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Sexual Harassment Policy

Title: Sexual Harassment Policy
Effective Date:
January 1, 2013
Revision Date:
October 22, 2013
Responsible Office:
Compliance and Policy

I.  Scope

This policy applies to the College of William & Mary, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (the university). It covers students and all types of employees.  Because the university’s commitment to an environment free of prohibited discrimination includes freedom from sexual harassment by vendors, contractors, volunteers, and third parties acting as agents for the university, this policy also applies to them. 

Conduct prohibited under this policy can take place on campus or off. 

This policy does not infringe upon free speech or other civil rights of any individual or group. These rights are protected by law and the university’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. 

II.  Purpose

This policy enables the university to comply with federal and state non-discrimination laws, including Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), which prohibits the university from discriminating on the basis of sex in its educational programs and activities. It helps satisfy William & Mary’s Code of Ethics and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.   

III.  Policy

Sexual harassment is prohibited at William & Mary.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct[1] of a sexual nature, including sexual violence, when

  • submission to such conduct is made or threatened to be made a term or condition of employment, education, or participation in a university activity; or
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct is used or threatened to be used as a factor in a decision affecting employment, education, or participation in a university activity.

This is often referred to as “quid pro quo” sexual harassment.  

Another form of sexual harassment is hostile environment harassment: unwelcome conduct[2] based on sex or gender that unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work or educational performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment. This form of harassment may include conduct based on sex that is not sexual in nature. Each situation must be considered in context to determine if sexual harassment has occurred. Conduct must be severe or pervasive in order to create a hostile environment; conduct may be inappropriate, unprofessional, offensive, or hurtful, yet not be harassment under this policy.[3] 

Conduct alleged to constitute harassment is evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable person.[4] 

Sexual harassment may occur between persons of the same sex or members of different sexes. 

Sexual harassment most often occurs when one person has power or authority over another. Even consensual relationships between such individuals that do not constitute sexual harassment may be prohibited under the university’s policy on consensual amorous relationships. Sexual harassment may, however, occur between individuals of equal status or rank or be instigated by an individual in a subordinate position. 

IV. Reporting

The university cannot fulfill its ethical commitment to create a harassment-free environment or its legal obligations to address harassment that occurs unless allegations and complaints are brought to the attention of an appropriate university officer. 

A.  Reporting Sexual Harassment.  Employees must promptly report sexual harassment complaints and reports of which they become aware. This means that if you are an employee and someone tells you that he or she has been sexually harassed, or if you are given or told about a sexual harassment complaint or report, you are obligated to bring this to the attention of the appropriate university officer (discussed below). Employees also must report promptly any incident or situation that a reasonable person would understand to be sexual harassment, whether they witness the incident or situation or become aware of it.[5] This means that if you are an employee and you see someone sexually harassing another person, or you learn of a situation that constitutes sexual harassment, you are obligated to bring this to the attention of the appropriate university officer. If you know that the matter has already been brought to the attention of an appropriate university officer, you do not need to report it.

Victims of sexual harassment are not required to report; the university encourages them to come forward, but victims will not be disciplined for failing to report. 

Students and all other individuals covered by this policy are strongly encouraged to report sexual harassment. 

Because failure to report may result in liability for the university and further incidents of harassment, reporting is required even if the person who appears or claims to have been harassed does not want it reported. A report may, at least initially, be made without revealing the identity of the individuals involved; personally identifying information about the individuals involved may be initially withheld. The university will carefully consider the report to decide whether additional details are necessary. 

Reports should be made to the Title IX Coordinator or, if the alleged harasser is a student, the Dean of Students. Contact information for these officers is provided in Section VII, below. These officers maintain additional information about how and to whom reports may be made, as well as information regarding confidentiality and anonymity and investigation procedures, which is also available online.

Confidential consultations about sexual harassment may be available from persons who, by law, have special professional status, such as counselors at the university Counseling Center. The level of confidentiality depends on what legal protections are held by the individual receiving the information and should be addressed with them before specific facts are disclosed.

Individuals are also encouraged to report unwelcome conduct based on sex even if the behavior does not rise to the level of sexual harassment, so that the university can address problems before they become more serious. 

It is a violation of this policy to knowingly make a false allegation, complaint, or report of sexual harassment. 

B. Protections Against Retaliation  The university prohibits retaliation. The university will take action to protect individuals who report sexual harassment from retaliation, and will take immediate action to address any retaliatory behavior that occurs.

Retaliation is adverse action taken against an employee or student for engaging in “protected activity” – opposing or complaining of conduct reasonably believed to be sexual harassment or otherwise participating, in good faith, in a sexual harassment complaint or investigation. Adverse action against an employee or student based on their relationship or association with a third party who engages in protected activity is also prohibited retaliation. 

C. Responding to Reports of Sexual Harassment.  Allegations, complaints, and reports will be addressed promptly, including a preliminary review of the matter and, if appropriate, full investigation and corrective action under the appropriate university procedure.

D.  Confidentiality. To the greatest extent possible, investigations will be conducted in a confidential manner.

V.  Enforcement

Any member of the campus community who violates this policy is subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment. Disciplinary action against an employee or student will be taken in accordance with the applicable state or university policy or procedure, such as the Faculty Handbook, for violations by a faculty member. The response to violations by a contractor or other third party will depend on the nature of the individual’s relationship to the university.

VI.  Approval and Amendment

This policy was approved by the President. Minor, technical revisions, such as to update contact information, may be made by the Title IX Coordinator.

Effective July 1, 2013, revisions were made to update contact information for making reports of sexual harassment and to update hyperlinks. Contact information for the Title IX Coordinator and hyperlinks were updated on October 22, 2013.

VII.  Interpretation and Contact Information

Questions concerning the application of this policy and Title IX, including questions about investigating complaints of discrimination, should be made to the university’s Title IX Coordinator:

[[klboyc, Kiersten Boyce]], Chief Compliance Officer
108 James Blair Hall
757-221-3146

Reports of sexual harassment may be made to the Title IX Coordinator or, if the implicated party is a student, to

[[msthomas01, Marjorie Thomas]], Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Campus Center 109
757-221-2510

VIII. Related Policies, Procedures, and Guidance

The Compliance and Policy Office, the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, and other university offices provide guidance and other information about this policy and sexual harassment generally.

Statement of Rights and Responsibilities for Students
Virginia Department of Human Resource Management Policy 2.05, Equal Employment Opportunity (pdf) (State policy applicable to classified staff and hourly (wage) employees and applicants for such positions)
Faculty Handbook
Discrimination Grievance/Complaint Procedure
Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedure
Consensual Amorous Relationships Policy: pp. 45-46 of the Faculty Handbook (pdf)
Code of Ethics
Virginia Department of Human Resource Management Policy 2.30, Workplace Harassment

*  This policy replaces previous policy prohibitions on sexual harassment.  

[1] Conduct can be verbal, physical, or written, and if written, may be communicated in different ways such as email or text messaging. 

[2] Conduct can be verbal, physical, or written, and if written, may be communicated in different ways such as email or text messaging. 

[3] Such conduct or speech may be a violation of other university policies and/or may be appropriately addressed by a supervisor or other university official.   

[4] This definition of sexual harassment and the standards for determining whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment are derived from federal regulations and regulatory guidance. 

[5] The Code of Ethics adopted by the Board of Visitors in 2009 requires all employees to report illegal or unethical action.