Policy + Definitions


RISD expects its students to conduct themselves with awareness of their membership in a community engaged in the mutual pursuit of academic and artistic excellence and social responsibility – and therefore to comply not only with basic legal requirements, but also with additional, higher standards that enable and promote that pursuit. See a complete description of our Code of Conduct.

Sexual misconduct at RISD is defined as: Engaging in any form of sexual contact or conduct with another without that person’s clear, knowing, and voluntary consent. Sexual misconduct can occur between people of the same or different genders. For purposes of this provision, (a) it is the responsibility of the person seeking to initiate sexual contact or conduct to affirmatively obtain such consent, not of the intended recipient of such contact or conduct to affirmatively deny such consent, and (b) valid consent cannot be obtained from a person whose ability to make decisions is obviously substantially impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants or by mental or physical condition; who is unaware that the sexual contact or conduct is being committed; or who is compelled or coerced to grant consent by force, threat of force, deception, or supervisory or disciplinary authority.

Among the most serious types of sexual misconduct are sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct when either (a) submission to such conduct is an explicit or implicit condition of employment or academic success, or (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for an employment or academic decision, or (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of either (i) interfering with another’s ability to participate in RISD’s educational programs or employment opportunities, or (ii) creating an intimidating or hostile working or academic environment.

Retaliation against anyone for initiating or participating in good faith in the investigation of a complaint of sexual misconduct or discrimination is also prohibited (a further violation of the Code).  Retaliation may consist of any adverse action taken against such person.

Confidentiality: RISD is committed to maintaining the privacy of all individuals involved in a report of sexual misconduct. In any Title IX review of a report or complaint of sexual misconduct, every effort will be made to protect the privacy and interests of the individuals involved in a manner consistent with RISD’s needs to thoroughly review the report. Such a review is essential to protecting the safety of complainant, respondent, and the broader campus community and to maintaining an environment free from sexual discrimination. At all times, the privacy of the parties will be respected and safeguarded. Information related to a report of misconduct will be shared only with those RISD employees who “need to know” in order to assist in the investigation and/or resolution of the complaint.

If a member of the RISD community wishes to obtain confidential assistance through on-campus or off-campus resources without making a report to the College, these resources are available on campus. See the Resources + Support section. If a complainant requests that her/his identity remain confidential, RISD will balance this request with its responsibility to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all RISD community members, including the complainant. RISD will seek to respect the request of the complainant and where it cannot do so, it will consult with the complainant and keep her/him informed about the chosen course of action.

All Title IX investigative and sanction proceedings, and notices or statements issued by the institution will comply with the requirements of FERPA, the Clery Act, Title IX, VAWRA, and institutional policy. No information shall be released from such proceedings by RISD except as required or permitted by law or institutional policy.


Due to the sensitive and sometimes violent nature of incidents involving sexual misconduct, the following definitions are provided for informational use by students and for guidance in the investigation and processing of alleged violations. It is possible that a particular action may constitute sexual misconduct even if not specifically mentioned in these examples.

Consent: informed, freely given, and mutually understood words or actions which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. Consent must be obtained for each instance and each escalation of sexual activity. Obtaining consent is the responsibility of the party initiating sexual activity. If coercion, intimidation, threats, and/or physical force are used, there is no consent. If a person is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that the person cannot understand the fact, nature or extent of the sexual situation, there is no consent; this includes conditions due to alcohol or drug consumption or being asleep or unconscious. Instances where one has taken advantage of a position of influence over another may also be used as a factor in determining consent.

Sexual Assault: actual, attempted or threatened unwanted sexual act, whether by an acquaintance or by a stranger, accomplished (1) against a person’s will by means of force (expressed or implied), violence, duress, menace, fear or fraud, or (2) when a person is incapacitated or unaware of the nature of the act, due to unconsciousness, sleep and/or intoxicating substances.

Sexual Harassment: unwelcome sexual, or sex-based and/or gender based verbal, written, online and/or physical conduct.

Intimate Partner (Dating/Domestic) Violence: physical violence and/or psychological abuse within a romantic or intimate relationship regardless of the length of the relationship or gender of the individuals in the relationship.

Stalking: engaging in a course of conduct involving more than one instance of unwanted attention, harassment, unwanted physical, verbal, or electronic contact, threatening words and/or conduct, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person(s) that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety; or the safety of others; or suffer substantial emotional duress.

Hostile Environment: when sexually harassing conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive, and objectively offensive enough that it unreasonably interferes with, denies, or limits someone’s ability to participate in or benefit from the institution’s educational, social, and/or residential program.

Sexual Exploitation: taking sexual advantage of another person and includes, without limitation: indecent exposure; causing or attempting to cause the incapacitation of another person in order to gain a sexual advantage over him or her; causing the prostitution of another person; recording, photographing, or transmitting images of private sexual activity and/or the intimate parts of another person without effective consent; allowing third parties to observe private sexual acts without effective consent; engaging in voyeurism without effective consent; and knowingly or recklessly exposing another person to a significant risk of sexually transmitted infection, including HIV.