What are Bridgewater State University's Policies on
Non-Discrimination/Sexual Harassment/Sexual Assault & Sexual Violence?
What is Sexual Harassment?
Why a Policy?
What are Some Behaviors that may Constitute Sexual Harassment?
Anyone Can Be a Victim
Is Retaliatory Action Prohibited?
What are Consensual Relationships?
Who Can Help You?
What is Bridgewater State University's Non- Discrimination Policy?
It is the policy and commitment of Bridgewater State University not to discriminate on the basis on race, sex/gender, color, religion, creed, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, disability, veteran status, marital status, or national origin in its educational programs, activities, admissions, or employment policies, and to comply with the requirements of Federal Executive orders 11246 and 11375 as amended, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, Title IX of the Educational Act of 1972, Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Chapters 151B and 151C of the Massachusetts General Laws, Section 402, Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act of 1974, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and Pertinent laws, regulations, and Executive orders, directives of the Board of Higher Education of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and other applicable state and federal statutes.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination, and is illegal. It can take place in the classroom or workplace and is a violation of state and federal laws as well as University policy.
Sexual harassment takes many forms and includes many kinds of behaviors. Sexual harassment may be described generally as "unwelcome sexual behavior that a reasonable woman would find offensive and that adversely affects the working or learning environment".
Sexual harassment may involve behavior by a person of either gender against a person of the same or opposite gender. Sexual harassment includes sexual assault and violence that fundamentally undermines the integrity of academic and employment relationships. It is of particular concern within educational institutions where all members of the community; including students, faculty, librarians, staff, and administrators; are connected by strong bonds of intellectual interdependence and trust.
Why A Policy?
Sexual harassment is a discriminatory behavior, and as such, is expressly prohibited by State and Federal law. The Bridgewater State University policy on sexual harassment was developed because sexual harassment cannot co-exist with the principle that merit is the basis for grades, recommendations, employment, promotions or job opportunities.
Read BSU's official policy on Sexual Harassment:
EEOC's Definition of Sexual Harassment for Employees under Title VII
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) coordinates all federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices and policies. The Commission interprets employment discrimination laws, monitors the federal sector employment discrimination program, provides funding and support to state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs), and sponsors outreach and technical assistance programs.
The EEOC, established by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enforces several federal discrimination statutes, including:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, ornational origin;
The Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender in compensation for substantially similar work under similar conditions;
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 providing monetary damages in cases of intentional discrimination and clarifying provisions regarding disparate impact actions.
In addition to the definition developed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in its 1980 guidelines, as amended , which many courts rely upon in making their decisions. The EEOC definition follows, with additional wording (in italics) by the author to reflect coverage of students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a person’s employment or academic advancement;
2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for decisions affecting an individual’s employment or academic standing; or
3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a person’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work, learning or social environment.
Courts have called the first two conditions quid pro quo harassment and the third condition hostile environment harassment. For a long time, an employer’s liability for workplace sexual harassment depended largely on which kind of harassment occurred. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in June 1998 ruled that when determining employer liability for a supervisor’s harassment of subordinates, it does not matter which designation the harassment carries. Rather, liability depends on whether an employer took a tangible employment action – such as a demotion, discharge or undesirable job reassignment – against the harassed employee.
The Supreme Court did, however, say that the two labels generally are useful for determining whether a worker can prove harassment occurred. The justices added that if a worker can prove that an employer took a tangible job action because the worker refused to submit to a supervisor’s sexual demands, the worker can establish a harassment claim. If an employer did not take a tangible employment action against the worker, though, the worker must show that the conduct was severe or pervasive to make a claim stick in court.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
“Quid pro quo” means something given or withheld in exchange for something else. In workplace harassment situations, it usually means that a manager demands sexual favors in exchange for a promotion, positive job evaluation or good job assignment. The U.S. Supreme Court said that when an employer takes a significant and tangible employment action against an employee – such as a discharge, demotion or undesirable job reassignment – the worker can establish a cause of action in court for harassment.
In situations involving students, quid pro quo harassment occurs when a teacher offers good grades or some other educational benefit in exchange for sexual favors from a student. For example, a graduate student is coerced into sleeping with her thesis advisor. She tries to break off the relationship, but he threatens to stop advising her on her thesis unless she continues to sleep with him. That is quid pro quo harassment.
Quid pro quo cases are usually the most flagrant and clear-cut (although not the most frequent) kind of sexual harassment. Typically the harasser is a supervisor or someone with formal power, such as a faculty member or an administrator who can provide or withhold a benefit, service or evaluation, and thus has the power to harm the person targeted for harassment. The threats or bribes may be direct or indirect.
The major elements of quid pro quo harassment are as follows:
the sexual advances or demands are unwanted;
the harassment is sexual; and
submission is explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or school status or is used as the basis for decisions about the individual’s employment or school status.
In a 1986 employment case, Meritor v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court accepted that a hostile environment is a form of sexual harassment. An environment can be so offensive or hostile as to interfere with a person’s ability to work, the justices said. The U.S. Department of Education, which enforces Title IX, considers a hostile environment to be one that interferes with a student’s ability to learn or participate in the school environment, making it a violation of Title IX. Under certain circumstances, institutions can be held liable for not stopping discriminatory, i.e., sexually harassing, behaviors that create a hostile environment for both students and school employees.
Hostile environment harassment is far more prevalent than quid pro quo harassment. It is also more difficult for some people to acknowledge these kinds of behavior as sexual harassment because the term includes many kinds of conduct often perceived as ‘normal’ or ‘boys will be boys, men will be men’ behaviors.
Even some school administrators have trouble viewing many of the hostile behaviors directed at the other gender as sexual harassment when children are the perpetrators.
Some courts and the U.S. Department of Education have said that a harasser who creates a hostile environment does not have to be a person with formal power, such as an administrator or faculty member; co-workers, colleagues and students can be involved in creating a hostile environment for each other. In fact, most peer harassment is of the hostile environment type. For example, offensive sexual bantering and joking, offensive pictures, using sexual or vulgar language in conversation, graffiti, sexual innuendo and overt sexual behavior directed by colleagues to other colleagues or by students to other students can create a hostile environment. Moreover, the behavior does not have to be sexual in nature; it could simply be demeaning or intimidating, it could consist of general comments about the inferiority of females, or it could entail physical threats or verbal abuse.
Courts have held that the fact that a person did not object earlier to sexually hostile behavior and may even have participated in it is not always a factor in determining whether the conduct was harassment should the person later let it be known that he or she finds the behavior objectionable.
The exhibition of pornographic materials in the workplace may also create a hostile environment. In Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc., 760 F. Supp. 1486 (M.D. Fla. 1991) the court held that posters and calendars degrading to women (such as naked woman with “U.S. Prime Meat" stamped on her buttocks) and posted in common areas constituted a hostile environment.
Some have argued that even a non-pornographic poster or artwork can create a hostile environment. For example, a female university instructor teaching in front of a large reproduction of Francisco Goya’s “Naked Maja” complained that male students nudged each other and made comments as they looked at the painting of the naked woman. The instructor acknowledged that although the painting did not in itself demean or oppress women, it did provoke disruptive and demeaning comments by male students and made her and female students uncomfortable. The school subsequently removed the picture, and no sexual harassment charges were filed.
The Robinson case, as well as incidents
like the “Naked Maja,” are highly controversial and illustrate the tension
created when First Amendment rights of free speech are pitted against the right
to be free from hostile environment sexual harassment caused by words or
pictures. Preserving both of these rights in a way satisfactory to all parties
poses a significant challenge to educational institutions, particularly
and universities, which long have had as one of their fundamental missions the
protection of free speech. Until the courts offer greater guidance on free
speech issues, administrators must continue to walk a fine line between these
sometimes opposing rights. Further, the line between quid pro quo harassment
and hostile environment harassment is sometimes blurred. For example, threats
or bribes for unwanted sexual activity, whether overt or covert, can be
considered quid pro quo harassment but may also create a hostile environment for
OCR's Definition of Sexual Harassment for Students under Title IX
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is charged with enforcing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The OCR issues policy guidance on sexual harassment in educational settings, providing educators with information regarding the standards they should use in investigating and resolving allegations of sexual harassment of students by school employees, students and third parties.
The OCR stated in its 1997 publication, Sexual Harassment; It’s Not Academic, that sexual harassment can take two forms: quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a school employee causes a student to believe that he or she must submit to unwelcome sexual conduct in order to participate in a school program or activity, according to the OCR. It can occur when an employee causes a student to believe that the employee will make an educational decision based on whether or not the student submits to unwelcome sexual conduct. For example, when a teacher threatens to fail a student unless he agrees to date her, it is quid pro quo harassment.
It is irrelevant whether the student submits to the teacher’s demands and thus avoids the threatened harm or refuses to submit and receives a failing grade. In both cases, the harassment by the teacher is unlawful.
Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment
The OCR states that hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome sexually harassing conduct is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it affects a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from an education program or activity, or creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment.
A hostile environment can be created by a school employee, anther student, or even someone visiting the school, such as a student or employee from another school.
Thompson Publishing Group, Inc.
What Are Some Behaviors that May Constitute Sexual Harassment?
Specific behaviors that may constitute sexual harassment under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EECO) guidelines include:
Anyone Can Be a Victim
An "A" for affection...
Lisa was given two grades on her midterm paper. Later in the professor’s office, she asked him the meaning of the two grades. He said, "What are you willing to do for the higher grade?" He then began to barter for her "affections". Lisa was embarrassed and confused. To cover her embarrassment, she laughed but left the office without participating in the "banter". The professor did use a joking tone but Lisa has the awful feeling that he was very serious and she’s now afraid that she will receive a lower grade because she didn’t participate in the "kidding around".
I can’t say: "No!!!"....
Betty, a female supervisor, insisted that Bob, her male subordinate, accompany her to dinner and lunches, and frequently invited Bob to join her for a drink to discuss office business. Bob was uncomfortable doing these things, and told Betty this, but she continued to insist that he accompany her. Betty then told him he had better not say no, or his employment conditions would suffer.
I can’t say: "Get your hands off me"....
Jacob’s professor has patted him previously. Jacob was uncomfortable but thought Dr. Doe must not mean anything by this, he’s just being friendly. Yesterday, while Jacob was in his office, his professor closed the door and approached Jacob. There was no mistaking what he wanted this time. Jacob ran from the office and now is afraid to go to class.
Instructor or companion...
At the beginning of the semester, Joe and his female lab tutor hit it off and by midterm were steady companions. Late in the semester Joe became tired of the relationship and broke it off. Then Joe noticed that his tutor was not as willing to assist him in his assignments. The final was only a week away and Joe desperately needed her assistance to pull out a "B" in the course. Joe was troubled because the tutor never seemed to have the time for him.
Where’s your sense of humor?...
Jeff and his friends always ate lunch at the table just inside the dining room door. As female students came into the dining room, Jeff and others would comment on the appearance of women by making animal noises, yelling out rating numbers, and making comments with sexual overtones. Several women felt that their only alternative was to eat in another dining hall.
"Be tough, lady, boys will be boys"...
Clara is a skilled tradesperson. Her male co-workers frequently tell dirty jokes and look at "girlie" magazines during break. When she asks the co-workers to stop, they tease her. She has complained to the boss. The boss will do nothing to change the atmosphere. The boss has made it clear "boys will be boys" and that she should be "tough enough to deal with it herself". He has told her "to go along with the program" and "to be a team player" and "to develop her interpersonal and communication skills".
Bridgewater State University prohibits retaliatory action against persons who file claims, complaints, or charges under these procedures, under applicable local, state or federal non-discrimination statutes, who are suspected of having filed such claims, complaints or charges, who have assisted or participated in an investigation or resolution of such claims, complaints or charges, or who have protested practices alleged to be violative of non-discrimination regulation or stature. Such retaliation is cognizable under these procedures as well as under state and federal law. Retaliation, even in the absence of provable discrimination in the original claim, compliant, charge or allegation. Any person who believes she/he has been retaliated against in this manner is encouraged to immediately file a claim or complaint under the University's complaint procedures.
What are Consensual Relationships?
Romantic and sexual relationships between professor (or staff member) and student, or supervisor and employee are not expressly prohibited by University policy. However, faculty and supervisors should be aware that romantic or sexual relationships with students or subordinate employees have the potential for adverse consequences, including the filing of charges of sexual harassment. If one party has the power to give grades, thesis advice, evaluations, recommendations, promotions, salary increases or performance evaluations, the apparent consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect. In such situations, the person in the position of power bears special responsibilities. Even when both parties have consented to the relationship, there may be serious concerns about conflicts of interest and unfair treatment of others. Under such circumstances, the person in the position of power should relinquish decisions related to grading, thesis advice, evaluations, recommendations, promotions, salary increases, or performance evaluations.
Who Can Help You?
If you feel you have experienced sexual harassment, the first step is to talk to someone you trust who can give you accurate information (or connect you with someone who can) about the informal and formal actions you can take. The members of the University community listed below will know how to help:
Bridgewater State University has established specific internal complaint procedures to help resolve claims and complaints of sexual harassment on the campus. If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment you may initiate an informal claim or formal complaint by contacting:
Alan V. Comedy
Assistant to the President for
Affirmative Action/ Equal Opportunity/ Disability Compliance
Designated Title IX Coordinator
Bridgewater State University
Boyden Hall--Room 206
Phone: (508) 531-1241
Designated Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Phone: (508) 531-1429
Other Administrative Options
It is the intent of Bridgewater State University to actively respond to all complaints of discrimination and/ or harassment with the hope that it can fully, quickly and adequately resolve them internally. The University also recognizes the right of all complaining persons to file charges of unlawful discrimination and/or retaliation with the appropriate federal or state agency without first perusing an internal resolution of the complaint through the University's discrimination complaint procedures.
These agencies include:
Massachusetts Commission Against
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
Fax: (617) 994-6124
TTY: (617) 994-6196
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
John F. Kennedy Federal Building
475 Government Center
Boston, MA 02203
Fax: (617) 565-3196
TTY: (800) 669-6820
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights/ ED
8th Floor, 5 Post Office Square
Boston, MA 02109-3921
Fax: (617) 289-0150
TTY: (877) 521-2171
Last Modified: July 5, 2012