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Sexual Harassment

I. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined by law and includes requests for sexual favors, sexual advances or other sexual conduct when (1) submission is either explicitly or implicitly a condition affecting academic or employment decisions; (2) the behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive as to create an intimidating, hostile or repugnant environment; or (3) the behavior persists despite objection by the person to whom the conduct is directed. The University considers such behavior, whether physical or verbal, to be a breach of its standards of conduct. It will seek to prevent such incidents and will investigate and take corrective actions for violations of University policy.

The University prohibits sexually harassing behavior on its campus and by any person while engaged in University business, whether on or off campus.

Generally speaking, there are two types of sexual harassment, “quid pro quo” and hostile environment.

A. Quid Pro Quo

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes “quid pro quo” sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s status as a student or employee or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for educational or employment decisions affecting such individual.

Quid pro quo harassment may occur when a student or employee is led to believe that he or she must submit to unwelcome sexual conduct in order to participate in a University program or activity. This type of sexual harassment also occurs whenever a faculty member, graduate assistant, or anyone in a position to affect a student’s academic life, causes a student to believe that the person will make an educational decision based on whether or not the student submits to unwelcome sexual conduct. Likewise, this type of sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or another person in a position to affect a person’s employment causes the employee to believe that they, the supervisor or other person in position of authority, will make an employment decision based on whether or not the employee submits to unwelcome sexual conduct.

B. Hostile Environment

A hostile environment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. A hostile environment with respect to sexual harassment occurs when such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment. In addition, a hostile environment occurs when unwelcome sexually harassing conduct is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it affects a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from a University program or activity, or creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive environment.

University programs and activities may include, but are not limited to, employment, admissions, recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, student treatment and services, counseling and guidance, discipline, classroom assignment, grading, recreation and athletics.

A person engaging in harassing behavior does not have to be in a particular position vis-à-vis the person being harassed for the conduct to create a hostile environment. For example, a harasser can be a peer, a person who has power over the person being harassed (e.g., a supervisor or faculty member), a person who does not have power over the person being harassed (e.g., a supervisee or a student in a classroom who is harassing a faculty member), or a visitor to campus (e.g., a contractor).

The following descriptions, while not all-inclusive, will help you understand behaviors that, if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment.

  • Unwanted sexual statements - sexual or “dirty” jokes, comments on physical attributes, spreading rumors about or rating others as to sexual activity or performance, talking about one’s sexual activity in front of others, and displaying or distributing sexually explicit drawings, pictures and/or written material.
  • Unwanted sexual statements can be made in person, in writing, electronically (email, instant messaging, blogs, web pages, etc.) and otherwise.

  • Unwanted personal attention – letters, telephone calls, visits, pressure for sexual favors, pressure for unnecessary personal interaction, and pressure for dates where a sexual/romantic intent appears evident but remains unwanted.

  • Unwanted physical or sexual advances – touching, hugging, kissing, fondling, touching oneself sexually for others to view, sexual assault, intercourse, or other sexual activity.

To determine whether a hostile environment exists, it must be determined if the harassment is severe, pervasive or persistent. In doing this, the University examines the context, nature, scope, frequency, duration, and location of incidents, as well as the identity, number, and relationships of the persons involved.

To determine the severity of an alleged hostile environment, the nature of the incidents must be considered. The specific details of an incident may reflect whether the conduct was verbal or physical and the extent of the hostility. In some cases, a single incident may be so severe as to create a hostile environment. Such incidents may include injury to persons or property or conduct threatening injury to persons or property. In addition, the effect of an incident in the private and personal environment may differ from the effect of the same incident in a public setting.

Another factor in determining if a hostile environment exists is whether, on balance, the harassing conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent as to alter the conditions of the environment and create an abusive environment, when judged both objectively (meaning that a “reasonable person” would find the environment hostile) and subjectively (meaning the affected individual felt the environment was hostile).

II. Notice

The University has a responsibility to respond when it learns, either directly or indirectly, that sexual harassment is alleged to be taking place. The appropriate response to sexual harassment must be tailored to redress fully the specific issues. In addition, the responsive action must be reasonably determined to prevent recurrence and ensure that individuals are not restricted in their participation in or receipt of benefits of any University program or activity.

III. Sexual Harassment Reporting

Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access, 333-0885

IV. Other Resources