Sexual Offense Policy
The educational mission of a university is to foster an open learning and working environment. Any form of intimidation or discrimination is antithetical to this mission. Thus, Webster University is committed to providing faculty, staff, and students with an environment free from implicit and explicit coercive sexual behavior used to control, influence, or affect the well-being of any member of its community. No member of Webster University may sexually harass another individual. Any form of sexual harassment is grounds for University disciplinary action. Sexual harassment also constitutes a violation of federal and state law.
This policy provides the campus community with the appropriate process for redressing individual grievances related to sexual harassment and other sexual offenses that occur to members of our community. (Because of the sensitive nature of sexual offenses and the use of the same policy for all constituents, this procedure is slightly different than the procedure for hearing alleged violations of other policy violations.) While we make every effort to educate the community to prevent such behavior from occurring, we are also committed to providing support to those affected when it does occur.
Toward that end, Webster University has identified a person who serves as an Advocate for those who have experienced a sexual offense (see Section III). The Advocate provides assistance to any member of the campus community who is interested in seeking medical attention, emotional/psychological support, and/or filing campus, criminal, and/or civil charges against the alleged assailant. The University also provides other resources to assist in this process and to facilitate the prevention of additional acts of sexual offense (e.g., Health Services, Counseling and Life Development, Public Safety).
II. Sexual Offenses
Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of Section 703 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and is also prohibited under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Sexual harassment can take many forms. It is defined as follows:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature, constitute sexual harassment when 1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or a condition of an individual's employment or education, or 2) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for employment or academic decisions affecting that individual, or 3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance, or of creating an intimidating or hostile educational or employment environment (adapted from Section 703 of Title VII and the EEOC's 1980 Sex Discrimination Guidelines).
It is often difficult to define exactly what constitutes an intimidating or hostile environment because individuals have different perceptions regarding sexual behavior. What one person may perceive as harmless fun, another may view as unwelcome, intimidating behavior. Therefore, in the determination as to whether conduct should be considered sexual harassment, the conduct will be evaluated pursuant to a reasonable person standard of care. The reasonable person standard of care means the degree of care a careful and prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances. This standard also considers the alleged victim's perspective of the conduct. A claim of sexual harassment can be proved if a reasonable person would consider the behavior intimidating, hostile, or unwelcome (adapted from Sexual Harassment: Research and Resources, American Council on Education, 1991).
In many cases, the issue of consent is fundamental to determining whether a sexual offense has been committed. There are varying degrees and circumstances surrounding whether consent has been given. The following principles apply in the process of determining whether a sexual offense has been committed.
- No Consent: An act is undertaken against a person's will; there is a clear lack of consent, whether verbally or non-verbally expressed (no means no).
- Lack of Consent: A person may be reluctant to engage in certain sexual behaviors. This reluctance can be considered a lack of consent if: the person does not agree to specific behaviors or acts (for example, sexual intercourse), even though some sexual behavior (for example, kissing) has previously taken place; or the person is not in agreement with, or willing to comply with, the specific sexual behaviors as indicated either verbally or by commonly understood nonverbal behaviors (actions and signals such as shaking of the head, pushing away).
- Unwelcome Consent: A person may be reluctant to engage in certain sexual behaviors, but may do so under duress because of the implicit link between the behavior and employment, scholastic advancement, or physical safety.
- Initiators and Consent: Affirmative consent is required when one seeks to initiate a sexual encounter. A person may give consent either verbally or by voluntary acts unmistakable in their meaning.
Consent and Alcohol and Other Drugs
- • When a person is unconscious due to alcohol or other drug use, consent cannot be given. Therefore, if a person initiates any sexual activity with a person who is unconscious it is considered a sexual offense, since the person is, by definition, incapable of consenting to the activity.
- • When a person is impaired from alcohol or other drug use, the ability to elicit or give consent is impaired due to the effects of the substance. Therefore, consent cannot be assumed. If a person initiates sexual activity with someone whom s/he had reason to believe was impaired by alcohol or drug use, the initiator risks violating the consent principle. If the initiator is impaired due to alcohol or other drug use and initiates sexual activity with another person, the initiator risks violating the consent principle.
Types of Sexual Offenses
The following are examples of sexual offenses that can occur in the workplace or in a learning environment. This list is representative but not exhaustive of all inappropriate behaviors. All of the examples listed can create a hostile or intimidating work or learning environment based on sex and therefore, could lead to a sexual offense charge.
- Gender Harassment: Behaviors and remarks that are not intended to lead to sexual activity (for example, sexist jokes or statements) but do create a hostile or intimidating environment because they are continued and persistent.
- Seductive Behavior: Unwelcome behaviors such as flirting, stalking, and touching that may or may not be precipitated by an interest in sexual activity, but do create a hostile or intimidating environment.
- Sexual Solicitations by Promise of Reward:
- Coercion by Threat of Punishment: Behaviors of a sexual nature that establish a conditional relationship between employment or academic benefits and sexual advances or a specific act of sex. This is quid pro quo harassment. The initiator of this type of behavior is usually in a position of power or authority over the victim.
- Sexual Assault: Any behavior that includes sexual intrusion or sexual penetration, or subjection to sexual contact by force, threat of force, or implied threat of force, against the person's will and/or without the person's consent.
- Sexual contact is any inappropriate touching, grabbing, fondling, kissing, or similar behavior, of a sexual nature.
- Sexual intrusion is intrusion of any kind into a person's body with fingers, objects, devices, or similar items.
- Sexual penetration is the penetration of a person's body with a man's sex organ or forcing a man against his will to sexually penetrate another person.
III. Campus Advocate Service
The Campus Advocate is designated by the University as the support and resource person for all students, faculty, and staff who believe they have experienced sexual harassment or a sexual offense. This staff member can be contacted through the Office of Counseling and Life Development. The Campus Advocate is available to assist campus community members with the following areas of concern.
- The Advocate has training in crisis intervention and support techniques, and provides emotional, medical, and/or judicial support either directly or through on- or off-campus referral.
- The Advocate informs the person of all rights under the Sexual Offense Policy and provides procedural information and support as needed. The Advocate also works with Public Safety Officers when necessary to advise the person regarding options available for filing civil and/or criminal charges related to the offense. Those who believe they have experienced a sexual offense may also report the offense directly to Campus Public Safety or to the appropriate senior administrator (as defined below).
- The Advocate may serve as the complainant's support person during all proceedings carried out under University auspices. The Advocate, in consultation with the person, may designate an alternate to act as representative in the event the Advocate is unable to perform the duties due to illness or other professional conflicts. The Advocate's role is separate from the administrative functions associated with the Hearing Board or other hearing procedures.
The Campus Advocate can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week by pager at 314-507-9855, through Public Safety, or during office hours in the Counseling and Life Development Office at 314-968-7030.
IV. Initial Report of a Sexual Offense Incident
When any incident of sexual offense occurs on campus (or to a member of the Webster University community—even if off-campus), the incident should be reported to the Campus Advocate and/or the Office of Public Safety. When contacted first, Public Safety will automatically contact the Campus Advocate. If the Advocate is contacted first, she will automatically contact Public Safety when the alleged offense constitutes a crime (or at the request of the person), to provide general details of the incident.
These people are trained to provide assistance in making decisions about pursuing medical attention, counseling/support services, filing campus disciplinary procedures, preserving evidence, and filing criminal and/or civil charges. In cases where the alleged perpetrator poses a perceived threat to the campus community, the Advocate and Office of Public Safety may work with the appropriate administrators to issue a temporary ban from or restricted access to campus for that person.
Behaviors defined above such as stalking or sexual assault constitute potential criminal acts that could be grounds for criminal and/or civil action. Webster University therefore encourages the accurate and prompt reporting of these behaviors to the Public Safety Office and/or the Webster Groves Police Department (WGPD).
In cases where individuals are interested in pursuing criminal and/or civil charges, it is especially important to work with these officers so that statements can be taken and evidence can be collected immediately. If a person experienced sexual intrusion or sexual penetration, one is encouraged to seek medical attention immediately. A medical examination can identify any internal trauma, test for sexually transmitted diseases, as well as obtain appropriate medical evidence should one choose to pursue legal charges at some later date (statute of limitations is three years in Missouri).
The Advocate can assist the victim in understanding options related to pressing civil and/or criminal charges as well as in the process of working with Public Safety and/or WGPD. Public Safety can be reached at 314-968-6911 or 314-968-7430.
Once a verbal report is made to a responsible employee (non-counselor), if the complainant requests confidentiality, or asks that the complaint not be pursued, the University will take all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the complaint consistent with the complainant’s wishes. However, the University must evaluate that request in the context of its responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students. The University will inform the complainant if it may not be able to ensure confidentiality. Even if the University cannot take disciplinary action against the alleged perpetrator because the complainant insists on confidentiality, the University must pursue other steps to limit the effects of the alleged offense and do what it can to prevent its recurrence.
V. Filing a Complaint
If the alleged victim wishes to file a campus complaint against the alleged perpetrator, the case will be referred to the appropriate administrator (or his/her designee).
When the accused is a student, the appropriate administrator is the Dean of Students (or his/her designee). When the accused is a faculty or staff member, the appropriate administrator is the Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. When the accused is a member of the administrative council, a report should be made to the President of the University.
On receipt of a report of an alleged sexual offense, the appropriate administrator, as defined above, consults with Public Safety to determine whether there is a threat to the alleged victim or the campus community. If the administrator determines a threat exists, the following actions may result (when reasonably available) pending a hearing: restriction of campus access, change in living or academic arrangements or temporary ban from campus.
To file a complaint, the complainant should submit a signed, written statement to the appropriate administrator. (Verbally sharing an incident with the Advocate does not constitute filing a complaint).
This statement should outline the details of and circumstances surrounding the alleged offense and the name of the accused. This statement will serve as the basis for the official complaint. The administrator then notifies the Hearing Officer (see Section VIII. B.) that a complaint has been filed.
The administrator informs the accused that a complaint has been filed. The accused is informed of all rights under the sexual offense policy and is invited to submit a written response to the administrator within 72 hours. The administrator informs the parties of their rights to have the matter decided through the informal grievance procedure, pursuant to Section VII.
Should either party refuse to resolve the matter informally, the administrator then notifies the Hearing Officer and the Office of Student Affairs, so that a formal hearing may be scheduled. The hearing with the Hearing Board shall take place not more than 10 working days after notification from the administrator.
VI. Fundamental Assumptions Regarding the Respective Parties
- Both parties will be notified regarding procedures used in the informal and formal hearings. Information can also be provided regarding legal options; however, it is recommended that legal advice be obtained from a competent attorney.
- Each party may have a support person or process advisor of their choosing present at the hearing (e.g., student, parent, faculty, staff, attorney); however this person may not speak on his/her behalf.
- No reference to past consensual sexual relations of the complainant or the accused may be introduced at any time during the proceedings.
- The fact that the accused and/or the complainant may have been under the influence of alcohol or other drugs or subject to some other sort of mental dysfunction does not excuse or justify the commission of any sexual offense as defined herein, and may not be used as a defense.
- Both parties have the right to a copy of all written statements regarding the complaint.
- Both parties have the right to testify either in writing or verbally.
- The complainant and the accused may request to have witnesses testify. Such requests are granted at the discretion of the Hearing Officer. Witnesses must be identified in writing to the Hearing Officer at least 48 hours prior to the hearing. The Hearing Officer will inform both parties within 24 hours of the hearing of the witnesses who may appear at the hearing. Testimony of witnesses that demonstrates a pattern, habit, or routine of sexual misconduct similar to that which is alleged is considered relevant and may be heard as part of the impact statement, only in determining the sanction for a person found responsible for a sexual offense.
- The complainant and the accused each have the opportunity to present an impact statement to the administrator or Hearing Officer following a decision of responsibility, but prior to the imposition of sanctions.
A formal hearing may only be invoked when both parties are members of the Webster University community. In the event that both parties were members of the Webster University community at the time of the alleged incident and one of the parties is no longer a member of the community, the charge will be referred to the Sexual Offense Policy Implementation Committee (see Section XIII.) to determine the appropriate means of resolution.
VII. Informal Grievance Procedures
Once the accuser has filed an official complaint and the accused has responded as prescribed by Section V. D., both parties may choose to proceed through the informal grievance procedure. Both parties must agree to participate in this procedure. If either party refuses to participate in the informal resolution process, the appropriate administrator will refer the matter to the Hearing Officer for resolution through the formal grievance procedure as described in Section IX.
The informal grievance procedure operates as follows:
- The appropriate administrator meets with the complainant to discuss the complaint.
- The administrator then meets with the accused to discuss the complaint.
- The administrator may designate someone to coordinate the investigation and/or the meetings with the complainant and/or the accused. The investigation includes, but is not limited to, interviews with witnesses.
- The administrator (or his or her designee) meets together or separately with the complainant and accused to present the results of the investigation, the administrator's conclusions, and resolution (including sanctions, if any). This resolution will be documented in writing and placed in the accused's disciplinary or personnel file. The administrator is responsible for monitoring the timely completion of sanctions.
Either party may appeal the resolution as proposed by the administrator in writing, within 10 days (see process outlined in Section XI.). Upon receipt of the letter of appeal, the matter is referred to the Hearing Officer for resolution, pursuant to Section IX. In such cases, the administrator submits a summary of the results of the informal procedure to the Hearing Officer or the President to aid in the determination of appeal.
If the appeal is granted, and the Hearing Board hears the case, either party may choose to accept or reject the resolution of the administrator until a decision is reached by the Hearing Board. If on further consideration both parties accept the administrator's proposed resolution prior to a final decision of the Hearing Board, the Hearing Board will not issue a finding.
VIII. Sexual Offense Hearing Board
- The Sexual Offense Hearing Board responsible for any given case consists of a Hearing Officer (see Section VIII.B.) and six individuals chosen as outlined in Section VIII.E. by the Hearing Officer from a pool made up of representatives of each of the University's constituencies: the Faculty Senate, professional/administrative staff, Webster Staff Alliance, and the Student Government Association. The Dean of Students (or designee), in consultation with the Presidents of FS, WSA, SGA, and the Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, will select six persons from each constituency to serve as the pool of potential Hearing Board members. The terms of Hearing Board members are for one-year renewable terms. In cases of potential conflict of interest, the Hearing Officer rules as to whether such a conflict exists and has the prerogative to replace a Board member.
- The Hearing Officer is a full-time faculty member with status selected by the Policy Implementation Committee. The Hearing Officer serves a one-year term (renewable at the discretion of the policy implementation committee). The Hearing Officer votes only in cases of ties.
- The Hearing Officer meets as necessary with the Dean of Students, the Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, and the Advocate to review and discuss the Sexual Offense Policy and procedures.
- When a hearing is called, the Dean of Students (or designee) convenes a meeting of all potential Hearing Board members to review the Sexual Offense Policy and its procedures.
- The Hearing Board members for any given hearing are selected by the Hearing Officer from the Hearing Board pool, as set forth in Section VIII.A. The Board will consist of at least two, but no more than three members from the constituency of the accused.
- The Hearing Board is responsible for hearing cases of alleged sexual offense and determining and administering disciplinary actions up to and including expulsion or termination from the University.
IX. The Hearing
The Hearing Officer schedules a hearing within 10 working days after the complaint has been referred from the appropriate administrator. The respective parties are notified of the time, place, and procedures of the hearing by the Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer presides over the hearing.
The complainant presents the complaint and provides any further information, evidence, or corroborating testimony pertinent to the incident. Members of the Hearing Board may then ask questions of the complainant. The accused responds to the accusation providing any further information, evidence, or corroborating testimony pertinent to the incident. Members of the Hearing Board may then ask questions of the accused.
At the discretion of the Hearing Officer, witnesses who have been previously identified to the Hearing Officer (see Section VI.F.) may be called to offer testimony. Members of the Hearing Board may ask questions of witnesses following their testimony. Either party may submit a list of suggested questions to the Hearing Officer at least 24 hours prior to the hearing. The use of these questions is at the discretion of the Hearing Board.
Questions from the accused must be relayed to the complainant through the hearing officer. There will be no direct questions from the accused to the complainant, or vice versa. All questions will be directed to the hearing officer who will relay the question to the other party, at the hearing officer’s discretion.
Generally, even if screened or testifying from a separate location, witnesses, including the complainant, should be visible to the hearing panel, and to the accused while testifying.
Evidence may consist of testimony, physical evidence, prior statements concerning the incident in question, or any other evidence that the Hearing Board wishes to consider. The reliability and weight given to such evidence is within the discretion of the Hearing Board.
Either party may request a five to ten (5–10) minute recess at any time during the hearing. Requests are granted at the discretion of the Hearing Officer.
In determining whether a violation of the Sexual Offense Policy has occurred, the Hearing Board will apply a preponderance of evidence standard. The “preponderance” standard is met if the proposition is more likely to be true than not true.
The accused must not be presumed “guilty” (or “responsible”). Instead, guilt, or responsibility, must be established by a “preponderance of the evidence.” (e.g., “more likely than not”) standard. The hearing board’s decision in this regard requires a conscientious and rational judgment on the whole record. “Preponderance” means more than half. If, for example, the hearing board concludes that the evidence – considered overall – weighs equally on both sides, the preponderance standard has not been met and the charges have not been proven.
Hearings are confidential and closed to all but the principals of the case. At the discretion of the Hearing Officer, a transcript may be kept in audio taped or written form. The tape and transcript are the property of the University. Students are not permitted to tape or otherwise record the proceedings. Transcripts will be kept by the appropriate administrator (see Section V.A.) and may be reviewed but not copied or removed from the administrator's office.
Based on a majority vote of the Hearing Board, the Hearing Officer issues the opinion as to whether a sexual offense, as defined in Section II., occurred. In the event of a three-three tie, the Hearing Officer will cast the deciding vote. The notification of the Board's decision is made by the Hearing Officer to the appropriate administrator, who will convey the decision, in writing, to the parties within 24 hours of the hearing. The Hearing Board, pursuant to the guidelines in Section X., also determines disciplinary action (if any) to be taken. Disciplinary actions shall be implemented and monitored by that administrator. A record of the final decision will be placed in the accused's disciplinary and/or personnel file.
In determining sanctions, administrators and the Hearing Board will consider the nature and seriousness of the offense. Sanctions are determined by the administrator or the Hearing Board and implemented by the appropriate administrator. Sanctions include but are not limited to: written reprimand, mandatory educational and/or counseling programs, restriction of campus access, disciplinary probation, suspension, or termination (in the case of employees), or expulsion (in the case of students).
XI. Appeal Process
Grounds for appeals
- Procedural error
- New evidence
- Excessive sanction
Limits of appeal and sequence of appeal
The act of filing an appeal usually postpones the action required by the initial decision until the appeal process is completed, unless the administrator determines that postponement of the sanction may result in a serious threat to the University community.
Either the complainant or the accused may appeal the decision of the administrator to the Hearing Board or the decision of the Hearing Board to the Assistant Provost of the University based on one or more of the criteria cited above. The appeal must be written and addressed to the appropriate person (Hearing Officer or Assistant Provost and submitted to the appropriate administrator no more than 10 calendar days after written notification of the administrator's or Hearing Board's decision. (An extension of this deadline may be requested in writing to the Dean of Students to accommodate periods of University recess or for other extenuating circumstances.) The administrator then forwards the letter to the Hearing Officer or Assistant Provost.
The individual seeking the appeal must indicate, in writing, the specific bases or reasons for his or her appeal. The appeal statement should include the following: Name, ID#, address, phone number, reason for appeal (see XI.A. above), and appropriate information regarding why the appeal should be granted. The letter should be of sufficient detail to stand on its own without accompanying testimony to permit the evaluation of the merit of the grounds for appeal. For example, if there were procedural errors, the errors should be identified and it should be noted what effect those errors had on the outcome of the case. If there is new evidence, the nature of that evidence and the potential effect on the outcome of the case should be noted. If the sanction is perceived to be excessive, one should note why s/he believes the sanction was excessive and should suggest a more reasonable sanction.
The Hearing Officer or Assistant Provost shall consider the written statement of appeal and recommend action to be taken within 10 working days. The decision will be either:
- to uphold the decision of the administrator or Hearing Board; or
- to refer the case to the alternate Hearing Officer and a new Hearing Board.
Note: The decision of the Assistant Provost is final.
The individuals involved will receive written notification of the decision from the appropriate administrator. If the result of the appeal is an order for a rehearing, the hearing procedures described above shall apply.
XII. Support Systems for Sexual Assault Survivors
The Advocate (also see Section III) serves as the primary support person for any person who believes s/he has experienced a sexual offense and is designated by the University to perform the following related responsibilities:
The Advocate offers or coordinates information provided during educational workshops to students, faculty, and staff on the prevention of and response to sexual harassment, assault, and other sex-related offenses. Such workshops are provided to new members of the campus community during Orientation programs and when requested.
The Advocate may be called upon to train the students, faculty, and staff members of the Sexual Offense Hearing Board pool. (Board members for individual hearings are selected from the pool by the Hearing Officer).
The Advocate will assist in finding appropriate support or referral systems for those accused of sexual offenses.
Survivor Support Groups
The Survivor Support Group is established and maintained by the Counseling Center with assistance from the Advocate as needed. Support groups are led by qualified persons who are trained and supervised by the Advocate and Director of Counseling.
The Wellness Center
Any professional counselors working in the Wellness Center must attend an approved program on the counseling of sexual offense survivors.
There are a number of resources in the St. Louis community for those who have experienced a sexual offense. Such resources include: ALIVE, The Men's Center of St. Louis, and the Women's Self-Help Center.
XIII. Policy Implementation Committee
The Policy Implementation Committee consists of the Associate Provost, the Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, the Dean of Students, all Title IX Coordinators, the Hearing Officers, the Director of Public Safety, and the Advocate.
This Committee meets at the discretion of any of its members to address procedural questions involved in the implementation of this policy as well as issues that are not directly provided for in the policy (this includes complaints that include one party who is no longer a member of the Webster University community). Through the Policy Implementation Committee, these administrators may consult with each other as necessary to evaluate any evidence or testimony in an effort to make a fair and impartial decision regarding the final resolution of a case.
Major substantive changes in the Sexual Offense Policy must be approved by the Faculty Senate, Webster Staff Alliance, Student Government Association, and Administrative Council.