Understanding the Williams Code of Conduct

Sexual Assault will not be tolerated at Williams College.   The Williams Code of Conduct forbids sexual assault as defined in Massachusetts law, and also enforces other expectations of our community.  Williams is a community based on trust whose very existence depends on adherence to standards of conduct set by its members. Sexual assault is a crime punishable by both civil and criminal legal action and is a serious violation of the Williams College Standards of Conduct.  Students at Williams are charged with the responsibility of being familiar and abiding by the standards of conduct set forth herein.

The Williams Code of Conduct requires affirmative consent for all sexual activity.  Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse and Non-Consensual Sexual Contact are considered sexual assault, and are prohibited.  Sexual exploitation is also prohibited.   Sexual assault and sexual exploitation are both forms of sexual misconduct.

Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse: Any sexual intercourse (anal, oral or vaginal); however slight; with any object; by any person upon any other person; without effective consent.

Non-Consensual Sexual Contact: Any sexual touching; however slight; with any object; by any person upon any other person; without effective consent.

Sexual Exploitation: Occurs when a student takes nonconsensual, unjust or abusive advantage of another; for his/her own advantage or benefit; or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited; and that behavior does not otherwise constitute rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment. Examples of sexual exploitation include prostituting another student, nonconsensual video or audiotaping of sexual activity, engaging in voyeurism or setting up the voyeurism of others (such as letting your friends watch you have sexual interactions without the knowledge of your partner), knowingly transmitting STD or HIV to another student, and inducing incapacitation with the intent to rape or sexually assault another student.

As is the case with all violations of the Code of Conduct, the use of alcohol or drugs does not minimize or excuse a person’s responsibility for committing sexual assault or sexual exploitation.

Retaliation prohibited:  Individuals who make complaints or bring charges against another Williams community member for violation of the College Code of Conduct, including complaints regarding sexual misconduct, dating violence, stalking, harassment, or discrimination, may not be subjected to retaliation of any sort, whether verbal, physical or in any other manner, for having done so.  Any Williams community member who retaliates against another individual in violation of this rule will be subject to disciplinary action through the disciplinary procedures established by the College. The process for investigation and adjudication for charges of retaliation will be that relevant to the original report.  That is, complaints of retaliation against those reporting or participating in investigations regarding sexual misconduct, dating/domestic violence, or stalking will be heard under the disciplinary process established for those conduct violations.


Key Policy Definitions Regarding Sexual Misconduct:

    I.     Consent

Consent is a crucial part of both the Williams Code of Conduct and Massachusetts law.  The Williams College Code of Conduct requires affirmative consent for all sexual activity.

Consent means that at the time of the sexual contact, words and conduct indicate freely given approval or agreement, without coercion, by all participants in the sexual contact.  Consent may not be inferred from silence or passivity. In addition, consent once given may be withdrawn at any time. If consent is withdrawn, whatever sexual contact is occurring must immediately stop.

Individuals are unable to give consent if they are:

  • substantially physically or mentally impaired by illness, alcohol or drugs
  • forced, coerced, threatened or subject to intimidation
  • physically incapable of communicating, asleep, or unconscious

Consent while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is valid consent unless the person is under the influence to the point of being substantially impaired.

     ll.    Coercion

Coercion is the use of pressure to compel another individual to initiate or continue sexual activity against an individual’s will. Coercion can include a wide range of behaviors, including intimidation, manipulation, threats, and blackmail. A person’s words or conduct are sufficient to constitute coercion if they wrongfully impair another individual’s freedom of will and ability to choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity. Examples of coercion include threatening to “out” someone based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression and threatening to harm oneself if the other party does not engage in the sexual activity.

     III.   Substantially Impaired

Substantially impaired means an individual lacks the ability 
to make informed, rational judgments and/or to coherently communicate those judgments.  Substantial impairment may result from illness or from the use of alcohol and/or other drugs. Substantial impairment is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. The impact of alcohol and other drugs varies from person to person; however, warning signs that a person is or may be approaching substantial impairment may include (but are not limited to) slurred speech, vomiting, unsteady gait,  combativeness, or unusual emotional volatility.

     IV.     Retaliation

Retaliation is harmful action taken against someone who has filed a complaint, provided testimony, or in some other way participated in a disciplinary investigation or process. It could also include actions taken against someone who has intervened as a bystander to stop or attempt to stop harassment, discrimination, or misconduct.

It can include intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against an individual because of their participation in a disciplinary process, or because they opposed behavior that was in violation of our Code of Conduct.

If the actions directed at that individual would deter a reasonable person in the same circumstances from reporting misconduct, participating in a disciplinary process, or opposing behavior in violation of our Code of Conduct, it is deemed retaliatory.