Laws and Published Reports

There are a number of federal policies and state laws that govern the work being undertaken by the Office of Title IX and Equal Opportunity. The office has also created some important campuswide policies and contributes to the creation of annual reports.

Holy Cross Policies

Campus Climate Data 

A communitywide effort toward building a welcoming, inclusive and respectful environment at Holy Cross, the Campus Climate Initiative consists of two distinct, but related areas: 

  • Diversity and Inclusion - At Holy Cross, we are committed to building a diverse and inclusive community. We seek to respect and honor all perspectives and life experiences, and to openly engage and learn from our differences. 
  • Sexual Respect - The College is committed to providing an environment of well-being, learning, and accountability for its members by preventing the occurrence of sexual misconduct and addressing its effects. 

The following information summarizes survey results of the campus climate survey. The summary was drafted by the Office of Assessment and Research on Oct. 28, 2020. 

A Campus Climate Survey was developed and distributed by the College in the spring of 2019.

After careful examination of existing climate surveys, the College decided to develop a survey to better understand issues of identity-based discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct in the unique context of a residential, faith-based, undergraduate institution.  

The survey was distributed to three survey groups: 

  1. all currently enrolled students 
  2. full- and part-time staff and 
  3. tenure, pre-tenure, and continuing non-tenure faculty. 

The survey asked respondents questions related to their feelings of belonging to the College, incidents and observations of identity-based discrimination and harassment and sexual misconduct, and knowledge of and confidence in the relevant College policies. 

The goal of the survey was to provide the College with descriptive information about differences in group experiences related to diversity and inclusion, identify common themes across response groups, and provide insight into areas where improvements could be made. Following are selected summary results across survey groups. For more detailed results, contact the Office of Assessment and Research.

As with all surveys, response rates determine the ability to make generalizations about findings. While over half of faculty and slightly less than half of staff responded to the survey, the findings cannot be considered representative of these groups. This also holds true for students with slightly more than one-third of students responding to the survey. 

Survey Responses

 

Invited to Participate

Participated

Response Rate

Students

3,052

1,165

38%

Faculty

332

190

57%

Staff

863

398

46%

General Findings

  • Across all survey groups, the majority of respondents report that they most of the time or always feel a sense of belonging to our campus community. This is also true for respondents’ level of satisfaction with the sense of community at the College with a majority indicating they are at least somewhat or very satisfied.
  • Groups of respondents reporting lower feelings of belonging, satisfaction with the sense of community, or feeling welcome on campus tended to self-report as LGTBQIA+, as holding atheist beliefs, or as politically conservative.
  • A larger percentage of participants of color reported disagreement that people of all races/ethnicities, and that people of all national origins/nationalities, were welcome on campus compared to the percentage of white participants that disagreed with those statements.
  • Religious beliefs and political beliefs are the two most commonly hidden identities reported across survey groups.  
  • The most commonly reported types of identity-based discrimination reported across survey groups were being disrespected or stereotyped.
  • The more commonly reported negative behaviors across survey groups involved negative dialogue between community members, including being silenced by others, being asked to speak on behalf of an identity group, or being mocked or made fun of.
  • A majority of respondents across survey groups reported they have low confidence in how fairly or timely issues of sexual misconduct are handled by the College.
  • The most commonly reported behaviors related to sexual misconduct were making inappropriate or unwelcome comments about sexual attractiveness and making jokes about sexual misconduct.
  • Of the students who reported they experienced incidents of sexual misconduct, they indicated these incidents occurred most often in residence halls or at on- or off-campus parties. 
  • Students reported that most incidents of sexual misconduct were with other Holy Cross students not in their friend group.
  • Of the students who didn’t report incidents of sexual misconduct, the majority said they didn’t report because they didn’t think it was serious enough.
  • Almost half of students indicated that they would allow personal loyalties, friendships or affiliations to impact their decision to report an incident of sexual misconduct.
  • Male students reported experiencing sexual misconduct at about half the rate as female students.

Of the sexual misconduct behaviors that were asked about on the survey (e.g., had sexual contact with you without your consent, offered you too much to drink for the purpose of having a sexual encounter, pressured you to engage in sexual activity, etc.), students reported experiencing the broadest range of those behaviors when compared to other campus groups.

Additional information about campus climate and related initiatives can be found at the College’s Campus Climate website

Title IX

Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Sexual harassment (including sexual violence) and gender-based harassment are forms of sex-based harassment. Title IX states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

For additional information about this law, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights website. 

Clery Act

Information contained within the Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports is provided as part of the College's commitment to safety and security on campus, and is in compliance with Title II of Public Law 101-543: The Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990.

View the Department of Public Safety Annual Reports.

State Law Definitions

The following are excerpts compiled from the Massachusetts General Laws that describe how certain relevant behavior is defined in Massachusetts. These definitions are not identical to the definitions of conduct prohibited in the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, but the College considered these definitions in developing its policy.

(compiled from M.G.L. Ch. 151B) 

Sexual harassment means sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or enrollment or is used as a basis for employment or educational decisions, placement services or evaluation of academic achievement; or
  • Such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or educational performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work or educational environment.

(compiled from M.G.L. Ch. 265, § 13 & 22)

Sexual assault is defined under Massachusetts law as rape or indecent assault and battery.

Rape is defined as occurring when a person has “sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse with a person, and compels such person to submit by force and against his, her or their will, or compels such person to submit by threat of bodily injury and if either such sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse results in or is committed with acts resulting in serious bodily injury, or is committed by a joint enterprise…”

Indecent assault and battery occurs when one person touches another person in an “indecent” way. Examples of indecent assault and battery include touching a person’s buttocks, breasts, or genitals without consent. The Commonwealth must prove that the defendant touched the alleged victim without justification or excuse; and that the touching was “indecent;” and that the alleged victim did not consent. An indecent act is one that is fundamentally offensive to contemporary standards of decency.

(compiled from M.G.L. Ch. 265, § 43)

The act of “willfully and maliciously engaging in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person which seriously alarms or annoys that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress and makes a threat with the intent to place the person in imminent fear of death or bodily injury.” Stalking includes, but is not limited to, acts or threats conducted by mail or by use of a telephonic or electronic communication device. Communications include, but are not limited to, electronic mail, internet communications, instant messages or facsimile communications.

(compiled from M.G.L. Ch. 209A)

Abuse is defined as “the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members: 

  • attempting to cause or causing physical harm;
  • placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm;
  • causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat, or duress.”

Family or household members are defined as “persons who:

  • are or were married to one another;
  • are or were residing together in the same household;
  • are or were related by blood or marriage;
  • having a child in common regardless of whether they have ever married or lived together; or
  • are or have been in a substantive relationship, which shall be adjudged in consideration of the following factors:
    1. the length of time of the relationship; 
    2. the type of relationship; 
    3. the frequency of interaction between the parties;
    4. if the relationship has been terminated by either person, the length of time elapsed since the termination of the relationship.

(not defined by M.G.L. in this context)

In Massachusetts, it is illegal to have sex under any circumstances with someone who is incapable of giving consent due to incapacity or impairment; incapacity or impairment may be caused by intoxication or drugs, or because a victim is underage, mentally impaired, unconscious, or asleep. For purposes of this policy, consent is an explicitly communicated, reversible, mutual agreement to which all parties are capable of making a decision.

Massachusetts has several laws that define the age of consent and the additional penalties that attach if a person is under the age of 16 or 14 (e.g., statutory rape laws, indecent and assault and battery on a person under the age of 14).

 

(referenced by M.G.L. in various contexts, e.g., Chap. 151B)

Retaliation is frequently addressed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). OCR’s legal standard for addressing retaliation claims follows.

A claim for retaliation must establish several elements. First, the facts must indicate that the complainant engaged in a protected activity, i.e., exercised a right or took some action that is protected under the laws OCR enforces, including Title IX. Second, the institution must be on notice of the protected activity. Third, the institution must take an adverse action against the complainant. And fourth, there must be a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action. 

If any of these four elements cannot be established, then a claim of retaliation cannot be substantiated. If, on the other hand, all four elements are established, then OCR next analyzes whether there is a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the retaliatory action in question. If no legitimate nondiscriminatory reason is put forward, or if the reason is found to be a mere pretext for retaliation, then OCR may find that there was retaliation.