Procedures for Filing and Addressing Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Complaints against Faculty, Staff or Student Employees

If a member of the community wishes to make a complaint against an employee (faculty, staff or student employee) of a violation of the College's Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct or Sexual Assault Policy, the procedures below will apply. If both the complainant and the respondent are student employees, the students will instead use the complaint process for students found in the student handbook.

1. You may first meet with an appropriate administrator assigned to serve in these cases. Those administrators are as follows: 

  • Dean of Student Affairs, (914) 395-2575
  • Dean of the College, (914) 395-2303
  • Vice President Human Resources, (914) 395-2385

If you are not comfortable speaking with one of the individual listed, you may report an incident to your own supervisor, to your department head or to the department head of any of the individuals listed above. 

All College employees (including faculty, resident advisors and staff, with the exception Health Services staff) who become aware of an incident of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and/or sexual assault are required to notify the vice president for human resources (hereafter referred to as "VP") who will initiate a campus investigation into the matter.   The College is required to report incidents of sexual misconduct or sexual assault that constitute a violent felony under the New York State Campus Safety Act, to the local police.  The director of public safety or his or her designee will coordinate such notification to the Yonkers Police.

Upon receipt of information about an alleged incident of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexual assault, the College has the obligation to investigate and may pursue disciplinary action regardless of whether the complainant files a complaint. This investigation will be conducted by the Director of Public Safety (or designee) and may begin prior to the receipt of a formal complaint, or may occur if a formal complaint is not made. Students, faculty, and staff are expected to cooperate fully with any investigation and/or the discipline process, and are expected to provide the truth in all disciplinary matters.

2. Should the individual decide to file a formal complaint, she/he will meet with the VP of Human Resources or his or her designee to discuss the procedure for hearing the complaint. If the complainant so desires, he/she may be accompanied by a member of the Sarah Lawrence community acting as an advisor as defined in #6e below.

She/he will then provide a written statement to the VP, describing the circumstances of the alleged harassing incident or behavior. This statement will constitute the grounds for the complaint.

The VP will then meet with the respondent to discuss the complaint.  The respondent will be given an opportunity to write a response to the complaint within one week, unless the time is extended because of unusual circumstances as determined by the VP.

3. It is expected that complaints will be filed by current employees or students. The College will, however, vigorously investigate all complaints made by former employees and by students who are no longer enrolled. The investigation of such complaints will be performed by a panel of three employees chosen from among those trained as described in Section 4 (a) below but may or may not take the form of a hearing as described in Section 6 below. 

4. Upon receipt of the complaint, the VP will establish a panel to investigate the complaint. The procedure for forming this panel shall be as follows:

a. Each year a pool of eight non-faculty employees shall be constituted on the recommendations of the Dean of Studies and Student Life and a pool of eight faculty members shall be constituted on the recommendations of the Dean of the College.

  • The pool members will serve for a three-year term.
  • All members of the pool will be full time regular employees or tenured faculty members.
  • The College will strive for gender balance in the pool, to the extent practicable. All members of the pool will receive training for service on the panels.

b. The panel for a specific case will be chosen from that pool through the following procedures:

  • Individuals in the pool may recuse themselves in particular cases if there are factors that make objectivity impossible, such as a close friendship or a present or previous academic or professional relationship with the respondent or complainant.
  • If the complainant is a student the registrar will be consulted to ensure that none of the faculty members has had an academic relationship with the complainant.  Those who have taught or advised the complainant will be eliminated.
  • The VP will give the list of members in the pool to the complainant and to the respondent. Potential panel members may be excused in the event of a conflict of interest, lack of availability or other valid reason, as determined by the VP.  The VP, reviewing the eligible pool members, will choose three to serve as the panel for that particular case.
  • In the event that a panel member resigns or is otherwise unable to serve the VP will appoint a replacement from the pool. If the pool does not yield three acceptable members of the panel, the VP will appoint an employee who has already gone through the training as a substitute.

5. In all cases the College reserves the right to place the respondent on leave until the case is decided.

6. Investigation hearing procedures

a.  The VP will gather information to be brought to the panel. This will include (but not be limited to) the statements of the complainant and respondent, a list of witnesses who may have relevant information and other information related to the charges. The initial list of witnesses will be provided by both the complainant and respondent.

b. Witnesses identified at this stage will be required to submit a written statement describing their knowledge of the case. The VP will determine an appropriate deadline for these statements to be submitted, typically a week to ten days before the hearing.  If a witness fails to submit a timely statement the VP may exclude any testimony by that witness.

c. The VP will serve as the panel coordinator. The panel will review the complaint, the response, and all other witness statements and documents. The panel will then identify a list of witnesses to meet with the panel. The selection of that list will be based on the relevance of the witness’ information (i.e. direct knowledge of the complaint and its alleged consequences). The panel may call witnesses who were not suggested by either the complainant or respondent but who may have relevant information. In that case the witnesses will not be required to submit written statements.

d. The panel will meet with the complainant and respondent together.

e. Both the complainant and respondent will have the option of having a personal adviser who is a member of the Sarah Lawrence community present when they appear before the panel. An advisor may not be a parent or relative, an attorney, or a representative of an attorney.  Members of the hearing panel or those who will serve as witnesses in the case may not serve as an advisor.  The VP will instruct the advisors about confidentiality (i.e., that they are expected to preserve in confidence all information they acquire in connection with their role as advisers). The sole role of the advisors is to provide advice and support to the complainant and the respondent. The advisors may not ask questions or speak on behalf of the person they are advising.

f. Both complainant and respondent will be required to attend all hearings of the case. If the respondent refuses to do so, she or he will be informed of the possibly damaging consequences to his/her case, especially in the giving up of direct access to testimony and evidence and the hearings will proceed in his or her absence. If the complainant refuses to do so without good cause, as determined by the panel, the panel may dismiss the complaint.

g. Persons called as witnesses shall be in the hearing room only during the time they are speaking. If the witness is no longer available to attend the hearing, as determined by the panel, his or her witness statement will be accepted in lieu of the interview.

h. The complainant, the respondent, and their advisers have the right to be present to hear all of the testimony presented to the panel. The meeting shall be closed to all but the VP, the panel, the complainant, the respondent, their advisors, and the witnesses during their interview.

i. The complainant and respondent may ask questions of each other and of the witnesses.  The VP will determine whether questions are irrelevant or otherwise inappropriate and his/her decisions will be final.

j. All speakers must be recognized by the VP. No interruptions will be tolerated, upon penalty of being excluded from the meeting.

k. Generally hearings will follow the order of business listed below, variations may occur depending on the circumstances of the individual cases:

  • Introductions
  • VP explains the process
  • Opening statement by complainant
  • Opening statement by the respondent
  • Panel questions the complainant
  • Panel questions the respondent
  • Complainant and respondent may ask questions of each other. If, prior to asking questions, the complainant and respondent request a brief (up to ten minutes) recess to consult with their advisors, this may be granted by the VP.
  • Witnesses are questioned
  • Questions from the parties and further questions from the panel
  • Final statement by complainant
  • Final statement by respondent
  • Dismissal of complainant, respondent, and advisors
  • Deliberation by the panel

l. At the conclusion of the hearing the panel will meet to complete its review of information and its consideration of the complaint.  The panel will report its findings of fact and its conclusions in writing. The VP will determine any penalties to be imposed, as provided below.  The panel will use a preponderance of the evidence standard to determine responsibility (i.e. it is more likely than not that the respondent was responsible for the prohibited behavior).

  • Written warning
  • Formal reprimand
  • Suspension without pay
    In the case of a faculty member, the VP will make this recommendation to the Advisory Committee on Appointments.
  • Termination of employment
    The VP will make this recommendation to the President for staff members or to the Advisory Committee on Appointments for faculty members.

m. The VP will report the resolution to both the complainant and respondent. This report will include the conclusions of the panel and, where appropriate, any actions taken or penalties imposed. The facts about individual cases and their disposition are confidential. This means that such information is shared by the college only on a bona fide need to know basis. The college reserves the right to correct misinformation that becomes public.

n. The college will strive to complete the investigation and hearing in a prompt manner, consistent with fairness.

7. If a complaint is made against the VP of Human Resources, the President will take on the roles normally played by the Director and the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees or his/her delegate will serve as the point of appeal. If a complaint is made against the President, the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees will be in charge of the process. If the complaint is made against the Director of Public Safety, the VP will designate an alternate employee to take on his/her responsibilities as described above.

8. Appeals

The complainant and the respondent have the right to appeal any action taken or penalty imposed to the President (or to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees if the complaint is made against the President.) The appeal must be filed within ten working days of receiving the decision. An appeal does not provide a rehearing of the case.

An appeal may be made on one of three grounds only:

  • Newly discovered evidence that was not available at the time of the hearing.
  • An error in procedure sufficient to warrant an overturn of the panel’s conclusion or a new hearing.
  • Inappropriate application of College rules, regulations or policies to the facts (This may include an appeal of the penalty imposed)

The President’s (or Chairman of the Board’s) response to an appeal may include without limitation one or more of the following: sending the case back to the panel for further review; ordering a new hearing; revising the penalty; setting aside the decision of the panel.

The decision of the President (or Chairman of the Board) is final.

9. Use of the internal procedure outlined above does not foreclose subsequent legal action.  Complainants and respondents may wish to obtain legal advice as they consider the course of action open to them. However, the proceedings described above are not those of a court of law and legal counsel will not be permitted to attend or participate in the process. The hearings will not be tape recorded, although members of the panel may take written notes.

10. Record keeping: A permanent written record of the formal complaint process and its outcome will be retained by the VP of Human Resources. This record will include the charge, all statements by complainant, respondent and witnesses, other documentation or evidence discovered by the investigation.  Notes taken by the individual panel members in the process of the panel investigation and hearing will not be maintained in the permanent record.

The VP will prepare an annual report for the Administrative Staff Committee on complaints made against staff members and for the General Committee and the Committee on Conditions of Teaching on complaints made against faculty members.  The report will include the number and type of complaints and, in general terms, their disposition.

Student Conduct Process

Please note: This information concerns the procedures involved in filing and addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints against faculty, staff, or student employees. For information on filing a complaint against a student, please visit the Student Conduct Process page.