Columbia University Gender-Based Misconduct Policy: Prohibited Conduct Basics

A routine question by students at Columbia University is what is the university’s gender-based misconduct policy and how does it relate to Title IX? A very broad question involving many answers, the first step in understanding Columbia University’s gender-based misconduct policy and procedures for students, whether one is enrolled at Columbia, Barnard College or Teachers College, is to first identify what constitutes prohibited conduct.

Although Barnard College has its own policies and procedures when an accused student is a respondent (defendant) and Columbia University’s gender-based misconduct policies and procedures apply where a Barnard student is the complainant, know that sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, dating violence and domestic violence are all prohibited both on and off campus. This is true whether the parties are of the same gender or different genders.

More specifically, any student is under the umbrella of the policy where an incident occurs on campus or in association with a Columbia University program or activity and creates a hostile environment for students who attend the university or the person who allegedly committed the offense is a current student, graduate or professional school enrollee. Should a violation occur or a complaint be made, Columbia University’s Gender-Based Misconduct Office is the hub where all of these violations of Title IX and the policy are managed. Further, students can directly contact the Title IX Coordinator at Columbia University, Barnard College or Teachers College. Again, depending on the students involved, which school they attend, and whether they are respondents or complainants, there are variations in procedures.

Irrespective of the procedure, the gender-based misconduct policy is fairly broad. Prohibited conduct includes coerced or forced sexual conduct, “consent” where there is intoxication and “consent” where a person is unconscious. Moreover, any type of intercourse, even as “insignificant” as a with one’s tongue or finger without affirmative consent will violate this policy if it involves vaginal, oral or anal penetration. However, intercourse is not required. Sexual assault includes contact for the purpose of sexual gratification without the consent of the recipient both under or on top of clothing to intimate body parts including the breasts and buttocks.

Beyond actual intercourse, touching or contact, any form of domestic violence, as defined by actual or threatened violence or sexual assault directed toward intimate partners, former spouses and a host of other people, is prohibited. Whether an offense is termed as “Dating Violence” or sexual exploitation, where in the latter scenario, for example, for his or her gain or pleasure a respondent records images of another person without their consent, Columbia University can potentially suspend or even expel a student. This is true irrespective of what, if anything, transpires in a criminal proceeding. At bottom, stalking, gender-based harassment, sexual harassment and creating a “hostile environment” in the context of sexual or gender-based harassment, are all actionable.

While the above definitions are not fully vetted here, future blog entries from the date of this posting and Saland Law PC’s New York College General Arrest & Disciplinary Hearing Information Page provide valuable insight into Title IX and gender-based misconduct terms, policies and procedures. Remember, while the legal bar is low for a adverse finding against the accused, both parties have rights at the university, during the Title IX process and if the allegations play out in Family or Criminal Court.

Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense and Title IX law firm representing students who are either victims or accused of violating policies at universities and colleges throughout the State of New York and other jurisdictions.

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