Discrimination and Harassment
I. Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action is responsible for monitoring the college’s compliance with federal and state nondiscrimination laws, assisting with all aspects of reported violations of the college’s Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment, investigating complaints, and managing the informal and formal grievance process. The college encourages those who have witnessed or experienced any form of discrimination or harassment to report the incident promptly, to seek all available assistance, and to pursue informal or formal resolution processes as described in this Policy.
As discussed below, individuals who wish to report a concern, seek guidance or assistance, or file a formal grievance may do so by contacting the Director of Equal Opportunity for matters involving students, administrators or staff members and the Faculty Director of Affirmative Action for matters involving faculty. Individuals may also report a concern to a dean or director, an academic department chair or program director, an athletic coach or trainer, human resources, or a senior officer, who are mandated to consult immediately with the EO/AA Office to determine the best course of action for addressing concerns.
Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
Vassar College, Box 645
124 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, New York 12604-0645
Phone: (845) 437-7924
Fax: (845) 437-5715
Director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative
Action/Title IX Coordinator
Faculty Director of Affirmative Action and Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies
Brittney L. Denley
Associate Director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action/Title IX
EXTERNAL REPORTING OPTIONS: Individuals with complaints of this nature also have the right to seek recourse from outside of the college by filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, the NY State Division of Human Rights or federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (employees).
U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, Headquarters
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-1100
Customer Service Hotline #: (800) 421-3481
Facsimile: (202) 453-6012
TTY#: (800) 877-8339
Office for Civil Rights, New York Office
U. S. Department of Education
32 Old Slip, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10005-2500
Telephone: (646) 428-3800
Facsimile: (646) 428-3843
New York State Division of Human Rights
Phone: (888) 392-3644
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
New York District Office
33 Whitehall Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10004
ASL Video Phone: 844-234-5122
II. POLICY AGAINST DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT
A. Policy Statement
Vassar is committed to the principles of integrity in an academic community, as articulated in the statement on civility and responsibility. Vassar’s policy is to prohibit discrimination or harassment in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarships and loan programs, athletics programs, or other College programs and activities, and of its faculty, administration, staff, students, or visitors.
The College prohibits discrimination on based on an individual’s actual or perceived race, color, religion or religious belief, citizenship status, sex, marital status, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, military status or affiliation, predisposing genetic information/characteristics, familial status, domestic violence victim status, age, other characteristic protected by law, or participation in activities protected by law.
The Vassar College Office Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) oversees, facilitates and supports the college’s efforts to ensure equal opportunity for all persons regardless of protected characteristics and participation in protected activities in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions.
B. Scope of Policy
This policy prohibits discrimination against or harassment of members of the College community and guests. Its scope includes, but is not limited to, any individuals regularly or temporarily employed, studying, living, visiting, or having any official capacity at Vassar College (such as volunteers and contractors).
The filing of a complaint under this policy is independent of any external investigation or court proceeding. The College will not necessarily wait for the conclusion of any external investigation or proceeding before commencing its own investigation or proceeding and taking immediate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of members of the College community. An allegation of discrimination or harassment is not proof of prohibited conduct, and a claim will not be taken into account during performance review, promotion, reappointment, or other evaluation unless a final determination has been made that this policy has been violated or an agreement has been reached as part of an informal resolution process. If necessary and appropriate, decisions regarding extension, reappointment, or promotion may be deferred, in accordance with this policy, until any allegation is resolved.
C. Relationship to Academic Freedom and Responsibility
As articulated in the Vassar College Statement on Academic Freedom, Vassar is dedicated to freedom of inquiry in the pursuit of truth and is vigilant in defending the right of individuals to free speech. This may include the introduction and discussion of controversial and challenging matters both within and beyond the classroom. However, discrimination and harassment are neither legally protected nor excused by reference to academic freedom or freedom of speech.
Discrimination is any distinction, preference, advantage for, or detriment to an individual compared to others that is based on an individual’s actual or perceived race, color, religion or religious belief, citizenship status, sex, marital status, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, military status or affiliation, predisposing genetic information/characteristics, familial status, domestic violence victim status, age, or other characteristic protected by law that adversely affects a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a College activity, or is used as the basis for, or a factor in, decisions affecting that individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a College activity.
Discriminatory Harassment is unwelcome conduct directed toward an individual based on an individual’s actual or perceived race, color, religion or religious belief, citizenship status, sex, marital status, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gen- der identity or expression, national origin, military status or affiliation, predisposing genetic information/characteristics, familial status, domestic violence victim status, age, or other characteristic protected by law, that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or educational performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive, or abusive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a College activity. Harassment needs only to rise above the threshold of petty slights or trivial inconveniences.
Retaliation is a form of unlawful discrimination, which includes intentional action taken by an individual or allied third party as reprisal for engaging in a “protected activity,” that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or educational performance; or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive, or abusive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living environment; and/or participation in a College activity. Protected activities for which protections apply, include but are not limited to:
Reporting, making a complaint, participating in an investigation or grievance proceeding or for assisting in any such proceeding.
Communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment
Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others
Requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
Asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.
Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, intimidation, coercion, harassment, making threats, and any other adverse educational or employment action. Retaliation should be reported promptly to the EO/AA Office for investigation, which may result in disciplinary action independent of any sanction or interim measures imposed in response to any underlying allegations of discrimination and/or harassment.
Retaliatory Harassment is intentional action taken by an individual or allied third party, absent legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons, that harms an individual as reprisal for engaging in a “protected activity.” Harassment needs only to rise above the threshold of petty slights or trivial inconveniences. Protected activities for which anti-retaliation protections apply, include but are not limited to:
- Communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment
- Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
- Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others
- Requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
- Asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.
Sexual Harassment: unwelcome conduct, that does not fall under the Vassar College Title IX Policy, which is either of a sexual nature, or which is directed at an individual because of that individual’s sex that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or educational performance; or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive, or abusive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living environment; and/or participation in a College activity. This includes harassment on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, self-identified or perceived sex, gender expression, gender identity and the status of being transgender. Harassment needs only to rise above the threshold of petty slights or trivial inconveniences.
The College’s policy on sexual misconduct may also apply when sexual harassment involves physical contact. Examples of sexual harassment can include, but are not limited to:
Egregious, unwanted sexual attention or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature;
Implied or overt threats of punitive action resulting from rejection of sexual advances
Conditioning a benefit on an individual’s acceding to sexual advances/making such assent a term or condition of employment (either explicitly or implicitly)
Unwelcome, sexually explicit messages, statements, or materials;
Attempting to coerce an unwilling person into a romantic or sexual relationship;
Intimate partner violence;
Stalking, including cyberstalking; and
Sexual harassment can occur between any individuals, regardless of their sex or gender. New York Law protects employees, paid or unpaid interns, and non-employees, including independent contractors, and those employed by companies contracting to provide services in the workplace. Harassers can be a superior, a subordinate, a coworker or anyone in the workplace including an independent contractor, contract worker, vendor, client, customer or visitor. The unwelcome behavior may be based on power differentials, the creation of a hostile environment, or retaliation.
Sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue.
To make a report of sexual harassment, please feel free to contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action/Title IX or submit an submit an online report. To file a complaint, please see complaint procedures below.
III. Complaint Procedure
The College has two approaches for resolving complaints of alleged discrimination and harassment: informal resolution and the formal grievance processes. Informal resolution efforts and the formal grievance processes are not mutually exclusive, and neither is a prerequisite for the other. Moreover, the informal resolution process may be ended at any time in order to initiate a formal complaint.
Individuals who believe that they have been victims of sexual or some other form of harassment can contact an EO/AA officer who will meet with them to hear their concerns and review available options for informal and formal resolution. Discussing a concern does not commit one to making a formal charge. However, an individual reporting harassment should be aware that the College may decide that it is necessary to take action to address the harassment beyond an informal discussion.
The College encourages the prompt reporting of any potential violations of this policy so that it can take appropriate steps to maintain an environment free of harassment and can ensure that its procedures are effective. While no fixed reporting period has been established, early reporting and intervention has proven to be the most effective method of resolving actual or perceived incidents of sexual and other forms of harassment.
A. Informal Resolution: Seeking Mediation
- Whenever possible and perceived to be safe by all parties, informal resolution is encouraged but is not required. Informal resolution efforts may include, but are not limited to, presentation by complainant of her or his concerns and desired outcome to the respondent in writing or in a meeting convened by the EO/AA office, or mediated discussion between the complainant and respondent.
- In cases of requests for mediation, the EO/AA officer(s) will assess the situation to determine whether mediation is appropriate and whether it will be conducted by a trained mediator, and/or in the presence of EO/AA officer(s), supervisor, dean, senior officer, human resources administrator, or other appropriate member of the College community. The complainant and the respondent may refuse mediation or may end mediation at any time. No adverse inference is to be drawn from either decision. Mediation is never appropriate in cases of alleged sexual assault. The EO/AA Office will document all informal resolution efforts.
Informal resolution outcomes may include, but are not limited to,
- Explicit agreements about future conduct;
- Changes in the working, learning, or living environment;
- Targeted educational and training programs; and
- Other forms of corrective action, as appropriate.
B. Formal Grievance Process
A formal grievance process may be initiated by meeting in person with the EO/AA Officer or, for matters involving the faculty, the Faculty Director of Affirmative Action, or by writing to the EO/AA Office. The College strongly encourages submission of grievances in writing after a grievance is initiated through an in-person meeting. The formal grievance should be emailed to email@example.com. It may also be handdelivered, or sent by certified mail to the attention of either the Faculty Director of Affirmative Action or the EO/AA officer, as appropriate, at: Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, Vassar College, Campus Box 645, 124 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie NY 12604-0645. A formal grievance must identify and include the following information:
- Complainant’s signature and the date signed;
- Name of the respondent, their position or status, and contact information, if known;
- Clear and concise description of the alleged incident(s), and when and where it occurred;
- Description of all informal efforts, if any, to resolve the issue(s) with the person involved. This includes names, dates, and times of attempted or actual contact along with a description of the discussion and the manner of communication made in the course of each effort;
- Supporting documentation and evidence; and
- Names of witnesses or individuals who may have direct and relevant information about the specific allegation (with accompanying addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers.)
The privacy of all parties to a complaint will be respected, except insofar as it interferes with the College’s investigative, grievance, and appeal processes as described in this document. Dissemination of information and/or written materials to persons not involved in the complaint procedure is not permitted except to those listed in Section IX of this policy. Violations of privacy of the complainant, the respondent, support persons, or parties to the investigation by any member of the EOAA office or any member of an investigative, grievance, or appeal panel may lead to disciplinary action by the College.
The EO/AA Office will investigate any reported grievances regarding harassment or discrimination promptly and impartially. The investigation may include, but is not limited to, individual interviews with the parties involved and, where necessary, with individuals who may have observed the alleged conduct or may have other knowledge relevant to the investigation. Based on the investigation, the EO/AA Office will determine if there is sufficient evidence to support reasonable cause. The Office will inform the complainant and respondent of the outcome of the investigation and provide a summary of the investigative process, determination, and possible sanctions if appropriate. At this point, both parties may accept or reject the outcome and determination(s) of the investigation. If both parties accept a determination that there is insufficient evidence to support reasonable cause, then the case is closed. If both parties accept a determination that there is sufficient evidence to support reasonable cause, then the respondent’s senior officer will assign sanctions and take corrective action designed to end the discrimination or harassment, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects on the complainant and the College communit y. A finding of the EO/AA Office that is accepted by both parties is final. Either the complainant or the respondent may reject the determination of the initial investigation, in part or entirely, and request a grievance hearing by sending a written request to the EO/AA Office within five (5) business days of receiving the written decision. The preferred mode of delivery for the grievance panel request is via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It may also be hand- delivered, or sent by certified mail to the attention of either the Facult y Director of Affirmative Action or the EO/AA officer, as appropriate, at: Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, Vassar College, Campus Box 645, 124 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie NY 12604-0645.
Upon receipt of a written request, the College will act expeditiously to convene a grievance hearing panel, ordinarily within ten (10) business days. The panel ordinarily is chaired by the respondent’s senior officer when there is no conflict of interest as determined by the EO/AA officer(s) in consultation with the President. The hearing panel will review testimony from the complainant, the respondent, and any other relevant witnesses and will consider the determination of the investigation and any documentary evidence that the EO/AA officer(s) and the panel may deem appropriate. The determination of the initial investigation by the EO/AA office will be forwarded to, but is not binding on, the members of the panel.
The panel convened to hear a formal grievance against a student is the College Regulations Panel. All applicable College Regulations rules and procedures for the hearing will be applied. The Grievance Hearing Panel (hereafter the “panel”) convened to hear a formal grievance against a member of the faculty is composed of three voting members of the faculty and the panel convened to hear a grievance against a member of the administration is composed of three administrators. In consultation with the EO/AA Officer, the Chair appoints an appropriate panel from a pool of trained faculty and administrators who are of equivalent or higher rank than the respondent to the grievance.
In the case of a formal grievance against an EO/AA officer in the performance of their duties, the grievance will be forwarded to the President who will investigate (or assign an investigator) and render a decision as to whether there has been a violation of the Policy. A decision may be appealed to the Chair of the Board of Trustees in accordance with the grounds for appeal outlined below. In the case of a formal grievance against a senior officer, the EO/AA Office will forward the grievance to the President who will investigate (or assign an investigator) and render a decision as to whether there has been a violation of this policy. A decision may be appealed to the Chair of the Board of Trustees in accordance with the grounds for appeal outlined below. In the case of a formal grievance against the President, the EO/AA Office will forward the grievance to the Chair of the Board of Trustees who will investigate (or assign an investigator) and render a decision as to whether there has been a violation of the Policy. The decision rendered by the Chair of the Board of Trustees is binding and final.
Determination of the Panel
The Panel will deliberate in private session and will decide by closed vote whether a violation of the College’s Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment and/or other College policies has occurred, based on the preponderance of the evidence. The Chair does not vote. A decision that a violation has occurred requires majorit y agreement among the members eligible to vote.
In the case of a determination of a violation, the Chair will determine the appropriate remedy or sanction, in consultation with the Panel, except where the appropriate remedy or sanction may require changes to the procedures or conduct of a facult y review.
A written summary of the decision, prepared by the Chair, will be conveyed to the complainant, the respondent, and the EO/AA Office, ordinarily either within ten (10) business days after deliberations have been completed or, in cases that require consultation of the Faculty Appeal Committee, within thirt y (30) business days after deliberations have been completed.
The College will impose prompt remedial and/or disciplinary action against any respondent found to have violated this policy. Responsive action may include, for example, targeted educational and training programs; the development and enforcement of explicit contractual agreements about future conduct; changes in the working, learning, or living environment; formal censure; reassignment or removal from an appointed position; suspension or expulsion; termination of employment; or other measures as the College believes will be effective in ending the misconduct and correcting the effects of the harassment.
Time Frame and Grounds for Filing a Request for Appeal
Either party (complainant or respondent) may appeal the determination and/or sanctions of the Panel within five (5) business days of receiving the written decision by delivering a signed and dated appeal by hand or by certified mail to the Office of Equal Opportunit y and Affirmative Action, Vassar College, Box 645, 124 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie NY 12604-0645 or by email to email@example.com.
Dissatisfaction with the outcome of the hearing is not grounds for appeal. The only grounds for appeal are as follows:
- Procedural error(s) that substantially affected the outcome of the hearing (e.g., substantiated bias or material deviations from established procedures that resulted in significant prejudice);
- New evidence unavailable at the time of the original hearing or investigation that could substantially alter the outcome of the hearing. A summary of this new evidence and its potential impact must be included;
- Sanction(s) that are disproportionate to the severity of the violation and substantially outside the parameters set by the College.
In any request for an appeal, the burden of proof lies with the part y requesting the appeal, as the original determination and sanction are presumed to have been decided reasonably and appropriately.
Sanctions will take effect immediately, notwithstanding an appeal. A request may be made to the hearing panel chair to defer the effective date of sanctions in exigent circumstances. In cases where the appeal results in reinstatement to the institution or of privileges, all reasonable attempts will be made to restore the individual to their prior status, recognizing that some opportunities may be irretrievable in the short term.
The EO/AA Office will provide a copy of the appeal to the other part y, who may file a response within ten (10) business days. All appeals and responses are then forwarded to the appropriate appeal body for initial review. If the appeal body determines that the appeal meets the limited grounds and is timely, the documentation is taken under consideration.
If the respondent in the original complaint is a faculty member, the elected facult y Appeal Committee hears all appeals, except for appeals of a remedy or sanctions determined by the Appeal Committee itself, which are heard by the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees. If the respondent in the original complaint is a student, the College Regulations Appeal Panel, chaired by the Dean of the College, hears all appeals. If the respondent in the original complaint is a non-faculty employee, the vice president for finance and administration hears all appeals unless the initial grievance panel was chaired by the vice president for finance and administration. In this case, the president appoints another senior officer to hear the appeal.
Determination by Appeal Bodies
The appeal body ordinarily will render a written decision within seven (7) business days from the hearing of the appeal. The appeal body may take the following actions:
- Determine that new evidence raised on appeal should be considered and return the complaint to the original hearing panel to reconsider in light of the new evidence only.
- Determine that a material procedural or substantive error occurred, and return the complaint to the original hearing body with instructions to reconvene to address the error. In rare cases, where the procedural or substantive error cannot be addressed by the original hearing body (as in cases of bias), the appeal body may order a new hearing on the complaint with a newly constituted grievance hearing panel.
- Determine that the sanctions imposed are disproportionate to the severity of the violation and substantially outside the parameters set by the College. The appeal body will return the complaint to the Chair/senior officer of the Grievance Hearing Panel, who may then increase, decrease, or otherwise modify the sanctions.
- Deny the request for appeal.
 “Reasonable cause” is the preferred usage in civil cases and refers to inferences that can be drawn from specific and articulable facts
 The term “business days” refers to College business days when the College is in operation not including holidays or academic/institutional recesses
 If a remedy or sanction may require changes to the procedures or conduct of a faculty review for extension, reappointment, tenure, promotion, or post-tenure review, then, following the determination that a violation occurred, the case is referred to the faculty Appeal Committee by the EO/AA office and the Dean of the Faculty. Based on the investigation and determination of the Panel, the Appeal Committee decides what changes, if any, to established review procedures are necessary to address the determination. While responding fully to the determination, the Appeal Committee strives to maintain the normal review process to the extent possible. The Appeal Committee may consult with the Faculty Policy and Conference Committee for clarification in weighing the effects of changes it is considering or in determining what established review procedures are.
The Appeal Committee provides a written statement of its decision to the President. Upon the approval of the President, the decision of the Appeal Committee is forwarded to Dean of the Faculty who incorporates it without change into any other sanctions or remedy. If the President objects to portions of the decision of the Appeal Committee, then the President asks the committee to reconsider those portions, explaining their concerns in writing and in a formal meeting with the committee. If the President still objects to the reconsidered decision, the matter is transmitted to the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees, whose decision is final. In cases where the Appeal Committee decides that all or part of a past negative review must be repeated, it may also recommend to the President that the complainant receive a contract for a supplemental year. The President issues any specific instructions necessary to implement the decision of the Appeal Committee.
IV. False and Malicious Complaints
False and malicious accusations of harassment or discrimination, as opposed to complaints that, even if erroneous, are made in good faith, may be the subject of appropriate disciplinary action.
V. RECORD RETENTION FOR DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT COMPLAINTS
The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action is responsible for maintaining records relating to discrimination and harassment reports, investigations, and resolutions. Records will also be maintained in accordance with College records policies, generally for at least seven (7) years after the date the complaint is resolved. Records may be maintained longer at the discretion of the EO/AA officer in cases where the parties have a continuing affiliation with the College. All records pertaining to pending litigation or a request for records will be maintained in accordance with instructions from legal counsel.
VI. Support Resources
Support Person/Advisor: The complainant and the respondent each may have a support person/advisor of their choosing present with them during any investigatory meeting and resolution processes to provide advisement/moral sup.port. The support person/advisor cannot be a party to the grievance or serve as a potential witness. Otherwise, there is no restriction regarding who may serve as a support person. A support person will limit their role in meetings/hearings to that of a support person to the complainant or the respondent. That is, a support person will have no speaking role at meetings/hearings. Witnesses and others involved in an investigation are not entitled to have a support person.
Private Resources: A student may seek assistance from campus “private resources” without starting a formal process. These resources focus primarily on advocacy and support for students impacted by gender-based discrimination including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of sexual misconduct.
The following individuals are designated as “private resources:”
Student Fellows & House Student Advisors
Support, Advocacy, and Violence Prevention (SAVP) Director and Program Coordinator; (845) 437-7863
Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Advocates, (845) 437-7333 and ask for SART
Neither the college nor the law requires private resources to divulge personally identifiable information except in certain circumstances as described below. Some of these resources may need to share incident reports with their supervisors, but they will not share any personally identifiable information about the student’s report unless the student gives permission, except in the rare event that the incident reveals an imminent need to protect the student or other members of the community. If any personally identifiable information must be shared, the student will be informed, and it will only be shared as necessary with as few people as possible and making every effort to protect the student’s privacy.
Confidential Resources: Students who desire that details of an incident be kept confidential should speak with mental health counselors, medical providers, or members of the clergy. These persons are not required to disclose information unless there is a concern for imminent health and safety of the student or others. Students may also seek confidential support from off-campus resources, such as a rape crisis center counselor.
On-Campus Resources for Students
Counseling Service, (845) 437-5700
Health Services, (845) 437-5800
Poughkeepsie Center for Victim Safety & Support 24/7, (845) 452-7272
New York State Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Hotline, 24/7, (800) 942-6906
Legal Counsel: It is the reporting individual’s and the respondent’s decision whether to seek the advice and assistance of an attorney, at their own expense, if they desire legal advice. Although anyone has the right to seek legal advice, and legal counsel may act as a support person/advisor, neither the complainant nor the respondent may be represented by legal counsel at investigatory interviews, informal resolution processes, or college administrative hearings.
VII. Bias Incident and Hate Crime Protocol
Vassar College strives to provide educational, working, and living environments free from discrimination, harassment, intolerance, and hate. Such behavior will not be tolerated. The purpose of bias incident and hate crime protocol is to provide information about responding to bias incidents or hate crimes that occur on campus and to outline the procedures and resources available to members of the Vassar College community. It is not the purpose or the intent of this protocol to define whether or not an act may violate Vassar College regulations or state or federal law.
A. New York State Hate Crimes Act of 2000 (Article 485)
Federal and state statutes on hate crime vary in terms of the acts and categories of bias that are covered. Under New York State law, a hate crime is committed when a person commits a specified offense and either (1) intentionally selects the person against whom the offense is committed or intended to be committed, or (2) intentionally commits the act or acts because of a belief or perception of the person’s or group’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct. When a person is convicted of a hate crime pursuant to Article 485, the law provides for the level of a hate crime to be deemed one category higher than the specified offense, when that specified offense is a misdemeanor or a class C, D, or E felony. When the specified offense is a class B or A-1 felony, the term of sentence is enhanced.
B. Reporting a Bias Incident or Hate Crime
Vassar strongly encourages the reporting of all hate crimes and bias incidents that occur on campus or at college-sponsored events or activities occurring off campus. A bias incident is characterized as a behavior or act—verbal, written, or physical—which is personally directed against or targets an individual or group based on perceived or actual characteristics such as race, color, religious belief, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national or ethnic origin, disability, veteran status, or age. Behavior reflecting bias may constitute a violation of Vassar College regulations. The kinds of incidents that may constitute a bias incident include, but are not limited to, threatening telephone calls or mail (including electronic mail), graffiti, postings on social media, physical assault, sexual assault or abuse, stalking, vandalism, destruction of personal property, harassment, or coercion.
Safety: CALL SAFETY AND SECURITY AT (845) 437-7333 IF YOU ARE DEALING WITH AN EMERGENCY SITUATION OR TO REPORT A CRIME IN PROGRESS. Vassar College considers personal safety and wellbeing to be of the utmost importance in the handling of all bias incidents and hate crime reports. Incidents that threaten, result in, or potentially could result in physical harm or violence should be reported immediately to the Vassar Safety and Security Department, (845) 437-7333.
Privacy: Every effort will be made to protect the identity of individuals involved, and to maintain the level of privacy requested by the reporting party. Persons reporting an incident may self-identify or remain anonymous. Anonymous reporting, however, may impact the college’s ability to respond or pursue appropriate action against the alleged perpetrators. Information about an incident may be disclosed (i.e., nature of the incident, location of incident, etc.) in the form of safety announcements, summary report updates, or as required by law.
Documenting the Incident: Target person(s) or witnesses should immediately document what happened and report the incident as soon as possible. When documenting the incident:
- Provide a detailed account of the incident including date, time, and location.
- Do not remove or tamper with physical evidence. Contact Vassar Security to document and collect physical evidence.
- If the incident involves a verbal act, write down exactly what was said to the best of your recollection.
- Identify the perpetrator(s) if known or provide a detailed description of the individual(s) involved.
- List all witnesses including their names and contact information.
- Include other pertinent information that may assist Vassar in responding to the incident.
Documenting Graffiti, Vandalism, Telephone, Email, or Public Postings: Take the following actions, depending on the form of the incident: Filing a Report: You may file an online written report with the Bias Incident and Response Team (BIRT) from the web pages of the offices Campus Life and Diversity or Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. You may also contact those offices directly. In the event of an emergency, you may email any adminis.trator or contact Safety and Security. Students may also report an incident to a house advisor through the 24-hour administrator-on-call system. These offices and officers of the college are required to report all bias complaints that come to their attention. Individuals may still request that their complaint be anonymous. For more information about bias crimes or on or off-campus resources, please contact the Dean of the College.
- Graffiti, vandalism, or public postings: Security will document it for evidence and take responsibility for ensuring its prompt removal.
- Email: Keep the email in your inbox. Do not delete, alter, or forward the message. Contact Safety and Security, (845) 437-7333, to inform them of the email. Safety and Security will contact appropriate campus officials to investigate the source.
- Telephone call: Do not engage in or encourage conversation. Report all harassing calls to Security, (845) 437-7333. Record the time and date of the call, and keep a record of the telephone number if you have caller ID. Security will work with telecommunications to trace the call. Do not leave identifying information, such as your name and phone number, on your answering machine or cell voice message. If you have received repeated calls, record a message similar to: “I’m sorry we cannot come to the phone right now. We are receiving harassing calls and the phone company has a tap on this line.” For calls on your Vassar line, depress the hook switch and dial *(2). This will help to trace the call.
IX. Dean of the College Division Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT
The Dean of the College’s division Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) may be convened to ensure that affected students have access to appropriate resources, to assist the division in its response, and to facilitate a coordinated campus response to bias-related incidents and situations that may impact campus climate. Coordinated responses may include, but are not limited to, identification of and referral to appropriate support services and resources (on– or off–campus), informal resolution measures such as mediation, facilitated dialogue between parties, facilitated discussions in residence halls or other campus locations, recommendations for campus notices for fact sharing, and efforts towards wider educational awareness, prevention, and outreach. In the case of a potential violation of College Regulations, the Bias Incident Response Team does not play a role in the investigation of alleged incidents or play a role in separate adjudication and conduct processes where warranted.
A. Responsibilities of the BIRT
Supporting affected persons through referrals on and off-campus.
Determining a plan of action in response to the incident, in consultation with the affected person(s) and necessary college officials and/or departments.
Assessing community impact of the incident by paying attention to principal parties involved as well as those connected to the principal parties.
Disseminating accurate information to the affected person(s) and the larger campus community, as appropriate.
Identifying other campus resources beyond BIRT for addressing an incident.
Recommending channels for educational outreach and prevention.
B. Standing Members of the BIRT
The associate dean of the college for campus life and diversity, who serves as the coordinator; a member of the teaching faculty (house fellow); the associate dean of the college; the director of equal opportunity and/or the faculty director of affirmative action; one representative each from Safety and Security, Residential Life, and the Counseling Service; a representative from the Office of Communications; representatives from the Campus Life and Diversity (ALANA, International Services, LGBTQ, Religious and Spiritual Life, Women’s Center); the VSA Vice President for Student Life, and other members of the Vassar community as appropriate.
C. Role of the BIRT Coordinator
The associate dean of the college for campus life, through the BIRT team, will coordinate the Dean of the College Division’s efforts to respond to bias-related incidents. The associate dean may convene the core group of BIRT members as soon as possible to determine initial steps, and to identify additional offices or members from the campus community who can assist with the college’s response to the incident or situation being addressed. If the associate dean of the college for any reason of conflict of interest, illness, or prolonged absence is unable to carry out her or his responsibilities, a designee from the Campus Life and Diversity Office or the BIRT team shall be appointed by the dean of the college.
The BIRT coordinator will inform the dean of the college and other senior administrative officers of BIRT’s response and recommendations for institutional responses, including disseminating information to the broader campus community. In consultation with appropriate college personnel, the BIRT coordinator will work to ensure appropriate follow-through on commitments made during the response period and after the crisis or situation has subsided. In addition to addressing particular incidents, the BIRT team will meet on a regular basis to review campus incidents and/or identify priorities for educational programming and intervention. The Campus Life and Diversity Office will maintain a historical record of documented incidents to evaluate the college’s response, and improve upon procedures and effectiveness of response systems.