Discriminatory and Sexual Harassment

Effective August 31, 2009

Discriminatory and sexually harassing behaviors will not be tolerated at Union Institute & University.  Harassment violates the dignity of individuals and impedes the realization of the university’s educational mission.  The university is committed to preventing and eliminating discriminatory and sexual harassment by encouraging faculty, staff, and students to report any concerns or complaints about sexual harassment.

Sexual abuse/assault are criminal actions and, as such, are generally prohibited under and responded to within the parameters of the university’s student Code of Conduct and the university’s procedural guidelines for reporting criminal activities.

Definitions:

For purposes of this policy, the following definitions apply.

Complainant: A student making a complaint of harassment.

Discriminatory Harassment: is conduct of any nature which denies equal privileges or treatment to a particular individual because of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, physical impairment and/or any other classification protected by law. Discriminatory harassment may include, but is not limited to, verbal or physical attacks; written threats, slurs; banter, teasing, or jokes that are derogatory or depict individuals in a stereotypical and demeaning manner; or any other conduct which has the purpose or effect of interfering unreasonably with an individual’s work or academic performance by creating an offensive, hostile, or intimidating working or learning environment. See also the “Americans with Disabilities Act/Section 504, Grievance Procedure for Students.

Grievance: A formal student complaint of harassment, filed when the student is not satisfied with the resolution to her or his initial complaint.

Initial Complaint: A student’s initial written allegation of harassment.

Involved Parties/Parties: The complainant and the person or persons against whom a complaint of harassment has been made.

Resolution: The outcome of the investigation of a complaint of harassment.

Sexual Harassment: is both a form of discrimination and a type of sexual assault. Sexual harassment is defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity

Commission as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment often manifests itself in subtle ways, such as sexually suggestive comments, unwanted touching, or risqué jokes, but blatant demands for sexual contact are also considered harassment. Sexual harassment occurs when:
Submission to the conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, promotion, grades or academic status; 
or

Submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for making an employment or academic decision affecting an individual; 
or

The conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or educational performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for work or learning.

Complaint Records: By federal regulation, records of official student complaints must be maintained in the Office of the President. At UI&U it has been determined that only those complaints of harassment that are unresolved through the departmental/program level process will be considered to be official complaints. In addition to the official complaint file maintained in the Office of the President, a record of every student complaint will be maintained in the applicable department or program office. Records of student complaints of harassment by an employee may also be placed in the employee’s file in the Human Resources office.

Confidentiality: UI&U will maintain confidentiality of student complaints of harassment, within the guidelines of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Only the involved party/parties and university representatives involved in the review and resolution of a complaint will have access to information related to an ongoing complaint or grievance. Identities of involved parties will be disclosed on a need to know basis to ensure a thorough investigation of the incident as well as due process for the individual accused of harassing behavior. Both parties involved in the harassment complaint are expected to use discretion in discussing the issue with other students and/or with employees. If a student is determined to publicly discuss her or his pending or ongoing harassment complaint in such a way as to potentially affect the outcome, the provost may immediately halt the investigation process.

Witnessing Harassment: Any student who witnesses discriminatory or harassing behavior is encouraged to report the incident. The confidentiality of an individual reporting harassing behavior as a witness and of the alleged harasser will be protected against unnecessary disclosure, but he or she may be called on to provide information in the university’s investigation of the incident.

Procedures for Investigating and Resolving Student Complaints of Discriminatory or Sexual Harassment: The university will make every effort to promptly investigate and resolve student complaints of harassment, with due regard for fairness and the rights of both the complainant and alleged offender. A student who knowingly makes false allegations of harassment or provides evidence of harassment with the knowledge that it is false is subject to disciplinary action. The university prohibits retaliation against anyone who files a complaint and/or participates in an investigation.

If at any stage of the university’s investigation of a student’s complaint of harassment, the university becomes aware that a student has instituted legal proceedings, the process of complaint discussion, review, and resolution will be immediately halted, and all documentation of the process will be forwarded to the office of the president.

Because of the potential implications to the student’s feelings of personal safety, the university may ban any contact between the alleged harasser and the student during an investigation. Such a ban should not, however, be construed as an assumption of guilt of the alleged harasser.

While the provost has primary responsibility for resolving complaints from students about discriminatory or sexual harassment, if the allegation of harassment is directed at a UI&U employee, the vice president of human resources will also be involved. The vice president of human resources has designated an employee at each academic center as a resource person to assist in resolving complaints of discriminatory or sexual harassment; the employees having this responsibility will receive appropriate training and support from the Human Resources office.

Procedures to be followed for investigation and resolution of student complaints of sexual or discriminatory harassment generally follow the model for other types of student complaints.  Students are advised to retain all documentation related to complaints and grievances. Documentation may include letters, emails, faxed messages, recorded messages, and/or notes of telephone conversations.

Initial Harassment Complaint and Resolution – Program/Departmental Level

A student may initiate a complaint of harassment through a letter or email—if a student verbally communicates a concern, it is not considered to be a complaint under the terms of this policy. The student must identify the concern as a complaint under the terms of this policy, and submit it to her or his academic dean.

To avoid possible delays, student written complaints of harassment should be submitted only to the academic dean. Any other employee who receives such a complaint is required to immediately forward it to the appropriate dean. Note, however, if the student’s complaint of harassment is against the dean, the complaint should be submitted to the provost.

The dean (or provost), in consultation with all involved parties, will evaluate the situation and propose a resolution. If the complaint is against an employee, the vice president of human resources will also be involved in the process. At the conclusion of the process, the dean (or provost) will prepare a written report, which will include: the student’s written complaint, description of the review process (interactions with involved parties), and the proposed resolution. The dean (or provost) will provide this report to the student and other involved parties, also keeping a copy of the report in departmental files. The report will be submitted within thirty (30) days of receipt of the initial complaint; if additional time is needed to conduct a review, the dean must notify all involved parties. The student will be invited to respond to the report by filing a grievance in the event that he or she disagrees with the resolution. That invitation will include a thirty (30) day deadline for filing a grievance.

Grievance and Resolution-Institutional Level

If the student is not satisfied with the resolution proposed at the conclusion of the initial investigation of harassment, he or she may choose to file a grievance. A grievance will not be considered unless there is a documented complaint/informal resolution process. Every grievance must include a compelling argument from the student, beyond simple dissatisfaction with the proposed resolution. Harassment grievances must be submitted within thirty (30) days of the conclusion of the departmental/program level complaint investigation/resolution process. Harassment grievances must be submitted to the provost in writing. They must include:

  • All documentation related to the complaint/informal resolution process.
  • Additional information that the student deems pertinent to the issue.

The grievance must be in the form of a letter, clearly marked “Grievance” and it must be dated and signed by the student. A grievance may not be submitted as an email, but the signed document may be submitted as an email attachment. (Students choosing to submit a harassment grievance as an email attachment should insert “Grievance” in the email subject line.

Upon receipt of the grievance, the provost will conduct a brief review of the materials. At the conclusion of the initial review, the provost will determine and notify the student, in writing, of how the grievance will be investigated. The initial review will typically be concluded within ten (10) working days of receipt of the initial grievance; the provost will notify the student if the initial review will take longer than ten days.

The provost may also refuse to accept the grievance. If a grievance is not accepted, the provost will notify the student, in writing, citing the reasons for the decision. A harassment grievance may be refused for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The issue is not covered by this policy and procedure (see above) The grievance appears to be motivated by a desire to punish or retaliate, rather than by a desire to resolve the situation. The grievance does not contain any information or documentation other than what was provided with the initial complaint.

A student whose grievance is not accepted may re-submit it with additional documentation or information. If the grievance is not accepted after the second submission, the student may not resubmit it.

A student harassment grievance against another student will be considered by the provost; student harassment grievances against university employees will be considered by the provost and the vice president for human resources jointly. All documentation related to the grievance will be reviewed, including the report on the program/departmental level complaint review/resolution process. The provost may consult with any or all involved parties, including any individuals who might have information that would contribute to the investigation. University legal counsel may also be consulted. At the conclusion of the review, the provost (or the provost and vice president for human resources) will determine a resolution and prepare a written report, which will include: information related to the initial complaint and resolution, the student’s written grievance, a description of the review process (such as interactions with involved parties), and the proposed resolution. The provost will provide this report to the student and other involved parties. The provost’s report will be submitted within thirty (30) days of receipt of the initial complaint; if additional time is needed to conduct a review, the provost will notify all involved parties.

Penalties: Disciplinary action taken as a result of findings of harassment may range from a reprimand to dismissal from the university (student) or termination of employment (employee), will be imposed in accordance with the following university policies: the Student Code of Conduct, the ADA Grievance policy, and policies contained within the Human Resources Policy manual.

Consensual Relationships: Consensual relationships are not considered sexual harassment, because the behavior involved is not, by definition, unwelcome. However, when one of the parties in a consensual relationship is in a more powerful position (or one that is perceived to be more powerful), the relationship has the potential for exploitation and abuse. The respect and trust accorded to a faculty member, dean, or director by a student, as well as the power exercised by individuals with authority to make academic decisions, make fully voluntary consent by a student or subordinate suspect.

Students should be aware that having a consensual relationship with an individual who has responsibility/authority to evaluate/approve the student’s work may also be construed to represent a conflict of interest, calling into question the integrity of the student’s work. The university’s employee “Ethics and Conduct” policy states that sexual relationships between employees and students are “usually deemed inappropriate or unethical.”