Learning Environment Policies of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Policy Review History

Faculty Council approved—09/27/2017 (last updated 02/24/2021: see log of updates at end of document)

On this page:

1. Introduction

1.1. Standard of Conduct

It is the expectation of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (hereafter referred to as the Jacobs School) that all members of the school’s community are treated with respect.  The learning environment must be inclusive and supportive of individuals regardless of age, race, creed, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, pregnancy, domestic violence victim status, or criminal conviction, and all other protected categories under federal and state laws (“protected status”).

1.2. Purpose of Policy

The purpose of this policy is to define student mistreatment and provide mechanisms for reporting violations of this policy.

1.3. Policy

The Jacobs School defines student mistreatment as any violation of the policies set forth in this document.  The tenets described below are drawn from the Principles outlined by Cohen in “Our Compact with Tomorrow’s Doctors” (Cohen. Our Compact with Tomorrow’s Doctors. Acad. Med. 2002;77:475 – 480).

The Jacobs School is home to students in varying phases of their educational journey.  As such, this policy refers to all undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, fellows and residents, visiting students, and post-doctoral fellows as “Learners.”

The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences recognizes that preparation for a career in biomedical sciences, including the practice of medicine, demands the acquisition of a large fund of knowledge and a host of special skills. It also demands the strengthening of those virtues that undergird the doctor–patient or science-community relationship that sustain the profession of the biomedical sciences as a moral enterprise.

2. Guiding Principles and Expectations

2.1. Duty

Educators have a duty to convey the knowledge and skills required for delivering the profession’s contemporary standards and ethical implementation of the scientific method. Educators have a responsibility to inculcate the values and attitudes required for preserving the profession’s social contract across generations and to foster an environment of application of knowledge and skills without prejudice.

2.2. Integrity

A learning environment conducive to conveying professional values must be suffused with integrity. Students learn enduring lessons of professionalism by observing and emulating role models who epitomize authentic professional values and attitudes.

2.3. Respect

Fundamental to the ethics of medicine and the biomedical sciences is respect for every individual, be they students, staff, patients, or anyone who falls within their sphere of contact. Mutual respect between learners, as novice members of their chosen profession, and their teachers, as experienced and esteemed professionals, is essential for nurturing that ethic. Given the inherently hierarchical nature of the teacher–learner relationship, teachers have a special obligation to ensure that learners are always treated respectfully.

3. Expectations for Faculty

  1. Ensure that all components of the educational program for learners are of high quality.
  2. Maintain high professional standards in all of our interactions with colleagues, staff, learners, members of our community, and those we serve.
  3. Respect all learners as individuals, regardless of their protected status; we do not tolerate anyone who manifests disrespect or who expresses biased attitudes towards any learner.
  4. Ensure that learners have sufficient time to fulfill personal and family obligations, to enjoy recreational activities, and to obtain adequate rest; monitor and, when necessary, reduce the time required to fulfill educational objectives, including in medicine the time required for ‘‘call’’ on clinical rotations, and/or time spent in the laboratory, to ensure learners’ well-being.
  5. Nurture both the intellectual and the personal development of learners, and celebrate expressions of professional attitudes and behaviors, as well as achievement of academic excellence.
  6. Renounce abuse or exploitation of learners.
  7. Encourage any learner who experiences mistreatment or who witnesses unprofessional behavior to report the facts immediately as outlined in this document and treat all such reports as confidential and not tolerate reprisals or retaliations of any kind.

4. Expectations for Learners

  1. Give their utmost effort to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors required to fulfill the educational objectives established by the faculty.
  2. Value the professional virtues of honesty, compassion, integrity, fidelity, and dependability.
  3. Treat all individuals with behavior and language that shows respect and sensitivity. 
  4. Maintain the highest standards of the medical and biomedical professions and conduct themselves accordingly in all interactions with faculty and staff, other learners, members of our community, and those we serve.
  5. Assist fellow learners in fulfilling professional obligations.

5. Behaviors that May Be Considered Abusive or Exploitive

Examples of conduct that is considered inappropriate include, but are not limited to:

  1. Failing to provide an environment that respects learning and education, such as ignoring the learner or failing to complete a teaching assignment.
  2. The use of “abusive” questioning above the classical “Socratic” design.  Merely being asked a question in public that the learner does not know the answer to is not a violation of these Guiding Principles, but questions designed or intended to humiliate the learner are violations.
  3. Romantic or sexual advances toward learners. (“Let’s talk about your evaluation over dinner tonight.”) Sexual humor in the workplace is also deemed inappropriate.
  4. Treating individuals solely as a member of a group (“all of you (insert group) are alike”).
  5. Threats of physical violence or threats of retribution in grading or evaluations.
  6. Requesting personal services from a learner (“Would you go down and pick up my dry cleaning for me?” “Could you come over and babysit tonight while you are studying?”)
  7. Mocking, mimicking or taunting learners, patients, faculty, or staff.
  8. Cursing or use of gender, racial, ethnic or other slurs.
  9. Requesting or requiring a learner to do a task, procedure, or interaction that will endanger the learner or patient, either directly or indirectly. (“Run down there and see what that patient’s family is fighting about.  See if you can break it up.” or “The fume hood is broken. You can just do this at the bench top and hold your breath for a while.”)
  10. Asking the learner to do anything that is contradictory to the Jacobs School policies and procedures.
  11. Assigning grades outside of the learner’s performance in the activity. (“They weren’t that strong, but they want to go into xxx residency, so why don’t we just give them honors?” or the converse, “they are not going into this field, I think we should save the best grades for those students.”)
  12. Interacting and evaluating learners based on pre-conceived evaluations or hearsay (“Watch out for this one; this one is trouble.”)
  13. Intentional misuse of pronouns.
  14. Failure to respect work-life balance or unreasonable expectations that prohibit personal wellbeing.

Questions regarding this policy may be directed to the chairs of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Learning Environment Committee who are charged with providing a written response. (See below).

6. The Diversity Inclusion and Learning Environment (DIALE) Committee Members

6.1. Chairs of the Committee

  1. Dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
  2. Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion
  3. Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education
  4. Senior Associate Dean for Medical Curriculum
  5. Senior Associate Dean for Students and Academic Affairs
  6. Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education

6.2. Faculty and Senior Administrative Staff

  1. Director of the Center for Medical Humanities
  2. One (1) Preclinical Faculty Member
  3. One (1) Clinical Faculty Member
  4. One (1) Faculty Member predominantly involved with non-medical students
  5. One Volunteer Faculty Member
  6. Two (2) Community Representatives
  7. One (1) Office of Accreditation and Quality Improvement- Liaison
  8. One (1) Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement - Liaison

6.3. Students/Post-Doctoral Fellows/Residents Representatives

  1. Up to two (2) medical students from each academic year
  2. One (1) student from the dual degree programs (MD/PhD)
  3. Up to two (2) PhD graduate student
  4. Two (2) residents
  5. Up to two (2) post-doctoral scientists

6.4. Ex Officio

  1. Associate Counsel, for the SUNY Western NY Regional Office for Health Sciences

6.5. Selection of DIALE Committee Members

6.5.1 Faculty and Senior Administrative Staff

The committee will make nominations for each category to be approved by Faculty Council.

6.5.2. Medical Students

Student representation will be selected via a blinded application process using questions written by students on the committee. Student membership on the committee will continue until the student graduates or asks to step down from the committee.  Each year the students will select two M1 students and fill any vacancies that exist.  Representatives for the committee will be selected in January or February of each year. The application can be found at


6.5.3. MD/PhD, PhD Students, Residents and Post-Doctoral Scientists

The committee will nominate members for each category to be approved by Faculty Council. Nomination of residents will be done with assistance from the Graduate Medical Education Office (GME).

7. Reporting Violations of This Policy

7.1. General Procedure for Student Mistreatment Concerns

The administration and faculty of the Jacobs School have zero tolerance for violations of this Policy.

7.2. How to Report Mistreatment or Violation of This Policy

Learners who feel that they have been subjected to mistreatment and/or conduct which violates this Policy, or have witnessed behavior they believe violates this Policy are  encouraged to report the incident on the UB-wide Ethics Point System.


Learners can also make a report to their departmental units as described below.

7.2.1 Medical Students

Students are encouraged to report verbally, or in writing, to the course coordinator in Phase 1, or the clerkship/elective director in Phase 2 any violations of the Learning Environment Policy.  If the incident involved the course coordinator or clerkship/elective director, or if the student feels that these options are insufficient, or may result in a negative outcome to their grade or evaluation, they may report these violations to an ombudsperson (the Office of Student and Academic Affairs Coordinator, or the Post-Baccalaureate Coordinator in the Office of Student and Academic Affairs).  These individuals will attempt to resolve the matter and report the issue to the Senior associate Deans of Graduate Medical Education or Curriculum.

7.2.2. Graduate Students

All incoming graduate students will be provided with the Jacobs School graduate student grievance policy. This will contain details on how to report academic grievances. Grievances that are non-academic in nature fall under the policy described here.

The relationship between a graduate student and their research advisor is unlike most relationships in academic matriculation. The long-term nature of this relationship, which often extends beyond graduate school, requires a level of commitment and care on the part of both trainee and trainer. It is important to the integrity of the relationship that conflicts between trainee and trainer be addressed quickly and without escalation, if possible. While many issues can be resolved through direct conversation between the mentor and trainee, some may prove more challenging. To that end, a group of Jacobs School faculty called Mentoring Advocates have been assembled to consult with trainees and faculty on how to address conflicts and, if necessary, to assist with conflict mediation and resolution. A list of these faculty is available on the Research and Graduate Education website.

If the nature of the disagreement is unable to be resolved, or if the student has experienced mistreatment by a faculty member other than their research advisor, the student may choose from the following official channels for reporting and resolution. Students in the PhD Programs in Biomedical Sciences (PPBS) year should report conflicts/mistreatment either verbally or in writing to the PPBS Program Director and/or a member of the PPBS steering committee. Opportunities to discuss learning environment issues are provided in regularly scheduled town hall meetings where students can share feedback/report grievances to the program director. After the first year, students are encouraged to report conflicts/mistreatment to their Departmental Director of Graduate Studies, the departmental Graduate Affairs Committee and/or Chair of the Department. Should the complaint involve the department chair, students are advised to report to the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, or directly to the Office of the Dean.

Master’s students are encouraged to report conflicts/mistreatment to their program director or department chair. Should the complaint involve the program director and/or department chair, students are advised to report to the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, or directly to the Office of the Dean.

7.2.3 Undergraduate Students

The role of a higher education institution is to foster an environment that is conducive to the open exchange of ideas for all students. In order for that exchange to be valuable to students they have to feel comfortable in their learning environment. If students in learning environments at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences experience exclusive, intimidating or uncomfortable behavior, they are encouraged to discuss their feelings with the faculty or staff member involved. If those conversations are not productive or reasonable, students should report that experience to their academic advisor and program director. Those representatives will serve as a mediator between the students and faculty involved. Unresolved conflicts will be reported to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education.

For academic concerns students should follow the Undergraduate Grievance Policy as outlined in the Undergraduate Catalog.

7.2.4. All Students

For any learner, if the matter remains unresolved or they are uncomfortable with the procedures listed above, the learner should report the episode to the UB-wide Ethics Point System at:


If the report is in regard to a more systemic environmental issue, the Senior Associate Dean for Student and Academic Affairs and the Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion will be contacted.  The Senior Associate Dean contacted will convene a meeting of the Diversity, Inclusion, Learning Environment Committee (“Committee”), which will consider the merits of the complaint and determine whether a violation of this Policy has occurred. The Committee will also maintain a record of all reports submitted to the Committee.  If the complaint is found to have merit, the Committee will work with the UB Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to investigate and resolve the issue.  The DIALE committee will then issue a report to Faculty Council and the student body at large.

In addition to reporting to the Committee, students who have experienced discrimination or harassment in violation of UB’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy have the right to consult with the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion by calling (716) 645-2266, including consulting anonymously if a student does not want to disclose their name.  A student may file a report of discrimination or harassment directly with the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at any time.  More information about reporting discrimination and harassment is available on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion website.  
Medical student violations of this Policy will be referred to the Professional Conduct Committee.

Medical residents violations of this Policy will be referred to the Residency Program Director or the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education.

For investigations of violations of this Policy by hospital personnel employed by an affiliated hospital or clinic, the director of human resources or the equivalent at that site will be asked to report back to the Learning Environment committee with the results of the investigation.

8. Retaliation Protection

University policy prohibits retaliation against individuals who, in good faith, provide reports or complaints of incidents of mistreatment and/or violation of this policy. Claims of retaliation will be investigated separate from the initial report. Individuals who believe they are experiencing retaliation are encouraged to contact the chairs of this committee.  Students who experience retaliation for reporting discriminatory or harassing conduct should contact the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.


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9. Dissemenation of This Policy

The Diversity, Inclusion and Learning Environment committee was developed to promote an inclusive learning environment at the Jacobs School. To ensure that the Jacobs School community is aware of this committee’s presence and of this policy we will do the following

9.1. Medical Students

A discussion of this policy will take place each year during first year orientation, intersession, and Polity meetings.  The policy will be referenced in all course syllabi and at mandatory class meetings in the third and fourth year.   This policy will be posted on the website for all courses/clerkships.

9.2. Graduate Students

A discussion of this policy will be presented to incoming first year students during orientation.   Members of the committee will present the policy and mechanisms for filing a complaint. Department chairs will post this document on their department websites.

9.3. Undergraduate Students

Each year this policy will be sent to Jacobs School Faculty members to disseminate to students taking their course.

9.4. Faculty, Residents, Fellows, Associates, and Staff

Each year this policy will be sent to departmental chairs for distribution and to be placed on the departmental websites.

More information about this policy and the Diversity, Inclusion and Learning Environment Committee can be found at our website at:


Log of Policy Updates

02/24/21: Faculty Council voted to approve revisions and inclusion of graduate and undergraduate students.