Massachusetts Board of Higher Education: Equal Opportunity, Diversity and Affirmative Action Plan- Policy Against Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment and Retaliation

Relevant excerpt

Discriminatory harassment. A form of unlawful discrimination including verbal and/or physical conduct based on legally protected characteristics and/or membership in a protected class that: 1. has the purpose or effect of creating an objectively intimidating, hostile or offensive work or educational environment; 2. has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or educational opportunities; or 3. otherwise unreasonably adversely affects an individual’s employment or educational opportunities.

Examples of discriminatory harassment, all of which are prohibited by this Policy, include, but are not limited to: …

  • Directing epithets, slurs, derogatory comments, unwelcome jokes or stories at an individual or group because of that person or persons’ membership in a protected class.
  • Displaying hostile, derogatory and/or intimidating symbols/objects, such as offensive posters, cartoons, bulletins, drawings, photographs, magazines, written articles or stories, screen savers, or electronic communications, to an individual or group because of that person or persons’ membership in a protected class.

[A]ny form of speech or conduct that is protected by the principles of academic freedom or the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is not subject to this Policy.

Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature is prohibited when: … 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.

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.

The Universities are committed to protecting, maintaining and encouraging both freedom of expression and full academic freedom of inquiry, teaching, service and research. Nothing in this Policy shall be construed to penalize a member of the University community for expressing an opinion, theory, or idea in the process of responsible teaching and learning. Any form of speech or conduct, no matter how offensive, unpleasant or even hateful, which is protected by the principles of academic freedom or the U.S. Constitution, is not subject to this policy.

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