Sexual Harassment and Title IX


Request for Feedback

Do you believe you have been a victim of sexual misconduct? Whether or not you reported the incident to SUNY Oneonta, we’d like your opinion on how we can improve the effectiveness of our campus policies and procedures that address sexual misconduct. This request for feedback is part of SUNY Oneonta's continuing efforts to create a safe and welcoming environment for all students and employees. Please share your suggestions and/or feedback by making an appointment with Jennifer Westmoreland,Title IX Student Coordinator (119 Netzer Administration Building, 607-436-2835) or by sending your feedback via email to

Sexual Harassment

Unfortunately, sexual harassment is one form of harassment that exists on college campuses. The purpose of this page is to give you an overview of the topic and to provide some helpful resources. This behavior includes a wide variety of acts ranging from creating a sexually charged environment to outright sexual assault or other violence.

It is the policy of SUNY Oneonta to provide an environment where employees and students are free from harassment, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. No member or group of the SUNY Oneonta community shall harass another member or group. Additionally, sexual harassment is an unlawful offense as defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, and the New York State Executive Law. All SUNY Oneonta employees are required to attend sexual harassment trainings on an annual basis. These are provided in person and through online modules.

Within our university, a state of civility, trust, respect and openness among members of the campus community is indispensable to full pursuit of the mission of the institution. Harassment, including sexual harassment, breaks the bonds of civility, trust, respect and openness. Harassment creates a hostile environment. Harassment can be created by verbal, written, graphic or physical conduct that is severe, persistent and/or pervasive and interferes or limits the ability of a person to work or learn.

Sexual harassment includes repeated unwelcome and unwanted sexual advances, or sexual allusions, unwarranted references to sexuality or sexual activities, requests for sexual favors, and other speech or conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can occur among peers, supervisors and supervisees, faculty/staff and students.

Sexual Harassment in the Employment Setting

Sexual Harassment in the employment setting is defined as: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when any of the following occurs:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of an individual’s continued employment, promotion, or other condition of employment.
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting an employee or job applicant.
  3. Such conduct is intended to interfere, or results in interference, with an employee’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual Harassment in the Educational Setting

Sexual harassment in the educational setting is defined as: unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment of a student denies or limits, on the basis of sex, the student’s ability to participate in or to receive benefits, services, or opportunities in the educational institution’s program.

Types of Sexual Harassment:

There are two general types of sexual harassment:

Quid Pro Quo

Latin for "this for that," or "something for something," quid pro quo sexual harassment is when submission to sexual conduct is made a condition of employment or educational benefits. This applies when a person in a position of power. For example, a supervisor or faculty member makes decisions that affect an employee’s work or student’s grades/performance based on whether the employee or student complies with his or her sexual demands.

Quid pro quo harassment exists when certain statements are explicitly made, such as, "I'll give you a good grade/a good performance evaluation if you let me kiss you," or the more powerful person makes a threat, such as, "I'll fail you/fire you unless you go out with me." Quid pro quo harassment may also take a more subtle form.

Hostile Environment

This kind of harassment exists when there is unwelcome, pervasive or continuous harassment, including sexual harassment, that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment where one works or learns.

The perpetrator often creates a sexualized environment in which the victim does not function well, is afraid or is uncomfortable. This can be done, for example, by continually remarking on someone's body or clothing, by posting sexually explicit photos or by making sexually-oriented comments.

A peer, a superior or a subordinate can create a hostile environment. This applies when harassing behavior by anyone causes the work or classroom environment to become hostile, intimidating or offensive and unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work or student’s education.

The Sexual Harassment Policy is not intended to inhibit or prohibit professional judgment on the content and presentation of academic material.

Both the harasser and target of harassment can have varying identities on campus. Sometimes students may harass students. Staff and faculty may harass students or other staff. Students may establish a hostile environment for faculty and staff. Women or men may be harassers; men or women may be targets.

How to Get Help

Inquiries concerning the application of Title IX may be referred to the recipient’s Title IX coordinator or to OCR.

If something like this happens to you or to someone you know:

  • Document the incident(s), including dates, times, witnesses, and how you felt at the time.
  • Ask for help from the campus Affirmative Action Officer/Title IX Coordinator, who is charged with handling incidents of discrimination, including sexual harassment.
  • Contact the Health and Wellness Center at 607-436-3368

If there is an emergency, immediately contact University Police at 607-436- 3550

If you or a friend needs help right now, call the Violence Intervention Program's 24/7 Hotline at 607-432-4855. A hotline worker will guide you through your choices, which include: seeking medical attention, reporting the crime and finding a safe place to spend the night.

We always encourage victims to seek out third-party assistance. But if you would rather deal with the sexual harassment incident(s) on your own and can safely do so, take the following steps:

  • Talk to the offending person honestly and directly, stating that the behavior is offensive and unacceptable and that you want it to stop. Only use this tactic if you are sure this can be done in a safe manner. This is not appropriate in situations involving sexual assault or violence.
  • Keep a record of when and where offenses occur and write down exactly what happened.
  • Talk to friends or others you trust.
  • Share your story; get support.

Your Rights

You control the process of the sexual harassment complaint to the extent possible by law and SUNY Oneonta policy. You did not cause the harassment and are undeserving of blame. Title IX requires SUNY Oneonta to take certain actions to protect victims of sexual harassment/discrimination. The Office of Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education published a "Dear Colleague Letter" in April 2011 which gave its most up to date guidance on the requirements and responsibilities under Title IX.

Inquiries concerning the application of Title IX may be referred to SUNY Oneonta Interim Title IX coordinator Jennifer Westmoreland or to the Office of Civil Rights.


How Does Title IX Apply to Sexual Harassment and Assault?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. All public and private elementary and secondary schools, school districts, colleges, and universities (hereinafter “schools”) receiving any Federal funds must comply with Title IX. Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.

Below is additional information regarding the specific requirements of Title IX as they pertain to sexual harassment and sexual violence.

What are a school’s responsibilities to address sexual harassment and sexual violence?

A school has a responsibility to respond promptly and effectively. If a school knows or reasonably should know about sexual harassment or sexual violence that creates a hostile environment, the school must take immediate action to eliminate the sexual harassment or sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.

Even if a student or his or her parent does not want to file a complaint or does not request that the school take any action on the student’s behalf, if a school knows or reasonably should know about possible sexual harassment or sexual violence, it must promptly investigate to determine what occurred and then take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.

A criminal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment or sexual violence does not relieve the school of its duty under Title IX to resolve complaints promptly and equitably.

What procedures must a school have in place to prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence and resolve complaints?

  • Every school must have and distribute a policy against sex discrimination.
    • Title IX requires that each school publish a policy that it does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs and activities. This notice must be widely distributed and available on an on-going basis.
    • The policy must state that inquiries concerning Title IX may be referred to the school’s Title IX coordinator or to OCR.
  • Every school must have a Title IX coordinator.
    • Every school must designate at least one employee who is responsible for coordinating the school’s compliance with Title IX. This person is sometimes referred to as the Title IX coordinator. Schools must notify all students and employees of the name or title and contact information of the Title IX coordinator.
    • The coordinator’s responsibilities include overseeing all complaints of sex discrimination and identifying and addressing any patterns or systemic problems that arise during the review of such complaints.
  • Every school must have and make known procedures for students to file complaints of sex discrimination.
    • Title IX requires schools to adopt and publish grievance procedures for students to file complaints of sex discrimination, including complaints of sexual harassment or sexual violence. Schools can use general disciplinary procedures to address complaints of sex discrimination. But all procedures must provide for prompt and equitable resolution of sex discrimination complaints.
    • Every complainant has the right to present his or her case. This includes the right to adequate, reliable, and impartial investigation of complaints, the right to have an equal opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence, and the right to the same appeal processes, for both parties.
    • Every complainant has the right to be notified of the time frame within which: (a) the school will conduct a full investigation of the complaint; (b) the parties will be notified of the outcome of the complaint; and (c) the parties may file an appeal, if applicable.
    • Every complainant has the right for the complaint to be decided using a preponderance of the evidence standard (i.e., it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred).
    • Every complainant has the right to be notified, in writing, of the outcome of the complaint. Even though federal privacy laws limit disclosure of certain information in disciplinary proceedings:
      • Schools must disclose to the complainant information about the sanction imposed on the perpetrator when the sanction directly relates to the harassed student. This includes an order that the harasser stay away from the harassed student, or that the harasser is prohibited from attending school for a period of time, or transferred to other classes or another residence hall.
      • Additionally, the Clery Act (20 U.S.C. §1092(f)), which only applies to postsecondary institutions, requires that both parties be informed of the outcome, including sanction information, of any institutional proceeding alleging a sex offense. Therefore, colleges and universities may not require a complainant to abide by a non-disclosure agreement, in writing or otherwise.
  • The grievance procedures may include voluntary informal methods (e.g., mediation) for resolving some types of sexual harassment complaints. However, the complainant must be notified of the right to end the informal process at any time and begin the formal stage of the complaint process. In cases involving allegations of sexual assault, mediation is not appropriate.

What will happen if I go to the AAO/Title IX Coordinator?

Upon initial consultation with the Affirmative Action Officer/Title IX coordinator, your options will be explained. To the extent practicable, confidentiality will be protected. The institution will take appropriate action if retaliation is threatened.

You are entitled to have someone go through the process with you to provide you with support and guidance. This is one of the roles of the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator can help accommodate victims, with actions such as modifying residential arrangements or class schedules or offering an escort or other assistance.

After an initial consultation, the issue may be resolved through discussions or mediation, without the filing of a complaint. The AAO/TIXC will assist in this process.

The victim may also choose at the time of the initial consultation to file an informal or formal complaint against the respondent. These complaints would be handled according to SUNY Oneonta’s grievance procedure (or in the case of student-student complaints through the Student Conduct process.) Complaints should be filed within 90 days of the incident.

How to make an informal complaint

  1. Talk to the Affirmative Action Officer in confidence.
  2. The Affirmative Action Officer shall assess the harassment/sexual harassment claim, and if informal resolution is possible, the Officer will work with the parties involved to resolve it.
  3. Tell the AAO how you would like the situation handled. Some possibilities are:
    1. The AAO can talk to the person accused and explain why the behavior is unacceptable.
    2. The AAO can help you write a letter to the person accused.
    3. The AAO can suggest supportive counseling for you and/or remedial counseling for the person accused.
    4. The AAO can meet with the person accused and their department chair or supervisor to discuss the behavior.
    5. Mediated discussion may lead to a verbal or written agreement by the parties.
    6. A letter describing a meeting in which the person accused is prohibited from certain behaviors can be placed in the file of the person accused, with their knowledge.
  4. If a satisfactory resolution is reached within 24 calendar days from the filing of the complaint, through voluntary informal resolution, the case shall be closed and written notices will be sent to the Complainant and the Respondent.

If the informal complaint cannot be resolved between the parties within 24 days, the AAO will notify the complainant of their right to file a formal complaint.

How to make a formal complaint

This process begins by filing a complaint form (available from the Affirmative Action Office 133-B Netzer Administration Building). The complaint is forwarded to the Affirmative Action Advisory Convener (the Affirmative Action Officer), who then notifies the Complainant, the Respondent, and the University President, that the investigation of the complaint shall be conducted by a Tripartite Panel. The selection of the Tripartite Panel shall be completed within 10 calendar days from the date in which the Complainant, Respondent, and the University President were notified.

This Panel shall be composed of one member selected by the Complainant, one selected by the Respondent, and the third member is chosen by two selected members of the Tripartite Panel. The three-member Panel will choose one of its members to act as the Chair of the Tripartite Panel.

The Tripartite Panel shall review all relevant information, interview witnesses, and hear testimony from the Complainant and Respondent. Within 48 calendar days from the selection of the Panel, the Tripartite Chairperson shall submit a report which includes the findings and recommendations for resolution to the University President, the Complainant, and the Affirmative Action Officer.

Within 24 calendar days of the submission of the Panel’s report, the University President will issue a written statement indicating the action he or she proposes to take. The action taken by the University President is final.

In the case that the University President is the Respondent, then the Chancellor will decide the action to be taken to address the sexual harassment claim.

If the complainant is dissatisfied with the University President’s or Chancellor’s decision, the Complainant may choose to file a complaint with New York Human Rights Commission or a federal agency. The Complainant may choose to file with an outside agency at any time. If an internal procedure has begun, this process will stop when a complaint is filed with an outside agency.


If you have been a victim of sexual harassment or sexual violence, there are many options for places to turn for help. The Title IX Coordinator can offer assistance and refer you to other internal or external offices for additional help.

Do not be afraid to approach the AAO/Title IX Office. SUNY Oneonta is obligated to ensure that this is a community free of harassment and to address any allegations of the same. Confidentiality will be maintained to the highest degree possible.

If an employee has been the victim of sexual harassment, Title VII may have been violated. If a student has been the victim of sexual harassment, there may have been a violation of Title IX. As the Title IX Coordinator on campus, this office is responsible for coordinating the proper response to sexual harassment.

Although complaints of harassment between two students are handled by the Student Conduct office, the AAO is still a valuable resource of information for victims of that type of harassment. The AAO office welcomes all inquiries.

Back to top