(Updated August 20, 2021)
Union College is committed to creating and maintaining an educational, working, and living environment free from discrimination, including harassment and retaliation, as described in this Policy. Union College’s Policy prohibits any such discrimination and applies to everyone in the campus community.
Scope and Definitions
This Policy applies to discrimination, including harassment, based on an applicant’s, employee’s, or student’s protected characteristics. This Policy does not cover misconduct committed by third parties (including parties who are not current students, faculty, or staff). Where a respondent is a third party, contact Campus Safety, the Dean of Students Office, or the Dean of Diversity and Inclusion / Chief Diversity Officer. Please note that this Policy does not apply to complaints of sexual or gender-based misconduct, including sexual harassment. For any complaints alleging sexual or gender-based misconduct, including sexual harassment, see the Gender-based Misconduct Policy.
Those personal traits, status, and/or beliefs that are defined by applicable law as protected from discrimination and/or harassment. They include race, creed, color, sex (including pregnancy), gender identity or expression, age, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, religion, physical or mental disability, genetic predisposition, military status, marital or domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, familial status, status as a victim of domestic violence, and/or other characteristics protected by applicable law.
Adverse or different treatment of an individual based on a protected characteristic, rather than individual merit, which is sufficiently severe that it interferes with, limits, or denies the ability to participate in, or benefit from, a program or activity. Examples of conduct that can constitute discrimination if based on an individual’s protected characteristic include but are not limited to:
- Singling out or targeting an individual for different or less favorable treatment (e.g., more severe discipline, lower salary increase) because of their protected characteristic.
- Failing or refusing to hire or admit an individual because of their protected characteristic.
- Terminating an individual from employment or an educational program based on their protected characteristic.
Unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct which is directed at a person based on a protected characteristic and violates the law when:
- an individual’s acceptance or rejection of such conduct explicitly or implicitly forms the basis for an employment or educational decision affecting the individual; or
- these behaviors are sufficiently severe and/or pervasive to have the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's educational experience, working conditions, or living conditions by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
Whether conduct is sufficiently severe and/or pervasive is determined by using the objective standard of a reasonable person as well as the subjective standard of the individual at whom the unwelcome conduct is directed. Union College strives for a respectful workplace and classroom environment at all times and prohibits any harassing conduct. Examples of conduct that can constitute harassment if based on an individual’s protected characteristic include but are not limited to:
- Unwelcome jokes or comments about a legally protected characteristic (e.g., racial or ethnic jokes);
- Disparaging remarks to a person about a legally protected characteristic (e.g., negative or offensive remarks or jokes about a person's religion or religious garments);
- Displaying negative or offensive posters or pictures about a legally protected characteristic;
- Electronic communications such as derogatory email, text messaging, websites, and postings on social media.
Any conduct alleged to constitute harassment under this Policy shall be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable person, considering all of the circumstances, including the frequency, nature, severity, intensity, location, context, and duration of the conduct in question as well as the effect of the conduct on the individual or individuals at whom the conduct was directed. Prohibited harassment will be distinguished from behavior which, even though unwelcome, is appropriate to the carrying out of certain instructional, advisory or supervisory responsibilities. In determining whether speech constitutes harassment prohibited by this Policy, the academic freedom of the faculty engaged in pedagogy will be taken into account.
Any conduct, whether or not workplace, employment, or education-related, that is directed at someone because he or she opposed a discriminatory practice, made a complaint of discrimination, or participated in such an investigation which might deter a reasonable worker or student from making or supporting a charge of discrimination or harassment. Retaliation can take many forms including abuse or violence, threats, and intimidation. Actions in response to a good faith report or response under this Policy are considered retaliatory if they have a materially adverse effect on the working, academic, or College-controlled living environment of an individual and could well dissuade a reasonable worker or student from bringing or supporting a charge of discrimination or harassment. Retaliation is unlawful and will not be tolerated. Any individual or group of individuals can engage in retaliation and will be held accountable under this Policy.
Anti-Harassment Policies and Freedom of Speech/Expression
Union College is also committed to the free and vigorous discussion of ideas and issues, which the College believes will be protected by this Policy. Union College is committed to protecting the academic freedom and freedom of expression of all members of the College community. This Policy shall be applied in a manner that protects the academic freedom and freedom of expression of all parties to a complaint. Academic freedom and freedom of expression include, but are not limited to, the expression of ideas, however controversial, in the classroom, residence hall, and, in keeping with different responsibilities, in workplaces elsewhere in the College community.
If the conduct in question is legally protected by academic freedom in accordance with the Academic Freedom Policy statement contained in the Faculty Manual (FM V.II), which is adapted from the AAUP “1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” it is incapable of legally creating a hostile environment in and of itself. To the extent allowed by applicable law, a determination of whether speech serves a pedagogical purpose is initially guided by the faculty speaker and his/her faculty peers (defined as members of the FEC).
Options for Addressing Discrimination, Harassment, or Retaliation
The College’s complaint procedure provides for a prompt, thorough, and objective investigation into any claim of discrimination, harassment or retaliation and for appropriate remedial action when such an investigation reveals a violation of this Policy. In order to ensure conduct prohibited by this Policy ceases immediately, the College expects employees, students, and other members of the College community to report all incidents of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. When individuals feel that they have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, or have observed discrimination, harassment, or retaliation of or against others, they have many options, including telling the offender to stop, consulting with a Confidential Resource (see below), and/or filing a formal complaint. The College recognizes that deciding among these options can be difficult. Individuals are encouraged to seek assistance from a Confidential Resource before deciding how to proceed.
The Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students oversees Union College’s response to student concerns of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and is made aware of all such concerns (unless they are shared only with a Confidential Resource).
Individuals who serve as Confidential Resources are trained to understand issues of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Information shared with Confidential Resources (including information about whether an individual has received services from a Confidential Resource) will only be disclosed to other College officials or any other person with the individual’s express written permission, unless there is an imminent threat of serious harm to the individual or to others or a legal obligation to reveal such information (e.g., if there is suspected abuse or neglect of a minor).
Confidential Resources are not authorized to engage in fact-finding or take action on behalf of the College nor will they maintain formal or detailed records of confidential consultations.
If, after speaking with a Confidential Resource, a member of the campus community does not wish to initiate an internal complaint, the Confidential Resource will take no action. If a member of the campus community does wish to make a complaint, these individuals are knowledgeable about the College’s policies and procedures and will assist in making connections with an appropriate College administrator.
The College encourages prompt reporting of complaints because late reporting may limit the College’s ability to investigate and respond to conduct. However, the College will respond to all reports in accordance with this Policy.
Complaint Reporting, Investigation, and Resolution Involving Complaints Against Students
All concerns of discrimination, harassment or retaliation by a student should be reported immediately to the Dean of Diversity and Inclusion/Chief Diversity Officer/ADA Compliance Officer (see above). Alternately, the individual may make a complaint at the Office of Student Affairs. Complaints may be verbal or in writing.
The College offers both informal and formal resolution options which applies to complaints by a student against another student or by an employee against a student. A student with concerns about behavior by an employee will be directed to the informal and formal resolution options and procedures in the applicable employee manual/handbook (Faculty Manual, Administrator’s Manual, or Staff Handbook). Generally, the College seeks to follow the complaining party’s wishes as to which procedure to pursue. However, there may be situations in which, due to the nature of the allegations, informal resolution is inappropriate. This decision will be based on factors such as the egregiousness of the allegations, whether the accused student is a repeat offender, or whether there is otherwise reason to believe that the safety or interests of the campus community demand adjudication. In those instances, the College will apply the formal procedure only.
Informal Resolution Procedures
Informal procedures are designed to assist the parties to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
Mediation sessions will be held only if the complaining party and the accused party both agree to mediate and if the Dean of Students determines that mediation is appropriate under the circumstances. The Dean of Students will act as mediator or will designate another person to act as mediator. The goal of mediation is to facilitate the parties’ discussions with each other such that a mutually acceptable resolution can be reached. At any point in the process or if no mutual resolution is reached, the complaining party may move the complaint to the formal adjudication process described below.
In certain situations, a formal understanding is reached between the parties. This agreement is formalized in writing and is subject to approval by the Senior Associate Dean of Students / Director of Student Conduct or his or her designee. The terms may include a pledge that the parties will have no further contact with each other, known as a “No Contact Agreement.” Once a student has signed a contractual agreement, it may not be revoked, and the terms may not be appealed. A student’s failure to adhere to any term of the agreement may result in referral to the Senior Associate Dean of Students / Director of Student Conduct for an Administrative or Conduct Board hearing as described in the System of College Standards and Student Conduct.
Formal Conduct Code Procedures
Formal procedures are designed to determine the merits of the allegations through adjudication and, where appropriate, to determine a disciplinary consequence for the accused student.
Administrative Review and the Student Conduct Hearings will be held in accordance with the College’s hearing procedures, which are outlined in the Student Conduct Code.
All sanctions defined in the College Student Conduct Code are available.
When appropriate, prior to or during the investigation, the Dean of Diversity and Inclusion/Chief Diversity Officer/ADA Compliance Officer and the Senior Associate Dean of Students / Director of Student Conduct will work cooperatively and may take reasonable and appropriate interim steps to protect the safety and well-being of members of the College community, maintain the integrity of the investigative and/or resolution process, and deter retaliation.
Any allegation of discrimination or harassment brought to the attention of the College will be discreetly addressed in an appropriate manner. Investigations will be conducted in a confidential manner to the greatest extent possible. The parties involved will be required to execute a non-retaliation form and may be required to execute a confidentiality agreement when specifically justified. However, the investigation of complaints may also require disclosure to the accused individual and to other witnesses for the purpose of gathering pertinent information. In such case, disclosures will be limited to the extent possible.
Individuals involved in investigations or disciplinary proceedings under this Policy are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information in order to safeguard the integrity of the process and to avoid the appearance of retaliation. While discretion regarding the process is important, complainants and respondents are not restricted from discussing and sharing information with others who may support or assist them in presenting their case.
Medical and counseling records are privileged and confidential documents that parties will not be required to disclose.
Protection from Retaliation
The College will not tolerate retaliation of any kind against anyone who opposes a discriminatory practice, makes a good faith complaint about discrimination or harassment, or furnishes information or participate in any manner in an investigation of such a complaint. Retaliation includes any conduct, whether or not workplace, employment-related, or in a classroom environment, directed at someone because he or she opposed a discriminatory practice, made a complaint of discrimination, or participated in such an investigation, which might deter a reasonable worker or student from making or supporting a charge of discrimination or harassment. Retaliation is unlawful and will not be tolerated.
- Prior to the conclusion of an investigation and findings, a complaint of discrimination or harassment does not constitute proof of prohibited conduct. As such, the complaint shall not be taken into account during reappointment, tenure, promotion, merit or other evaluation, or review until a determination has been made that the College’s Policy has been violated.
- Any individual who believes that he or she has been subject to retaliation should file a complaint using the complaint procedure set forth above. Retaliatory conduct may result in serious disciplinary sanctions.
Protection from Bad Faith Complaints
It is the responsibility of the College to balance the rights of all parties. Therefore, if the College’s investigation reveals that the complaint is malicious or knowingly false, such charges will be dismissed and the person who filed the complaint may be subject to discipline.