Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence Policy

The purpose of this policy is to define, prevent, and respond to discrimination and harassment, including sexual violence. The policy reflects Lesley University's compliance with Title IX and other federal and state laws.

This policy applies to the entire Lesley University community, including faculty, adjunct faculty, staff, students, alumni, vendors, contractors, consultants, guests, and visitors.

Lesley University respects the dignity of every individual and expects members of the community to respect each other. Our Community Standards of Conduct Policy describes the University’s general expectations of conduct. Violations of this Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence Policy are also violations of the Community Standards of Conduct Policy.

Lesley University forbids discriminatory or harassing conduct that is based on an individual's:

  • Race, ethnicity, or color
  • Religion
  • National origin or ancestry
  • Age
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender, gender identity, or gender expression
  • Pregnancy or parental status
  • Genetic information
  • Veteran or military status, or membership in Uniformed Services
  • All other categories protected by applicable state and federal laws (together, "protected categories").

This policy addresses the university's aim to provide an environment that is free of discrimination and harassment on the basis of protected categories, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. 

Discrimination and harassment undermine the basic principles of the Lesley community, and are strictly prohibited. Some forms of discrimination and harassment are also unlawful and carry criminal penalties. 

Sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking committed by students or employees, whether on or off campus, or by any individual on Lesley's campus or within its programs or activities, violates this policy.

Through this policy, Lesley intends to provide broader protections from discrimination and harassment than are afforded by state or federal laws. Accordingly, Lesley may take disciplinary or corrective actions pursuant to this policy for discriminatory or harassing misconduct which does not rise to the level of a violation of law.

  • Definitions

    Discrimination

    Treating individuals or groups less favorably in the terms or conditions of their employment or education on the basis of their membership in one or more of the protected categories.

    Harassment

    Verbal, physical, or other conduct such as threats, physical force, slurs, bullying, cyber bullying, stalking, discriminatory treatment, or other conduct related to an individual's membership in one or more of the protected categories that has the purpose or effect of: 

    • Causing a reasonable person to feel humiliated or intimidated.
    • Unreasonably impeding or interfering with academic status, academic performance, education, work status, or work performance.
    • Unreasonably creating an intimidating, offensive, or hostile environment in the residential hall, learning environments such as the classroom, work environment, or cyber environment.
    • Interfering substantially with an individual's participation in the University community.
    • Causing a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.

    Stalking

    Engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person (on the basis of the person's membership in one or more of the protected categories) that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety, or the safety of others, or suffer substantial emotional distress.

    For purposes of this definition:

    • Course of conduct: Two (2) or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person, or interferes with a person's property.
    • Reasonable person: A reasonable person under similar circumstances and with similar identities to the victim.
    • Substantial emotional distress: Significant mental suffering or anguish that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.

    Sexual Harassment

    A type of harassment and a form of discrimination based on gender defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and all other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

    • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual's academic advancement, employment, or participation in Lesley's programs or activities.
    • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting such individual, or decisions affecting such individual's participation in Lesley's programs or activities.
    • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile environment—that is, unreasonably interfering with an individual's work, academic performance, education, or participation in Lesley's programs or activities.

     

    Sexual harassment may occur regardless of the intention of the person engaging in the conduct.

    Sexual harassment may occur regardless of whether the individuals involved are of the same or a different gender.

    Examples of Sexual Harassment

    While it is not possible to list all circumstances that may constitute sexual harassment, the following are some examples of conduct which may, depending upon the circumstances, constitute sexual harassment:

    • Sexual advances – whether they involve physical touching or not.
    • Requests or demands for sexual favors accompanied by implicit or explicit promised rewards or threats concerning an individual's admission, advancement, academic decisions, grades, job benefits, evaluations and reviews, salary, promotions, health and welfare benefits or continued employment.
    • Unwelcome jokes, verbal abuse, comments, conduct, or innuendo of a sexual nature.
    • Use of sexual epithets, verbal or written references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding an individual's sex life, or comments concerning an individual's body, sexual activity, deficiencies, or prowess.
    • Displaying sexual objects, pictures, or cartoons.
    • Offensive, suggestive, or obscene letters, notes, emails, and invitations of a sexual nature.
    • Leering, patting, grabbing, pinching, and brushing against the body, sexual gestures, or suggestive or insulting comments.
    • Inquiries into an individual's sexual activities.
    • Assault or coerced sexual acts.

     

    Romantic or sexual relationships between individuals who are also in employment, academic, or professional relationships are inherently problematic, and in some cases, are prohibited. Romantic or sexual relationships between students and employees (including faculty) are prohibited.

    Refer to Lesley University’s Unequal Consensual Relationships Policy.

    Sexual Violence

    A form of sexual harassment. Sexual violence means having sexual contact with someone who does not consent to the sexual contact.

  • Consent

    An affirmative, voluntary, mutual agreement to have sexual contact. Consent must be expressed by outward demonstration, verbally or non-verbally, through mutually understandable words or actions. 

    Consent means agreeing to participating in a particular sexual activity without any coercion, force, fear, or intimidation.

    Silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. Consent can be revoked at any time. A person can change her or his mind about continuing with the sexual contact. Revoking consent must be expressed by outward demonstration, verbally or non-verbally, through mutually understandable words or actions. 

    Neither past consent nor prior consensual sexual activity, by itself, constitutes consent to future sexual contact.

    Consent can never be given by someone who is:

    • Under the statutory age of consent (in Massachusetts, that means under the age of 16).
    • Asleep
    • Unconscious
    • Incapacitated due to drugs, alcohol, or any other cause

    It is against the law and against university policy to have sexual contact with someone who does not give their consent or who is incapable of giving consent.

    Sexual violence may occur regardless of the intention of the person engaging in the conduct. Sexual violence may occur regardless of whether the individuals involved are of the same or a different gender.

    Massachusetts law states: “Whoever has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse with a person, and compels such person to submit by force and against his will, or compels such person to submit by threat of bodily injury and if either such sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse results in or is committed with acts resulting in serious bodily injury, or is committed by a joint enterprise, or is committed during the commission or attempted commission of an offense…shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years.”

    Examples of Sexual Violence

    While it is not possible to list all circumstances that may constitute sexual violence, the following are some examples of conduct which may constitute sexual violence:

    • Unwanted physical touching
    • The threat of sexual violence
    • Sexual coercion (harassment, bullying, or coercion of a sexual nature)
    • Sexual battery (physical violence such as bruising or forceful detainment)
    • Rape or coerced sexual acts (non-consensual penetration of any kind)
    • Sexual assault is an offense that meets the definitions of rape, fondling, incest, or statutory rape.
      • Rape: The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.
      • Fondling: The touching of the private body parts of another person for the purpose of sexual gratification, without the consent of the victim.
      • Incest: Sexual intercourse between persons who are related to each other within the degrees wherein marriage is prohibited by law.
      • Statutory Rape: Sexual intercourse with a person who is under the statutory age of consent (which is age 16 in Massachusetts).

    As used in this policy, the term sexual violence is broader than the statutory definitions for the crimes of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual coercion, and rape, which are also prohibited by this policy. Consequently, a person found not guilty of a crime of sexual violence, such as rape, could still be found to have violated Lesley's policy against sexual violence.

  • Domestic Violence

    Violence committed by:

    • A current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim.
    • A person with whom the victim shares a child in common.
    • A person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner.
    • A person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under state domestic or family violence laws.
    • Or, any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.

    Dating Violence

    Violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on the reporting party's statement and the following factors:

    • The length of the relationship.
    • The type of relationship.
    • The frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship. 

    Dating violence includes, but is not limited to, sexual or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse. Dating violence does not include acts covered under the definition of domestic violence.

  • Reporting an Incident

    Any employee or student may submit a discrimination, harassment, or sexual violence complaint.

    A complaint may be filed against anyone in the Lesley community: faculty, adjunct faculty, staff, students, alumni/ae, vendors, contractors, consultants, guests, and visitors. The University follows the Complaint Resolution Procedures in reviewing such complaints. In certain circumstances, the Director may proceed with an investigation even if no written complaint is filed.

    All employees (faculty, adjunct faculty, and staff) must report to at least one of the people or offices listed below if they witness or receive complaints of discrimination and harassment, including sexual violence.

    • In cases alleging sexual violence, employees are considered "responsible employees" under federal guidance.
    • However, certain employees in the student Counseling Center and student Health Service Center have obligations of confidentiality and therefore are not "responsible employees" and are not required to make such reports.

    The university requires employees and encourages students to notify at least one of the people or offices listed below about discrimination or harassment at field training or internship sites.

    The university encourages former employees, former students, and third parties, who have information about possible misconduct by members of the Lesley community or on the Lesley campus, to inform at least one of the people listed below. That way, the university may consider the information in assessing whether to take preventive or corrective action.

    The Complaint Resolution Procedures do not apply to information submitted by or against persons who are not employees or students, unless the University in its discretion finds it appropriate to apply the Complaint Resolution Procedures in a particular set of circumstances.

    The University retains the right to determine whether to address a report of misconduct outside of the Complaint Resolution Procedures in circumstances when the safety of the University community is at risk, if the material facts are undisputed, if there are extenuating circumstances involving any of the persons involved, or if the Dean of Student Life/Interim Title IX Coordinator, in consultation with appropriate administrators, determines it is in the best interest of the University and/or the community to do so.

    All members of the Lesley University community who experience or witness an incident of sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking should report such incidents. As noted, all employees must make a report if they witness or receive a complaint of any such incident, and must do so immediately. Delayed reporting may diminish the university's ability to investigate and respond effectively to the report. 

    Lesley takes steps to provide a prompt and effective response to all reports of sexual violence about which it becomes aware, whether or not a complaint is filed. All complainants receive written notification of their rights under Lesley University policy.

    Lesley University assists complainants in notifying law enforcement authorities if they choose to do so. Complainants have the right not to notify law enforcement authorities; however, the University may, in some cases, have an obligation to report certain incidents to law enforcement authorities. Preserving evidence may be important to future criminal, civil, or disciplinary proceedings, including, where necessary, getting protection orders.

  • Responsibilities

    Employee Responsibility

    Any employee who witnesses an incident or receives a complaint of discrimination or harassment, including but not limited to an incident of sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, must immediately contact any of the University officers listed below.

    Accordingly, an employee's failure to report discrimination or harassment may warrant disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from employment at the University. An employee's failure to report may also lead to personal liability under law.

    However, certain employees in the Counseling Center and Health Services are confidential resources, are exempt from this requirement, and will not share information reported to them without a legal exception or explicit permission.

    Student Responsibility

    Everyone at Lesley University has the responsibility to ensure that our environment is free from discrimination and harassment. We expect members of our community to avoid any behavior that could reasonably be interpreted as discriminatory or harassing, and to report any observations of discrimination or harassment.

    Any student who witnesses discrimination or harassment, including but not limited to an incident of sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, should contact any of the University officers listed below or any member of the office of Residential Life, coaches, athletic director, or any member of the staff of the Dean of Student Life and Academic Development.

    Any student who believes that he or she has been subject to discrimination or harassment, including but not limited to an incident of sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, should contact any of the university officers listed or any member of the office of Residential Life, coaches, athletic director, or any member of the Dean of Student Life and Academic Development staff.

  • Support Services and Resources

    In addition to the persons and offices listed below, the university offers support services and other resources to students and employees. Other support services and resources are also available off campus in the Cambridge area as well. 

    Review our Emergency and Support Resources: Sexual Violence (PDF)

    Confidential Resources

    Lesley provides students and employees with access to support services that are strictly confidential. Certain employees in the Counseling Center and Health Services have been designated as confidential resources and are exempt from the mandatory reporting requirements of this Policy. 

    Unless required by law, confidential resources must not share private information reported to them without explicit permission. 

    Review Sexual Misconduct Confidential Reporting Resources (PDF)

  • Investigation of Complaints, Interim Measures, and Corrective Action

    When Lesley University receives a complaint, it promptly, thoroughly, and impartially investigates the matter in a fair and expeditious manner. Lesley investigates to determine what occurred and then takes appropriate steps to resolve the situation. For detailed information on the procedure, including how to file a complaint and the steps of the investigation process, please refer to Lesley University's Complaint Resolution Procedure.

    The University will investigate all incidents occurring on Lesley University property.  Further, the University will investigate all incidents involving University sponsored programs or University vehicles regardless of whether the incidents occur on University property. 

    With respect to complaints of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, persons who have received relevant annual training will investigate the complaints, make findings, and determine sanctions, if any. Findings are determined according to a preponderance of the evidence standard (i.e. more likely than not). 

    An investigation by the University is different from any police or government investigation, and a police or government investigation does not relieve the University of its independent obligation to investigate the conduct under Title IX or this Policy.

    Interim Measures

    As described in more detail in the Complaint Resolution Procedure, the University may decide to take interim safety measures during an investigation, such as involuntary removal and no-contact orders, or to take other restorative and preventative measures, such as education, training, monitoring, supervision, security, academic support, physical health and mental health services, counseling, etc.

    Corrective Actions

    If the University determines that this Policy was violated, the University may impose sanctions including but not limited to no-contact orders, suspension, or dismissal from the University, and mandatory education or counseling, in addition to any criminal penalties pursued by the state and law enforcement.  In addition, the University cooperates in the enforcement of protective orders, no-contact orders, restraining orders, or similar orders issued by a criminal or civil court.

    The University takes steps to prevent the recurrence of any discrimination or harassment and to remedy its effects on the complainant and others, as appropriate.

    Where possible, the University will assist persons complaining of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking by separating the parties. Where feasible and warranted, the University will also seek to change academic, living, transportation, and work situations at the complainant’s request. The University may also take other steps such as approving leaves of absence and extensions on assignments or requiring training and counseling. Such accommodations are available regardless of the complainant’s choice to report the crime to the University or local law enforcement, and any information about such accommodations or protective measures will be kept confidential to the extent such confidentiality does not impair the University’s ability to provide the accommodations.

    Duty of Good Faith

    Lesley University prohibits any member of the Lesley community from knowingly or recklessly bringing a false complaint against another member of the Lesley community. Any such action can lead to disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion from the University or dismissal from employment with the University.

    Protection Against Retaliation 

    Retaliation is unlawful. Lesley University does not permit retaliation against any individual who makes a report pursuant to this policy or who cooperates in the investigation of such reports.

    Any student found to be engaging in retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from Lesley University.

    Any employee found to be engaging in retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from employment at Lesley University.

    Confidentiality and Use of Information

    Reasonable efforts will be made to protect the privacy and confidences of all parties during the investigation, consistent with and subject to the University’s need to investigate the complaint and/or implement any corrective action.  Lesley will make reasonable efforts to investigate and respond to the complaint consistent with a Reporter’s request for confidentiality or request not to pursue an investigation.  If a Reporter insists that the Reporter’s name or other identifiable information not be disclosed to the Respondent or others, Lesley’s ability to respond may be limited.

    However, Lesley will evaluate requests for confidentiality and may share information or take action in order to assist the Reporter or the University community.

    Information gathered during one investigation may be used in other investigations at the discretion of the University. 

    Please note that the timing and conditions of the University's investigation may be affected by external factors beyond its control, including lawsuits and investigations by law enforcement agencies.

Report incidents of discrimination and harassment to any one of the following people or offices:
Reports of discrimination and harassment may also be made to the police by calling 911.

Lesley University encourages anyone who has been subjected to discrimination or harassment to report it immediately; delayed reporting may diminish the University's ability to investigate and respond effectively to the report.

Lesley takes steps to provide a prompt and effective response to all reports of sexual violence about which it becomes aware, whether or not a complaint is filed. If one of the persons or offices listed here receives a report of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, that person or office must promptly notify the Dean of Student Life/Interim Title IX Coordinator.
State and Federal Resources
While we encourage students and employees to report claims to the University, employees and students may also file a complaint with the following federal and state anti-discrimination agencies:
Questions?
Contact Dr. Nathanial G. Mays, Dean of Students and Interim Title IX Coordinator, with any questions.