Policy on Discrimination and/or Harassment

(April 2015)

 

Princeton University is committed to creating and maintaining an educational, working, and living environment free from discrimination and harassment as described in this policy.  Princeton University’s policy prohibits such discrimination and harassment and applies to everyone in the University community.

When the University becomes aware that a member of the University community may have been subjected to or affected by discriminatory and/or harassing behavior, the University will take prompt action, including a review of the matter and, if necessary, an investigation and appropriate action to stop the discrimination and/or harassment.  The course of action taken by the University, including any disciplinary penalty, will depend on the particular facts and circumstances involved.

  1. Definitions
  2. Anti-Harassment Policies and Freedom of Speech/Expression
  3. Options for Addressing Discrimination and/or Harassment
  4.  Complaint reporting, investigation and resolution involving complaints against faculty or staff members
  5. Complaint Reporting, Investigation and Resolution involving complaints against students
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Appeals
  8. Protection from Retaliation
  9. Protection from Bad Faith Complaints
  10. Filing a Discrimination and/or Harassment Complaint Externally

 

I. Definitions

Protected characteristics are those personal traits, characteristics and/or beliefs that are defined by applicable law as protected from discrimination and/or harassment. They include race, creed, color, sex, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, ancestry, religion, physical or mental disability, veteran status, marital or domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation and/or other characteristics protected by applicable law.

Discrimination is adverse treatment of an individual based on a protected characteristic, rather than individual merit. Examples of conduct that can constitute discrimination if based on an individual’s protected characteristic include but are not limited to:
  • Singling out or targeting an individual for different or less favorable treatment (e.g., more severe discipline, lower salary increase) because of their protected characteristic
  • Failing or refusing to hire or admit an individual because of their protected characteristic
  • Terminating an individual from employment or an educational program based on their protected characteristic.
Harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical behavior which is directed at a person based on a protected characteristic, when these behaviors are sufficiently severe and/or pervasive to have the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's educational experience, working conditions or living conditions by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Examples of conduct that can constitute harassment if based on an individual’s protected characteristic include but are not limited to:
  • Unwelcome jokes or comments about a legally protected characteristic (e.g., racial or ethnic jokes);
  • Disparaging remarks to a person about a legally protected characteristic (e.g., negative or offensive remarks or jokes about a person's religion or religious garments);
  • Displaying negative or offensive posters or pictures about a legally protected characteristic;
  • Electronic communications, such as e-mail, text messaging and internet use, that violate this Policy.

Retaliation is any attempt to seek retribution against an individual or group of individuals involved in filing a complaint or report under this policy, filing an external complaint, participating in a disciplinary process, or opposing in a reasonable manner an action believed to constitute a violation of this policy. Retaliation can take many forms, including abuse or violence, threats, and intimidation. Actions in response to a good faith report or response under this policy are considered retaliatory if they have a materially adverse effect on the working, academic or University-controlled living environment of an individual; or if they hinder or prevent the individual from effectively carrying out their University responsibilities. Any individual or group of individuals can engage in retaliation and will be held accountable under this policy.

II. Anti-Harassment Policies and Freedom of Speech/Expression

The University’s policies and procedures relating to harassment are not intended to inhibit or restrict free speech or the expression of ideas. The University’s policy on Respect for Others, which can be found in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, section 1.2.1, states: “Princeton University strives to be an intellectual and residential community in which all members can participate fully and equally, in an atmosphere free from all manifestations of bias and from all forms of discrimination, harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. As an intellectual community, it attaches great value to freedom of expression and vigorous debate, but it also attaches great importance to mutual respect, and it deplores expressions of hatred directed against any individual or group. The University seeks to promote the full inclusion of all members and groups in every aspect of University life.”

III. Options for Addressing Discrimination and/or Harassment

The University encourages everyone to report all incidents of discrimination and/or harassment. When individuals feel that they have been subjected to discrimination and/or harassment or have observed discrimination or harassment of others, they have many options, including consulting with a Confidential Resource or filing a formal complaint. The University recognizes that deciding among these options can be difficult. Individuals are encouraged to seek assistance from a Confidential Resource before deciding how to proceed.


The Director for Institutional Equity in the Office of the Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity oversees Princeton’s response to concerns of discrimination and/or harassment, and is made aware of all such concerns (unless they are shared only with a Confidential Resource). Please contact the Director for Institutional Equity to discuss any concerns or complaints.

Cheri Burgess, Director for Institutional Equity
Office of the Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity
204B Nassau Hall
clawson@princeton.edu
609-258-8504

Confidential Resources

Individuals who serve as Confidential Resources are trained to understand issues of discrimination and/or harassment. Information shared with Confidential Resources (including information about whether an individual has received services) will only be disclosed to other University officials or any other person with the individual’s express written permission, unless there is an imminent threat of serious harm to the individual or to others, or a legal obligation to reveal such information (e.g., if there is suspected abuse or neglect of a minor). Confidential Resources are not authorized to engage in fact-finding or take action on behalf of the University; nor will they maintain formal or detailed records of confidential consultations. If after speaking with a Confidential Resource a member of the campus community does not wish to initiate an internal complaint, the Confidential Resource will take no action. If a member of the campus community does wish to make a complaint, these individuals are knowledgeable about the University’s policies and procedures and will assist in making connections with an appropriate University administrator.

The University’s Ombuds office can provide confidential advice regarding issues of discrimination and/or harassment, and information about options. Please contact the Ombuds Officer to confidentially discuss any concerns or complaints.

Wokie Nwabueze, Ombuds Officer
179 Nassau Street - Suite D
Princeton, NJ 08544
609-258-1775

Additional information about confidential resources, anonymous reporting, and other (non-confidential) resources are available.

The University encourages prompt reporting of complaints because late reporting may limit the University’s ability to investigate and respond to conduct. However, the University will respond to late reports in accordance with this Policy.
 

IV. Complaint reporting, investigation and resolution involving complaints against faculty or staff members

For any complaint alleging sex or gender discrimination, including sexual misconduct, see Rights, Rules, Responsibilities 1.3, which supersedes this policy.

1. Complaint Reporting

When an individual seeks the University to take disciplinary action against a faculty or staff member for violating University harassment or discrimination policies, the individual may make a complaint to the Director for Institutional Equity in the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (see Section III) or use the complaint form. Alternately, the individual may make a complaint to the any of the administrators listed below (or may choose to utilize the attached complaint form):

Director for Institutional Equity in the Office of the Provost
Senior Human Resources Managers or the Executive Director of Client Services in the Office of Human Resources
Associate Deans in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students
Associate Deans in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School
Associate Deans of the Faculty in the Office of the Dean of the Faculty
Director for Human Resources in the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
 
The written complaint should identify the parties involved; describe the harassing or discriminatory behavior, including when and where it occurred; and identify by name or description any witnesses and/or evidence. Written complaints should be treated as confidential and should be provided directly and only to the appropriate designated individual as listed above.

2. Interim Steps

When appropriate, prior to or during the investigation, the University may take reasonable and appropriate interim steps to protect the safety and well-being of members of the University community, maintain the integrity of the investigative and/or resolution process, and deter retaliation.

3. Investigation Process

The purpose of the investigation is to gather facts relating to the incident(s) outlined in the written complaint and to determine whether it is more likely than not that the alleged behavior occurred and, if so, whether it constitutes discrimination and/or harassment. The internal complaint process allows individuals to submit their complaint to one of many offices, although the requisite fact finding will typically be conducted by the office that has responsibility for the accused. The investigator (or co-investigators, as necessary) will conduct a fact-finding inquiry that may include written statements, interviews and any other sources of evidence the investigator deems appropriate. During the course of the investigation, the investigator may receive counsel from the Provost’s Office, the Office of the General Counsel, or other parties as needed.

While the length of an investigation will depend on a variety of factors, including the nature and scope of the allegations, the number of parties and witnesses, and the availability of parties and witnesses, the investigator will seek to conclude the investigation within 45 business days of receipt of the complaint.

Note: Princeton University expects faculty, staff and other members of the University community to cooperate fully in the investigation process. Any faculty or staff member who is the subject of, or potential witness regarding, a discrimination or harassment complaint and refuses to cooperate in an investigation is subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.

Note: Adversarial hearings, including confrontation, cross-examination by the parties, and active advocacy by attorneys or other outside advocates, are neither appropriate nor permitted during the investigation process.

4. Complaint Resolution

At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will prepare a written report. The report will explain the scope of the investigation and whether any allegations in the complaint were substantiated. The written report will be submitted to the appropriate Dean (in most instances the Dean of the Faculty) or Vice President (in most instances the Vice President for Human Resources) and to the Provost’s Office.

The Dean/VP to whom the report is submitted may accept the report, request to review additional information, including summaries of party/witness statements or other information, or return the report for further investigation. The Dean/VP or their designee will, for both parties involved (the person who filed the written complaint as well as the person whose behavior is being investigated), summarize the findings (see range of findings below).

Finding of “No Violation” of the University’s Policy on Discrimination and/or Harassment
 
If there is a determination that the behavior investigated did not violate this Policy, both parties will be so informed. Neither party may appeal such a finding. If retaliatory behavior occurs after the issuance of this determination, either party may bring a complaint under this Policy.
 
Finding of “Inappropriate Behavior Not Rising to the Level of a Violation” of the University’s Policy on Discrimination and/or Harassment

There may be a determination that the behavior was inappropriate and unprofessional but did not rise to the level of violating this Policy. Such inappropriate behavior may merit discipline, ongoing monitoring, coaching, or other appropriate action. Neither party may appeal such a finding. If retaliatory behavior occurs after the issuance of this determination, either party may bring a complaint under this Policy.

Finding of “Violation” of the University’s Policy on Discrimination and/or Harassment

If there is a determination that the behavior did violate this Policy, the Dean/VP, in consultation with the appropriate manager or department head, will determine the appropriate corrective actions to be taken. In addition, where appropriate, the Dean/VP/Provost may implement measures to ensure that the person who filed the complaint is not subjected to further discrimination or harassment, and to remedy the effects of any discrimination or harassment that may have occurred. Remedial steps, at the discretion of the University, may include, but are not limited to, counseling or training, separation of the parties, and/or discipline of the accused, including a written warning, financial penalty, suspension, demotion or termination in accordance with University policy. The process for appealing such a finding is set forth in Section VII below.


The University’s ability to discipline an individual who is not an employee or student (such as a vendor or contractor) is limited by the degree of control, if any, the University has over such individual. Nonetheless, the University will seek to take appropriate action in response to violations of this Policy.

V. Complaint Reporting, Investigation and Resolution involving complaints against students

For any complaint alleging sex or gender discrimination, including sexual misconduct, see Rights, Rules, Responsibilities 1.3, which supersedes this policy.

When an individual seeks the University to take disciplinary action against an undergraduate student or a graduate student for violating University harassment or discrimination policies, the individual may make a complaint to the Director for Institutional Equity in the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (see Section III) or use the complaint form. Alternately, the individual may make a complaint at the Office of the Dean of the Undergraduate Students (if the respondent is an undergraduate student) or at the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School (if the accused is a graduate student).

If the complaint is one for which separation from the University is not a likely outcome, the Associate Dean or, in the case of a student living in a residential college, the Director of Student Life will investigate, issue findings, and take remedial action as necessary.

If the complaint is of a more serious nature, and one for which separation from the University is a possible outcome, all parties and witnesses will be asked to prepare written accounts of the event(s) in question and, if appropriate, the matter will be referred to the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline. The Committee will: (i) conduct a hearing in accordance with University policies; (ii) decide if University regulations have been violated; (iii) issue written findings; and (iv) determine the penalty (if appropriate).

For further information regarding the student discipline process, including Committee membership, investigation and hearing procedures, penalties, and the rights of individuals involved in the student discipline process, see Rights, Rules, Responsibilities sections 2.5 and 2.6. Individuals should inquire at 308 West College (if the respondent is an undergraduate student) or Clio Hall (if the respondent is a graduate student) for more detailed information regarding the student disciplinary process.

While the length of the process will depend on a variety of factors, including the nature and scope of the allegations, the number of parties and witnesses, and the availability of parties and witnesses, an effort will be made to conclude the process within 45 business days of receipt of the complaint.

VI. Confidentiality

Any allegation of discrimination or harassment brought to the attention of the University will be discreetly addressed in some manner. Investigations will be conducted in a confidential manner to the greatest extent possible. However, the investigation of complaints may also require disclosure to the accused individual and to other witnesses for the purpose of gathering pertinent information. In such case, disclosures will be limited to the extent possible.

Individuals involved in investigations or disciplinary proceedings under this policy are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information in order to safeguard the integrity of the process and to avoid the appearance of retaliation. While discretion regarding the process is important, complainants and respondents are not restricted from discussing and sharing information with others who may support or assist them in presenting their case.

Medical and counseling records are privileged and confidential documents that parties will not be required to disclose.

VII. Appeals

The following are the only appeals available under this Policy.

For any appeal regarding sex or gender discrimination, including sexual misconduct, see Rights, Rules, Responsibilities 1.3, which supersedes this policy.

Faculty members found to have violated this Policy may, consistent with the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty, file a written appeal with the Committee on Conference and Faculty Appeal, provided the appeal involves the “dismissal or the suspension . . . or any question of unfair treatment in relation to the appointment, reappointment, or academic duties or privileges.”

Academic professionals found to have violated this Policy may, consistent with the Rules and Procedures of the Professional Researchers and Specialists and Rules and Procedures of the Professional Library Staff, submit a written request for reconsideration to the Dean of the Faculty on the grounds that: (i) there exists substantial relevant information that was not presented, and reasonably could not have been presented during the investigation, or (ii) the imposed penalty does not fall within the range of penalties imposed for similar misconduct. Appeals concerning dismissal or suspension or procedural unfairness should be submitted to the Committee on Appointments and Advancements for the Professional Researchers and Professional Specialists or the Promotions, Continuing Appointment and Review Committee for Professional Librarians, as appropriate.

Non-unionized staff members found to have violated this Policy may file a written request for reconsideration to the Executive Vice President on the grounds that: (i) there exists substantial relevant information that was not presented, and reasonably could not have been presented during the investigation, or (ii) the imposed penalty does not fall within the range of penalties imposed for similar misconduct.


Unionized staff members found to have violated this Policy may resort to the grievance procedures provided pursuant to the applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Students found to have violated this Policy may, in accordance with the applicable provisions in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, file an appeal of the decision. If the infraction was adjudicated by an associate dean or by the Residential College Disciplinary Board, the student found in violation of University policy may file an appeal to the Dean of Undergraduate Students or to the Dean of the Graduate School on the grounds that (i) there exists substantial relevant information that was not presented, and reasonably could not have been presented; or (ii) the imposed penalty does not fall within the range of penalties imposed for similar misconduct; or (iii) a procedural irregularity occurred in the adjudication of the incident in question.

If the infraction was adjudicated by the Committee on Discipline, the student found in violation of University Policy may appeal the decision to a three-person appellate body comprised of the Dean of the College, the Dean of the Graduate School, and the chairman of the Judicial Committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) on the grounds that: (i) the procedures have not been fair and reasonable; or (ii) there exists substantial relevant information that was not presented, and reasonably could not have been presented during the investigation or to the Committee or Subcommittee; or (iii) the imposed penalty does not fall within the range of penalties imposed for similar misconduct. If modifications are made to the decision, the appellate body will consult with the Vice President for Campus Life before issuing its final decision.

VIII. Protection from Retaliation

Any attempt to seek retribution against an individual or group of individuals involved in filing a complaint or report under this policy, filing an external complaint, participating in a disciplinary process, or opposing in a reasonable manner an action believed to constitute a violation of this policy. Retaliation can take many forms, including abuse or violence, threats, and intimidation. Actions in response to a good faith report or response under this policy are considered retaliatory if they have a materially adverse effect on the working, academic or University-controlled living environment of an individual; or if they hinder or prevent the individual from effectively carrying out their University responsibilities. Any individual or group of individuals can engage in retaliation and will be held accountable under this policy.

Prior to the conclusion of an investigation and findings, a complaint of discrimination or harassment does not constitute proof of prohibited conduct. As such, the complaint shall not be taken into account during reappointment, tenure, promotion, merit or other evaluation or review until a determination has been made that the University’s Policy has been violated.

Complaints of retaliation should be reported as violations of this Policy. Retaliatory conduct may result in serious disciplinary sanctions.

IX. Protection from Bad Faith Complaints

It is the responsibility of the University to balance the rights of all parties. Therefore, if the University’s investigation reveals that the complaint is malicious or knowingly false, such charges will be dismissed and the person who filed the complaint may be subject to discipline.

X. Filing a Discrimination and/or Harassment Complaint Externally

In addition to or in the alternative of filing an internal complaint as described above, members of the University community may elect to file a discrimination or harassment complaint with an external body, including a federal or state agency authorized to investigate such claims. The appropriate agency will depend on the status of the complainant and the nature of the complaint, and examples of agencies include: the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights; and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.