Sexual Misconduct Policy FAQs
1. What is the purpose of the Sexual Misconduct Policy?
Rice prohibits all forms of sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking, and relationship violence. When a student is reported to have committed these behaviors, that report can be reviewed under the Code of Student Conduct and the Sexual Misconduct Policy (“Policy”). The Policy is intended to further explain the different options for reporting incidents of sexual misconduct and relationship violence, and to detail how reporting students and responding students can access all of the available resources, at Rice and off-campus.
2. What is included in “sexual misconduct”?
Sexual misconduct is a broad, umbrella term that includes numerous specific behaviors. Examples of these prohibited behaviors can range in severity from verbal comments of a sexual nature that are severely offensive or repetitive, to sexual intercourse that is forced and without consent. The defined prohibited behaviors in the Policy include:
· Sexual Assault
· Unwanted Sexual Contact
· Sexual Harassment
Relationship violence, while it may not necessarily be sexual in nature, is also prohibited under this Policy, as well as under the Code of Student Conduct. Relationship violence includes:
· Intimate Partner Violence
While none of these behaviors are tolerated at Rice, the level of severity varies, as will the level of sanctions in a university disciplinary context.
3. What if I experienced a particularly uncomfortable incident, but I am not sure that this Policy applies to my experience?
If a student is unsure whether a particular experience constitutes sexual misconduct or relationship violence, Rice encourages that person to have a discussion with a trusted advisor in order to obtain information about the available resources at Rice that can help. Students with questions or concerns about their experiences are encouraged to contact The SAFE Office: Interpersonal Misconduct Prevention and Support. Resource Navigators in that office are available to meet with students and discuss the options for reporting ands support at Rice. Student can speak with and obtain information from a Resource Navigator without making a report to Student Judicial Programs (“SJP”) or RUPD. To contact a Resource Navigator, students should call (713) 348-3311, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the Gibbs Wellness Center Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
4. What does “consent” mean at Rice?
The Policy gives Rice’s full definition of consent, including illustrative examples. Students are encouraged to carefully and thoughtfully read the section about consent in the Policy, and the information in this FAQ is to be considered as a preview. Rice defines “consent” as:
· Voluntary agreement by each participant
· Communicated by clear actions or words
Communication between participants is the key. Everyone should be on the same page about sexual boundaries and be able to make an informed choice about whether or not to participate in sexual activity.
5. What about the role of alcohol and consent?
A person that is incapacitated due to alcohol (or other drug) consumption cannot give consent. Incapacitation is a state beyond mere intoxication or impairment. Evaluating incapacitation requires an assessment of how the consumption of alcohol or drugs affects a person’s decision-making ability, their capacity to appreciate the nature and quality of the act, and/or their level of consciousness. This assessment is based on objective and reasonably apparent signs of incapacitation when viewed from the perspective of a sober, reasonable person. Some examples of the apparent signs of incapacitation may include:
· Inability to physically control movements (slumping over, stumbling, inability/difficulty standing or walking)
· Lack of awareness of surroundings
· Slurred or incomprehensible speech
· Inability to communicate
Another effect of alcohol consumption can be memory impairment, or forgetting entire or partial events (sometimes referred to as a “blackout” or “brownout.”) A person may experience this symptom while appearing to be functioning “normally,” including communicating through actions or words that seem to express an interest in engaging in sexual conduct. Whether sexual conduct with a person who experiences memory impairment constitutes sexual misconduct depends on the presence or absence of the observable factors indicating incapacitation, as described above. Total or partial memory loss, without more, is insufficient to demonstrate incapacitation.
6. What if I was harassed/assaulted, but at the time I was drinking alcohol or using drugs? Will I get in trouble if I report the incident?
Rice encourages students to report incidents of sexual misconduct and relationship violence. The main concern is that students in need of help are easily able to access all of the resources Rice has in place. To encourage students to report incidents of sexual misconduct, Rice will grant amnesty to certain students involved in a report of sexual assault for behavior that would otherwise be a violation of the Code of Student Conduct. Rice will refrain from taking disciplinary action against a student who, in good faith, reports being a victim of, or a witness to, an incident of sexual assault when the violation of the Code of Student Conduct is in relation to the incident of sexual misconduct. That being said, amnesty does not apply to responding students who may have provided or been using alcohol or dangerous substances in violation of Rice policies.
7. Does Rice use the state law definitions of sexual assault and consent from the Texas Penal Code?
No. The disciplinary process at Rice is not a legal process. These cases are not decided in a court of law, and therefore are not guided by the Texas laws regarding evidence, criminal procedure, or the statutory definitions contained in the Penal Code. Rice generally holds its students to a higher standard of conduct than that required by law, as reflected in the Code of Student Conduct and the Policy. The Policy does include some definitions of offenses cited from the Penal Code and the Family Code, however these definitions are included only for reference and comparison to the Rice definitions.
8. What are the different options for reporting sexual misconduct and relationship violence? Does a report always have to go through SJP?
A reporting student has the option to choose the reporting process that best fits his/her needs. Reporting students are encouraged to contact a Resource Navigator to discuss the various options for reporting an incident. Depending on the situation and wishes of the reporting student, the response to a report may include a number of offices on campus, such as:
· The SAFE Office: Interpersonal Misconduct Prevention and Support (Resource Navigators): 713-348-3311 (Monday thru Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
· RUPD: 713- 348-6000 (24 hours a day)
· Student Judicial Programs: 713-348-4786 (Monday thru Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
· Student Wellbeing Office: 713-348-3311 (Monday thru Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
· Rice Counseling Center: 713-348-3311 (24 hours a day)
The reporting process does not automatically involve SJP. The reporting student will have the option to pursue a university disciplinary case with SJP if that is what the student chooses. Students can consult any of the offices listed above about options and resources with no obligation to reveal names or initiate university level charges.
9. If a student wants to pursue University level disciplinary charges against the accused student, what is the process?
A reporting student can consult with SJP about disciplinary options prior to deciding whether or not to move forward with university level charges. If the reporting student then decides he or she wants to pursue and participate in disciplinary action against a responding student, SJP will handle the investigation and adjudication following the report of sexual misconduct or relationship violence. An investigation typically involves one or more meetings with the reporting student, the responding student, any witnesses, and an opportunity for each party to submit further information for consideration. The SJP staff member investigating the matter will make a determination of whether to charge the responding student under the Code of Student Conduct, whether (based on a preponderance of the evidence) a violation occurred, and what sanction will apply if a responding student is found In Violation. Students should be aware that when a formal SJP disciplinary process commences, all reporting and responding students involved will be notified of the existence of the proceeding, and the responding student will have access to the identity of the reporting student.
10. Can I bring someone with me to the meetings about my case?
Both the reporting and the responding students have the option to bring a support person of their choice to the meetings about their case. These conversations have a tendency to be especially difficult for the students involved, so the role of the support person is to provide emotional support and listen to the information discussed in the meeting. Having another person to talk to later, who heard the same information, may be helpful and supportive to the involved students. The support person should act as a second pair of ears and shoulder to lean on. Support persons will not be permitted to actively participate in the discussion between SJP staff and the student whose behavior is at issue. If a student intends to bring a support person to a meeting, the student should let SJP know they are planning to bring someone and who that person is. For more information on the role of the support person in a disciplinary meeting, please read that section of the Sexual Misconduct Policy.
11. What are the possible sanctions for a student found In Violation of the Policy through SJP?
Reporting students found In Violation of forcible or non-consensual sexual assault can expect to be separated from the university. Remember, sexual misconduct and relationship violence are umbrella terms that include a list of named offenses. These offenses can range from repeated and severely offensive verbal sexual harassment, to the most dangerous forms of non-consensual sexual assault. For less severe violations of the Policy, SJP uses a wide range of sanctions to address unacceptable behavior. The sanctions for each responding student found In Violation will be focused the safety of the reporting student, and the broader university community.
12. Who can a student talk to that is confidential, and doesn’t involve RUPD or SJP?
Most professional staff and faculty at Rice are obligated to disclose reports of sexual misconduct and relationship violence to a Title IX Coordinator. If a student wants to talk about an incident in a completely confidential setting, there are other “Confidential Employees” available to students on campus. The licensed counselors in the Rice Counseling Center and the medical staff at Student Health Services will not report or disclose the details given by the reporting student when a treating relationship exists with that staff member. Generally, a treating relationship begins when the student requests services from a counselor or a medical professional. The staff in these offices are equipped to answer all of the questions a student may have about reporting options at Rice, the available support resources, and can discuss what best suits that particular student’s needs. The only information that a Confidential Employee is required to disclose to the university is statistical information about the type of incident, which does not include any identifying information about the student involved. Rice also works with the Houston Area Women’s Center and the Montrose Center to provide counseling and support to students affected by sexual misconduct and relationship violence in a completely confidential setting. Students may call any of these campus resources directly for assistance.
· Rice Counseling Center (answered 24 hours a day): 713-348-3311
· Student Health Services (business hours): 713-348-4966
· Houston Area Women’s Center (answered 24 hours a day): 713-528-7273
· The Montrose Center (LGBT+): 713-529-3211
13. What if a student wants to pursue criminal charges?
The choice to pursue legal action through the criminal justice system is always an option available to reporting students. RUPD can help a student to navigate that process. A report made to law enforcement will be handled in the external criminal justice system and is separate from any university disciplinary process. A criminal investigation handled by external legal and law enforcement agencies can run concurrently with a university disciplinary case, and the university case involving the responding student will continue to move forward regardless of any decisions made in a criminal court of law.
14. Why does Rice get involved in these cases? Why not just let the police handle relationship and sexual violence cases?
As stated above, reporting students always have the option to pursue criminal charges through external law enforcement and legal systems. RUPD is a law enforcement agency, just like HPD, so a report to RUPD is a report to the police. Rice and RUPD will assist a student who chooses to pursue criminal charges. In addition, once Rice is made aware that an incident of sexual misconduct or relationship violence has occurred, the university is federally mandated to make contact with the reporting student in order to offer support and provide information about reporting options. Generally this contact comes from a Title IX Resource Navigator. Rice strives for all members of the community to be safe and able to succeed in their academic and personal endeavors free from fear and hostility.