Student Handbook: Discriminatory Harassment

Category: Harassment Policies School: Kenyon College Statement Rating: Yellow Last updated: September 18, 2017

Relevant excerpt

Speech or other expression constitutes harassment if it:

  • Is intended to insult or stigmatize an individual or an identifiable group of College-related individuals on the basis of their race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national/ethnic origin, or other characteristic that is intrinsic to a person’s identity, and
  • Is addressed directly to or at (though not necessarily in the presence of) the individual or individuals whom it insults or stigmatizes, and
  • Makes use of words or nonverbal symbols that convey hatred or contempt for human beings on the basis of their race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national/ethnic origin, or other characteristic that is intrinsic to a person’s identity. Harassment may also be constituted by nonverbal acts, which would also be punishable as, for example, vandalism, physical assault, or destruction of property

Other examples of harassment include:

  • epithets or “jokes” referring to an individual’s group-based attributes;
  • placement of offensive written or visual material in or on another’s living quarters or work area;
  • offensive messages sent through email …

For verbal utterances to be punishable as harassment they must fall under the precise definition stated above. They must be directed at an individual or an identifiable group of College-related individuals (for example, the Black Student Union), must be uttered with an intent to insult or stigmatize, and must not be protected under any of the exempt categories, which are listed and described below. For example, however lamentable, the telling of racist jokes is not harassment unless directed at a member of the scorned group for the purpose of insulting or stigmatizing that person by his or her group membership. Similarly, group libel (e.g., “all Jews …”), however revolting, is not harassment by this definition if it is not directed at particular individuals or an identifiable group of College-related individuals.

Speech that conveys reasoned opinion, principled conviction, or speculation is not harassment. For example, the assertions that “all whites are racist” or “affirmative action is wrong” or “Christians are foolish to believe …” are not harassment. Of course, the mere claim of engagement in reasoned opinion is not sufficient to lift the charge of harassment.

Political commentary and satire are not harassment. For example, satirical comments about the Laramie Project are not harassment. Putting a Confederate flag on one’s own door would also not be harassment, however offensive it might be deemed by many. Again, the mere claim of political commentary or satire cannot excuse what is really harassment.

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