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Student Organization & Sexual Misconduct

Student Organizations and Sexual Misconduct: A Guide to Building a Safer Community

This guide is intended to clarify University policy, provide resources and support to help student organizations build safer communities and foster a commitment to ending sexual misconduct. 

Defining Sexual Misconduct 

Sexual Misconduct, as defined by the Office of Institutional Equity, is “sexual or gender-based harassment, sexual or gender violence, sexual exploitation, relationship violence (domestic violence and dating violence), and sex or gender based stalking.” The University’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Misconduct (PPDHRM) addresses sexual misconduct by students, faculty, staff, and visitors. In addition to Title IX and other forms of sexual misconduct, the PPDHRM addresses discrimination and harassment based on other protected characteristics including sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, and gender identity, and retaliation.  


Building Safer Communities 

There are three necessary components of a healthy, successful, and equitable community:  

  • Commitment to community: members must see and feel that membership in their organization is significant in their lives  
  • Sense of empowerment: members share ownership and engagement in the organization  
  • Sense that one matters to others: members feel others depend on them and are interested in their success 


Student organizations play an important role in building and maintaining a safer community at Duke, through these three components. With that in mind, here are some things organizations can do to build and sustain a community that is committed to ending sexual misconduct: 


Know Where Your Organization Stands 

What does your organization stand for and value? Consider what those values look like in action and how to ensure your organization actions align with your values. Center those values in all parts of your organization: leadership team, recruiting, events, communications, meetings, and all interactions. If your group is unsure of those values and/or how to actualize them, check out the resources here and reach out to the Student Involvement and Leadership team for support shaping those conversations.  

Examples of how your group could do this:  

  • Amend your organization constitution to include those values 
  • Include the values on the top of every meeting agenda 
  • Each semester, reflect on organization events to evaluate if they aligned with values  


Consider Community Identities 

Every community is diverse and it’s important to remember that individual members have unique experiences. Remember that identities are not a monolith and identity is also complex. People have many different identities that intersect to inform how we experience the world. With this in mind, avoid generalizations about a community -- whether yours or another -- and create an environment to acknowledge diverse experiences of your members (see resources below). This acknowledgement is one of the many ways to build belonging by empowering members to learn and grow in this knowledge.  


Set Membership Expectations 

It’s important to clarify what your organization expects from both its members and guests at the beginning of every year or semester. Set clear expectations of behavior and how members will participate in the community. These expectations contribute to creating a sense that one matters to others: how a member behaves matters to the organization. Emphasize practicing consent and respect for individuals’ boundaries. Make sure your expectations are congruent with the values and mission of your organization and communicated clearly to your members. Thoughtfully question any discussion or jokes that contain racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, or transphobic language or language that denigrates an individual’s race, ethnicity, sex or sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, national origin, disability, religion, age, or veteran status. Remove shame or judgement from any conversations relating to abstaining from or engaging in substance use or sexual activity. Use language and practices that respect others’ choices. 

Examples of membership expectations could include:  

  • Be respectful of others’ boundaries and communicate your own boundaries 
  • Don’t touch others without their consent 
  • If someone says they aren’t drinking tonight, don’t ask why or push them to drink 
  • Work with Center for Multicultural Affairs to create a Community Agreement 


Lead By Example 

Make sure that your organization leaders’ actions align with the values and expectations you outlined. Leaders in the organization should practice and model consent through daily actions and interactions with others. Make sure to respect the boundaries of all members, and consider the position power inherent in some titles. Model speaking up and intervening when others act out of line with the stated values. And be sure to respect your own boundaries and seek support when needed. 


Get Educated 

To build a strong culture of prevention and safety, create and maintain an informed community that understands and respects consent. Ensure leaders and members know the values and expectations of the organization. Regularly encourage group members to participate in Duke-offered trainings and workshops to develop bystander intervention and support skills. 


Community Accountability 

Navigating the topic of sexual misconduct is difficult and complex, especially in a social setting such as a student organization. If you have been made aware of a possible occurrence of sexual misconduct, avoid spreading rumors or sharing personal information about any involved members. As a student organization, you can play an important role in providing resources and support for groups or individuals to prevent further harm instead of engaging in or fueling further harm. See the list below for ways to support survivors in your organization and work with members accused of sexual misconduct. 


Support Survivors 

It is important to note that each survivor has unique needs and desires around safety and support. Ask them how your organization can support them.  


Here are some ways to support someone who shares an experience of sexual misconduct  with you:  

  • Validate their experience as they share it  
  • Check in around feelings of safety and comfort  
  • Offer to connect them with resources (GVPI, CAPS, BlueDevils Care, OIE, OSCCS)  
  • Respect their decisions  
  • Maintain privacy  

Remember: It is not the role of the organization to investigate the claims of the survivor or ask for more detail than what the survivor is willing to share.  


Understand Title IX 

It can be difficult for organizations to work with members accused of sexual misconduct. However, accused members are entitled to due process. This means student organizations are limited in what formal actions they can take. [Please refer to the Understanding Title IX document for more information on responding to allegations of misconduct against a member.] 


Utilize University Resources 

Creating a preventative space and working with survivors and accused members is difficult; Duke has many resources to help you navigate through these issues. Please visit for more information on support services, campus resources, and educational opportunities.  


To submit a report to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), contact Adrienne Allison, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students at or 919-684-8222 


This document has been adapted from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Student Organizations and Sexual Misconduct: A Guide 

What rights and responsibilities do student organizations have under Title IX? 

Student organizations have the same rights and responsibilities as individual students: They have the right to report suspected sexual misconduct to Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity (OIE). They also have a responsibility to help maintain a safe, respectful, and inclusive campus by complying with all  
Duke policies, including the Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct (Policy). Student organizations do not have any rights or responsibilities related to sanctioning or disciplining students in response to allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Why can’t we just remove a person from our organization if we learn that they’ve been accused of sexual misconduct? 

Title IX requires that an accused student be provided the opportunity for a fair and equitable process before they are prohibited from participating in Duke programs and activities. At Duke, it is OIE’s responsibility to oversee this process. Having a centralized process administered by specially-trained staff promotes fairness, equity, and dignity for all parties involved. Moreover, in addition to prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on any protected status, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, relationship violence, and stalking, the Policy also prohibits retaliation (i.e., any adverse action) against a person who is involved in any aspect of Duke’s complaint, investigation, or resolution process. Expelling a member from your Duke-recognized student organization because they have been accused of sexual misconduct could potentially constitute retaliation under our Policy. Note that this could lead to a formal complaint of retaliation, an investigation, and possible discipline for anyone found responsible for engaging in retaliation. 

Can a student ever be removed or barred from a student organization based on allegations of sexual misconduct? 

A student cannot be barred from participating in a Duke-recognized student organization based solely on allegations. However, a student can be barred from participation if (1) a Title IX-compliant review process results in the student being found responsible for the misconduct and sanctions are issued, such as suspension or disciplinary probation, that would prohibit the student from participating in certain Duke activities; (2) a no-contact order is issued that would restrict the student’s ability to participate; or (3) a safety and risk analysis conducted by university officials identifies an immediate threat to someone’s physical health or safety and determines that emergency removal of a student from Duke programs or activities is warranted.  

What if we have concerns about the safety of our members or disruptive behavior (e.g., retaliation or harassment) from someone who has been accused or who has made accusations against someone? 

You can report any suspected sexual misconduct, harassment, and/or retaliation to the Title IX Coordinator in OIE at or by submitting an online report to OIE or Student Affairs. You should also encourage anyone in need of assistance to seek help from one or more of the available on- or off-campus resources for support, counseling, medical care, and/or reporting. These resources can be found at 

If you believe there is an imminent safety threat, you should contact campus or local law enforcement. 

If you have concerns about the potential impact on the group or any of its members, arising from or related to any allegations or incidents, you should consult with your advisor and/or Student Involvement and Leadership (SIL) before taking any action as an organization. SIL can engage campus partners to support your organization and members.  

This document has been adapted from Howard University’s Title IX Q&A: Student Organizations