Personnel Manual

Sexual Misconduct Policy

Policy on Sexual Misconduct

A.    Introduction

In accordance with its equal opportunity policy, Pacific Lutheran University prohibits any discrimination in education or employment on the basis of gender. Moreover, PLU is committed to providing an environment in which students and employees can work, live and study free from all types of sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct has a serious negative impact on the quality of the education and work experience. The range of sexual misconduct includes sexual harassment, intimidation, coercion, sexual assault, and certain consensual sexual relationships.

As set forth below, the university does not and will not tolerate sexual misconduct by or against any of its students or Employees. The university will work to prevent and eliminate such behavior by providing educational programming to promote awareness of acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors. 

This policy is intended to meet the requirements of applicable federal and state law. If this policy is inconsistent with any applicable law, it is the university's intent to follow applicable law, where such law provides greater protection to a student or employee who may have experienced unlawful conduct.

B.    Policy Scope

This policy applies when the conduct prohibited by this policy occurs between any member of the student body or Employee population and any other member of the student body or Employee population. This policy also applies when the prohibited conduct occurs between a member and a non-member of the student body or Employee population, such as an off-campus vendor, independent contractor, work-study employer, internship supervisor, prospective student or volunteer.

The university may impose sanctions if the prohibited conduct occurs on university premises or in connection with a person's participation in a university-sponsored organization, program or activity, or if the conduct poses a risk of harm to any member of the campus community, including but not limited to any of the harmful effects encompassed by the definition of sexual harassment.

C.    Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination which is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments and the laws of the State of Washington. When the university becomes aware of allegations of sexual harassment, it is bound by state and federal law to investigate those allegations, stop the harassment if it is found to exist and take measures to ensure a working and learning environment that is free of sexual harassment.

For the purposes of this policy, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such conduct or activity is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic progress;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct or activity is used as the basis for employment or evaluation;
  • Such conduct or activity has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual's employment or educational performance or advancement; or
  • Such conduct or activity creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working, learning or campus residential environment (includes stalking).

Sexual harassment may occur when there is a difference in institutional authority between persons. It may occur between persons in equal positions, such as co-workers, colleagues and peers. It occurs without respect to gender, age, appearance or status. It may occur between persons of the same sex. It may occur if the sexual conduct of others in the education, work or campus residential environment has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with another's academic or work performance or environment. Sexually harassing conduct can include unwanted jokes, comments, gestures and non-verbal conduct. Anyone who is uncertain as to whether particular conduct violates this policy should contact any of the people or resources named in the Sexual Assault paragraphs of this policy.   

Individuals who believe this policy has been violated, or who observe potential violations, are strongly encouraged to seek redress of their concerns by contacting any member of the University Dispute Resolution Committee or by contacting their supervisor.

Violation of these policies shall result in disciplinary action including the possibility of suspension, termination of employment or expulsion from the university. Any form of reprisal, actual or implied, whether academic or related to employment, will be treated as an aggravation of prohibited behavior and will not be tolerated.

The university is committed to providing all members of its community with education and training about the nature of sexual harassment, its damaging consequences and procedures for handling complaints. Training is particularly essential for persons in supervisory roles who may face personal liability if they fail to take appropriate action when they become aware of instances of sexual harassment.

Retaliation against anyone reporting or thought to have reported sexual harassment is prohibited. Such retaliation is considered a serious violation of this policy and will be considered independently of whether a charge or informal complaint of sexual harassment is substantiated. Encouraging others to retaliate also violates this policy.

The university is dedicated to the prevention and elimination of sexual harassment in the workplace, in the campus residential environment, and in the learning environment. The university cannot take corrective action, however, when it does not know about inappropriate behavior. Therefore, it is very important that violations of this policy be reported as soon as possible.

D.    Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a violation of individual rights and dignity that will not be tolerated by Pacific Lutheran University. Sexual assault is not only an act of violence, aggression or coercion against a single individual, but it is also an attack on human dignity, a value essential to the university community. For these reasons, Pacific Lutheran University strongly encourages victims to report sexual assault incidents to appropriate university and governmental authorities as outlined in this policy. This policy applies to all members of the campus community, students and Employees, and is subject to enforcement via the applicable university policies and/or procedures including the Student Conduct System and the Grievance Policy and Procedures.

  1. Victim Rights and Services
    1. PLU Services for Students:
      Student victims are entitled to a variety of services on and off campus. The following campus offices are available:
      For counseling and support:  Counseling Center, Campus Ministry, Women’s Center, Student Life Office, Residential Life staff
      For medical assistance:  Student Health Center, Campus Safety and Information
      To file a formal complaint:  Student Conduct Coordinator, Grievance Officers, Campus Safety and Information
    2. PLU Services for Faculty & Staff:
      Employee victims of an incident committed on campus or in connection with a university-sponsored activity or event, or by a member of the PLU community, are strongly encouraged to contact Campus Safety and Information, Human Resources and/or counseling through the university's Employee Assistance Program.
    3. Off-Campus Assistance:
      The Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County offers a 24-hour crisis, information and referral line at 253-474-7273 or 1-800-756-7273. The Center exists to serve victims of sexual assault and abuse, their families and friends. Legal and medical advocacy is available, as well as support groups for victims, their friends and families.
    Victims have the right to:
    • Respectful treatment from all campus authorities;
    • On-campus medical assistance, which may include testing for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy as well as referral to outside medical resources;
    • Confidential counseling;
    • Assistance in changing housing and academic situations if such changes are reasonably available;
    • Pursuit of disciplinary action through the Pacific Lutheran University Student Conduct System as outlined in Section 4(b);
    • Pursuit of action via the university Grievance Policy and Procedures as outlined in Section 4(c);
    • Assistance in the pursuit of criminal and/or civil charges within Pierce County as outlined in Section 4(d);
    • A victim's advocate.
  2. PLU Services for Alleged Perpetrators
    Members of the PLU community who are alleged to have committed a sexual assault against another member of the PLU community are entitled to all rights given within the university’s Student Code of Conduct, Faculty Constitution and By-Laws, Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual, and Grievance Policy and Procedures, as appropriate. Such individuals are also entitled to PLU services which may offer them physical and emotional support, consultation and/or referral.
  3. Sexual Assault Terminology
    Sexual assault can occur against both males and females and may be perpetrated by an assailant not known to the victim, or may occur when the victim knows his or her assailant, such as in the case of acquaintance or date rape. At Pacific Lutheran University, sexual assault includes, but is not limited to (1) non-consensual sexual contact, including forced sexual contact, and (2) forced sexual penetration, and may occur by a person individually or in concert with others.
    1. Non-consensual sexual contact, including forced sexual contact, includes any harmful, insulting or non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature (including touching, fondling, exposure, disrobing, etc.) that is committed against another person without his/her consent, including any such act accomplished by means of actual or implied force, threat, coercion or helplessness. Forcing or intimidating a person to touch another person's intimate parts shall also constitute non-consensual or forced sexual contact.
    2. Forced sexual penetration includes intercourse (vaginal penetration), sodomy, oral copulation or penetration with any object by the use of force, threats, coercion or by taking advantage of a victim's helplessness.
    3. Because the university hopes to educate the community in order to prevent violations of this policy, it should be understood that:

      1. Alcohol and/or other drug use, intoxication or any impairment of the accused does not absolve one of responsibility for sexual assault.
      2. For purposes of this policy, "consent" means that at the time of the act of sexual intercourse or other sexual contact there are actual words or conduct indicating freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or other sexual contact. In situations where the victim is incapable of giving consent, or is unable to resist sexual advances due to alcohol/other drug use or other impairments, the accused will be held responsible for sexual assault. Silence will not be considered as evidence of consent under such circumstances.
      3. Force or coercion is defined as:
        • The use of physical force or physical violence; or
        • The use of threats, including but not limited to, physical threats, abduction, extortion or retaliation directed against the victim or another when the victim reasonably believes there is an ability to execute such threats; or
        • The use of verbal comments or non-verbal behaviors or gestures to intimidate the victim or another when the victim reasonably believes that there is a present ability to execute such threats.
      4. Threat is defined as an expression of intention to hurt, destroy or punish the victim, another person, or their property.
  4. Reporting Sexual Assault
    Pacific Lutheran University strongly encourages victims of sexual assault to report incidents. Filing a report with the university, the Pierce County Sheriff or the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Pierce County is not a commitment to pursue legal recourse. Criminal, civil and university action occur independently; a victim may pursue action in one or all systems concurrently. The university is not required to delay on-campus proceedings pending results in the criminal or civil systems. Because the definitions of sexual assault and the burden of proof required for responsibility are different in the campus, criminal and civil systems, an alleged perpetrator may be found responsible on campus, while in the criminal or civil justice systems, a different result may occur.

    1. On-Campus Reporting
      Victims of sexual assault which occurs on campus or in connection with a university-sponsored activity or event are strongly encouraged to report the incident, as soon as possible, to campus officials, including faculty members and/or Employees of one or more of the following:
      • Campus Ministry
      • Campus Safety
      • Counseling Center
      • Health Center
      • Residential Life
      • Student Life
      • Women's Center
      • Human Resources
      • Campus Conduct Hotline: 866-943-5787
      Pacific Lutheran University is committed to respecting personal dignity and will maintain confidentiality as appropriate and in keeping with the law. Employees outside of the above-referenced departments must inform Student Life (as to students) or Human Resources (as to all others) of any sexual assault matters brought to their attention. Such reporting may be done without identification of the individual(s) involved.
    2. Student Conduct System
      A student may pursue action through the Student Conduct System if the alleged assault was committed by another PLU student. Should a victim choose to pursue a disciplinary hearing through the student conduct system, he/she should contact the Student Conduct Coordinator or Campus Safety and Information. The hearing procedures and rights afforded victims and alleged perpetrators in the Student Conduct System are outlined in the Pacific Lutheran University Student Handbook.
    3. Grievance Policy and Procedures
      As an alternative to (b) above, a student may choose to pursue action through the University Grievance Policy and Procedures if the alleged assault was committed on campus or in connection with a university-sponsored activity or event by another member of the PLU community.

      An Employee who has been sexually assaulted by another member of the University community may pursue action through the University Grievance Policy and Procedures. To pursue such action, he/she should contact any of the University dispute resolution facilitators that can be found at
    4. Off-Campus Reporting
      Victims who wish to report and/or pursue criminal or civil action are encouraged to seek assistance from any of the following resources:
      Campus Safety and Information, ext. 7911 (off-campus 253-535-7911)
      Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Pierce County
            Administrative Offices, 253-597-6424
            24-Hour Crisis/Information and Referral Line, 253-474-7273 or 1-800-756-7473, TTY 253-274-0448
      Pierce County Sheriff, ext. 7911
      Tacoma Police, ext. 7911
      Local Policy Agency (if away from campus) 911
  5. Penalties for Sexual Assault
    Members of the university community who violate the university's ban on sexual assault will be subject to strict disciplinary action by the university, up to and including suspension or expulsion for students and termination for Employees.

E.    Consensual Sexual Relationships

Primary responsibility for maintaining high standards of conduct resides with faculty and supervisors, since they exercise significant authority and power over others.

A consensual sexual relationship between an Employee (faculty, staff, or administrator) and a student, or between a supervisor and a subordinate Employee, does not necessarily involve sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. In such circumstances, however, the university's responsibilities to its students and Employees are potentially compromised by the likelihood or even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Consequently, this policy strictly prohibits consensual sexual relationships between an Employee and a student whenever the Employee is in a position of professional responsibility with respect to the student. This policy, further, strictly prohibits consensual sexual relationships between a supervisor and a direct subordinate Employee.

For the purposes of this policy, an Employee is in a position of professional responsibility with respect to a student when the Employee is currently in a position to make or influence a decision or to confer or withhold a benefit relating to the student's education, employment, or campus-sponsored activity. This includes, but is not limited to, staff/student, faculty/student, coach/player, supervisor/student worker, and adviser/advisee relationships.

For the purposes of this policy, an Employee is in a direct subordinate relationship with a supervisor if the Employee reports to the supervisor, if the supervisor evaluates or directs the Employee's work, or if the supervisor is in the direct chain of command of the person to whom the Employee reports.

The university strongly discourages consensual sexual relationships such as those between an Employee and a student (even in the absence of a current professional responsibility with respect to the student) and between a faculty member or supervisor and an Employee in a position of less authority (even in the absence of a direct reporting relationship as defined above). While this policy does not prohibit consensual sexual relationships such as these, they are strongly discouraged. Because all such relationships potentially involve a violation of equal opportunity law, it may be difficult, if not impossible, in any subsequent proceeding to defend against a sexual harassment charge where the defense is based on the complainant's consent to the relationship. Moreover, those persons involved in such relationships must be aware that the relationship may be viewed by others as exploitative or as creating actual or apparent conflicts of interest, thereby creating potential difficulties for one or both parties.

Last Modified: September 19, 2012 at 10:09 AM