Policy 2170: Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Plan

Category: Harassment Policies School: Westfield State University Statement Rating: Yellow Last updated: June 16, 2017

Relevant excerpt

Sexual Harassment Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature is prohibited when:

  • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education; and/or
  • submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; and/or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance or creating a sexually intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment, educational, or living environment.

Examples of sexual harassment may include, but are not limited to:

  • repeatedly pressuring another person for sexual activity;
  • making sexist remarks about an individual’s clothing, body or sexual activities;
  • unnecessary touching, patting or pinching another person;
  • demanding sex from a subordinate while making threats concerning the subordinate’s job;
  • demanding sex from a student while making implied threats concerning the student’s grade;
  • electronically transmitting derogatory, demeaning or pornographic materials;
  • posting explicit sexual pictures on an exterior office door or on a computer monitor; and
  • sexually assaulting another person.

Sexual harassment can occur between people of any gender. It can occur between equals (e.g., student to student, staff to staff, faculty to faculty) or between persons of differing power status (e.g., supervisor to subordinate, faculty to student, coach to athlete). It is possible for a person who appears to have the lesser power to commit sexual harassment (e.g., a student harassing a faculty member).

In order for conduct to constitute sexual harassment under this Policy, a reasonable person under similar circumstance would have to conclude that the behavior was harassing or discriminatory.

Reasonable directions or warnings by authorized University personnel as to the time, place and manner in which employees perform their assigned responsibilities, students carry out their educational assignments or program participants engage in sponsored activities do not constitute evidence of sexual harassment under this Policy.

Hostile Environment

A hostile environment exists when sexual harassment is sufficiently serious to deny or limit a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s programs or activities. A hostile environment can be created by anyone involved in the University’s programs or activities (e.g., administrators, faculty members, students, and campus visitors).

To make the ultimate determination of whether a hostile environment exists for campus community member(s), the University considers a variety of factors related to the severity, persistence, or pervasiveness of the sexual harassment, including: (1) the type, frequency, and duration of the conduct; (2) the identity and relationships of persons involved; (3) the number of individuals involved; (4) the location of the conduct and the context in which it occurred; and, (5) the degree to which the conduct affected one or more person’s education or employment.

A single or isolated incident may create a hostile environment if the incident is sufficiently severe. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to show evidence of a hostile environment, particularly if the harassment is physical.

3. Gender-Based Harassment Unwelcome conduct of a nonsexual nature based on a person’s actual or perceived sex, including conduct based on gender identity, gender expression, and nonconformity with gender stereotypes, is prohibited when:

  • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education; and/or
  • submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; and/or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment, educational, or living environment based on gender.

Examples of gender-based harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • using derogatory comments and terms toward a male or female who do not act in ways that align with their gender stereotype, such as a male being called names for being interested in the arts or a female being called names for being interested in construction;
  • telling someone to use a restroom that does not align with that person’s gender identity; and
  • making generalized derogatory comments about one gender, such as “all females” are ______ or “all males” are _______.

While harassment based on non-sexual factors may be distinguished from sexual harassment, these types of behaviors may contribute to the creation of a hostile environment. Thus, in determining whether a sexually hostile environment exists, the University may consider acts of gender-based harassment. In order for conduct to constitute gender-based harassment under this Policy, a reasonable person under similar circumstance would have to conclude that the behavior was harassing or discriminatory.

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