Safe Learning Environment Policy

A safe learning environment in our classrooms, laboratories and other academic spaces will focus on academic achievement, maintaining high standards, excellence in research and fostering positive relationships between faculty, staff, and students.

Components of an effective learning environment include:

  • Appreciating the characteristics of different types of learners.
  • Setting goals for teaching and learning.
  • Creating activities that will best support learning.
  • Using assessment strategies that will best measure and drive learning.

Creating a culture that infuses the learning environment.


Maintaining a safe learning environment requires that UB SEAS faculty, staff, and students always treat each other with respect. Faculty and staff should realize that students depend on them for evaluations and references, which can advance or impede their career development. Faculty and staff must take care to judiciously exercise this power and to maintain fairness of treatment, avoiding exploitation or the perception of mistreatment and exploitation. The quality and worth of a UB SEAS education rest not only in the excellence of the content and the material and skills that are taught, but also in the example provided to students of engineers and scientists who respect their professional colleagues at all career levels.

Responsibilities of our Faculty, Staff and Students

The faculty-student relationship confers rights and responsibilities upon both parties. Behaving in a way that embodies the ideal faculty/staff/student relationship fosters mutual respect, minimizes the likelihood of mistreatment, and optimizes the educational experience.

Responsibilities of Faculty/Staff

  • Treat students fairly, respectfully, and without bias related to their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, parental status, marital status, age, disability, citizenship status, veteran status, or any other classification protected by law or University policy.
  • Distinguish between the Socratic method, where insightful questions are a stimulus to learning and discovery, and overly aggressive questioning, where detailed queries are repeatedly presented with the endpoint of belittlement or humiliation of the learner.
  • Give students timely, constructive, and accurate feedback and opportunities for remediation.
  • Provide written evaluations on time.
  • Be prepared and on time for all activities.
  • Provide students with current material and information and appropriate educational activities.

Responsibilities of Students

  • Be courteous and respectful of others, regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, parental status, marital status, age, disability, citizenship status, veteran status, genetic information, or any other classification protected by law or University policy.
  • UB SEAS students should act in accordance with the UB SEAS Code of Professional Conduct, the UB SEAS Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy, and UB Student Code of Conduct.
  • Be prepared and on time for all learning activities.
  • Ask for help when needed.
  • View feedback as an opportunity to improve knowledge and skills. 

Description of Inappropriate Behavior

Inappropriate behaviors are those that are not respectful or professional in a faculty/staff/student relationship. Examples of inappropriate behaviors which compromise the integrity of the educational process include, but are not limited to:

  • Unwanted physical contact (such as touching, hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing) or the threat of the same.
  • Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct (see the SEAS Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy);
  • Discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, parental status, marital status, age, disability, citizenship status, veteran status, or any other classification protected by law or University policy (see the UB Discrimination and Harassment Policy);
  • Requiring students to perform personal chores (e.g., running errands or babysitting).
  • Verbal harassment, including humiliation or belittlement in public or privately (see the University at Buffalo Discrimination and Harassment Policy);
  • Use of grading and other forms of assessment in a punitive or self-serving manner.
  • Romantic or sexual relationships between faculty/staff and students (see the University at Buffalo Consensual Relationships Policy).


University at Buffalo strictly prohibits retaliation against any member of its community for reporting a violation of University policy or for participating, in any manner, in a University disciplinary process. The University considers such actions to be protected activities in which all members of the UB community may freely engage. An adverse action taken against an individual as a result of complaining about discrimination or harassment, exercising a legal right such as obtaining a reasonable accommodation, opposing discriminatory practices or harassment, or participating in or assisting a complaint investigation. Adverse actions may include, but are not limited to: termination or dismissal, failure to promote or assign salary increases, the assignment of lower grades or performance evaluations than other individuals who perform similarly, attempts to intimidate or harass the individual, the assignment of less desirable work to the individual, or the provision of negative references with respect to academic work or employment (see the UB Discrimination and Harassment Policy).

In situations where you prefer to place an anonymous report in confidence, you are encouraged to report any alleged incident of retaliation to the UB Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), or to EthicsPoint, a third party hotline and web-based resource available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All reports will be handled as promptly and discreetly as possible, with facts made available only to those who need to know to investigate and resolve the matter. You are encouraged to submit reports relating to activities that involve unethical behavior or violations of SUNY, UB, and RF policies. This reporting hotline is not appropriate for:

  • Emergencies or immediate threats to life or property. If you require emergency assistance, call 716-645-2222 for on-campus emergencies to reach the University Police Department, or 911 for off-campus emergencies to reach your local authorities.
  • Issues concerning employment-related discrimination or harassment. While the system provides an option for reporting these matters anonymously, it is important to note that due process considerations limit the ability to investigate anonymous discrimination and harassment complaints. To report concerns of this nature, it is recommended that you please contact the UB Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). You may consult with an EDI representative about the situation without revealing your name.

What to do if you Believe Inappropriate Behavior or Mistreatment has Occurred

While we believe that professional behavior is generally practiced and respected by the members of our diverse community of scholars, we recognize there may be occasions when real or perceived incidents of unprofessional behavior directed toward students, faculty or staff occur. In these circumstances, UB SEAS is committed to establishing the facts through a fair process, which respects, to the extent possible, the privacy of the involved parties.

UB’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy prohibits discrimination and harassment and provides for a prompt investigation of reports of prohibited behavior.

  • The reporting procedure is available for all members of the University community, including students, faculty, and staff. You will be protected against retaliation for filing a complaint and/or participating in an investigation.  You cannot be punished, harassed, or treated adversely for having come forward.
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) will inform you of each step in the investigation.  No action will be taken on your report without advising you of what is happening.
  • UB will take prompt and effective remedial action in response to any harassing or discriminatory behavior.
  • You may call EDI anonymously if you wish to discuss a situation and learn about your options.

The Investigatory Process

Each investigation is guided by the need to balance the remedy of unlawful discrimination and harassment with principles of fairness, due process, and confidentiality. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion's (EDI) investigation will generally include the following steps:

  • Meeting or speaking with the person reporting discrimination or harassment.
  • Notifying the supervisor of the person accused of discrimination or harassment about the investigation.
  • Meeting with the person accused of discrimination or harassment in order to explain the allegations and obtain his or her response.
  • Reviewing any relevant documents, policies or other information submitted by the parties to the complaint.
  •  Interviewing third-party witnesses
  • Holding a follow-up meeting with the person reporting discrimination or harassment to explain the responses to the claims.
  • Making a finding and/or recommendations based on the investigation.
  • With or without an investigation, EDI can work with the parties to assist in resolving a complaint.  When appropriate, parties can also elect to work toward a remedy through conflict resolution.

Possible Outcomes

An investigation can result in the following:

  • A remedy or resolution to the complaint, with or without a finding of violation of University policy.
  • A conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to support a finding of a violation of University policy.
  • A decision by the person reporting discrimination not to proceed with an investigation or to withdraw the complaint.  EDI will close the complaint unless there are issues that require further remedial action.
  • A finding that there is sufficient evidence to support a finding of a violation of University policy.  EDI will work with the unit or department to remedy the situation.

Cases involving alleged misconduct and/or criminal action may also result in a referral to University Police, Employee Relations or Student Conduct and Advocacy.

Silent Witness Reporting

Silent Witness is a program to allow for the anonymous submission of suspected criminal activity that occurs on campus. Submitted information will be reviewed by our investigative staff and appropriate action will be taken as warranted. If you see crime occurring on campus and you would like to report it, you may complete a Silent Witness Report. Note that this information is not sent instantly to police officers. Any crime in progress or other emergency should be reported by dialing 645-2222. All information will be kept confidential.

If after discussion of the incident, the student and faculty point of contact agree that particular events could constitute student mistreatment, the incident can be addressed as described below. If the incident involves sexual misconduct, the student will be referred to the University Office of Equity for further discussion and investigation. If the incident involves other types of discrimination or discriminatory harassment, the student will be referred to the University Office of Equity for further discussion and investigation. 

As previously mentioned, alternative approach for reporting concerns of any nature is to use EthicsPoint, to provide students and University employees with a simple way to report activities that may involve misconduct or violations of University policy, including academic or research misconduct, conflicts of interest, criminal activity, health or safety issues, fraud, financial improprieties, or acts of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, or retaliation, as well as workplace violence or threats. EthicsPoint provides reporters with options to protect their identity. 

Additional Information

SEAS Policies and Guidelines

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences policies serve as a resource for faculty, staff, and students. SEAS has resources for Faculty, Staff, Graduate Students and Undergraduates. The University also maintains a policy library. See the links below for additional information.

New York State Policies

Last updated July 14, 2021