Vermont State Colleges Manual of Policies & Procedures: Non-Discrimination and Prevention of Harassment and Related Unprofessional Conduct

Relevant excerpt

“Sexual harassment” is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and it includes quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile environment sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or other acts of sexual violence. Sexual harassment under Title IX, including sexual assault, is addressed separately in VSC Policy 311-A, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Exploitation, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking. Where conduct is not deemed to meet the definitions of Title IX Sexual Harassment or Non-Title IX Prohibited Conduct under Policy 311-A, the following definitions apply:

● “Hostile environment sexual harassment” is sexual harassment that creates a hostile employment or educational environment and it is a form of sex discrimination. Examples of sexually harassing behavior that could create a hostile environment under appropriate circumstances include the following where the particular behavior is unwelcome to the person to whom it is directed:
○ Sexual advances, including requests for sexual favors and repeated requests for dates;
○ Intentional unwanted or offensive touching, including fondling;
○ Indecent exposure;
○ Sexually-derogatory comments, including sexually explicit comments, sexually suggestive innuendoes, sexually offensive jokes, and sexual taunts;
○ Obscene or offensive gestures;
○ Images and depictions of a sexual nature, including sexually derogatory or sexually suggestive pin-ups, posters, cartoons, and calendars; and
○ Writings of a sexually derogatory or suggestive nature.

This list is not exhaustive and other unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature, if it is severe and pervasive enough, may constitute sexual harassment. See Section E, Hostile Environment, below for further elaboration.

Under Vermont law, “sexual harassment of a student” means: (a) An incident or incidents of verbal, written, visual, or physical conduct or communication, including any incident conducted by electronic means, based on or motivated by the student’s sex, that has the purpose or effect of objectively and substantially undermining and detracting from or interfering with a student’s educational performance or access to school resources or creating an objectively intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment; …

A “hostile work or educational environment” is one in which the alleged conduct is sufficiently serious as to limit or deny the ability of the person subjected to the harassment to participate in or benefit from the employment or educational environment. The severity and pervasiveness of the alleged harassing conduct is evaluated using common sense and reasonable judgment to determine whether it created an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. The determination is made from the perspective of a reasonable person, in the position of the person subjected to the alleged harassment, considering all of the relevant circumstances.

Generally, the more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to establish a hostile environment, particularly if the harassment was physical. Harassing conduct may violate this Policy if, for multiple instances of conduct, it is so pervasive that when viewed from an objective standard of a similarly-situated reasonable person, it substantially and adversely affected the targeted student’s or employee’s educational or employment opportunities or benefits. A single incident of harassing conduct may violate this Policy if the conduct is so severe that, when viewed from an objective standard of a similarly-situated reasonable person, it substantially and adversely affected the targeted student’s or employee’s equal access to educational or employment opportunities or benefits.

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