Teachers College
Columbia University

Protection From Harassment

Teachers College Policy on Protection from Harassment


On August 15, 2014, Columbia University issued a new Gender-Based Misconduct Policy governing students at Columbia, Barnard and TC.   http://ssgbsm.columbia.edu.
This policy should be read with the new Columbia policy.   Conforming modifications will be made soon.

Teachers College (“TC” or the “College”) is committed to providing a working and learning environment free from harassment and to fostering a vibrant, nurturing community founded upon the fundamental dignity and worth of all of its members. Continuing its long-standing support of active equality for all, the College prohibits discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, citizenship status, veteran status, disability, pregnancy, gender expression, or any other criterion specified by federal, state or local laws, www.tc.edu/policylibrary/non_discrimination_policy.

Consistent with this commitment and with applicable federal, state, and local laws, it is the policy of the College 1) not to tolerate harassment in any form, 2) to actively foster prevention of harassment in the TC community, and 3) to provide faculty, students, administrators, and staff with mechanisms for seeking informal or formal resolution of harassment concerns and complaints. 


This policy includes the following guidance:

o   Special principles and definitions relating to sexual harassment and gender violence.

o   Confidential resources

o   Informal procedures

o   Formal procedures


Harassment is detrimental to the supportive setting TC strives to provide for its community.  Whether or not this behavior is unlawful, any action that impedes the performance or experience of others as employees or students at TC is damaging to the enjoyment of the fundamental freedoms of inquiry, work, and study.  The policy of the College remains unequivocal in all domains of its activity: discriminatory harassment cannot and will not be tolerated. 


In accordance with the College’s firm opposition to harassment, this policy outlines the responsibilities of TC community members and visitors and their options when faced with possible discriminatory harassment, as well as the College’s commitment to education and prevention. 


Nothing in this Policy shall abridge academic freedom or the College’s educational mission. Prohibitions against harassment do not extend to statements or written materials that are relevant and appropriately related to the subject matter of academic courses. 


Principles and Definitions


Discriminatory Harassment.   Teachers College opposes all forms of harassment. This Policy, however, focuses on discriminatory harassment.  Continuing its long-standing policy to support active equality for all persons, the College prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, citizenship status, veteran status, disability, pregnancy, gender expression, or any other criterion specified by federal, state or local laws (www.tc.edu/policylibrary/non_discrimination_policy).  This Policy sets out procedures available to those who are concerned about discriminatory harassment.


Concerns about other forms of harassment.  Individuals concerned about other forms of harassment or mistreatment may seek advice and redress through the College’s general grievance procedures (www.tc.edu/policylibrary/grievance_procedures_outline).


Discriminatory Harassment defined.  Discriminatory Harassment is defined as subjecting an individual to humiliating, abusive, or threatening conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or abusive work or educational environment and alters the conditions of employment or education or unreasonably interferes with an individual's work or educational performance on the basis of that individual's membership in a protected group.


Retaliation Prohibited.   Retaliation against anyone who raises concerns about discriminatory harassment, files a complaint, or participates in an investigation is prohibited.  Faculty, staff and students will not suffer adverse actions for reporting instances of alleged harassment (unless it becomes clear that a complainant knew an allegation to be false when it was made).  Acts of retaliation should be reported immediately and will be investigated promptly.  Any person found to have retaliated against another for reporting harassment will be subject to disciplinary action.

The College seeks to protect the rights of all persons, accusers and accused, to fair procedures. Accusations of harassment typically have injurious far-reaching effects on the careers and lives of accused individuals. Allegations of harassment must be made in good faith and must not be knowingly false or frivolous.


Reporting Obligations.  All members of the College community are expected to adhere to this Policy and to cooperate with the procedures it describes. They are also encouraged to report any conduct they believe to be in violation of this policy.


Management and supervisory personnel are responsible for consulting with the appropriate College officials -- the Harassment Panel Chairs, the VP for Diversity and Community Affairs, or the Assistant Vice President of Human Resources -- so that the College can take appropriate actions to prevent harassment and respond promptly and thoroughly to any such claims.  For purposes of this policy, faculty are supervisors of other faculty when they are acting in a supervisory role such as that of department chair, dean, director, coordinator or principal investigator.  Faculty are also obligated to consult with appropriate College officials concerning student allegations of harassment concerning other students, faculty, staff, administrators or others who are present in the TC community.


Certain University officers who are serving in a privileged professional capacity (e.g., counselors, clergy, and rape crisis counselors) are not subject to this reporting obligation.     Similarly, persons serving as confidential ombuds officers are not bound by this reporting obligation, except as required by law.[1]  A visit to such offices does not provide notice to the College of the visitor’s concerns.


Special Definitions and Principles applicable to

Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Violence


Sexual harassment is a unique area of harassment because it arises in unique contexts.   As described in more detail below, sexual harassment may occur when sexual favors are demanded in exchange for a benefit (or to avoid a detriment).  Both men and women can commit sexual harassment and both can be victims of harassment; sexual harassment may involve individuals of the same or different genders. Different laws govern sexual harassment and the U.S. Department of Education has issued extensive guidance focused on sexual harassment and gender-based misconduct and violence.   


Sexual Harassment in the employment context.   Employment-related harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For purposes of this Policy, sexual harassment is defined, as in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Guidelines, as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:



Sexual Harassment in the educational context.   While EEOC guidelines apply in the employment context, sexual harassment of students also violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  In this context, sexual harassment is:


unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.  Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.  Sexual harassment of a student can deny or limit, on the basis of sex, the student’s ability to participate in or to receive benefits, services or opportunities in the school’s program.  Sexual harassment of students is, therefore, a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.


As the U.S. Department of Education emphasizes,


Title IX also prohibits gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.


The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (OCR) has determined that sexual harassment of students, both female and male, continues to be a serious problem in higher education.  Sexual harassment can affect all aspects of a student's life:  it “can interfere with a student’s academic performance and emotional and physical well-being. Preventing and remedying sexual harassment in schools is essential to ensuring a safe environment in which students can learn.” Other forms of discriminatory harassment can also compromise a student’s learning environment.  


Forms of Sexual Harassment.   Whether in the context of employment or education, sexual harassment is not exclusively a sexual issue.  Rather it must also be understood as an exploitation of a power relationship.  Sexual harassment takes various forms, including but not limited to:  generalized sexist remarks or behavior, off-color jokes, vulgar comments, unwelcome and offensive sexual advances with or without explicit threats or promises of reward; solicitation of sexual activity or other sex-linked behavior by promise of reward; coercion of sexual activity by threat of punishment; and sexual assaults.  All these forms of sexual harassment share certain reprehensible qualities.  Those engaged in such behavior distort the relationship of trust that must exist in a college environment to foster independent, creative and pleasurable learning.  They treat individuals in reductive, stereotypical ways that are offensive and demeaning, and they often misuse their authority and power to exploit a vulnerable person, contaminating the relations of teacher and student, counselor and client, administrator and teacher, or supervisor and employee. 


Consensual relationships.   Consensual, romantic relationships between faculty and other employees and students and individuals who work together do not always violate College policy but are strongly discouraged.  However, individuals should be aware that these relationships are susceptible to being characterized as non-consensual, and even coercive, particularly if there is an inherent power differential between the parties, and can lead to complaints of sexual harassment.


Columbia University has recently adopted more restrictive policies on consensual romantic and sexual relationship between faculty and students. The College will be considering adoption of a similar policy.  See eoaa.columbia.edu/consensual-romantic-relationships and 




Sexual Assault and Violence.   Sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence, including stalking and intimate partner violence, are also Sexual Harassment.   While students concerned with sexual assault or violence may contact any of TC’s resources, this Policy does not govern procedures for addressing sexual assault or violence among students. Students concerned about sexual assault or violence are encouraged to contact the Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct, Wien Hall, Main Floor, Suite 108C, 212-854-1717, http://ssgbsm.columbia.edu/. For more information, see www.columbia.edu/cu/dpsa.  Other community members concerned about sexual assault or violence may use the procedures contained in this Policy and are encouraged to contact



Title IX Coordinator.  Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex and gender discrimination, including sexual harassment and gender-based misconduct, in educational programs and institutions.  It requires that the College appoint a single individual to coordinate compliance.  The TC Title IX Coordinator is:


Janice Robinson, Vice President for Diversity and Community Affairs

128 Zankel   -   212-678-3391  -  jrobinson@tc.edu


Students and other individuals with concerns about sexual harassment or gender discrimination are encouraged to speak with Janice Robinson or to pursue any of the informal or formal procedures set out below.  A third party, such as a visitor to the Campus, may also contact the Title IX Coordinator regarding sexual or other discriminatory harassment.


Under Title IX, College faculty and staff have a particular obligation to report any apparent or alleged sexual harassment or gender-based misconduct involving students.   Any College official (e.g., Student Affairs, Advising and Residential staff, Administrators, Full-time and Adjunct Faculty, Teaching Assistants, etc.) informed of an allegation of gender-based or sexual misconduct against a student is expected to file a report with Student Services for Gender-based and Sexual Misconduct, http://ssgbsm.columbia.edu/,  212-854-1717, or the Title IX Coordinator, Janice Robinson, jrobinson@tc.edu, 212-678-3991.   (If a member of the community reports a complaint to one of the Harassment Panel Chairs or to the Director of Human Resources, he or she will promptly convey the report to the Title IX Coordinator.) 


Education and Prevention


Avoiding discriminatory harassment is, of course, better than remedying harassment after it takes place.   The College conducts educational and training programs for various parts of the College community, including special training for new students as part of their orientation.  


As part of new employee and faculty orientation, the College offers a program on  Promoting Mutual Respect and Preventing Workplace Harassment & Title IX.   Effective June 2012, the College is also providing web-based training to the College community. 


For more information, please contact the Vice President for Diversity and Community Affairs.


Options for those Concerned about Sexual or other Discriminatory Harassment


Teachers College provides a range of options for those concerned about discriminatory harassment.   Outlined below are options for (I) individuals who seek confidential counseling or guidance, (II) informal procedures and (III) formal procedures.   Choosing any one of these options does not prevent you from later using another.


I.          Confidentiality and Confidential Resources.      


The College strives to protect, to the greatest extent possible, the confidentiality of persons reporting harassment and of those accused of harassment. Because the College has an obligation to address harassment, however, it cannot guarantee complete confidentiality where that would conflict with the College’s obligation to investigate meaningfully or take corrective action. Even when some disclosure of the College’s information or sources is necessary, it will be limited to the extent possible. The College will, to the extent permitted by law, keep confidential all records of complaints, responses and investigations.


If you want to discuss possible harassment in a more confidential setting or clarify your feelings about whether and how you wish to proceed, you may want to consult a social worker, therapist or member of the clergy, who has the legal right to protect confidentiality. In the Teachers College and Columbia University community, confidential guidance is available from:



The Teachers College Ombuds Office is a confidential resource available to members of the College community.   The Ombuds officer will not disclose information obtained from persons seeking assistance without their permission (except when there is a possibility of imminent harm or as required by law). The Ombuds officer is available to provide information and clarification regarding the College’s policies and procedures, and may assist individuals in evaluating options.  The Ombuds Office may refer individuals to appropriate offices and resources within the College, including psychological counseling and support services and may also, in appropriate circumstances, offer to engage in informal mediation in an effort to resolve the concerns and claims of those who contact them. 


o    Erwin Flaxman, TC Ombuds officer, (212) 678-4169, flaxman@tc.edu


Individuals trained as psychologists, counselors and lawyers have a legal obligation of confidentiality to their patients and clients, but not to their students, colleagues or others.   While confidentiality will be protected to the extent possible, the law does not permit administrators or faculty members to ensure that they will keep student or colleague confidences to themselves. 


II.  Informal Procedures for Addressing Discriminatory Harassment

 A. Self-Help


Any person who believes that he or she has been harassed on the basis of membership in a protected group may choose to deal with the alleged offender directly through, for example, a face-to-face discussion, a personal telephone conversation, e-mail correspondence, or letters. In some cases this may effectively resolve the situation. However, individuals should not feel that they must address the individual directly. Such an approach may be ineffective in correcting the problem, or an individual may be uncomfortable in handling the situation alone. If so, assistance is available as set out below.

 B. Informal Procedures


The College has multiple points of access for individuals who want to approach a knowledgeable person for advice, solicit feedback regarding their interpretation of circumstances that may appear to reflect harassment, and/or discuss available options for resolution of concerns. Individuals who wish to take advantage of this option may choose to contact any one of the following professional staff member of the Panel.


Harassment Panel Members


Human Resources Office Staff  Members


Diversity  and Community Affairs Office


Depending on the concerns expressed, these individuals may need to consult with each other or other College officials to determine whether an investigation is required.   Under applicable laws, the College generally has an obligation to investigate allegations of discriminatory harassment. 


If an individual seeks confidentiality, the College will attempt to comply, but such compliance may limit the College’s ability to investigate and respond to the complaint. The College must weigh a complainant’s request for complete confidentiality with the College’s commitment and obligation to provide a reasonably safe and non-discriminatory environment.  In particular, in situations where the College becomes aware of an alleged pattern of harassing behavior by an individual, the College must take appropriate action in an attempt to protect the community.


As noted above, individuals who seek a greater assurance of confidentiality may wish to consult with the Ombuds Office or other confidential resources.


After an informal investigation under these procedures, the appropriate Vice President(s) may take appropriate actions as set out in “Resolution and Appeal” below.  




Mediation is an informal and confidential process where parties can participate in a search for mutually acceptable solutions. Mediation requires the consent of both parties and suspends any formal procedures for up to thirty (30) working days, which can be extended with the consent of both parties and at the discretion of a Harassment Panel Chair.  The parties may agree to have their concerns mediated by the Mediation Clinic at Columbia Law School, the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) at Teachers College, or another mutually agreeable mediation entity.  Parties may agree upon a variety of resolutions such as modification of work assignment, training for the staff in a department, or an apology. Parties may agree to a resolution that is oral or embodied in a written agreement. The final resolution is confidential unless the parties agree otherwise.  Mediation is not available in situations involving allegations of sexual assault or other sexual violence.


III.    Formal Procedures.

 A. Complaint.


Any individual who wishes to make a formal complaint of sexual or other discriminatory harassment may present a written complaint to a Harassment Panel Chair or a member of the Panel, who shall promptly notify the chair.   The formal complaint must include a written statement signed by the complainant specifying:



If a complainant feels unable to prepare a written complaint themselves, the Chair or designee will make a record of the complainant’s oral statements which the complainant may review, correct any inaccuracies, and sign.

 B. Preliminary Review and Investigation.  


Upon receipt of a formal complaint, the Chair or designee will conduct a preliminary review unless an adequate investigation has already taken place.  The preliminary review will normally include discussions with the complainant and respondent.   After the preliminary review, the Chair or designee, in consultation with at least one other panel member and the responsible Vice President,[2] will make a determination as to whether or not the circumstances reported in the complaint warrant further investigation.    


If the Panel Chair or designee finds that the complaint does not warrant further investigation, the Chair or designee will so advise the complainant, who shall have the Appeal rights set out below.


If the Chair or designee determines that the circumstances reported in the complaint may warrant further investigation, the Panel Chair shall determine whether the investigation should be conducted internally or by outside counsel. If the Panel Chair determines that the matter should be investigated internally, a trained member of the College community will be designated to conduct the investigation.  If the Panel Chair determines that the matter should be investigated by outside counsel, the College’s General Counsel will retain an investigator.


If a formal investigation is initiated, the Panel Chair or investigator will notify the complainant that the formal complaint warrants further investigation, and, if appropriate, notify the complainant and/or respondent’s supervisor or department chair about the complaint.  In consultation with the Panel Chair and the appropriate Vice President(s), the supervisor or department chair may take temporary actions pending the completion of the investigation.  The goal of such temporary actions would be to alleviate conflict pending a final resolution of the claims and all reasonable efforts would be made to create an environment where both parties can continue their work or education. The investigator will not consider any temporary action evidence regarding the merits of the complaint. 


The standard applicable in any proceeding under this Policy is “preponderance of evidence” – more likely than not.


The investigator will report his or her findings to the Chair or designee and the relevant Vice President(s), who shall act in accordance with “Resolution and Appeal” below.

 C. Hearing


If a matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant and respondent, the Chair may, in his/her discretion, convene a three member Hearing Committee to consider evidence regarding the allegations.   The Hearing Committee shall include three members chosen by the Panel Chair from the Harassment Panel and other trained individuals.


The parties will be given a minimum of seven (7) working days notice prior to any hearing.  A hearing may take place over one or more sessions, as needed.   Both parties have the right to be present at the hearing,[3] but may not cross-examine witnesses.   Parties may, however, suggest questions to the Committee and request that the questions be asked of the attendees or witnesses.   The parties also have the right to review any documents or other evidence considered and to rebut any evidence presented as part of the defense.  Both parties may have a silent observer present but this observer may not participate in the hearing.





Resolution and Appeal

A. Findings and Recommendations.  


After an investigation or hearing, the investigator and/or the Committee will:




Any recommended corrective action and/or sanction shall be designed to correct or to remedy any injury to the complainant and to prevent any further harassment.  Recommended actions will reflect the nature and extent of the violation and injury.  


 B. Corrective Action and Sanctions


Where a violation of this Policy has been found, the appropriate Vice President will take such further action as s/he deems necessary, including discipline or the initiation of disciplinary proceedings.  The investigator or committee’s role is to make a recommendation and not to affect any sanction or corrective action.   


Corrective actions and sanctions may include written warnings; formal written reprimands; probation, transfer, suspension, dismissal or expulsion; referral to counseling or training or any other measure Teachers College believes will be effective in ending harassment and preventing further harassment. 


Corrective action may include a change of grade or other academic record for a student who has been the victim of harassment.  If corrective action involves a change of grade, the investigator or Committee may recommend that the Provost authorize a change of grade.  If no grounds for a change of grade based on harassment are found, the student may still use the grade correction procedures in the College Policies.

 C.  Appeal of Determination and Disciplinary Recommendations


Either party may appeal the Vice President’s decision (based on the investigatory or committee determination and/or recommendation). The appeal must be in writing, should identify the specific portions of the determination appealed, and must be delivered to the appropriate Vice President within five (5) working days of the participants’ receipt of notice of the Vice President’s decision.   Such notices may be sent by email.   Issues not appealed in this time frame shall be deemed to be conceded.  If the appeal is timely filed, the Vice President will forward the appeal to the President, who shall appoint an appeal officer to make a final decision.


The appeal officer may conduct such review as he or she deems appropriate, but will generally not hear the testimony of witnesses. The role of the officer is to determine if the investigation or hearing was conducted in a fair manner, if the determination is consistent with the evidence presented, and if the disciplinary recommendations are commensurate with the findings. 


The appeal officer will render a written decision within thirty (30) working days following receipt of the appeal, or as soon thereafter as practicable, and he or she will forward a recommendation to the President for approval. Once approved by the President, the appeal officer will provide notice to the parties of the final disposition of the complaint. Such notification shall be in writing and provided to the parties within fifteen (15) working days following receipt of the appeal officer’s decision by the President.


Once approved by the President, the decision of the appeal officer is not subject to further review other than the reserved right of the President and the Trustees of the College to review any

decision affecting matters of overall College policy and any challenges established by law.   Faculty members have additional appeal rights under the College’s Statutes. 


TC and Columbia Information and Educational Resources 


TC Harassment Panel



In addition there are three appointed faculty members who serve on the panel. For the annual membership, please contact the office of the Vice Provost at 212-678-3052.


TC Office of Human Resources


TC Ombuds Office,  www.tc.edu/ombuds/

CU Law School, Mediation Clinic


Columbia University Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct

www.columbia.edu/cu/dpsa, 212-854-1717

Matters covered by the Gender-Based Misconduct Policies for Students should be addressed through Columbia University Student Services for Gender-based and Sexual Misconduct.   For matters not covered by these Policies, a TC student may contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at CU if the alleged incident involves a CU student, faculty member, or staff.   http://ssgbsm.columbia.edu/. (Columbia’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action is not available for complaints or allegations involving ONLY TC staff, students, or faculty.)

External Resources


Sexual harassment and other forms of discriminatory harassment may violate the law as well as this Policy.  For information about federal, state and local laws prohibiting discriminatory harassment and the agencies responsible for enforcing those laws, see:


U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights – www.ed.gov/ocr

United State Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - www.eeoc.gov

U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women – www.ovw.usdoj.gov

New York State Department of Human Rights - www.dhr.state.ny.us

New York City Commission on Human Rights - www.nyc.gov/html/cchr


Adoption and Review of Policy. 


This Policy was adopted as an Interim Policy effective September 6, 2011 and again, with revisions, effective October 13, 2012 and April 2013.  The 2011 interim policy modified the College’s prior Policy on Protection from Harassment in light of new guidance from the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights and the new Columbia University Gender-Based Misconduct Policies for Students.   The 2012 revision reorganized and clarified aspects of the 2011 version (in particular, but focusing on all forms of discriminatory harassment), but did not make substantive changes in the policy or procedures.  


The interim policy was reviewed with the Faculty Executive Committee, the Management Network, the Professional Staff Executive Committee and the Student Senate in 2012-13.


Responsibility for implementing this Policy rests with many offices.   For purposes of review and maintenance, however, the Policy will be housed within the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Community Affairs.


Technical amendments made in July 2014


[1] Different professionals have different reporting obligations.   For example, many have an obligation to report child abuse or mistreatment of minors, see www.tc.edu/policylibrary/abuse_and_harassment_of_minors_and_adults, and psychologists, counselors and others have obligations to disclose certain confidences to protect the client/patient, psychologist/counselor or others from harm. 

[2]  If a Vice President is charged with harassment or otherwise disqualified, the President or Chair of the Board’s Audit Committee shall appoint an alternative individual to fulfill any roles this Policy assigns to the Vice President.

[3] In appropriate circumstances, the Committee may adopt alternative procedures that ensure that both parties hear all testimony but do not require them to be present in the same room.