Sexual Misconduct Policy

Case Western Reserve University is a community based upon trust and respect for its constituent members. Sexual misconduct is a violation of that trust and respect and will not be tolerated. Members of the Case Western Reserve community, guests and visitors have the right to be free from sexual misconduct, as well as domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. All members of the community are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights of others. The purpose of this guide is to define sexual misconduct and the procedures the university uses to investigate and take appropriate action on complaints of sexual misconduct.

This policy applies to all members of the university community including all students, postdoctoral fellows and postdoctoral scholars, faculty, staff (including administrators) and other university officials—whether full or part-time—and guest lecturers, volunteers, contractors and visitors. This policy is applicable to a student on the date on which the student accepts admission to the university.

This policy governs university-sponsored activities occurring both on and off university property and applies to non-university sponsored or related events that occur off university property that may have a demonstrable and significant disruptive impact on a university community member or on the campus. The work/educational environment includes, but is not limited to: offices, classrooms and clinical settings; residence halls and Greek Houses; on-campus or off-campus interactions between university community members, whether personal or virtual; and all university-sponsored activities, programs, or events (including off-campus activities such as international travel programs).

Sexual misconduct may involve the behavior of a person(s) regardless of the person’s gender identity or expression against a person(s) of the opposite or same gender or against a person who is transgender.

The university does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its educational program and in other activities operated by the university and is required by Title IX, and specifically 34 C.F.R. Part 106.9, as well as Title VII, not to discriminate in such a manner. This extends to employees of and applicants for employment or admission to the university. Inquiries concerning the application of Title IX may be directed to the Title IX Coordinator for the university or to the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education. Read the the full policy on Sexual Misconduct.

No Retaliation Policy

Retaliation is prohibited and will constitute separate grounds for disciplinary action. Retaliation is the act of taking adverse action against a complainant, a respondent, or any other person involved in the process under this policy based on the person’s reporting or participation in the process under this policy. Retaliation includes behavior on the part of the respondent or the complainant and other related persons, including, but not limited to, acquaintances, friends, and family members. Although independent action will be taken against anyone engaging in retaliation, the complainant and the respondent are responsible for discouraging such actions and will also be held responsible to the extent of their involvement in the retaliation. An individual who believes they have experienced retaliation should contact a Designated Reporting Representative under this policy, and the university will investigate the complaint. 

Power Relationships

When one party has any professional responsibility for another’s academic or job performance or professional future, the university considers sexual relationships between the two individuals to be a basic violation of professional ethics and responsibility; this includes but is not limited to sexual relationships between faculty (including teaching assistants and laboratory supervisors) and their students or between supervisors and their employees, even if deemed to be mutually consenting relationships. Because of the asymmetry of these relationships, “consent” may be difficult to assess, may be deemed not possible, and may be construed as coercive.  Such relationships also may have the potential to result in claims of sexual harassment. 

Although Sexual Harassment often takes place when the alleged harasser is in a position of power or influence (e.g., a faculty advisor to a student, supervisor to supervisee), other types of harassment are also possible e.g., peer to peer.


The fact that someone did not intend to sexually harass an individual is not considered a sufficient defense to a complaint of sexual harassment.   For example, in some instances, cultural differences may play a role in the interpretation of behavior, by either the accuser or accused, which may result in a complaint of sexual harassment. It is expected that all members of the university community are knowledgeable about what constitutes sexual harassment under this policy. Although the accused’s perceptions will be considered, in most cases, it is the effect and characteristics of the behavior on the accuser, and whether a reasonable person in a similar situation would find the conduct offensive that determine whether the behavior constitutes sexual harassment. 

Academic Freedom

Case Western Reserve University adheres to the principles and traditions of academic freedom. As stated in the Faculty Handbook, academic freedom is a right of all members of the university faculty and applies to university activities including teaching and research ( Each faculty member may consider in his or her classes any topic relevant to the subject matter of the course as defined by the appropriate educational unit. 

Case Western Reserve University also recognizes, however, that these freedoms must be in balance with the rights of others not to be sexually harassed.  It is therefore understood that the principles of academic freedom permit topics of all types, including those with sexual content, to be part of courses, lectures, and other academic pursuits. If there are questions about whether the course material or the manner in which it is presented falls within the definition of sexual harassment, the concerned party(s) should contact a designated reporting office representative (See: Designated Reporting Offices section in this policy).

Responsibilities of the University Community

Any member of the university community who is consulted about and/or witnesses potential sexually harassing behavior has the responsibility to advise the accuser of the university's sexual harassment policy and encourage prompt reporting.

When a firsthand allegation of sexual harassment is made and the alleged harasser is named, members of the university community are obligated to report the allegation to one of the designated reporting office representatives.  A firsthand allegation is defined as an allegation from a person who experienced alleged sexual harassment, or from a person who hears the allegation directly from the person who experienced the alleged sexual harassment.  Because the university is committed to a positive educational and work environment, in instances where individuals witness or hear about behavior that could be construed as sexual harassment, the individual is encouraged to report the incident to the designated reporting offices.

Confidential resources (i.e. those members of the university who are licensed or designated by law as professionals who can receive privileged communication, and receive information regarding possible sexual harassment in the context of a professional relationship with the reporter of that information) are not required to report allegations of sexual harassment to university representatives.

Laws Governing Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and by Section 4112.02 of the Ohio Revised Code. EEOC Guidelines require employers to affirmatively address the issue of sexual harassment and to adopt procedures for the prompt resolution of employee complaints. Similarly, federal regulations implementing Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments require educational institutions that receive federal funds to provide a prompt and equitable procedure for resolving complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment claims.