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Sexual and Discriminatory Harassment Policy and Procedures

  1. Prohibition of Sexual and Discriminatory Harassment

    It is the policy of Swarthmore College to provide an academic and employment environment free from any form of sexual or discriminatory harassment including harassment by speech or other expression, by action, or by combination thereof. This policy applies to all College employees and support personnel and to all College students.

    The College expressly prohibits any form of discrimination and harassment on the basis of any College-recognized protected classification including sex, race, color, age, religion, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, marital status, medical condition, veteran status, or disability in any decision regarding admissions, employment, and subsequent treatment of students and employees in accordance with the letter and spirit of federal, state, and local non-discrimination and equal opportunity laws, such as Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act and ADA Amendments Act, The Equal Pay Act, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and the Borough of Swarthmore Ordinance on Non-Discrimination.

    The College seeks to create an environment in which the maximum academic potential of students and professional potential of employees can be realized. In keeping with its efforts to create such an environment, the College recognizes that all who work and learn at the College are responsible for ensuring that the work and academic environment is free from discriminatory practices, including sexual harassment. Therefore, unreasonably offensive conduct that is brought forward may be considered grounds for discipline if found to be severe and pervasive. The unreasonably offensive behavior does not need to be expressly prohibited in this policy, nor does it need to qualify as unlawful harassment for action to be taken. Because some prohibited behavior within this policy may also be a violation of law, any individual who feels that she or he has been subjected to illegal harassment has the right to initiate legal proceedings in criminal or civil court in addition to or in lieu of a complaint pursuant to this policy.

    For options to resolve complaints of sexual or discriminatory harassment, see Section E below entitled, Options for Resolution.

    1. Discriminatory Harassment Definition

      Discriminatory harassment is unwelcome verbal, physical or visual conduct relating to a protected classification, which has the unreasonable purpose or effect of severely and pervasively interfering with an individual's or a group of individuals' ability to participate in all and any aspect of academic, professional, or residential campus life.

    2. Sexual Harassment Definitions

      The following definition is based in part on those formulated by the Federal Equal Opportunity Commission and The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. Sexual harassment in the law is a form of discrimination based on sex or gender. Swarthmore College also finds that harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is also a form of sexual harassment for purposes of the College’s policies. There are two basic types of sexual harassment:

      1. Quid Pro Quo Harassment

        Quid Pro Quo Harassment is any action in which submission to conduct of a sexual nature is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's education or employment, or in which submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual. This type of harassment in most cases does not need to be repeated to be deemed sexual harassment.

      2. Hostile Environment Harassment

        Hostile Environment Harassment is any unwelcome action, verbal expression, usually repeated or persistent, or a series of actions or expressions that have either the intent, or are reasonably perceived as having the effect, of creating an intimidating, hostile, or demeaning educational, employment, or living environment for a student or College employee, either by being sexual in nature or by focusing on a person‘s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. An intimidating, hostile, or demeaning environment is defined as one that is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it unreasonably interferes with a person’s ability to learn, exist in living conditions, work (if employed by the College), or have access and opportunity to participate in all and any aspect of academic, professional, or residential campus life.

    3. Sexual Harassment Description

      Sexual harassment can range from subtle, verbal expressions to physical contact. The sexual conduct must be unwelcome to be considered harassment. Such behavior need not produce or threaten some tangible loss to the aggrieved, e.g., loss of academic credit, promotion, or job, in order to be deemed harassing. Both women and men can be subject to and can be capable of sexual harassment. Although sexual harassment is not confined to relationships in which the harasser holds some authority over another, disparities of power may make sexual harassment, or the appearance of sexual harassment, more likely. Because at Swarthmore it is not unusual for students to supervise other students, or for students to have actual or perceived power or influence over another student's academic performance, power imbalances can exist between two students, as well as between individuals in positions falling into different categories such as professors and students, supervisors and employees, etc.

      Some specific examples of sexual harassment include but are not limited to: unwelcome verbal or physical advances; persistent leers; sexual innuendoes, comments or jokes; the persistent use of irrelevant references or remarks to a person's gender, sexuality or sexual orientation; sexist remarks about the target's clothing or body; expressions using sex stereotypes whether or not they were made about or directed to the grievant and whether or not intended to insult or degrade; subtle pressure for sexual activity; manipulation of an authority relationship to coerce (not necessarily involving physical force) or influence a current or prospective student or employee to do something of a sexual nature that she/he would not otherwise do. Well intentioned but unwelcome remarks, when repeated, about one's personality or appearance might be interpreted as sexually suggestive. Sexually suggestive remarks are particularly objectionable when they interfere with the purposes of the relationship and reasonably result in feelings of confusion, uncertainty, or discomfort for the person who is the object of the remarks.

      Speech or expression of a sexual nature that is made in the context of carrying out responsibilities in the classroom, laboratory, studio, library, office, and similar contexts in fulfilling our educational mission as related to teaching, learning, and scholarship, may be disturbing without also being harassing. Such speech or expression may, however, depart so far from professional or appropriate behavior that it is not protected by academic freedom. The professional teaching of controversial issues shall not be construed as constituting such a departure.

      The perception of a conduct or expression as harassing does not necessarily constitute sexual harassment. Such perceptions must be carefully examined to determine whether they constitute quid pro quo harassment or hostile environment harassment (as described in Sections B.1 and B.2).

    4. Sexual Assault

      Sexual misconduct includes both sexual harassment and assault. Sexual assault is a particularly serious form of sexual misconduct, which could also lead to criminal prosecution. It can range from unwanted, intentional physical contact to rape. For faculty and instructional staff, sexual assault will be considered to be a particularly serious form of unprofessional conduct. Such conduct would significantly impair that person’s professional performance or fulfillment of obligations to the college, and may be judged using the criteria for “serious shortcomings” in section III-A-13 of the Handbook for Instructional Staff. For staff, sexual assault is misconduct subject to disciplinary action, up to and including immediate dismissal. For students, sexual assault as described in the Student Handbook could result in College Judiciary Committee action.

    5. Options for resolution

      If expression that would be regarded as harassing if directed at an individual is targeted at a group -- though no individuals are specifically named or referred to as targets -- any member of the group may bring a complaint if it can be established that a reasonable person would have regarded the offending expression as being in violation of this policy.

      Charges of sexual or discriminatory harassment may be handled either informally or formally. In general, opportunities for education and awareness are important elements in the resolution of sexual and discriminatory harassment issues. Individuals who wish to raise concern about questionable behavior, but do not wish to make a complaint, are encouraged to speak to the person(s) involved and/or to any of the resource persons listed below. Regardless of whether or not options for resolution are pursued within the College system, complainants always have the right to initiate legal proceedings in criminal or civil court in addition to or in lieu of a complaint pursuant to this policy.

      Assistance and information are available from the offices listed below. If there is uncertainty about which office to contact, the Director of Equal Opportunity/Title IX Coordiantor can be of assistance in making that determination:

      • Equal Opportunity Office: Parrish 373 North, ext. 5675
      • Human Resources Office: Employee Relations Manager, Pearson 10, ext. 8398
      • Your supervisor, department chair, or other member of management
      • Provost's Office: Provost, Parrish 229, ext. 8319
      • Dean of the College: Parrish 108, ext. 8365
      • Worth Health Center
      • Counseling and Psychological Services
      • Religious Advisors

      The formal grievance procedures applying to:

      • staff can be found in Chapter 11 of the Employee Handbook,
      • students can be found in Conflict Resolution and Judicial Procedures section of the Student Handbook (obtain a .pdf copy from the Dean's Office website), and
      • instructional staff can be found in section II.C.1 of the Faculty and Instructional Staff Handbook (obtain a .pdf copy from the Provost's Office website).

      It is important to note that discussing concerns with or seeking clarification or support from the Director of Equal Opportunity/Title IX Coordinator or any other resource person listed above, does not obligate a person to initiate either legal procedures or to participate in formal procedures at the College, nor do such discussions preclude a person from doing so. The individual to whom a complaint is made (e.g. the Director of Equal Opportunity/Title IX Coordinator) will register each request for assistance in resolving a case involving charges of sexual harassment, whether formal or informal. These records will be kept confidential to the extent permitted by law. However, the Director of Equal Opportunity/Title IX Coordiantor will seek the complainants consent and investigate or oversee the investigation of every allegation of sexual assualt or harassment that is referred.

      Perceived harassers have a responsibility to attempt to understand both the intentional and unintentional effects of their behavior and to respond in a thoughtful, sensitive manner to those perceived effects. The grievant can consider all the informal and formal means available for resolution and choose what seems most useful and workable in a particular case. The complainant must also weigh the fact that the perceived harasser may continue the offensive behavior until being made aware of his/her actions. In the most serious instances of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, it is unreasonable to expect complainants to confront the accused. In these cases the complainant should enlist the help of the Director of Equal Opportunity/Title IX Coordiantor or any other resource person listed above.