What is Harassment?
Harassment is defined as unwanted physical, verbal, or written conduct relating to a person’s protected status, including race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, religious creed, disability, or other status protected by law, and which results in one of more of the following:
- The creation of an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or academic environment; or
- Substantial or unreasonable interference with an individual’s work or academic performance; or
- The development of an adverse affect on an individual’s employment or academic opportunities.
Unjustified inequitable treatment that results in the above consequences also qualifies as harassment. This inequitable treatment may manifest itself in a number of ways including the provision of differential help to students, arbitrarily denying requests for services, and otherwise indirectly creating a hostile environment.
The following behaviors are some examples of conduct that will usually constitute harassment:
- The use of demeaning language
- The use of language or gestures that are disrespectful or imply a person’s inferiority
- Ignorance or intolerance of cultural differences
Actions that distinctly would make a reasonable person feel unwelcome, unwanted, scorned, ridiculed, or intimidated on the basis of his/her protected status in the work environment may constitute discrimination in general and may violate the law. Such actions should be reported to the campus Ombudsperson at 304-876-5458.
For purposes of this Policy, the “workplace” and “work environment” mean any location owned, leased, or utilized by Shepherd University for University purposes.
Who May Be Involved?
Harassment in the campus community can involve:
- Supervisor/superior and employee
- University employee and student
- Professor and professor
- Professor and student
- Professor and staff
- Student and student
- Other relationships among colleagues, peers, and coworkers.
Anyone can be harassed. Victims range from young to old; from executives to unskilled workers; from professors to students. Victims may also be of any race, ethnic origin, socio-economic class or sexual orientation.
What Are Some of the Consequences of Harassment?
Victims of harassment may feel physical and psychological distress. Harassment causes a tense and unproductive working and learning environment. Students may feel forced to drop a class or change a major. Employees may feel forced to accept the harassment to avoid formal or informal punishment by a supervisor, or may feel compelled to quit employment. Any employee who has been found by the University, after appropriate investigation, to have generally harassed another employee or student of the University, will be subject to appropriate sanctions depending on the circumstances. Consequences of harassment may include denial of a promotion, termination, forced resignation, negative evaluations, poor recommendations, or demotion.
What Can The Shepherd Community Do About Harassment?
Preventing harassment requires each member of the campus community, especially individuals being harassed, to report all occurrences.
If you believe you are being or have been generally harassed, you should take any of the following actions before a complaint is filed:
- Keep records – write a journal on this issue, record the facts on a tape recorder, or tell a friend in confidence. If the harassment persists, keep track of dates, places, times, witnesses, and the nature of the harassment. Save any emails, letters, cards, or notes in a secure place, preferably at home. Bear in mind that documents may be used in litigation. Steps you can take if you are being harassed:
- If practical, talk directly to your harasser and explain why the action or comment is offensive. Say it firmly, without smiling, and without apologizing.
- If direct communication is not possible, tell the harasser in writing that you object to this behavior. Describe the specific things which offend or upset you. Keep this letter as a confidential piece of communication and keep a copy of it.
- If you do not feel comfortable with the first two options you can immediately contact the campus Ombudsperson at 304-876-5458 to assist you in confronting your harasser.
- If harassment does not stop after taking these steps, or if initial harassment is so serious as to require immediate action, then a complaint should be initiated. To initiate a complaint, contact the campus Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson is trained to listen and to advise you of the Informal and Formal Resolution Processes at Shepherd University. Even if you decide not to engage either in the informal or formal resolution processes, a copy of the complaint will be maintained in the office of the Ombudsperson.
- Anyone who observes harassment should report it to the Ombudsperson so the problem can be properly addressed.
What Are the Legal Terms and Implications of Harassment?
It is important to remember that perpetrators of harassment are sometimes subject to federal and state laws as well as University policies. A victim can choose to pursue federal and state remedies at the same time s/he is pursuing University remedies.
How Does One Lodge an Official Harassment Complaint?
Official Process: Informal Resolution of Harassment Complaints
Informal resolution of complaints, when possible, can be an effective way of correcting misconduct. The process is as follows:
- A victim or third party submits a complaint to the campus Ombudsperson. An initial meeting between the Ombudsperson and complainant takes place. All options are explained by the Ombudsperson.
- If the Informal Resolution option is chosen, the complainant may engage in the following actions:
- Opt for a meeting with the alleged harasser and the Ombudsperson. All parties are permitted to bring support persons (friend, family member, colleague, etc.). The Ombudsperson can limit the number of support persons present to a reasonable number. The Ombudsperson will serve as mediator, listening to all views and establishing a resolution document or mediation agreement as appropriate.
- Opt for the Ombudsperson to meet with all parties separately. The Ombudsperson listens to all views, presents views of opposing parties to each other, and establishes a resolution document or mediation agreement as appropriate.
- The resolution document or mediation agreement may include a “no-contact arrangement” and/or other provisions. The outcome of the informal resolution should meet the satisfaction of all parties to the fullest extent possible. If the complainant is not satisfied, the Ombudsperson will review other options available.
- Records, including the resolution document, are submitted to the office of Ombudsperson for filing.
- The Ombudsperson will follow-up with parties within two weeks of the resolution if one was reached. Additional follow-up contacts will be made as needed.
- Proceedings and records will be confidential to the fullest extent possible. If additional complaints arise subsequently as to the same employee, the earlier records may be evidence of a continuing practice of misconduct.
- Complainants should act in a timely fashion. The Ombudsperson will, in all cases, attempt to resolve informal complaints within two weeks of notification of the complaint.
Official Process: Formal Resolution of Harassment Complaints
Any student who feels that informal resolution of a complaint will not be or has not been satisfactory should file a formal written complaint with the Ombudsperson.
- Since the passage of time makes the resolution of complaints more difficult, it is recommended that the written complaint be filed as soon as possible from the date of the incident(s).
- A complaint filed against a professor by a student currently enrolled in the professor’s class should be made as soon as possible. The student may choose to have the complaint held confidentially until the end of the semester, at which time the complaint will be resolved. But some situations may require immediate action on the part of the University.
- A complaint against another student will be referred to the Assistant Dean of Students for management as a student disciplinary matter.
- The President shall annually designate an eight-member body made up of four faculty and four staff. The Ombudsperson will randomly select two panelists from the same group as the person accused and one panelist from the other group to investigate each formal complaint. Immediate supervisors of the accused or the accuser, or any person with a specific, known bias, will be excluded from serving on the three member panel. The formation of the panel will be completed within two weeks of the submission of the written complaint, except where extenuating circumstances require additional time.
- When a formal written complaint against an employee is received by the Ombudsperson, a three-member panel will be selected (as noted in number 4) and copies of the complaint will be given to panel members. Panel members will conduct such investigation into the facts and circumstances of the complaints as may be deemed appropriate by any of the panel members.
- The panel may meet with the accuser, accused, and any witnesses relevant to its investigation, but shall at all times act collectively as a group and not individually. The investigation will be completed within four weeks of the formation of the panel, except where extenuating circumstances require additional time.
- The panel shall prepare a written report of its factual findings and conclusions regarding the merits of the complaint. This report may, if applicable, include dissenting conclusions. If the report finds any part of the complaint to be meritorious, then the report will designate appropriate action with respect to the perpetrator. The panel will complete the written report within one week of the close of the investigation, except where extenuating circumstances require additional time.
- The panel shall direct its written report to the Ombudsperson and to the executive officer who supervises the accused. The Ombudsperson shall then provide a copy of the report to the accused and the accuser and notice of whether the executive officer implemented some form of adverse action as to the employee-perpetrator.
- Appeals on the part of the accuser may be directed to the President. The accused may appeal any adverse action by following the established grievance procedures of the University.