Relevant Considerations

Relationships Involving Authority or Power

When one party has any professional responsibility for another's academic or job performance or professional future, the university considers sexual relationships between the two individuals to be a basic violation of professional ethics and responsibility. This includes but is not limited to sexual relationships between faculty (including teaching assistants and laboratory supervisors) and their students or between supervisors and their employees, even if deemed to be mutually consenting relationships. Because of the asymmetry of these relationships, "consent" may be difficult to assess, may be deemed not possible, and may be construed as coercive. Such relationships also may have the potential to result in claims of sexual harassment. For more information, see the Consensual Relationship Policy through Human Resources or the Faculty Senate.

Although sexual harassment often takes place when the alleged harasser is in a position of power or influence (e.g., a faculty advisor to a student, supervisor to supervisee), other types of sexual misconduct are also possible e.g., peer to peer.

Intention vs. Impact

The fact that someone did not intend to engage in sexual misconduct against an individual is not considered a sufficient explanation to a complaint of sexual misconduct. For example, in some instances, cultural differences may play a role in the interpretation of behavior, by either the complainant or respondent, which may result in a complaint of sexual misconduct. It is expected that all members of the university community are knowledgeable about what constitutes sexual misconduct under this policy. Although the respondent's perceptions will be considered, in most cases, it is the effect and characteristics of the behavior on the complainant, and whether a reasonable person in a similar situation would find the conduct offensive that determine whether the behavior constitutes sexual misconduct.

Academic Freedom

Case Western Reserve University adheres to the principles and traditions of academic freedom. As stated in the Faculty Handbook, academic freedom is a right of all members of the university faculty and applies to university activities including teaching and research. Each faculty member may consider in his or her classes any topic relevant to the subject matter of the course as defined by the appropriate educational unit.

Case Western Reserve University also recognizes, however, that these freedoms must be in balance with the rights of others not to be sexually harassed. It is therefore understood that the principles of academic freedom permit topics of all types, including those with sexual content, to be part of courses, lectures, and other academic pursuits. If there are questions about whether the course material or the manner in which it is presented falls within the definition of sexual harassment, the concerned party(s) should contact a Designated Reporting Representative.