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Sexual Misconduct

Sexually Related Offenses - Policies & Practices

The Student Code of Conduct at Portland State University acts as a set of protective guidelines for students. These community standards have been developed over time to best serve all members of the PSU community, including faculty and staff members, whose primary focus is the educational success of students.

Any violation of the Student Code of Conduct is a serious issue and, in some cases, may also be a violation of state and federal law. The University strongly encourages students to report violations of the Student Code of Conduct. Portland State University does not tolerate this behavior and issues of sexual misconduct will be addressed by the Director of Conduct and Community Standards. Please note that even if under the influence at the time of an incident, a victim can report violations without incurring conduct violations. This means that a victim, or anyone helping a victim, can report the incident without fear of University action in cases due to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  

Definitions and procedures for reporting are detailed below.



Sexual Misconduct is an umbrella term that covers a variety of behavior, including sexual assault and sexual harassment. Sexual misconduct victims and perpetrators can be of any gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Please note that "sexual misconduct" is also a specific code violation in the code of conduct referring to a specific set of sexually inappropriate behaviors. 

Effective Consent is a voluntary, non-coerced and mutually understandable communication indicating willingness to participate in a particular act. Sexual conduct is unwanted if effective consent is not given or if the student knew or should have known that the person was incapable of giving effective consent by reason of mental or physical impairment, mental disorder, or mental incapacitation.

Consent: Portland State University's sexual misconduct code is based on obtaining consent. That means that at the time of the sexual contact, words or conduct indicate freely given approval or agreement, without coercion, by both participants in the sexual contact. Both parties have the obligation to communicate consent or the lack of consent. A verbal "no" (no matter how indecisive) or resistances (no matter how passive) constitutes the lack of consent. Consent to sexual activity may be withdrawn at any time through clear communication and at that time, if consent is withdrawn, all sexual activity must cease. 

An individual is unable to give consent if he or she is:

  • substantially physically or mentally impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • forced or threatened
  • physically incapable of resisting assault, asleep, or unconscious

 The use of alcohol or drugs does NOT minimize or excuse a person’s responsibility for sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment is unwanted or unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature where: (a) submission or rejection of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or participation in a University Sponsered Activity; (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting the individual; or (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's academic or work performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational or working environment.

Sexual misconduct is sexual conduct, or the threat of such conduct, that is predatory in nature and that a reasonable person in the circumstances would consider offensive or likely to be harmful to others. Sexual misconduct may include, but is not limited to, the exposure of one's sexual organs or the display of sexual behavior.

Sexual assault is defined as unwanted sexual contact of any kind or threat of such contact or attempt to engage in such conduct. Sexual contact includes vaginal, oral, or anal sex, touching the intimate parts of another person, or causing a person to touch the intimate parts of another person. Sexual conduct is "unwanted" if no Effective Consent is given or if the student knew or should have known that the person was incapable of giving Effective Consent by reason of mental or physical impairment, mental disorder or mental incapacitation.

Reporting Sexual Misconduct

Students who experience sexual harassment, misconduct, or assault are strongly encouraged to report the incident and to seek support services immediately, through the Women's Resource Center.

 Several options are available when reporting an incident:

  1.  Complete an online report (, call (503-725-4422), or visit the Dean of Student Life Office (Smith 433). 
  2. Complete an online report (, call (503-725-5919), or visit the Office of Equity and Compliance (Market Bldg 830). 
  3. *Complete an anonymous online report.

The Director of Conduct and Community Standards (DCCS) is responsible for coordinating the investigation and adjudication of complaints of sexual misconduct by and against students. Measures are taken throughout the process to preserve the rights of all individuals involved.  To achieve this, the DCCS works in collaboration with other campus entities to resolve such matters including Campus Public Safety Office (CPSO), Equity & Compliance, WRC, and University Counsel as needed. 

After a complaint has been made the complainant will be interviewed, as will the individual(s) named in the complaint and/or any relevant witnesses.  At the conclusion of the investigation a determination is made if enough information exists to move forward with charges of conduct code violation(s).  Most violations of this nature are heard by our Student Conduct Committee (SCC).  All parties involved will be notified of their rights and responsibilities along the way leading up to an administrative review meeting with the SCC. 

Prior to the review meeting, both the respondent and complainant will have an opportunity to review the investigative notes and information gathered.  Since most relevant interviews will have taken place during the investigation, individuals participating in the review meeting are not required to present witnesses. The complainant has the right to participate in the review meeting and is usually in a separate room during portions of the meeting involving the respondent.  Both the complainant and respondent have the right to have up to two advisors present during the review meeting.  Advisors cannot participate in the hearing beyond advising the student as it is an expectation that the student speaks for themselves in these matters. 

At the conclusion of review meeting, the committee will go into executive session and make a determination of responsibility and sanctions in the case of a finding of “responsible”.  Both individuals will be informed of the outcome and given equal opportunity to appeal on the established criteria if either party feels they have been met. 

 *We strongly encourage students to come forward with identifying information so we can properly address the concerns being brought forward.  It is an individual’s right to report anonymously and we support that as well.  Either way the ability of a student to seek support and services will not be interrupted or changed based on the type of report submitted.