4.1 Inappropriate Conduct by Faculty Members

I. Policy Statement
Syracuse University is committed to maintaining a healthy, safe, respectful, and productive working, learning, and teaching environment. This Policy provides a framework for defining and preventing inappropriate conduct by University Faculty Members and outlining the available procedural options for those who believe themselves to have been subject to misconduct by a University Faculty Member.

Syracuse University is committed to educating the community about and enforcing the standards of community conduct elaborated below. Further, the University is committed to meeting standards of transparency, fairness, and accountability in acting upon and communicating this policy and the procedures that follow.

II. Scope of Policy
Any member of the University community (student, staff, faculty, or administrator) having a complaint concerning inappropriate conduct by a University Faculty Member may utilize this Policy and the Procedure that follows. For the purposes of the policy and procedure, the term “University Faculty Member” includes all full and part-time, tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty, professors, instructional staff, teaching assistants (in their instructional capacities), and academic administrators.(1)

III. Responsibilities of University Faculty Members
University Faculty Members share responsibility for University governance and for the maintenance of the tenets of the University Code of Ethical Conduct. As individuals they are expected to exercise the freedoms fundamental to their roles as scholar/teachers, including but not limited to the principles of Academic Freedom articulated by the AAUP. Syracuse University strongly supports and protects the principle of academic freedom. All members of the University community have a right to use the academic forum provided by the University to discuss controversial subjects and to express ideas with which some or most of the members of the community strongly disagree.

University Faculty Members are additionally expected to exercise judgment in the pursuit of their many professional goals and to take responsibility for the power that those freedoms confer. As employees of the University, University Faculty Members implicitly and explicitly agree to contribute to, and not otherwise to impede, the healthy, safe, and productive environment for work, learning, and teaching to which the University is committed. As University Faculty Members, they have a responsibility to contribute positively to the learning environment for all students and not to take advantage of or abuse those professional powers.

IV. Inappropriate Conduct
The term “inappropriate conduct,” as utilized in this Policy, refers to violations of University policy, including but not limited to the Code of Ethical Conduct and University policies addressing discrimination and harassment. The term also refers to ethics violations, harassment, or retaliation as prohibited by University policy. (2) Allegations of University policy violations that may potentially constitute criminal conduct may also be reported to appropriate law enforcement authorities and the district attorney by the complainant and may have to be reported to law enforcement authorities and the district attorney by the University in some cases per applicable policy or practice. This Policy and the Procedure that follows do not apply to allegations of improper research ethics or alleged violations of the University’s research, grading, or plagiarism policies (3). Allegations of inappropriate conduct will be evaluated under this policy by considering the totality of the particular circumstances, including the nature, frequency, intensity, location, context, and duration of the conduct at issue.

V. Definitions

“Discrimination” is defined as any conduct that violates the Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity policy of Syracuse University. Syracuse University is an equal-opportunity, affirmative-action institution. The University prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, gender, national origin, citizenship, ethnicity, marital status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, genetic information, veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law to the extent prohibited by law. This nondiscrimination policy covers admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in University programs, services, and activities.

Sexual Harassment
Syracuse University defines sexual harassment as unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that relates to the gender or sexual identity of an individual and that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile environment for study, work, or social living. The policy (4) covers activity both on and off campus. This policy applies to all interactions between Syracuse University Faculty Members and other faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, and administrative personnel. State or federal laws may also apply in some instances.

The courts have recognized two forms of sexual harassment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: “quid pro quo” claims and “hostile environment” claims.

The “quid pro quo” claim (literally “this for that”) involves harassment in which a supervisory employee or academic superior demands sexual favors in exchange for job or academic benefits over which that supervisor has some control or influence.

The “hostile work environment” claim involves unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating or hostile environment. This standard prohibits not only behavior intended to create a hostile environment but also behavior that has the reasonably foreseeable effect of interfering with an individual’s work, academic performance, or social living. Anyone who contributes to the creation of a “hostile work environment” may be held liable for sexual harassment, including the employer or its agents, if they knew of or reasonably should have known of the harassing conditions.

Sexual harassment is conduct that focuses on a person’s sexuality and/or gender, rather than on that person’s contributions, as a student or employee, to the University. It encompasses the full range of coercive, unwelcome behavior, from subtle psychological force to gross physical abuse. These acts may be visual (e.g., leering, ogling, and physical gestures conveying a sexual meaning), verbal (e.g., sexual innuendoes, suggestive remarks, sexually derogatory jokes), written (e.g., sexually suggestive e-mail, cartoons, or letters), or physical (e.g., hugging, pinching, or fondling). Sexual harassment also includes requests for sexual relations combined with threats of adverse consequences if the person refuses.

Conduct alleged to be sexual harassment will be evaluated by considering the totality of the particular circumstances, including the nature, frequency, intensity, location, context, and duration of the questioned behavior. Repeated incidents or a pattern of harassing behavior may be cause for serious corrective action. However, a more serious incident, even if isolated, may be sufficient cause for action under this policy.

Consensual Sexual or Romantic Relationships
Sexual or romantic relationships that might be acceptable in other circumstances always pose inherent risks that they will result in sexual harassment when they occur between University Faculty Members and any person for whom they have a professional responsibility. These relationships, even when not harassing, may develop into professional conflicts of interest or create the perception of such a conflict of interest, that may make it difficult to carry out a role as educator or supervisor. Conduct within a consensual relationship may become part of a subsequent complaint of sexual harassment.

The danger that difficulties, including harassment or abuse of power, will occur is particularly strong in relationships between teachers and students they are teaching and/or advising. The relationship puts the student in a vulnerable position and creates a problematic learning environment for other students who become aware of the relationship. Professionalism within the University demands that those with authority not abuse, nor seem to abuse, the power with which they are entrusted.

This policy is not intended to apply to faculty spouses or domestic partners, as those terms are defined in the University’s Benefits Eligibility Policy, who may be students and whose relationship precedes the creation of a power imbalance. In addition, the Provost, after consultation with the relevant Chair or Dean, may permit exceptions to this policy in appropriate circumstances.

(a) Relationships with Undergraduate Students

When undergraduate students are involved, the difference in institutional power and the inherent risk of coercion are so great that no University Faculty Member shall enter into or engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with a Syracuse University undergraduate student, regardless of whether there is a supervisory or evaluative relationship between them. Efforts by faculty to initiate such relationships are also prohibited.

(b) Relationships with Graduate Students

Romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and graduate/professional students are also problematic. No University Faculty Member shall enter into or engage in a consensual or romantic or sexual relationship with graduate students or any subordinates whose work the University Faculty Member supervises or who are enrolled or employed in any academic program or department in which the faculty member participates. Efforts by faculty to initiate such relationships are also prohibited.

(c) Relationships between Teaching Assistants and Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants are prohibited from pursuing or engaging in romantic or sexual relationships with undergraduate students they teach, advise, or supervise. In the case where a teaching assistant had a prior romantic or sexual relationship with a student over whom they have supervisory or evaluative authority, the teaching assistant must notify their faculty supervisor, Chair, or Dean, who will assist with taking steps necessary to mitigate any potential conflict.

In addition, University Faculty Members shall not exercise supervisory or evaluative authority over any student with whom they have had a previous romantic or sexual relationship.


Minors are unable to consent to any sexual activity with an adult; therefore, there is no such thing as consensual sexual activity between a minor and a University Faculty Member. The University strictly prohibits unlawful sexual activity involving minors in connection with any of its programs. For the purpose of this policy, a minor is any person under the age of 17. The University prohibits not only unlawful bodily contact with a minor, if engaged in for purposes of sexual gratification or arousal, but also any unlawful non-contact sexual activity (e.g., voyeurism, exposure to pornography, “sexting,” etc.) Any reports or complaints of unlawful sexual activity involving minors will be reported to appropriate law enforcement and social service agencies.

Other prohibited conduct
As stated above, discrimination or harassment based on the categories protected under University policy or applicable law is prohibited. In addition, conduct that creates a hostile work environment is prohibited by this policy. Complaints may be filed under this policy by members of the University community who believe that they are being subjected to a work or educational environment that for one reason or another is hostile or inappropriate but does not meet the definition of sexual harassment or discrimination under the law or policy.

VI. Protection from retaliation
Regardless of the outcome of any action undertaken through this policy, retaliation against any complainant or witness who participates in using the policies and procedures set forth in this or any other section of the Faculty Manual will not be tolerated and, when reported, may form the basis for a separate complaint of misconduct.

1. Policies regarding allegations of improper conduct against students can be found on the SU Policies Website at http://supolicies.syr.edu/studs/ and at the Community Standards website at https://studentconduct.syr.edu. Policies regarding allegations of improper conduct against staff not covered by this policy can be found at http://supolicies.syr.edu/violations.html or at http://supolicies.syr.edu/emp_ben/staff_complaint.htm.

2. University Faculty Members denied tenure or promotion may appeal those decisions, in accordance with Section 2.38. Appeals based on procedural issues should be filed with the Committee on Appointments and Promotion. Appeals on matters of ethics, academic freedom, or discrimination should be filed with AFTPE.

3. Allegations of improper research ethics and allegations of violations of the University’s research and plagiarism policies by University Faculty Members should be reported to the Office of the Vice President for Research, per section 4.4. Allegations of violations of grading policies by University Faculty Members should be reported to the School/College of instruction.

4. The University Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Assault Prevention Policy is the University’s omnibus statement and controlling policy on the handling of complaints about sexual harassment.


(Added September 2012. Updated August 20, 2018. Updated April 17, 2024)