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Sexual Misconduct

What is Sexual Misconduct?

Sexual Misconduct is an umbrella term used to encompass a range of behaviors. It includes Sexual or Gender-Based Harassment, Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Violence, Stalking, Nonconsensual Sexual Contact, and Nonconsensual Sexual Penetration. Sexual Misconduct is a type of Sex or Gender-Based Discrimination. For specific definitions, see the Discrimination Complaint Rule.  Generally, sexual misconduct describes behavior that is nonconsensual and impacts an individual’s academic or employment environment.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual or Gender-Based Harassment means conduct, on the basis of sex/gender, which satisfies either of the following:  See the Discrimination Complaint Rule for policy definition.

  1. Quid Pro Quo is essentially something for something. In other words, quid pro quo harassment is someone in a position of authority seeks some type of sexual favors in return for some type of employment or academic benefit. For example, a faculty member who asks a student to go on a date in exchange for a favorable recommendation, or a supervisor asks for sexual favors in exchange for a promotion. 
  2. Hostile Environment: Unwelcome conduct which is either severe, pervasive, or the behavior unreasonably interferes with a person’s academic or employment environment. 
  3. Conduct which also meets the criminal definitions of: Sexual Assault/Sex Offenses, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence or Stalking.

How is a University process different than a criminal process?

The OEO/AA process is the University’s process for adjudicating discrimination, sexual misconduct, and retaliation cases under the University’s nondiscrimination policy. A criminal process is based upon local, state, or federal laws governing criminal conduct.

It is important to know about the differences between the two and how the findings of a University hearing are different than a criminal process. The University does not enforce criminal laws and therefore does not issue a decision about whether a criminal violation has occurred; however, a finding by a court of law that an individual is guilty of criminal violations could constitute a violation of University policy. A person can go through a University process and also be charged with criminal offenses.

  • Definitions: The University uses definitions such as “non-consensual sexual penetration,” “non-consensual sexual contact,” and “intimate partner violence” to help distinguish between University policy definitions and criminal definitions such as rape, fondling, and dating or domestic violence. As an example, the University uses “non-consensual sexual penetration” and the criminal system uses the term “rape.”
  • Standard of Proof: The University of Utah uses the “preponderance of the evidence” as the standard of proof, while a criminal court uses the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is a much stricter standard. Preponderance of the evidence is often summarized as more likely than not.
  • Decision-maker: In the OEO/AA process, either an investigator (discrimination and retaliation cases) or a hearing committee (sexual misconduct cases) will determine whether a violation of University policy has occurred. A University process is not a court of law.
  • Consequences: Examples of potential consequences for a University process are suspension, expulsion, some sort of loss of privilege if a student is found responsible for violating the University’s nondiscrimination policy, or termination, suspension, written warnings, for employees. Examples of criminal penalties may be prison, probation, sex offender registry.



How is consent defined at the University?

Consent (when used in reference to the issue of whether a Complainant did or did not agree to allow a Respondent to engage in certain conduct) means affirmative, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement. The University of Utah has an affirmative consent policy. This means an individual must receive affirmative, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement to take part in a sexual activity. The University also provides guidelines on consent.

Last Updated: 4/20/23