Cornell College affirms the rights of its community members to live, study, and work in an environment free from all forms of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, stalking and sexual exploitation. As a community we are committed to maintaining a standard of conduct that creates an environment of trust, care, and respect. Our community treats acts of sexual harassment and assault as serious violations of the standards of conduct and will not be tolerated. The college will take direct action to prevent and correct such behavior; those actions include providing supports and interim resolutions to complainants, conducting a Title IX review of the conduct, and pursuing informal resolution or formal conduct (corrective) action against the respondent/s. The college is also committed to providing institution-wide education to prevent sexual harassment and assault and to mitigate the impacts of any sexual misconduct on the community.
This policy is intended to guide students who have experienced or been affected by sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and/or stalking, whether as a complainant, a respondent, or a third party, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Because acts of sexual harassment and assault may occur in a variety of settings, this policy extends to behaviors that occur in the context of any of Cornell’s programs and activities and extend off campus to the extent that the reported behavior has served to create a hostile environment on campus or in Cornell’s programs and activities.
Cornell admits qualified persons - without regard to age, ancestry, color, disability, sex, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or genetic information – to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at Cornell. The college does not discriminate in the administration of its educational or admissions policies, scholarships, and loan programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs.
Sexual Assault: Any sexual act perpetrated against another person without their consent. This includes rape, attempted rape, or any kind of unwanted touching of a sexual nature. Sexual assault can be committed by anyone regardless of their relationship to the complainant, including by strangers, acquaintances, friends, intimate partners, or family members.
Consent: Consent, pertaining to this policy, is a voluntary agreement to engage in any sexual activity(ies). Consent is given when a fully informed, mentally capable person freely chooses to participate in a mutually agreed upon sexual activity through mutually understandable words or actions. Consent to sexual activity can be communicated in a variety of ways but one should assume that consent has not been given until both parties have clearly agreed to the sexual act. This consent can be withdrawn at any point during the sexual experience. Prior, consensual sexual activity does not imply current consent. Consent to engage in sexual activity with one partner does not imply consent to engage in sexual activities with any other/additional persons.
Consent is not given if it results from the use of physical force, intimidation, or coercion. A person cannot give consent if incapacitated, including through the effects of drugs or alcohol so that they lack the necessary judgment to give consent to sexual activity. Silence, non-communication, or lack of resistance should never be interpreted as consent.
Cornell College is also committed to providing a safe environment for individuals whose capacity to provide effective consent is limited, such as minors, developmentally disabled persons, and vulnerable adults, by ensuring they are not subjected to sexual harassment or assault by members of the campus community.
Sex while Incapacitated: To have sex with someone who is unable to give consent because they are asleep or unconscious, or is, or should be known to be, incapable of making a rational, reasonable decision due to their consumption of substances is a violation of policy. Choosing to drink alcohol or use other drugs runs the risk of impaired thinking and communication, which may result in inappropriate choices about sex.
Dating/Domestic Violence: Any violent act perpetrated against a person by someone who is a romantic/intimate relationship partner, including a current or former spouse, is cohabitating, or who shares a child in common. According to the federal Violence Against Women Act, dating and domestic violence may constitute hate crimes.
Stalking: Stalking is a form of sexual harassment that involves engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause most people to fear for their safety or suffer substantial emotional distress. It may include, but is not limited to, repeatedly following a person; persistent attempts to contact the person by phone, electronic communication, or regular mail; vandalizing the person’s property or leaving unwanted items for the person; and/or constantly appearing at the person’s classroom, residence, or workplace without permission. According to the federal Violence Against Women Act, stalking may constitute a hate crime.
Sexual Exploitation: Sexual exploitation occurs when an individual takes non-consensual, unjust or abusive sexual advantage of another for their advantage, benefit or pleasure, or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited. Examples of conduct that may constitute sexual exploitation include going beyond the boundaries of consent (e.g., non-consensual video -taping of sexual activity or allowing others to surreptitiously watch someone having consensual sex) and engaging in peeping Tommery.
Sex Discrimination: Sex discrimination is conduct that involves inequitable treatment of a person based on that individual’s self-identification or others’ perception of their gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; or other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when such conduct substantially interferes with a student’s living, studying, or working conditions or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Stalking, either in person or via electronic means (e.g., email, text messages), can constitute sexual harassment. A “hostile environment” is created when a behavior’s purpose or effect unreasonably or substantially interferes with an individual's safety, security, or ability to fully participate in the college’s programs and activities.
Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute harassment when:
- Submission to such conduct is made or threatened to be made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education;
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used or threatened to be used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance or creating what a reasonable person would perceive as an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment, education, or living environment.
Students, faculty, and staff must be aware that consensual romantic or sexual relationships – particularly between individuals of unequal status – may be or become a violation of this policy. The college particularly recognizes the potential for abuse in romantic or sexual relationships between faculty members and students and between staff supervisors and their student employees / advisees. (See Statement on Personal Relationships in the Professional Setting)
Sexual Misconduct: Sexual misconduct broadly refers to any behavior which falls under the categories of sexual harassment or assault as described in this policy.
Sexual Misconduct Report: Any student who has had an experience they believe may constitute an act of sexual harassment or assault or any campus community member who has knowledge of such an act is encouraged to report it via one of the means outlined below. All reports of sexual harassment and assault will be forwarded to Cornell’s Dean of Students and investigated to the fullest extent possible. A report does not by itself trigger college conduct proceedings nor does it lead to legal proceedings. Reports may be made anonymously; while anonymous reports enable the college to gather data regarding incidents of sexual harassment and assault, they significantly limit the extent to which the college can investigate and respond to reported sexual misconduct.
Sexual Misconduct Complaint: The filing of a complaint is the first step in the filing of conduct charges against a Cornell student or disciplinary proceedings involving an employee. The process is more fully described below.
Complainant: The individual(s) who has experienced a possible instance of sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and/or stalking, regardless of whether that individual makes a report or files a complaint.
Respondent: Individual(s) who has been accused of sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and/or stalking through either a report or complaint.
Third Party: Any other participant in the process, including a witness to the conduct, an individual who makes a report on behalf of another person, or an affected community member.
Mandatory Reporting and Confidentiality: Colleges and universities are required to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and assault, and to maintain and share statistical information on campus-related crimes, including incidents of sexual harassment or assault. College staff (including Resident Assistants and Peer Advocates) and faculty are expected to report all information (including the names of parties involved) they receive about suspected incidents of sexual harassment or assault involving Cornell students by contacting the Dean of Students or submitting a Sexual Misconduct Incident Report. Cornell’s Chaplain, Counseling Services and Health Services staff provide fully confidential services and are exempt from this reporting requirement. Trained sexual assault advocates and Cornell’s Sexual Misconduct Liaison are considered confidential and report only non-identifiable information regarding incidents of suspected sexual harassment or assault about which they are consulted. While sexual assault advocates and the Sexual Misconduct Liaison are required to file reports, they may do so anonymously if the complainant does not want their identity shared.
- Campus Safety: 319-895-4299
- Mt. Vernon Police Department: 319-895-6141 or 911
Police Reporting and Maintaining Evidence
Complainants are encouraged to contact the police as soon after the incident as possible in order to facilitate gathering full reports and evidence, and to best ensure that witnesses are available for interviews. If you have experienced sexual assault and think that at some point you may wish to pursue a legal complaint, it can be beneficial to get an evidentiary exam immediately following the assault. Even though you may want to change your clothes or shower, think about reporting the assault before doing so. It is more difficult for a hospital or clinic to gather evidence if you've showered, bathed, changed your clothes, urinated, defecated, or brushed your teeth.
Medical help is important to identify and treat any physical injuries, gather evidence should you want to report the crime, and to protect you from sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancy. You have up to 72 hours after the assault to take prophylactic medication to prevent some sexually transmitted infections and up to 120 hours to prevent pregnancy (if a concern). The physical evidence of an assault is most effectively collected within the first 24-48 hours of the assault, but some evidence may be collected for up to 72 hours. The exam and subsequent medical treatment are free to individuals who have been victimized.
Fully Confidential Resources
- Cornell College Counseling Center: Information about both on campus and off campus resources, as well as information about how to help a friend if who has been sexually victimized. Ebersole; 319-895-4292
- Student Health Services: Services provided by licensed nurses, includes referrals to area healthcare providers. Ebersole; 319-895-4292
- Cornell College Chaplain: The college Chaplain provides support to Cornell College students, faculty, and staff. Old Sem (3rd floor); 319-895- 4402
- Riverview Center (sexual assault services and advocacy): 888-557-0310
- Waypoint (relationship violence services and advocacy): 800-208-0388
Confidential Campus Resources
- Sexual Misconduct Liaison: Cornell College’s Sexual Misconduct Liaison is a member of the college staff outside the Dean of Students’ office and conduct system whose role is to provide support and information to students who may have experienced sexual harassment or assault. This person can provide information about resources and reporting options without initiating any formal investigation or complaint. Sharon Grice; Peter Paul Luce Admissions Center; 319-895-4162
- Third Wave Resource Group (TWRG): TWRG is a Cornell College student organization located in Harlan House. TWRG members have undergone sexual assault advocacy training, and the group provides information, support and resources, including a campus safe room. 319-895-5750.
Title IX Coordinator
Any report of suspected sexual harassment or assault may be made directly to the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator is also responsible for overseeing Cornell’s handling of all Title IX complaints, evaluating requests for anonymity, determining extent of investigation of anonymous reports, identifying and addressing any patterns or institutional issues that become evident through the review of those complaints, and responding to any questions or concerns regarding Cornell College’s policies and procedures. John Harp, Vice President for Student Affairs; Old Sem (1st floor); 319-894-4234
Dean of Students
The Dean of Students oversees Cornell College’s student conduct process and coordinates the investigation and resolution of student sexual misconduct complaints. You can also contact the Dean of Students directly for information about resources and to file a report or complaint. Heidi Levine; Old Sem (1st floor); 319-895-4234
Students who have experienced an incident they think involves sexual harassment or assault – including sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, or sexual exploitation – are encouraged to report the incident using any one or combination of the options below.
Submit a Sexual Misconduct Report
You may file a report about sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, sexual exploitation, or other form of sexual misconduct by personally submitting a Sexual Misconduct Report form, which may be completed anonymously or including identifying information. Anonymous reports provide the college with information regarding incidents of alleged sexual misconduct but significantly limit the institution’s ability to investigate or respond to those reports. You may also file a report by informing a Resident Assistant, a member of the Student Affairs professional staff, a coach, faculty member or the college’s Sexual Misconduct Liaison (the Sexual Misconduct Liaison only reports general information that does not include names or identifying information). Information contained in the Sexual Misconduct Report Form is used to gather information regarding incidents of sexual harassment and assault and to initiate investigations into alleged sexual misconduct. Employees of the college (with the exception of those who offer full confidentiality) who are informed of an instance of student sexual harassment or assault should also complete this form.
Where does a Sexual Misconduct Report form go?
When you submit a Sexual Misconduct Report form, it is sent to the Dean of Students Office; information is forwarded to the Title IX coordinator in order to determine the most appropriate investigation and remediation. If the reported incident involves faculty or staff, the information is also forwarded to the Dean of the College or the Human Resources Coordinator.
Basic, non-identifying information from the form will be used for reporting purposes and may be included in annual federally-mandated statistics reports.
What type of follow-up should I expect?
If you provide your name you can expect that within 3 business days the Dean of Students (or the Dean’s designee) will contact you to make sure that we understand your concern and to discuss any possible next steps and support options for you and any other individuals involved. You may also be contacted by the Title IX Coordinator or by the Director of Campus Safety as part of an investigation of the report. Even if you do not wish to file a complaint, the Sexual Misconduct Liaison, Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator can work with you to provide support and accommodations (such as change of housing, dropping a class, no contact orders).
Please be aware that if you submit an anonymous report there will not be a way for college officials to identify and follow up with you. If you submit an anonymous report and later decide to identify yourself you can do so by contacting the Dean of Students or Title IX Coordinator.
Start the Complaint Process
You may choose to file a complaint for violation of Cornell’s Sexual Harassment and Assault policy, which will initiate a conduct investigation and hearing. Complaints can be initiated by submitting a Sexual Misconduct Report form. Conduct proceedings provide a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution. Investigations and conduct proceedings are conducted by officials who receive annual training on issues related to sexual assault, harassment, dating violence ,and stalking, and on how to conduct an investigation and hearing process that protects the safety of complainants and promotes accountability of respondents and the institution.
In cases where the respondent is another Cornell student, student complaints will result in conduct charges being filed and investigated. Information describing the conduct process can be found in the section below, or by speaking with the Dean of Students, Sexual Misconduct Liaison or one of the Conduct Process Consultants. If the respondent is a member of the Cornell faculty or staff, the Dean of Students can work with students to initiate grievance proceedings according to the faculty and staff handbooks.
What does the process involve?
Students who are filing sexual harassment or assault complaints (complainant) will meet with and provide information to the Dean of Students (or designee) about any incident leading to a complaint. The student(s) who is alleged to have violated the Sexual Harassment and Assault policy (respondent) will be notified in writing, and will meet with an assigned hearing officer to review the conduct charge, provide information about the incident and accept or deny responsibility for the violation. If the respondent denies responsibility for violating the Sexual Harassment and Assault policy the investigation will involve separate interviews with the complainant, respondent, and any third parties by a trained investigator. The investigator’s report will be provided to the hearing officer, who will determine the outcome. The standard of proof for Cornell College student conduct cases is that the preponderance of evidence (“more likely than not”) indicates that a policy was violated. The investigation and decision-making stages of a complaint should typically be completed within 60 days.
Both parties will be informed simultaneously and in writing of the outcome. In the event that the respondent is found responsible the complainant will be informed of any sanctions that are directly related to the complainant (e.g., no contact order, suspension of respondent).
Both parties have rights for appeal based on either new evidence that has become available since the hearing; procedural errors in the hearing; or sanctions that are disproportionate to the violation. In the event that one party files an appeal, the other will be informed of the fact and given the opportunity to provide information related to the appeal. Appeals are reviewed by the Appeals Board; Appeals Board decisions are final.
If the student is found responsible for sexual harassment or assault what sanctions might there be?
The sanctions applied will be based on the nature of the incident, any prior conduct violations, and sanctions resulting from prior, similar cases. Possible sanctions include no contact orders, disciplinary probation, suspension (removal from Cornell College for a minimum, designated length of time), and expulsion (permanent removal from Cornell College). Additional sanctions for the respondent may include educational activity, service, or counseling. Further information about sanctions can be found in the Sanctions section of the Compass.
How anonymous will this be?
Unlike sexual misconduct reports, in order to fully investigate and adjudicate a sexual harassment or assault complaint it is not possible for the complainant to remain anonymous. However, the information pertaining to the case will be shared with only those individuals responsible for resolving the complaint.
Who can I use for support?
Students, both complainants and respondents, can have any individual they choose present for support at any stage in the process. Support persons may speak with the student they are there to support, but may not otherwise participate directly (e.g., ask or respond to questions, make statements) in any investigation or hearing meetings.
What if the incident occurs off campus?
Instances of sexual harassment or assault involving Cornell students are subject to college policies and conduct procedures even if the incident occurs off-campus (including over breaks or during an off-campus course).
Report to the Police
You may choose at any time to pursue an external complaint of sexual harassment or assault (including sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, or sexual exploitation). This process is separate from the Cornell Complaint Process. The legal process – whether criminal or civil – is an external one, meaning that the process is outside the control or authority of the college. Anyone who believes that they are a victim of a crime may take steps to file a criminal complaint with local authorities. This option applies regardless of whether the alleged perpetrator is a member of the Cornell community. Local law enforcement authorities may be contacted at: Mount Vernon Police Department - 895-6141 or 911 (9-911 from on campus); 213 First Street West, Mount Vernon. Information about legal processes and resources in Iowa can be found on the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault website. Any staff member identified in this policy can help arrange a private meeting place for initial contact with the police. While the college has no control over any police investigation and legal processes that may follow, college staff will continue to work with students to provide support throughout the process.
Anonymity During Investigations: In investigating an allegation of sexual harassment or assault in which the complainant is identified, the college will share information only with those individuals responsible for investigating and resolving the complaint, and will take all possible steps to protect confidential information. However, the college cannot guarantee the student’s complete anonymity. For example, during an investigation it is possible that the respondent may infer the identity of the sexual harassment or assault complainant, or in a college-initiated proceeding the respondent(s) will need to know the identity of the complainant. Requests to maintain complainant anonymity are made to and determined by the Title IX Coordinator; determinations are made based on multiple factors including the severity of the incident, prior incidents involving the respondent, the ability of the college to provide support and remediation without disclosing the complainant’s identity, and the overall safety of the campus community. A complainant who has requested anonymity will be informed before any college official discloses their identity to the respondent.
College-Initiated Investigations: Individuals filing a report should recognize that, even without the cooperation of the complainant, college officials have a duty to investigate an allegation of sexual harassment or assault to the fullest extent possible in order to maintain the safety of the Cornell campus community. Situations in which such an investigation and/or conduct charges might proceed could include cases where multiple students have reported assaults involving the same respondent or other conditions indicating a high risk of further assaults occurring. Decisions about whether to initiate a college investigation or complaint against a complainant’s wishes will be made through consultation between the Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator. Complainants will be notified prior to action being taken.
When members of a student group, team or organization, or individuals acting as a group, violate the sexual harassment or assault policy, they may be charged as a group and a hearing may proceed against the group as joint respondents. Sanctions would be individually determined based on each person’s involvement and level of responsibility for the incident, and may also be applied to the student group, team, or organization.
Policy Violations Amnesty
Sometimes students are hesitant to report sexual harassment or assault to college officials because they fear that they themselves may be charged with policy violations, such as underage drinking at the time of the incident. The college will not pursue conduct action against a sexual harassment or assault complainant or third party who shares information about alleged sexual harassment or assault as long as the report is made in good faith.
Retaliation by any individual or agent of the college against a person who reports, is accused of, or participates in an investigation of sexual harassment or assault, or against their family or friends, is strictly prohibited. Retaliation may involve behaviors such as defacing someone’s property or harassing or threatening them. These actions are violations of college policy and will result in conduct charges and possible resulting sanctions. Acts of retaliation may also violate state and federal laws. Acts of retaliation should be reported to the Dean of Students.
Cornell College takes seriously all reports of sexual harassment and assault, and recognizes the rarity of false reporting. However, Cornell College will not tolerate intentional false reporting of sexual harassment or assault. It is a violation of college policy to make an intentionally false report of sexual harassment or assault, and it may also violate state criminal statutes and civil defamation laws.
Title IX Complaints
Inquiries or complaints concerning the application of Title IX may be referred to the college’s Title IX Coordinator and/or to the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights:
Regional #5 Office
500 West Madison St., Suite 1475
Chicago, IL 60661