FAQs regarding Situations involving Faculty Respondents

Last updated March 2021

This document is intended to provide responses to frequently asked questions related to situations involving faculty respondents.1  The first section of these FAQs applies to sexual misconduct; the second section applies to consensual relationships; and the third section applies to both areas. 


[1]  The term “complainant” is used to describe the individual who allegedly experienced sexual misconduct or a violation of the consensual relationship policy; the term “respondent” is used to describe the individual who allegedly committed sexual misconduct or a faculty member who violated the consensual relationship policy.

Sexual Misconduct

While these FAQs are intended to be helpful, please be advised that the Title IX Sexual Harassment policy(link is external) and the University Sexual Misconduct policy(link is external) are the best sources of information regarding processes related to sexual misconduct.

1. What office handles concerns related to sexual misconduct (including, but not limited to, sexual harassment)?

Concerns related to sexual misconduct are handled by the Office of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration(link is external) and are governed by the Title IX Sexual Harassment policy and/or the University Sexual Misconduct policy.

2. What conduct is prohibited under the Title IX Sexual Harassment policy and the University Sexual Misconduct policy?

Sections III of the Title IX Sexual Harassment policy(link is external) and the University Sexual Misconduct policy(link is external) provide information regarding Prohibited Conduct under these policies, including sexual harassment.

3. How have the University’s policies and processes related to sexual misconduct changed over the past several years?

In 2014, the University established the Office of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration, which oversees issues related to sexual misconduct for students, faculty, and staff.  The sexual misconduct website(link is external) and the sexual misconduct investigations website provide updates on recent initiatives, as well as information regarding policies, informal resolutions, retaliation, resources, prevention efforts, and data/reports. 

In summer 2020, in response to new federal regulations, the University implemented two new policies: the Title IX Sexual Harassment policy and the University Sexual Misconduct policy.  These policies were developed with community input, including from members of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy (faculty and administrators) and members of the CPUC Rights and Rules Committee (undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff).  The full faculty and the full CPUC (undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni) approved these policies. Information regarding the new policies— including the new informal resolution process and the provision of funding for students, faculty, and staff to engage attorneys to serve as advisers— has been widely shared with the community via written materials and live trainings.

4. Are faculty members required to report sexual misconduct?

Yes.  Faculty and staff members have certain reporting obligations with respect to sexual misconduct (see Title IX Sexual Harassment policy section IV(1)(link is external) and University Sexual Misconduct policy section VI(1)(link is external)), and failure to do so could result in discipline.  Faculty and staff are trained on their mandatory obligation(link is external) to report their knowledge of sexual misconduct.  Their training covers how to respond in a sensitive and supportive manner when someone discloses that they have been harmed.

5. How are faculty members educated regarding sexual misconduct?

Faculty members are educated regarding University policies regarding sexual misconduct via live trainings and as part of our online sexual harassment training — which is required for all employees when they are hired and every three years thereafter — and via written materials, such as the posters(link is external) in all campus restroom stalls.

In addition, recognizing that interpersonal relationship boundary violations can, on their own, be harmful and can lead to misconduct that violates University policies, a workshop is offered on maintaining healthy boundaries in faculty/student relationships.  The workshop prepares faculty members and others in positions of power to intervene and stop concerning behavior before it escalates.  (If your department or group is interested in scheduling a boundaries workshop, please email ptitleix@princeton.edu.)

6. What sanctions are implemented for faculty members who have been found responsible for sexual misconduct?

The sanctions that may be implemented in sexual misconduct cases are described in Appendices C of the Title IX Sexual Harassment policy(link is external) and the University Sexual Misconduct policy(link is external).  For faculty members who continue as members of our community, the University imposes additional requirements intended to minimize the chances of future misconduct.  For example, it requires those found responsible for violations of the University’s sexual misconduct policies to participate in the Community Integrity Program (CIP), an individualized psychoeducational curriculum administered by a clinical psychologist that assists people in better understanding harmful attitudes and behaviors.  Additional limitations may also be placed on faculty members for a certain time period, such as restrictions related to teaching and/or advising.

Further information regarding sanctioning in sexual misconduct cases is available in Information regarding Sanctions(link is external).  In addition, although each case is unique, the University’s annual Sexual Misconduct Disciplinary Reports(link is external) provide information regarding outcomes for prior sexual misconduct cases.

In addition, in the fall of 2018, the University established a presumptive minimum penalty(link is external) of one-year of unpaid suspension for any faculty member found responsible for sexual harassment.

7. What are the University’s policies/practices with respect to sharing information regarding disciplinary outcomes for faculty members found responsible for sexual misconduct?

Both parties (complainants and respondents) receive the full outcome of investigations/adjudications under the Title IX Sexual Harassment policy and/or the University Sexual Misconduct policy.  (See Title IX Sexual Harassment policy section XI(3)(e)(link is external) and University Sexual Misconduct policy section X(3)(e)(link is external)).  In addition, disciplinary outcomes for faculty members are routinely shared with individuals who have a business need to know, such as department chairs.  Aggregated information about disciplinary outcomes for faculty members involved in sexual misconduct is included in the University’s annual Sexual Misconduct Disciplinary Reports(link is external)

Transparency regarding disciplinary outcomes helps to create the trust and accountability needed for our disciplinary processes and our community values to thrive.  However, on a case-by-case basis, community desire for transparency must be balanced with additional considerations.  These include the privacy of complainants, witnesses, and others who report potential policy violations; the need for respondents to remediate and continue as productive community members following completion of discipline (in cases in which the violation is less severe and does not rise to the level of a separable offense (e.g., suspension, dismissal)); and prohibitions related to disclosure of student educational records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  

Consensual Relationships

While these FAQs are intended to be helpful, please be advised that the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty(link is external) are the best source of information regarding processes related to the Consensual Relationship with Students policy(link is external).

8. What office handles concerns related to consensual relationships between faculty members and students?

Concerns related to consensual relationships are handled by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty and are governed by the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty(link is external).

9. What conduct is prohibited under the Consensual Relations with Students policy?

Chapter V.C. of the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty(link is external) provide information regarding the Consensual Relationships with Students policy.

10. How have the University’s policies and processes related to consensual relationships changed over the past several years?

While the prohibition was initially limited to consensual relationships between faculty members and undergraduates under their supervision, it was expanded in the fall of 2015 to prohibit relationships between faculty members and undergraduates (regardless of supervision) and graduate students under their supervision.  In the spring of 2019, the faculty approved a policy (link is external)establishing a blanket prohibition against all sexual and romantic relationships between faculty members and undergraduate or graduate students.

11. What penalties are implemented for faculty members who are found responsible for violating the Consensual Relationships with Students policy?

The penalties that may be implemented are described in section IV.P of the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty(link is external).  For faculty members who continue as members of our community, the University imposes additional requirements intended to minimize the chances of future misconduct.  For example, it requires those found responsible for violations of the Consensual Relations with Students policy to participate in the Community Integrity Program (CIP), an individualized psychoeducational curriculum administered by a clinical psychologist that assists people in better understanding harmful attitudes and behaviors.  Additional limitations may also be placed on faculty members for a certain time period, such as restrictions related to teaching and/or advising.

12. What are the University’s policies/practices with respect to sharing information regarding disciplinary outcomes for faculty members found responsible for violating the Consensual Relations with Students policy?

Disciplinary outcomes for faculty members are routinely shared with individuals who have a business need to know, such as department chairs. 

Transparency regarding disciplinary outcomes helps to create the trust and accountability needed for our disciplinary processes and our community values to thrive.  However, on a case by case basis, community desire for transparency must be balanced with additional considerations.  These include the privacy of complainants, witnesses, and others who report potential policy violations; the need for respondents to remediate and continue as productive community members following completion of discipline (in cases in which the violation is less severe and does not rise to the level of a separable offense (e.g., suspension, dismissal)); and prohibitions related to disclosure of student educational records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Sexual Misconduct & Consensual Relationships

13. What should I do if I have a concern related to sexual misconduct or a consensual relationship?

Many individuals with such concerns first seek support and guidance from a confidential resource such as the Sexual Assault/Advising Resources and Education (SHARE) Office(link is external).  Doing so enables them to discuss the situation and learn about available options in a confidential setting.

Members of the community are encouraged to share concerns related to sexual misconduct with the Office of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration and concerns related to consensual relationships with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty so that issues can be addressed (even before they rise to the level of a policy violation).

14. What happens when I share concerns with the Office of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration or the Office of the Dean of the Faculty?

Every report is taken very seriously, and all reports are carefully reviewed, regardless of when the alleged conduct occurred.  Individuals often consult with our offices without initially providing the name(s) of the other individual(s) involved, so that they can learn about their options without triggering the University’s need to take action.  Anyone who contacts or is referred to one of our offices receives a response and information about resources and available options.  Supportive measures are always available, even if the individual who contacted us does not want to pursue further action.

Each situation is unique with respect to what subsequent action is taken.  While the University seeks to move forward in accordance with the wishes of complainants where possible, in order to protect the safety of the campus community, the University on occasion may proceed without the participation of the complainant, such as when there is a risk to the campus community, a weapon involved, a pattern of misconduct, etc.  In doing so, the complainant’s articulated concerns, the best interests of the University community, fair treatment of all individuals involved, and the University’s obligations under Title IX (where applicable) are taken into consideration.  Prior to taking any action, however, attempts are made to consult with the affected individual to ensure that their concerns are understood and that they are comfortable with their level of participation in the process. 

15. Can the University take action if the alleged conduct does not rise to the level of a policy violation (that is, even if substantiated, would not be a violation of University policy)?

If there is not policy violation, a respondent will not receive formal discipline under our policies.  However, even when conduct does not rise to the level of a policy violation, the University often can and does take action.  Such action may include addressing the issue directly with the individual about whom the concern was raised, issuing formal warnings, or providing training.

16. Is there a statute of limitations or time limit during which individuals must come forward with reports related to sexual misconduct or consensual relationships?

No, there is not a statute of limitations for reporting sexual misconduct or a consensual relationship.  However, individuals are encouraged to report concerns as soon as possible in order to maximize the University’s ability to respond promptly and effectively.  Moreover, if the respondent is no longer an employee at the time of the report, the University may not be able to take disciplinary action against the respondent.  Regardless of the length of time that has passed since the alleged conduct occurred, the University will still seek to provide support for the complainant and seek to take steps to end the prohibited behavior, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.

17. What if I am worried about retaliation?

The University prohibits retaliation (see these FAQs regarding Retaliation), and individuals are encouraged to share any concerns related to retaliation.  The University seeks to identify potential issues and take proactive action where possible (including, for example, arranging for a second faculty member to review a recommendation).  However, specific action depends on the particular circumstances involved. 

18. How can I share ideas and suggestions related to these issues?

Your ideas and suggestions are welcome about how the University can continue to improve its policies and practices to foster a respectful environment that offers everyone on our campus an equal opportunity to thrive.  Ideas and suggestions can be shared at ptitleix@princeton.edu (for feedback related to sexual misconduct) or tturano@princeton.edu (for feedback related to the policy on consensual relations).