Frequently Asked Questions
CDE has created this page to answer frequently asked questions regarding the University's Title IX Policy and related procedures.
Please review the full policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence for complete information.
1. Who is the GMU Title IX Coordinator?
Crystal C. Coombes is the interim Title IX Coordinator at George Mason University. You can reach Crystal by phone at 703-993-8730, or e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to make a report to the Title IX Coordinator you can do using our online reporting form.
The Title IX Office is located on the Fairfax Campus:
4400 University Drive
Aquia 373 MS 2C2
Fairfax, Virginia 22030-4444
2. What University policy addresses sexual and gender-based misconduct?
The University does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender in any of its education or employment programs and activities. To that end, University Policy 1202 prohibits specific forms of behavior that violate Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and/or the Virginia Human Rights Act.
The University adopts Policy 1202 with the intention of:
- Eliminating, preventing, and addressing the effects of Prohibited Conduct;
- Creating a climate where all individuals are well-informed and supported in reporting Prohibited Conduct;
- Providing a prompt, fair, and impartial process for all parties; and
- Identifying the standards by which violations of this policy will be evaluated and disciplinary action may be imposed.
3. Does this policy apply to me?
Mason’s sexual and interpersonal misconduct policy applies to students who are registered or enrolled for credit or non-credit-bearing coursework; all University employees; and third parties. This policy pertains to acts of prohibited conduct committed by or against students, employees and third parties when:
(1) the conduct occurs on campus or other property owned or controlled by the University;
(2) the conduct occurs in the context of a University employment or education program or activity, including, but not limited to, University-sponsored study abroad, research, on-line, or internship programs; or
(3) the conduct occurs off-campus or outside the context of a University employment or education program or activity, and has continuing adverse effects on or creates a hostile environment for Students, Employees or Third Parties while on University campus or other property owned or controlled by the University or in any University employment or education program or activity.
4. What conduct is prohibited?
The University prohibits Sexual or Gender-Based Harassment, Sexual Assault and Nonforcible sexual intercourse, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, Sexual Exploitation, Complicity in the commission of any act prohibited by this policy, and Retaliation against a person for the good faith reporting of any of these forms of conduct or participation in any investigation or proceeding under this policy (collectively, “Prohibited Conduct”). These forms of Prohibited Conduct are unlawful, undermine the character and purpose of the University, and will not be tolerated.
Conduct under this policy is prohibited regardless of the sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression of the Complainant or Respondent.
5. What happens when the University receives a report of Prohibited Conduct?
Employees or Students who violate this policy may face disciplinary action up to and including termination or expulsion. The University will take prompt and equitable action to eliminate Prohibited Conduct, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects. The University conducts ongoing prevention, awareness, and training programs for Employees and Students to facilitate the goals of this policy. It is the responsibility of every member of the University community to foster an environment free of Prohibited Conduct. All members of the University community are encouraged to take reasonable and prudent actions to prevent or stop an act of Prohibited Conduct. The University will support and assist community members who take such actions.
The specific procedures for reporting, investigating, and resolving Prohibited Conduct are based upon the nature of the Respondent’s relationship to the University (Student, Employee, or Third Party). Each set of procedures referenced below is guided by the same principles of fairness and respect for Complainants and Respondents. “Complainant” means the individual who presents as the victim of any Prohibited Conduct under this policy, regardless of whether that person makes a report or seeks action under this policy. “Respondent” means the individual who has been accused of violating this policy. “Third Party Reporter” means someone who learns about alleged Prohibited Conduct, committed by or against a community member, and reports it to the University. Third Party Reporters are not entitled to the rights that Complainants and Respondents have. “Third Party” means someone who is not affiliated with the University as a Student or Employee.
A Student or Employee determined by the University to have committed an act of Prohibited Conduct is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including separation from the University. Third Parties who commit Prohibited Conduct may have their relationships with the University terminated and/or their privileges of being on University premises withdrawn.
The procedures referenced below provide for prompt and equitable response to reports of Prohibited Conduct. The procedures designate specific timeframes for major stages of the process and provide for thorough and impartial investigations that afford all parties notice and an opportunity to present witnesses and evidence and to view the information that will be used in determining whether a policy violation has occurred. The University applies the Preponderance of the Evidence standard when determining whether this policy has been violated. “Preponderance of the Evidence” means that it is more likely than not that a policy violation occurred.
Procedures for Responding to Reports of Prohibited Conduct Committed by Students and Employees are detailed in Appendix A.
6. How does the Title IX Office find out about sexual misconduct?
The Title IX Office receives reports from non-confidential employees, law enforcement, or concerned community members. We also receive reports from parents or directly from individuals who want to report their own experiences. Most often reports are made using our online reporting form.
7. Do I have to choose either a sexual misconduct process or a law enforcement process? Can I do both? What If I don't want to do either process?
When the Title IX Office receives a report, it is up to the individual to decide how they would like to proceed, and they can pursue a formal or informal process through the Title IX Office, as well as a legal process at the same time, or choose to do neither. The Title IX Office offers both formal and informal resolution processes, which are available if both parties are part of the university community. Alternatively, Law Enforcement is able to explore options with an individual should they choose to explore that option. During your initial meeting with the Title IX Office they can review all the options with you and help you to better understand each one.
The Title IX office can still provide resources and support measures to individuals even if they chose not to pursue either process.
8. What resources are available to students and employees?
The University offers a wide range of resources for all Students and Employees to provide support and guidance in response to any incident of Prohibited Conduct. For comprehensive information on accessing University and community resources, including emergency and ongoing assistance; health, mental health, and victim-advocacy services; options for reporting Prohibited Conduct to the University and/or law enforcement; and available support with academics, housing, and employment, please review Appendix B: Resources and Reporting Guide for Students and Employees.
9. What measures and accommodations are available to an employee or student when they report an incident related to sexual harassment or sexual misconduct?
Upon a report of a sexual or interpersonal misconduct, the Title IX Coordinator will work with the parties and offices on campus to implement support measures. Following an investigation and a determination that a policy violation occurred, more permanent accommodations and support measures may be implemented.
Accommodations and support measures are available without a formal investigation. Support measures are not punitive and do not declare a policy violation, rather are in place to support a non-hostile environment and support the Mason Community. Examples of support measures include:
- Housing assignment changes for the requesting party
- Counseling services
- Academic support
- Course assignment changes for the requesting party
- Security escort services
- No Contact Order
- Parking assignments
- Other appropriate actions as necessary. We can work with students and employees based on their needs to provide appropriate support measures
10. Does the University provide training?
The University is committed to the prevention of Prohibited Conduct through regular and ongoing education and awareness programs. Incoming Students and new Employees receive primary prevention and awareness programming as part of their orientation, and returning Students and current Employees receive ongoing training and related education. For a description of the University’s Prohibited Conduct prevention and awareness programs, including programs on minimizing the risk of incidents of Prohibited Conduct and bystander intervention, see Appendix C: Training, Prevention, and Awareness Programs.
11. What are confidential resources?
Confidential Employees provide confidential, trauma-informed counseling or support. Confidential Employees will not disclose information about Prohibited Conduct reported to them by a student to the Title IX Coordinator without the student’s permission, unless there is a continuing threat of serious harm to the patient/client or to others or there is a legal obligation to reveal such information (e.g., where there is suspected abuse or neglect of a minor).
Any employee of the Student Support and Advocacy Center (“SSAC”), Counseling and Psychological Services (“CAPS”), or Student Health Services (“SHS”) or any other employee who is a licensed medical, clinical or mental-health professional (e.g., physicians, nurses, physicians’ assistants, psychologists, psychiatrists, professional counselors and social workers, and those performing services under their supervision), when acting in that professional role in the provision of services to a patient who is a student (“health care providers”); and (2) any employee providing administrative, operational and/or related support for such health care providers in their performance of such services.
12. What is "Affirmative Consent" at George Mason? Also, what does "incapacitation" mean?
Affirmative consent is:
- Informed (knowing)
- Voluntary (freely given)
- Active (not passive), meaning that, through the demonstration of clear words or actions, a person has indicated permission to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity
Affirmative Consent cannot be obtained by Force. Force includes the use of physical violence, (b) threats, (c) intimidation, and/or (d) coercion.
a) Physical violence means that a person is exerting control over another person through the use of physical force. Examples of physical violence include hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, restraining, choking, and brandishing or using any weapon.
b) Threats are words or actions that would compel a reasonable person to engage in unwanted sexual activity. Examples include threats to harm a person physically, to reveal private information to harm a person’s reputation, or to cause a person academic or economic harm.
c) Intimidation is an implied threat that menaces or causes reasonable fear in another person. A person’s size, alone, does not constitute intimidation; however, a person’s size may be used in a way that constitutes intimidation (e.g., blocking access to an exit).
d) Coercion is the use of an unreasonable amount of pressure to gain sexual access. Coercion is more than an effort to persuade, entice, or attract another person to have sex. When a person makes clear a decision not to participate in a particular form of Sexual Contact or Sexual Intercourse, a decision to stop, or a decision not to go beyond a certain sexual interaction, continued pressure can be coercive. In evaluating whether coercion was used, the University will consider: (i) the frequency of the application of the pressure, (ii) the intensity of the pressure, (iii) the degree of isolation of the person being pressured, and (iv) the duration of the pressure.
Affirmative Consent cannot be gained by taking advantage of the incapacitation of another, where the person initiating sexual activity knew or reasonably should have known that the other was incapacitated. Incapacitation means that a person lacks the ability to make informed, rational judgments about whether or not to engage in sexual activity. A person who is incapacitated is unable, temporarily or permanently, to give Affirmative Consent because of mental or physical helplessness, sleep, unconsciousness, or lack of awareness that sexual activity is taking place. A person may be incapacitated as a result of the consumption of alcohol or other drugs, or due to a temporary or permanent physical or mental health condition.
The University offers the following guidance on Affirmative Consent and assessing incapacitation:
- A person who wants to engage in a specific sexual activity is responsible for obtaining Affirmative Consent for that activity. Lack of protest does not constitute Affirmative Consent. Lack of resistance does not constitute Affirmative Consent. Silence and/or passivity also do not constitute Affirmative Consent. Relying solely on non-verbal communication before or during sexual activity can lead to misunderstanding and may result in a violation of this Policy. It is important not to make assumptions about whether a potential partner is consenting. In order to avoid confusion or ambiguity, participants are encouraged to talk with one another before engaging in sexual activity. If confusion or ambiguity arises during sexual activity, participants are encouraged to stop and clarify a mutual willingness to continue that activity.
- Affirmative Consent to one form of sexual activity does not, by itself, constitute Affirmative Consent to another form of sexual activity. For example, one should not presume that Affirmative Consent to oral-genital contact constitutes Affirmative Consent to vaginal or anal penetration. Affirmative Consent to sexual activity on a prior occasion does not, by itself, constitute Affirmative Consent to future sexual activity. In cases of prior relationships, the manner and nature of prior communications between the parties and the context of the relationship may have a bearing on the presence of Affirmative Consent.
- Affirmative Consent may be withdrawn at any time. An individual who seeks to withdraw Affirmative Consent must communicate, through clear words or actions, a decision to cease the sexual activity. Once Affirmative Consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity must cease immediately.
In evaluating Affirmative Consent in cases of alleged incapacitation, the University asks two questions:
(1) Did the person initiating sexual activity know that the other party was incapacitated? And if not,
(2) Should a sober, reasonable person in the same situation have known that the other party was incapacitated?
If the answer to either of these questions is “YES,” Affirmative Consent was absent and the conduct is likely a violation of this policy.
Incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. A person is not necessarily incapacitated merely as a result of drinking or using drugs. The impact of alcohol and other drugs varies from person to person.
One is not expected to be a medical expert in assessing incapacitation. One must look for the common and obvious warning signs that show that a person may be incapacitated or approaching incapacitation. Although every individual may manifest signs of incapacitation differently, typical signs include slurred or incomprehensible speech, unsteady gait, combativeness, emotional volatility, vomiting, or incontinence. A person who is incapacitated may not be able to understand some or all of the following questions: “Do you know where you are?” “Do you know how you got here?” “Do you know what is happening?” “Do you know whom you are with?”
One should be cautious before engaging in Sexual Contact or Sexual Intercourse when either party has been drinking alcohol or using other drugs. The introduction of alcohol or other drugs may create ambiguity for either party as to whether Affirmative Consent has been sought or given. If one has doubt about either party’s level of intoxication, the safe thing to do is to forego all sexual activity.
Being impaired by alcohol or other drugs is no defense to any violation of Mason’s Title IX/sexual and interpersonal misconduct policy.