Equity Policy and Procedures

Policy Details

As described in the Nondiscrimination Policy as well as the Christ-Centered Diversity Commitment, Wheaton College is a Christian liberal arts institution committed to treating all individuals as equal image-bearers of Jesus. The College affirms diversity as part of God’s original and eternal design for humanity and see its importance for knowing and worshiping God and serving His purpose. Furthermore, we are committed to a learning, living, and work environment where we love our neighbor as we love ourselves and treat everyone with respect and dignity. Therefore, as described in our Nondiscrimination Policy, Wheaton College expects that all relationships will be free of unlawful discrimination and harassment. Although many interpersonal conflicts and some forms of misconduct can be resolved without recourse to a formal process and addressed by following the spirit and guidance found in Matthew 18:15-20, the forms of harassment and discrimination governed by this policy may be legal matters for which both the government and the College may require a formal process.

I. Scope of this Policy

This Equity Policy & Procedures (“Policy”) applies to all members of the College community, including students, faculty, and staff (hereinafter “employees”), volunteers, visitors, and other guests of the College community, and to contractors, consultants, and vendors doing business or providing services to the College. The Policy applies to on-campus and off-campus conduct by or against a College community member, including online or electronic conduct, when the off-campus conduct (i) occurs during a College-sponsored educational activity or program; (ii) adversely impacts the education or employment of a member of the College community; or (iii) otherwise threatens the health or safety of a member of the College community. While the College is committed to the principles of free inquiry and expression, the discrimination, or harassment prohibited by this Policy are neither legally protected expression nor the proper exercise of academic freedom.

As required by law and regulations, the Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy & Procedures (“Title IX Policy”) is the exclusive method for resolving sexual harassment prohibited by Title IX. However, because of our commitment to equity, the College chooses to prohibit sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, or other sexual misconduct not explicitly covered by Title IX. In those situations, the College will use this Policy to address reports of sexual misconduct not explicitly covered by Title IX.

II. Accessibility

Wheaton College is committed to making the processes described in this Policy accessible to all members of the Wheaton College community, including providing reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities. To learn more about the policies and procedures specific to requesting reasonable accommodations, please visit the “Accessibility Resources” section of the Learning & Accessibility Services webpage (students) or the Employee Handbook (Faculty and staff).

Further inquiries may be directed as follows:

ADA/Section 504 Coordinator for Students:
Melissa Norton, Student Services Building #209, (630) 752-5674, melissa.norton@wheaton.edu

ADA/Section 504 Coordinator for Employees:
Gina Cristman, Human Resource Generalist, Blanchard #154, (630) 752-5060, gina.cristman@wheaton.edu

III. Prohibited Conduct

In determining whether alleged conduct violates this Policy, the College will consider the facts and circumstances of the incident, including the nature of the alleged misconduct and the context in which it occurred.

A. Discrimination

Discrimination is unequal, adverse treatment of an individual because of the individual’s legally protected class status as described in the Nondiscrimination Policy. Examples of discrimination can include:

  • Refusing to hire or promote someone because of the individual’s membership in a protected class;
  • Denying someone a raise, opportunities for advancement, or educational opportunities because of the individual’s membership in a protected class;
  • Reducing someone’s job responsibilities because of the individual’s membership in a protected class;
  • Avoiding professional development or mentorship opportunities due to protected class status or assumptions related to protected class status, e.g., preferring to only mentor students of your same sex, assuming a person is unavailable to attend or participate in professional opportunities due to childcare issues, marital status, age, or any other protected class;
  • Denying someone access to a facility based on the individual’s membership in a protected class;
  • Denying someone access to an educational program based on the individual’s membership in a protected class.

B. Harassment

Harassment is unwelcome verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct directed toward an individual because of the individual’s legally protected status as described in the Nondiscrimination Policy when:

  • submission to that conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s educational experience or employment, or the individual’s submission or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for an employment, academic, or other educational decision; or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially and unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or education, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment or educational environment (“hostile environment” harassment).

“Hostile environment” harassment exists when the unwelcome conduct is sufficiently severe, or pervasive/persistent, or clearly/objectively offensive that it alters the conditions of education or employment. The criteria for determining whether an environment is “hostile” include:

  • The frequency of the conduct;
  • The nature and severity of the conduct;
  • Whether the conduct was physically threatening;
  • The effect of the conduct on the person subject to the conduct;
  • Whether the conduct was directed at more than one person;
  • Whether the conduct arose in the context of other discriminatory conduct;
  • Whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the educational or work performance of the person subject to the conduct;
  • Whether the statement could be interpreted as discourteous, rude, or insensitive
  • Whether the speech or conduct deserves the protections of academic freedom.

Examples of conduct that may constitute harassment include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Jokes, derogatory language, or epithets about a person's protected status;
  • The use of slurs and stereotypes related to a protected class;
  • Teasing, name-calling, or practical jokes directed at a person based on a protected status;
  • The display or circulation of written materials or pictures that degrade a person or group based upon a protected characteristic;
  • Verbal abuse or insults about, directed at, or made in the presence of an individual or group of individuals in a protected group;
  • Intimidation or mockery based on a protected class.

Bullying or uncivil behavior that is not based on a protected class does not fall within the purview of this policy. However, such behavior may violate the Community Covenant, Statement of Faith, and College policies. If you have questions or concerns regarding bullying or uncivil behavior, contact Human Resources (for employees) or Residence Life (for students) for assistance.

One type of harassment is sexual harassment, which includes sexual misconduct such as sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. Depending on the nature, geographical location, and severity of the sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, the behavior may be covered by the College’s Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures or this Policy. Please refer to the Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures or contact an Equity Officer and Title IX Coordinator(s) for more information regarding the specific misconduct covered by that policy. Sexual harassment not covered by the Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures is governed by the Equity Policy and Procedures.

IV. Reporting Alleged or Suspected Violations of this Policy

The College requires all employees1 and strongly encourages students, including third-party bystanders, to report incidents of discrimination and harassment to the Equity Officers and Title IX Coordinator(s). The College maintains multiple methods for reporting conduct that potentially violates this Policy such as reporting by email, online, in-person, video conference, or by telephone. Although there is no specific time limit for reporting a suspected violation of this Policy, an individual who believes that he or she has been subjected to conduct that violates this Policy is encouraged to contact one of the resources as soon as possible after the alleged policy violation to discuss the available options for proceeding.

1 This expectation does not apply to confidential resources. Student Health Services, the Counseling Center, and the Chaplain’s Office are considered confidential resources and employees working in these areas are not required to report prohibited conduct that they learn of through a confidential role. These employees are encouraged, but not required, to provide the student or employee with the contact information for the Title IX office as well as information about how to file a report.

A. Reporting Potential Policy Violations to the College

  1. Equity Officers and Title IX Coordinator(s) (“Equity Officers”)

    Beth Maas
    Director of Equity & Title IX Coordinator, Student Services Building #211, beth.maas@wheaton.edu, (630) 752-7885

    Carrie Williams
    Director of Student Care Services & Deputy Equity and Title IX Coordinator for students, Student Services Building #214, carrie.williams@wheaton.edu, (630) 752-7472

    Karen Tucker
    Director of Human Resources & Deputy Equity and Title IX Coordinator for employees, Blanchard #154, karen.tucker@wheaton.edu, (630) 752-5060

  2. Public Safety

    Individuals may also report incidents under this Policy to Wheaton College’s Department of Public Safety. Public Safety can assist in securing resources and/or making a report to the local police, regardless of the location where the incident occurred. Reports made to Public Safety are not confidential and must be shared with the Equity Officers. Please note: Public Safety employs student workers. If you wish to speak with a non-student, you may ask to speak with an officer.

    Phone: (630) 752-5911

    Email: public.safety@wheaton.edu

    In Person: Chase Service Center

  3. Online

    To file an online report please click here or go to www.wheaton.edu/titleixandequity.

  4. Anonymous and Confidential Reporting

    The College recognizes that in some instances, individuals may wish to initiate an anonymous report to protect their identity. Individuals wishing to make an anonymous confidential report may visit the College’s anonymous reporting link or go to www.wheaton.edu/titleixandequity. However, the College’s ability to act may be limited in the case of anonymous reports. 

B. Privacy and Confidentiality of Reports to the College

The College strives to protect the privacy interests of all parties involved in a report of prohibited conduct. Allegations of prohibited conduct are considered private and generally will only be shared with other College employees on a need-to-know basis. However, because of the need to inquire into facts, to respond to reports of alleged prohibited conduct, and to promote a nondiscriminatory and safe environment, the College cannot guarantee strict confidentiality in most cases. Individuals with concerns regarding confidentiality may speak with an Equity Officer.

C. Amnesty for Good Faith Reports by Students

The College encourages the reporting of violations of this Policy and seeks to remove any barriers to an individual making a report. The College recognizes that students may be hesitant to report in some circumstances, such as when they or others may be accused of violating other College policies, such as drinking or using drugs at the time of the incident. Given this concern and the College’s desire to provide for the safety of all community members, no student conduct proceedings or conduct record for students will result from an individual’s good faith report believed to violate this Policy.

D. Obligation to Act in Good Faith

Reports made under this Policy should be made only in good faith. All parties and witnesses have an obligation to be truthful. Reports that are not made in good faith, such as reports that are later found to be intentionally false or made maliciously without regard for truth, as well as, false or misleading testimony provided by a third-party witness, may be a form of retaliation under this Policy and/or may violate this Policy and other College policies. This provision does not apply to reports made in good faith, even if the outcome did not support a violation of the Policy.

V. Retaliation Prohibited

Retaliation against an individual who makes a report alleging a violation of this Policy or who participates in the information-gathering or resolution of such a report is prohibited. Retaliation exists when materially adverse action, including reputational harm, is taken against an individual because of that individual’s participation in the protected activity under this Policy. Protected activity includes, but is not limited to, making a good-faith report of conduct in violation of this Policy, cooperating in good faith in information gathering related to a report under this Policy, and/or testifying as a witness to any report of conduct in violation of this Policy.

Retaliation should be promptly reported to the Director of Title IX. Equity Officers have the discretion to address retaliation concerns promptly. Any acts of retaliation shall be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or expulsion, independent of the sanction or supportive measures imposed in response to the underlying report.

VI. Resolution Process

The Director of Title IX will coordinate the College’s response to a discrimination or harassment report. The Director of Title IX may also assign their duties under this Policy to a designee.

A. Definitions

Reasonable cause is when the facts and circumstances alleged or reported, if taken as true, would lead a reasonable person to believe conduct in violation of the Policy may have occurred.

B. College Response When a Report is Received: Initial Review and Assessment

When an Equity Officer receives a report, he or she will contact the person who may have experienced discrimination or harassment to provide information about resources, options, and extend an invitation to meet. The individual may decide whether to meet with the Equity Officer. If they meet, the Equity Officer will review resources, options, and supportive measures.

Upon receipt of a report of a violation of the Policy, the Equity Officer(s) will conduct an initial review and assessment. If at that time it is determined that the alleged conduct, even if true, would not constitute a violation of the Policy, the matter may be referred to the appropriate campus office for resolution or closed with no further action taken. Where there is reasonable cause to believe a violation of the Policy may have occurred, the College will proceed, in consultation with the individual as described below.

The Equity Officers may exercise discretion to determine appropriate responsive action based on the facts and circumstances. At an Equity Officer’s discretion, options for responsive action may include informal discussions, resolutions facilitated by an Equity Officer, information gathering, and corrective action by the Director of Title IX or designee. The Director of Title IX will document the report received, the responsive action used, and the outcome.

C. Supportive Measures

Where there is reasonable cause to believe conduct in violation of the Policy may have occurred, the Director of Title IX or a designee will provide prompt, appropriate, and reasonably available measures to support and protect the parties and prevent any further acts of alleged misconduct, harassment, or retaliation. Supportive measures may be imposed regardless of whether information-gathering is sought by the reporting individual. Supportive measures are also available to the responding individual as needed.

Such supportive measures can include but are not limited to: referral to counseling and health services; referral to the Employee Assistance Program (for employees); modifying course schedules, work arrangements, dining accommodations, or campus housing; offering campus escorts, and issuing a mutual “no contact” directive between the parties. In cases where there is reasonable cause to believe the alleged responding individual is a threat to persons or property, the College may suspend an individual (for employees, with or without pay) or implement any other measures the College deems appropriate pending the outcome of the information gathering such as removing a student, employee, or other individuals from campus. Supportive measures will be kept confidential to the extent that maintaining such confidentiality would not impair the ability of the College to provide the supportive measures.

Violation of a directive and/or other action issued as a part of a supportive measure may result in disciplinary action.

D. Support Persons

The reporting and responding individuals may bring a non-attorney support person to any meeting or interview in connection with the resolution of a report of a violation of the Policy. In matters involving employees, an individual’s supervisor, subordinates, and peers in the same department may not act as a support person due to the potential conflict(s) of interest in serving in this role. In matters involving students, parents may not serve as a support person. The College reserves the right to proceed with any meeting, interview, or document, or report review period regardless of a support person’s availability.

A support person may not speak on behalf of an individual during or participate directly in, meetings or other proceedings. Support persons are likewise expected to maintain the privacy of any records shared during the resolution process. Such records may not be shared with third parties, disclosed publicly, or used for purposes not explicitly authorized by the College. The College may restrict the role of any support person who fails to observe the College’s limits on participation in the proceedings or the College’s privacy expectations.

E. Informal Resolution Options

The College offers informal resolutions to address unwelcomed behavior. Informal resolutions are primarily designed to address unwelcomed behavior or harm and to attempt restoration of the relationship between the parties. Examples of Informal Resolution options may include a facilitated conversation between the parties, mediation, supportive measures, a Restorative Justice conversation or circle, targeted and/or broad-based training, educational programming for relevant individuals or groups, communication with the responding individual, or any other reasonable remedy that will achieve the goals of the Policy. In some instances, notifying an individual that certain actions or language are offensive and requesting that the actions or language stop will heighten awareness and accomplish the objectives of the Policy. In other instances, Restorative Justice conversations or coaching conversations may also be an appropriate method for addressing the unwelcomed behavior.

After assessing the unwelcomed behavior, the Equity Officers may recommend that informal resolution may be the most effective option at stopping the harmful conduct, addressing its effects, and preventing reoccurrence. An informal resolution may be initiated if the reporting individual requests an informal resolution, and the Equity Officers concur that informal resolution is appropriate. The College will not compel a reporting or responding individual to engage in informal resolutions. Participation is voluntary and the parties can request to end their participation at any time. However, even if the Informal Resolution option ends, the Director of Title IX may determine that additional remedies-based steps (e.g., community remedies involving targeted training, coaching, corrective action, etc.) are appropriate without the participation of the parties.

F. Information-Gathering and Communication of Outcomes

The Equity Officers may determine that the appropriate responsive action will be to gather information. In making this determination, the Equity Officers will consider the nature of the alleged conduct, the severity of the alleged conduct, the wishes of the person alleged to be the subject of the conduct, and any other relevant factors. The College will gather information regarding the potential policy violation as it deems appropriate. All information gathering will be conducted impartially, and promptly. No outcome will be determined until the College has gathered all relevant facts. The Director of Title IX will notify the responding individual of the alleged misconduct and the responding individual will be given the opportunity to respond. The Director of Title IX or a designated individual(s) will gather information about the allegations.

The Equity Officers or designee(s) will determine the outcome after reviewing the information gathered. An Equity Officer will communicate the outcome and sanctions, if applicable, to the individuals.

G. Corrective Action

Responding parties who are found to have engaged in behavior prohibited by this Policy will be subject to corrective action. In imposing any corrective actions and remedies for a policy violation, the College reserves the right to take measures deemed necessary to protect the rights and personal safety of the reporting individual and the College community. Not all forms of discrimination or harassment are equally serious offenses. Therefore, different remedies or corrective actions may be imposed depending on the severity of the offense and any previous conduct violations. In making this determination, the Equity Officers will consider (1) ongoing safety of campus; (2) the seriousness of the incident; (3) the nature of the responding individual’s response; (4) the responding individual’s conduct record; and (5) the impact on the community of the conduct. The Equity Officers will consult with Student Development (for students) and/or Human Resources (for employees) to gather information on the responding individual’s conduct record and ensure the sanctions imposed are consistent with other policies and actions of the College.

Corrective action for employees may include, but is not limited to: education, training, coaching, warnings, reprimands, transfer, demotion, loss of compensation, privilege and/or access restrictions, no contact and/or no trespass directives, restitution, behavioral agreements, termination of employment, and/or ineligibility for rehire. Any corrective imposed on a faculty member shall comply with any applicable terms of a faculty member’s contract with the College and the College’s Faculty Handbook.

Corrective action for students may include, but is not limited to: education, training, Dean of Student Wellness assessment, coaching, warnings, reprimands, privilege and/or access restrictions, no contact and/or no trespass directives, restitution, behavioral agreements, delay of a diploma or degree, denial of a diploma or degree, probation, suspension, expulsion, and/or ineligibility for re-admission.

When an information-gathering reveals that a campus organization (such as a student club, athletic team, campus academic department, or staff/faculty committee) has committed or promoted behavior that violates this Policy, the organization and its members may be disciplined. Corrective action to the organization may include, but is not limited to, loss of College privileges (including, but not limited to, prohibition on the organization’s participation in certain activities and the use of College facilities), educational requirements for organization members, required additional oversight of organization activities, and temporary or permanent loss of funding and/or loss of recognition by the College, in addition to individual members of the organization who are determined responsible for a Policy violation being subject to the sanctions listed above. All campus organizations/departments are responsible for the actions of its members when they are operating on behalf of the organization/department.

The Equity Officers have the sole right to determine whether conduct violates this Policy or is otherwise inappropriate. The Equity Officers reserves the right to impose consequences, up to and including immediate termination of an individual’s relationship with the College, for any conduct targeting a person’s legally protected characteristic that the Equity Officers determined to be inappropriate even if the conduct does not meet the definitions of “discrimination” and/or “harassment” set out, above, in this Policy.

H. Specific Procedures for Tenured Faculty Members

For cases involving Tenured Faculty Members as responding parties, the Provost or his/her designee will render the decision whether the Policy has been violated and what sanctions, if any to impose. If the Provost or his/her designee imposes the sanction of termination of the employment, the Provost or his/her designee will follow the procedures for termination for cause set forth in the Faculty Handbook following the expiration of the relevant period for appeals.

Termination of tenure proceedings will be conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Faculty Handbook, provided, however, that if a decision is made under the Faculty Handbook not to discharge such tenured faculty member, the matter will be referred to the Provost for determination of an alternative sanction.

I. Appeal

A responding individual may appeal an outcome involving termination of employment, expulsion, or suspension. An appeal must be submitted in writing to the Director of Title IX within two business days of the individual being notified of the outcome and must set forth the grounds upon which the request for further review is based. If a responding individual does not appeal the outcome within the timeline set forth above, the outcome will be considered final.

1. Grounds for Appeal

A request for an appeal must be based on one or more of the following reasons:

  1. A substantive error occurred that significantly impacted the outcome of the adjudication (e.g., bias or material information not gathered or properly considered).

  2. To consider new evidence unavailable during the original adjudication or information-gathering that could substantially impact the original finding or sanction. A summary of this new evidence and its potential impact must be included.

  3. The sanctions imposed are grossly disproportionate (i.e., excessively harsh or excessively lenient) given the offense or the cumulative conduct record of the responding student or employee. This ground for appeal will not apply to matters where termination of tenure is sought, as that proposed sanction will be reviewed through the procedures set forth in the Faculty Handbook.

Any information included in the appeal that does not apply to the above three reasons for filing an appeal will not be considered in the appeal process.

2. Appellate Procedures

Upon receipt of an appeal request, the Director of Title IX will notify the reporting individual and s/he will be provided the opportunity to submit a written response and supporting documentation.

A member of the Senior Administrative Cabinet or his/her designee will serve as the Appellate Officer. After considering all relevant documentation and, if deemed necessary by the Appellate Officer, meeting with the parties or others, the Appellate Officer will make a final decision. The Appellate Officer’s decision will be provided to both parties contemporaneously/simultaneously within seven (7) days after the conclusion of the Appellate Officer’s review.

J. Procedural Discretion

The procedures set forth in this Policy reflect the College’s desire to respond to reports of harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation in good faith and in a manner that promotes fairness to all involved individuals. The College recognizes that each case is unique and that circumstances may arise which require the exercise of discretion and flexibility in responding to a particular matter. Accordingly, the College reserves the right to modify the procedures in this Policy or take other action as it finds to be appropriate under the circumstances.

In circumstances where a report is made of a violation of this Policy by an individual who is not a student or an employee of the College, the College reserves discretion to use responsive actions or procedures other than those discussed in this Policy, as appropriate under the circumstances.

If a report includes multiple allegations that could invoke more than one College policy or procedure, the Director of Title IX shall determine in his or her discretion what process will used to resolve the report(s) and will notify all parties of its determination.

K. Complaints Relating to Retaliation, Violations of Supportive Measures, and Other Procedural Violations

Any complaint relating to retaliation in violation of this Policy, violations of supportive measures, violation of the obligation to act in good faith, violation of the obligation to be truthful, or violations of sanctions should be reported promptly to the Director of Title IX. The College will take appropriate action against any individual who retaliates against another person in violation of this Policy or who violates supportive measures, the obligation to act in good faith, the obligation to be truthful, or sanctions.

When the College receives a complaint of retaliation or of violations of supportive measures, the obligation to act in good faith, or sanctions, the Director of Title IX may exercise discretion to determine an appropriate responsive process based on the facts and circumstances. In instances where the outcome of the process results in a suspension longer than one year, expulsion, or termination of employment, the impacted individual may appeal the outcome in accordance with the appeal rights as set forth in this Policy. The College will notify the parties of the outcome of the complaint.

L. Conflicts of Interest

The College requires any College official participating in the information-gathering, adjudication, or appeals process to disclose any potential or actual conflict of interest. A College employee shall be considered to have a conflict of interest if he or she has existing or potential interests which compete with or might reasonably appear to compete with his or her independent and unbiased judgment in the matter. If an individual believes an assigned College official has a conflict of interest or bias, the individual should immediately notify the Director of Title IX and request that the individual with a conflict be replaced. If the Director of Title IX is the individual believed to have a conflict of interest, the individual may submit the conflict request to the Vice President for Student Development.

In all cases, requests to replace an individual due to a conflict of interest must be submitted within two (2) days of the individual receiving notice of the individual’s participation. The written request must include a description of the conflict. If the relevant College official determines that a conflict of interest exists, the College will take steps to address the conflict as appropriate in order to maintain an impartial process. The final determination regarding the existence of a conflict of interest will be made by the Director of Title IX or, in the case of a conflict request involving the Director of Title IX, the Vice President for Student Development.

Last updated: 2022-09-06