Discrimination and Harassment

Policy on Discrimination and Harassment

The Jewish Theological Seminary ("JTS") is committed to the principle that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated in the JTS community. This principle extends to faculty, staff, students and applicants for admission and employment.

All members of the JTS community must be able to work and study in an atmosphere that discourages discrimination and harassment by individuals including colleagues, supervisors, teachers, and peers.

This principle applies in areas including employment practices, personnel policies, financial assistance, educational programs activities and housing matters. It applies equally to all visitors, invitees, vendors, contractors, consultants, and others who visit or do business with JTS. 


Discriminatory treatment, insensitive or derogatory language, or actions based on factors such as an individual's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religious practices, age, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, veteran's status (including special disabled veterans and other protected veterans), or other categories protected by law, are offensive and prohibited at JTS.  Behavior which involves discriminatory treatment can be considered demeaning, coercive, or, depending upon the circumstances, threatening and intimidating.

Members of the JTS community are encouraged to report any incidents of discriminatory treatment promptly to any of the administrators listed in this policy.  Individuals may also seek guidance from these administrators if they have any questions about discriminatory treatment, harassment or bias-related crimes.  JTS will undertake an investigation of a complaint of discriminatory treatment in accordance with this policy and will make a determination as to whether disciplinary action is warranted.

JTS presents information on discrimination in its programming for students, together with information on harassment, bias-related crimes, sexual assault and campus safety.  Any member of the community may obtain additional information from the Office of Student Life. 

Harassment based on sex and other protected characteristics

Sexual harassment is defined as any conduct directed toward an individual or group based on gender that is sufficiently persistent, severe, or pervasive so as to alter the individual's employment conditions, educational environment, or living environment, and that creates an intimidating, offensive or hostile environment for employment or education. JTS prohibits harassment based on sex or other protected characteristics, such as race, age, disability, or national origin, included in the non-discrimination policy above.

In determining whether alleged conduct constitutes harassment, it is necessary to examine all of the relevant information available, including the nature of the conduct, whether the conduct is unwelcome, whether the conduct is persistent, pervasive, or severe, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. Unless the conduct is severe, a single incident or isolated incidents of offensive conduct or remarks generally do not create a hostile environment, which generally requires a showing of a pattern of offensive conduct.  

Harassment can take many different forms, including:

Verbal/Written: humor or jokes about sex or other protected characteristics; sexual innuendo; and insults, threats, advances, propositions, or other suggestive or derogatory comments. A harasser may communicate orally, in electronic form including email or social media sites, on paper, over the telephone, by text messaging, or through other modes.

Nonverbal: suggestive or insulting sounds and gestures, leering, whistling, displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons, calendars or computer screens.

Physical: unwanted or unnecessary physical contact (e.g. brushing, patting, pinching), unwanted sexual advances, coerced sexual intercourse, stalking. Harassment includes stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, acquaintance rape, and rape.

Depending upon the factors referred to above, the following conduct is probably not harassment in violation of JTS policy:

  • Discussion  in an instructional setting of controversial or even offensive material that is relevant to the subject matter being taught.
  • Social situations or interactions which, while possibly uncomfortable, are not sufficiently persistent, pervasive, or severe to meet the criteria of a hostile environment.

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has defined sexual harassment.  The definition, while not dispositive, provides descriptive guidelines that may be helpful in clarifying what is considered sexual harassment:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

1. submitting to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic status; or

2. submitting to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions or an academic decision affecting such individual; or

3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.

Sexual harassment may involve women being harassed by men, men being harassed by women, or harassment between persons of the same sex.

In order to provide information about bias related crimes, crime prevention and reporting procedures, JTS includes these topics in its orientation programs for new students and in materials distributed to resident students.  Students are also alerted about events that affect their security and the security of the community when the need arises.

Applicable Procedures

Several basic premises underlie the structure of these procedures and are intended to govern their application. 

First, the goal of these procedures is to provide a prompt, equitable, and effective response to an incident of discrimination or harassment. JTS seeks to provide appropriate redress for the victim, education and assistance for the offender, and prevention of similar incidents in the future. The end result is not intended to be primarily punishment of the offender or retribution. In significant cases, however,, appropriate action may include, among other outcomes; a recommendation of counseling; oral or written reprimand; discipline; suspension; dismissal; or  termination of employment or participation in an academic program. 

Second, a member of the JTS community who exhibits a single act or isolated acts of conduct perceived as discriminatory or harassing may simply lack the sensitivity to appreciate that his or her conduct creates discomfort or humiliation for others.  Accordingly, any member of the JTS community who becomes aware of such activity may want to advise the individual directly in a discreet manner.  Third, these matters are unusually sensitive, and additional harm can be caused to the victim, the alleged offender, and potential witnesses by inappropriate publicity.

1.  Informal Resolution (Step One) 

Optional informal communication. A member of the JTS community who believes he or she has been subject to discrimination or harassment may wish to consider seeking a resolution of the problem informally and unofficially, through communication directly with the person concerned or through an informal advisor.  An individual may not wish to try this informal approach, the approach may not be appropriate or possible, or, if tried, the approach may be unsuccessful. 

Report to Designated Official. The following administrators are Designated JTS Officials who handle discrimination and harassment matters.

Director  of Human Resources

Dean, Assistant Dean or Associate Dean of any school of the Seminary

Dean of Student Life

Director of Student Life

Any member of the JTS community who has a problem involving discrimination or harassment, or who seeks guidance in these areas, should contact one of the Designated JTS Officials.

The Designated JTS Official will hold an initial discussion with the individual. An individual believing that he or she has experienced discrimination or harassment is known as the complainant. The complainant may request that his or her identity be kept confidential while he or she decides whether or not to file a charge. The Designated JTS Official shall ask the student to sign a statement requesting confidentiality. JTS shall honor the request to the extent practicable and consistent with JTS's legal obligations. A request for confidentiality may limit the ability of JTS to take prompt and appropriate action and JTS may be obligated by law to document and investigate a complaint notwithstanding a request for confidentiality.

One does not have to be the direct target of the discrimination or sexual harassment to report it to a Designated JTS Official, who shall investigate the complaint consistent with these procedures if appropriate.

In the initial meeting with a Designated JTS Official, the nature and context of the incident need to be explored. The Designated JTS Official should discuss with the complainant the procedures under this policy. If the complainant decides to proceed, the complainant submits a written statement to the Designated JTS Official. The statement should contain specific details and be signed. JTS reserves the right to investigate allegations in the absence of a written complaint under circumstances it deems appropriate.

Members of the JTS community may have the option of bringing a complaint of discrimination or harassment in more than one forum. For example, a student in the Joint Program with Columbia could bring a complaint either at Columbia or at JTS. The individual has the right to elect a forum in which to pursue his or her complaint.  If the individual does not elect to pursue a complaint at JTS, the individual should nonetheless provide information to JTS about the charge.

Complaints should be presented as promptly as possible after the alleged discrimination or harassment occurs.  Normally, complaints should be brought to the attention of a Designated JTS Officials within two months after the incident.  Prompt reporting is encouraged; the longer the amount of time that elapses, the more difficult it is to investigate the allegations.  At the complainant's request, JTS may briefly postpone an investigation, such as until after a term ends or an examination is completed.

JTS is committed to a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution.

The Designated JTS Official (or someone else assigned the responsibility) shall make such investigation as may be necessary and appropriate to gather the facts, including interviews and requests for written information from the complainant, the respondent and relevant witness(es), if any.   In the investigation, the Designated JTS Official shall at all times respect the sensitivity of the situation and the interests of both the complainant and the respondent, consistent with the need for a thorough fact-finding. JTS endeavors to complete investigations within 45 school days of receiving a formal complaint. 

The Designated JTS Official (or designee) evaluates the information received and, using a standard of preponderance of evidence, writes a recommended resolution within a reasonable time period, generally not to exceed twenty (20) school days, and shares it with the complainant and the respondent, If all parties accept the recommended resolution, the General Counsel's office shall retain a copy of it, along with written evidence of the parties' acceptance, for an appropriate period.

If the complainant or the respondent is unsatisfied with the resolution proposed by the Designated JTS Official, either party may, within two weeks of receiving the recommended resolution, submit a written request to that official that the complaint be referred for formal procedures (Step Two). 

Either party may elect, during the informal process, to proceed to the Formal Resolution. 

2.  Formal Resolution (Step Two) 

Staff/staff matters. A complaint concerning an employment situation between staff members which is not settled at the Step One informal resolution, and which is not addressed by an applicable procedure in a collective bargaining agreement, shall be directed to a review panel appointed jointly by the Executive Vice Chancellor/Chief Operating Officer and the Director of Human Resources.  The panel shall consist of any three members of the JTS community, and shall include a student if a student employed at the JTS is the complainant or the respondent; it shall invite parties to the dispute to appear to explain their position and to raise any questions for any adverse witnesses.  The panel may conduct its own informal inquiry, call its own witnesses and gather whatever information it deems necessary to assist it in reaching a determination on the merits of the allegation.   Each person affected by the inquiry will be afforded a full opportunity to be heard and shall have the right to be accompanied by an advisor, who shall not be an attorney. 

Once a determination has been reached, it shall be communicated in writing simultaneously to both parties and also to the Executive Vice Chancellor/Chief Operating Officer for action.  A brief summary of the basis for the determination will be available to either party upon request.  The panel's conclusion on the merits of the allegation shall be final and not subject to further review.  If the Executive Vice Chancellor/Chief Operating Officer is not able to accept the recommendation of the panel, the recommendation shall be remanded back to the panel for clarification or modification.  The panel's decision and the final determination shall also be retained by the General Counsel's office. 

Matters other than staff/staff. Any complaints other than those concerning an employment situation, namely student/student, student/faculty, faculty/faculty and staff/student matters, shall be directed to a review panel of three members of the JTS community, selected jointly by the Provost and the Dean of Student Life.  This panel shall function in the same manner and with the same composition as that set forth in the paragraph above. 

The review panel should initiate its activities within fifteen (15) school days of receiving the complaint.  Actual hearings should start within thirty (30) school days after the review panel is convened, and hearings and fact finding should conclude within thirty (30) school days.  A determination of the review panel, using a preponderance of evidence, should be distributed simultaneously to the parties and the Chancellor within twenty (20) days after the conclusion of the review panel's hearings and fact finding.  These time frames may be extended for reasonable periods for good cause or at the request or mutual agreement of the parties.

No one at JTS may take any adverse action against a person making a good faith claim of discrimination or harassment.  Similarly, no one at JTS may take any adverse action against a person who, in good faith, supports a claim of discrimination or harassment. However, any student, faculty or staff member who exercises bad faith and brings false, malicious or frivolous charges may face disciplinary action.  Someone who, in bad faith, supports a claim of discrimination or harassment may similarly face disciplinary action.

JTS endeavors to provide educational programs on discrimination and harassment for all interested members of the JTS community.JTS also makes available counseling services and referrals to outside professionals through the Office of Student Life.

In some circumstances, the policies administered by JTS, including this one, will take into consideration the beliefs and practices of Conservative Judaism.  It is the responsibility of the Chancellor to implement and monitor this policy.  

The Designated JTS Officials under this policy are as follows:

The Designated JTS Officials under this policy are as follows:

Director of Human Resources
Ms. Diana Torres-Petrilli
(212) 678-8011
Room 110 Unterberg
Assoc. Dean, The Rabbinical School
Rabbi Lisa Gelber
(212) 678-8814
Room 503 Brush
Dean, Graduate and Undergraduate Studies
Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz
(212) 678-8827
Room 513 Brush
Dean of Student Life
Ms. Sara Horowitz
(212) 678-8838
Room 209 Unterberg
Assoc. Dean, List College
Ms. Aliyah Vinikoor
(212) 678-8826
Room 513 Brush
Director of Student Life
Ms. Ruth Decalo
(212) 678-8915
Room 209 Unterberg
Dean, The Davidson School
Dr. Bill Robinson
(212) 678-8920
Room 406 Brush

Executive Vice Chancellor/Chief Operating Officer
Mr. Marc Gary
(212) 678-8080
Room 503 Schiff

Dean, The Rabbinical School
Rabbi Daniel Nevins
(212) 678-8907
Room 509 Brush
Dr. Alan Cooper
(212) 678-8065
Room 505 Schiff
Implemented: January, 1993
Last Update: April 2014