinner party for students in a major program at a faculty member’s home. Faculty and staff who have occasion to travel with or entertain students in off-campus environments must follow the university travel policy, and should exercise great discretion to ensure that these occasions are (1) related to university business, (2) include groups of students, not just one student if at all possible, and (3) refrain from any inappropriate conduct. Faculty and staff should never serve alcohol to students in any setting.

B. Employee Conduct with Co-Workers

All employees (full-time and part-time faculty and staff), including employees of contractors, must observe the highest standards of propriety when working with and communicating with or about each other. Communications about employees that include language that is hostile, discriminatory or defamatory will result in immediate personnel action up to and including termination.

The interpersonal conduct of individuals in the workplace must be informed by discretion, professional ethics and the law. Supervisors are expressly prohibited from engaging in any form of sexual conduct with persons whom they supervise, and supervisors are counseled to avoid any circumstance that could be misconstrued: inappropriate remarks about appearance, dress or other personal characteristics; inappropriate jokes and language, and similar kinds of conduct that might create an atmosphere of harassment.

Supervisors must also exercise great discretion in avoiding the appearance, if not the reality, of favoritism toward individuals with whom they have a friendly relationship. Friendships between supervisors and employees can give rise to claims of discrimination by employees who perceive the friendships as creating unfair advantages for the friends. For this reason, supervisors should maintain arms-length relationships with all employees in their areas of responsibility.

Supervisors are also responsible to ensure that their supervisees understand and uphold the law and policy on harassment; supervisors who neglect their duties under this may be subject to separate disciplinary action for permitting a harassment situation to exist without intervention. Supervisors are responsible to guard against circumstances that could lead to a hostile workplace claim. This includes reminding employees that they must refrain from making personal comments about other employees, displaying posters or photographs that others could construe as offensive, or telling inappropriate jokes with sexual or racially offensive content, or using offensive language.

All employees are specifically warned against circulating email jokes, cartoons, links, etc. that contain inappropriate content.

Beyond the supervisor-supervisee relationship, all employees are expected to conduct their interpersonal relationships with discretion and respect for Trinity’s mission and policies, and to refrain from any actions that would create the appearance as well as the reality of harassment for any other employee. While Trinity cannot completely prohibit relationships among consenting adults who are peers in the workplace, Trinity reserves the right to take appropriate action when personal relationships interfere with the ability of other employees to conduct their professional work in a climate of harmony, respect and equity.

C. Contractor and Vendor Responsibilities

Contractors and vendors whose employees work on the Trinity campus are expected to promulgate this policy to their employees who work at Trinity, and Trinity will expect contractors and vendors to provide clear guarantees of appropriate risk management practices under this policy. For purposes of the applicability of the provisions of this policy regarding prohibited actions, the same prohibitions that apply to staff of Trinity also apply to vendor employees. Trinity reserves the right as a matter of contract to request that a vendor remove immediately from campus any vendor employee who violates the terms of this policy, in addition to any other actions that Trinity may take under this policy and the contract with the vendor.

D. Student Responsibilities

Students also have large responsibilities and liabilities under this policy. Students who are in positions of authority over other students have the same obligations as professional supervisors to refrain from any form of harassment conduct with persons whom they supervise, and they are counseled to avoid any circumstance that might be might be construed as harassment under this policy. Student-to-student relationships also have the potential for claims under this policy, and students are advised to conduct their interpersonal relationships with great care and respect for the rights of others. Hazing in any form is specifically prohibited by this policy.

In rare cases, faculty or staff may have complaints of sexual harassment or misconduct against students. Such cases most frequently involve inappropriate student conduct such as unwanted touching, phone calls or letters of a sexual nature, or excessive efforts to spend time with the person. Faculty and staff have the right to bring formal complaints in such cases, and they should discuss their complaints first with the Director of Human Resources regarding how to handle the problem. Left unattended, such cases have the potential to become complaints against the same faculty or staff persons who are feeling victimized themselves. Faculty and staff should seek advice and counsel on these matters at the earliest possible moment.

E. Tenants, Visitors and Guests

Students, staff and faculty are also responsible for the conduct of their guests while on campus. A guest may also incur a charge of sexual harassment under this policy, and the person who is responsible for the guest may incur disciplinary action if the evidence reveals that she or he has failed to intervene or seek help in a situation in which the guest commits sexual harassment against another person on campus.

This policy also applies to the personnel and visitors of tenants and conference groups on campus.

III. Procedures for Managing Harassment Claims

A.  Reporting Process for Students

If a student wants to make a complaint about another student, guest or visitor:

Students who wish to make a complaint about another student under this policy should register the complaint with the Dean of Student Services or the Dean of their collegiate unit.   Student guests and other visitors, including patrons of the Trinity Center and conference guests, are also covered by this policy and complaints about guests or visitors may also be made to the appropriate dean.  Student violations of the Harassment Policy are subject to disciplinary proceedings according to the procedures specified below for student violations.

If a student wants to make a complaint about an employee (faculty, staff, tenant or vendor):

Students who wish to make a complaint about any employee (throughout this policy statement, the word “employee” includes faculty, staff, tenant or vendor employees) under this policy should register the complaint directly with the Director of Human Resources.   Such complaints may also be registered through the Dean of Students, Deans of the collegiate units, or other senior administrators, all of whom are obliged to report the complaints immediately and directly to the Director of Human Resources.

B.  Reporting Process for Employees

Employees who wish to make a complaint under this policy should register their complaint directly with the Director of Human Resources.  The procedure is the same regardless of whether the complaint is about a student, another employee, guests or visitors.  If the subject of the complaint is student misconduct under this policy, the Director of Human Resources will also report the complaint to the Dean of Student Services or the appropriate collegiate dean who will collaborate with the Director of Human Resources in the subsequent investigation and disciplinary processes.

C.  Confidentiality

Trinity will make every effort to preserve the complainant’s confidentiality, and to protect the safety and security of the complainant.  Trinity will not release the name of the complainant in the initial stages of the investigation.  Depending upon the nature of the case, at times, as the investigation goes forward, Trinity may find it necessary to reveal the complainant’s identity, but only with the consent of the complainant and clear protections against retaliation.

D.  Investigation of Complaints

Trinity will begin an immediate investigation of all complaints under this policy as quickly as possible.

If the subject of the complaint is a student, the Dean of Student Services will direct the investigation in collaboration with other relevant administrators, who may also include the Dean of the subject’s collegiate unit, the Director of Campus Housing, the Director of Public Safety, or such other administrators as may be necessary to engage in the investigation.

If the subject of the complaint is an employee (faculty, staff or vendor), the Director of Human Resources will lead the investigation in collaboration with other relevant personnel.

If the subject of the complaint is a guest or visitor, the Dean of Students and Director of Human Resources will confer with the Director of Public Safety and other relevant administrators.  As necessary, the subject of the complaint may be barred from campus immediately, and Trinity will take whatever additional action may be necessary to protect the safety of the campus community.

All complaints registered under this policy must also be reported to the Provost, CFO and President, and these key executives reserve the right to direct further lines of inquiry as the case develops.

E.  Immediate Action

Trinity reserves the right to take immediate action under this policy in order to protect the health and safety of the complainant or other members of the Trinity Community.   Such action may include, but is not limited to:  immediate suspension of an employee or student, immediate removal from campus housing of a resident, barring from campus, and notification to law enforcement.

F.  Disciplinary Proceedings – Students

A student accused under this policy has a right to a disciplinary hearing.  Trinity may direct the hearing to take place by telephone or other electronic means in order to protect the safety of others.

Disciplinary proceedings for students under this policy are the same as the procedures set forth for violations of the Student Code of Conduct found on p. 24, et. seq. of the Student Handbook.

G. Disciplinary Proceedings – Employees (Faculty, Staff and Vendors)

The Director of Human Resources is responsible for implementing the investigation and disciplinary proceedings for complaints brought against employees under this policy.

Upon receiving a complaint under this policy, the Director will first meet with the complainant to review the facts alleged.   The Director will proceed with whatever investigation is necessary to determine the facts, and this may include interviewing other parties and involving other administrators as the case may require.   As part of the investigation, the Director will meet with the subject of the complaint, at which time the Director will provide an overview of the alleged facts of the case, but will not disclose the identity of the complainant.

The accused employee may request a written statement of the charges.  The accused may also request a hearing to present his or her side of the case.  Such a hearing is not the same as a trial in a court of law, and the accused may not bring legal counsel.   Trinity may direct the hearing to take place by telephone or other electronic means in order to protect the safety of others.

The Director of Human Resources will chair the hearing and may invite the employee’s supervisor or another senior administrator to be part of the hearing as the facts warrant.

The hearing is for the purpose of illuminating the facts and obtaining evidence.  Once all evidence is presented, the hearing concludes.  The Director of Human Resources will notify the accused in writing of the results of the hearing process.

If the complaint is directed against an employee of a vendor who does business with Trinity, the DHR will notify the vendor’s supervisor on campus and discuss the vendor’s processes for complaint management.   In most cases, Trinity will seek the immediate suspension of the vendor employee from campus, and may request that person to be permanently removed from the staff working at Trinity.

H.  Disciplinary Actions

Trinity will take all appropriate disciplinary actions in cases of harassment. Trinity considers harassment to be one of the gravest forms of offense against the community, so the disciplinary actions under this section are also severe.

1.  Students

A student who is found guilty of a violation of the harassment policy may incur penalties that include:

a) Performance of specific actions of both an educational and regulatory nature, e.g., an educational penalty might include participating in a course or training program on sexual harassment, a regulatory penalty might include a requirement that the student move off campus and refrain from engaging in any activities that would put her in close proximity to the complainant.

b) Suspension from school: Trinity may choose to suspend any student for violations of this section, and such a suspension may be for one semester or one year, or longer and in all such cases Trinity may impose conditions that must be met before and during the student’s return to the Trinity community.

c) Expulsion: Trinity may expel any student for violations of this section.

2.  Employees (Faculty and Staff)

An employee of the College, whether faculty or staff, who violates this policy places the College in severe legal jeopardy and violates standards of professional conduct as well as the law. Accordingly, Trinity takes severe disciplinary action with regard to any employee who violates this policy. Such disciplinary action, depending upon the severity of the case, may encompass a range of actions including, but not limited to, mandatory education, reduction in pay, demotion from a supervisory position, reassignment to another department, leave without pay, or termination, regardless of tenure.

3.  Contractors and Vendors, Tenants, Guests and Visitors

Trinity reserves the right to ban from campus any employee of a contractor or vendor, any tenant, or any guest or visitor who engages in any acts of harassment against members of the Trinity community. Trinity will also call the police in any case of sexual assault, or in cases in which persons banned from the campus attempt to return.

IV. Retaliation

A person who is the subject of a harassment complaint may not take any retaliatory action against the person who brought the complaint. Retaliation gives rise to separate legal claims from the underlying complaint, with the consequence that the accused might be separately liable for illegal retaliation even if the original complaint of sexual harassment is not proven, is dismissed or withdrawn.

Trinity will take appropriate disciplinary action in all cases in which retaliation occurs under this policy.  Employees who engage in any form of retaliation in complaints arising under this policy will incur immediate separation from campus and dismissal from employment at Trinity.

V. False Claims

Any charges raised under this harassment policy are matters of grave consequence for Trinity, for the accused as well as for the complainant. The mere fact of an accusation of harassment, regardless of the ultimate disposition of the case, can have a devastating effect on the reputation of the accused and the College.

For this reason, this policy specifically prohibits false claims made under it, and specifies consequences for false claims.

A “false claim” occurs when a person knowingly and willfully files charges against another person which the complainant knows are not true. Such an untruthful action is a violation of the Trinity Honor Code, which specifically prohibits lying.

A false claim does NOT exist simply by virtue of the failure to establish guilt in a harassment case. A charge of making a false claim must arise from clear evidence supporting the accusation of lying.

Only Trinity may initiate an investigation of false claims under this section. Trinity will initiate such an investigation when the evidence in a harassment case indicates that the complainant has deliberately lied about the claim. If Trinity concludes that evidence exists to support the false claims charge, then Trinity will take disciplinary action which may include suspension, expulsion and termination.

Individual persons who are falsely accused of harassment may choose to pursue external legal remedies against the accuser.

VI. Appeals

All persons affected by this policy have the right to make written appeals of decisions made under this policy to the President of the University. The president will review all written appeals and will provide a written response. The President may uphold the decisions made, request additional information, or direct a new investigation or hearing.

The President’s review and action is final.

VII. Education and Training Programs

As part of Trinity’s implementation of this Policy on Harassment, Trinity will conduct a series of education and training programs for students, faculty and staff. All employees of the university will be required to participate in at least one harassment training session per year, according to plans developed by the Director of Human Resources. Under the direction of the Dean of Student Services , students will have curricular and co-curricular opportunities for further education on this topic.

VIII. Administration of this Policy

The President of the university is responsible for the administration of this policy. The President delegates the day-to-day administration of this policy to the Dean of Student Services and Director of Human Resources, who are the immediate staff officers responsible for implementation.

Reporting:

For complaints under this policy:

  • Complaints by or concerning employees:  Director of Human Resources Carole King, 202-884-9125, kingc@trinitydc.edu
  • Complaints by students:  Dean of Students Michele Bowie, 202-884-9611, bowiem@trinitydc.edu

Confidential inquiries and discussions about any aspects of this policy may also be referred to:


For questions about Trinity policies, please contact the Academic Affairs, Human Resources, or President's Office as appropriate.

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