In addition to being illegal, sexual harassment runs counter to the objectives of Wichita State University. When people, whether student, faculty, unclassified professional, or classified staff, feel coerced, threatened, intimidated, or otherwise pressured by others into granting sexual favors, their academic and work performance is likely to suffer. In addition, such actions violate not only the dignity of the individual but also the integrity of the University as an institution for learning. Academic freedom flourishes when all are free to pursue ideas in a nonthreatening, noncoercive atmosphere of mutual respect. Sexual harassment is thus harmful not only to persons involved but also the entire University community.
With the adoption of this policy on sexual harassment, Wichita State University reaffirms its commitment to maintaining an environment free of intimidation, fear, reprisal, and coercion - one in which students, faculty, unclassified professionals, and classified staff can develop intellectually, personally, and socially.
All members of the University community are responsible for promoting a positive working and learning environment where all persons are free to discuss any problems or questions they may have been concerning sexual harassment at the University, without fear of intimidation or retaliation. To that end, the University shall disseminate this policy and procedures prohibiting sexual harassment widely so that all members of the University community are informed of their rights and responsibilities.
A. University officials are committed to contributing to a positive learning and working environment by acting in a manner which is fair by attempting to resolve complaints and by educating members of the University community to eliminate prohibited activities and any acts of retaliation.
B. It is the obligation of administrators and supervisors who become aware of sexual harassment in their area of responsibility to take steps to prevent its continuation. Failure to do so is a violation of this policy.
C. Persons experiencing unwelcome, harmful, or offensive behavior are encouraged to communicate directly with the persons whose behavior is perceived or experienced as sexually harassing. Communicating directly that such behavior is unwelcome, harmful, or offensive will often result in the resolution of the complaint prior to resorting to the University's stated informal and/or normal complaint procedures.
D. This policy is not intended and will not be implemented in such a way as to censor or punish students, faculty, or staff members for exercise of their First Amendment right to express their individual ideas and viewpoints on any topic. This policy also is not intended and will not be implemented in a way that infringes on academic freedom.
E. University employees are cautioned against entering romantic and/or sexual relationships with any individual where a professional power differential exists even if that relationship is a consensual one. The potential for harassment claims arising out of such relationships makes them unwise. Examples of professional power differentials include romantic and/or sexual relationships between a faculty member and a student over whom the faculty member has a supervisory role, a classified supervisor and an employee who reports to the supervisor, or an unclassified professional supervisor and a student assistant/employee who reports to the supervisor. When a charge of sexual harassment is made, in this context, it may be difficult to show immunity on the grounds that the relationship was consensual.
F. Claims of sexual harassment that are frivolous, vindictive, and without support or merit may constitute a form of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment involves behaviors which interfere with an individual's work or the learning environment through unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct which unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or educational experience or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment. To the extent that individuals are protected from a "hostile environment" it must be understood that the University cannot protect its constituents from verbal conduct which is upsetting, rude, or uncivil. A hostile environment complaint under this policy requires that a reasonable person in the complainant's circumstances experiences conduct which is severe and/or pervasive enough that the conditions of such person's work or educational environment are altered.
In determining whether alleged conduct constitutes sexual harassment, it is necessary to look at the entire context and pattern of behavior. The clearest example of sexual harassment is an attempt to coerce an unwilling person into a sexual relationship by using an employment or educational relationship. However, any behavior, whether verbal or physical, constitutes sexual harassment if:
A person is intimidated by the threat, overt or implicit, that any educational or employment decision may be affected by unwillingness to tolerate or accept sexual attentions.
A person is required to tolerate or accept sexual attentions as a condition of employment or learning.
Any educational or employment decision has been affected by a person's refusal to comply with or tolerate inappropriate sexual behavior.
The behavior creates an environment that a reasonable person of ordinary sensitivity would find intimidating, hostile, or offensive on the basis of sex and which interferes with that person's ability to work or learn.
Any reprisals are taken for reporting or objecting sexual harassment.
The procedures for dealing with sexual harassment issues and complaints essentially are similar for all persons at Wichita State University. The levels or types of procedures: namely, Counsel and Advice, Informal Procedure, and Formal Procedure, are consistent across all employment categories. An intent of this policy is to have the procedures of this policy compatible with existing related policies such as grievance procedures. Therefore, some differences in procedures exist among the major employment categories of classified, faculty, and unclassified professional. For students, existing established procedures also are recognized and utilized in this policy. The Counsel and Advice procedures are the same for all categories. The informal and formal procedures for classified staff, unclassified professionals, and students are presented with a combined set of procedures. The faculty procedures, while essentially parallel, are presented separately.
A. COUNSEL AND ADVICE
1. Regardless of an individual's personal responsibility to deal with grievances directly and informally, this is not always practical in cases of perceived sexual harassment. The person may fear retaliation from the perceived harasser. Further, the perceived harassment may be of such a nature that engaging in such conduct violates not only reasonable standards of personal conduct but the standards of professional conduct that the University expects and requires its professional employees to observe.
2. Individuals, therefore, may seek counsel and advice from various campus offices, such as the Counseling Center or from trusted individuals in order to clarify in their own minds the situation they find themselves in or to explore various means available for redressing their grievance.
3. When seeking counsel and advice, persons should keep in mind that:
Managerial employees of the University, such as, department chairs, office supervisors, deans, etc., may be required by law or University policy on the prudent exercise of supervisory responsibilities to report even informal complaints of sexual harassment that come to them.
Managerial employees who are required by virtue of their position to report sexual harassment complaints to higher University authorities should so inform potential complainants and advise them where they can go for unofficial discussions if that is what the potential complainant is seeking.
Persons who want to pursue unofficial discussions should visit the Counseling Center or speak to others in the University who do not have supervisory responsibilities.
Potential complainants should keep in mind that neither the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity nor other University officers are permitted to be advocates for complainants in developing or pursuing a complaint. While these officers are obligated to enforce and implement University policy, they must seek to assure fairness to both parties and to protect the University's interests. The University's interest is in the fair treatment of all those involved in the process while complying with its legal obligations as an employer.
B. FACULTY PROCEDURES
1. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
a. In general, people should assume responsibility for dealing with conflicts, misunderstanding, and grievances that arise from their interactions with other people in everyday life. This applies to perceived instances of sexual harassment and to other matters. It always is appropriate to inform a perceived harasser that his/her conduct is objectionable and to seek a mutual accommodation.
b. No one shall abridge a faculty member's right to be accompanied to a meeting or discussion by a colleague of his/her choice. Other than as provided below, all parties are obligated to protect the confidentiality of the proceedings.
2. FORMAL PROCEDURE FOR FACULTY
a. When any member of the University community or applicant for employment or admission believes, in good faith, that he or she may have been sexually harassed by a faculty member, they may bring a complaint to any appropriate member of the University community, including any academic or administrative officer such as dean, supervisor, the representative of the Office of Student Affairs, or department chair. Unless the complainant chooses to withdraw the complaint at the time of initial contact, the person contacted will refer the complaint either to the department chair of the faculty member accused in the complaint or to the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity as the complainant prefers.
b. Persons wishing to make complaints should take note that timely reporting of a complaint will greatly facilitate any subsequent investigation.
c. The chair or Director of Equal Employment Opportunity will interview the complainant and the accused faculty member and seek to resolve the issues between them in a manner consistent with University policies and satisfactory to both parties.
d. If a satisfactory resolution is achieved, a factual report of the complaint, the accused faculty member's response to it, and the basis of the complaint's resolution will be prepared by the chair or Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and signed by both parties. The signature of the parties will signify that they accept the resolution of the complaint as stated in the report and that they agree to abide by its terms.
e. Each party will receive a copy of the report. In addition, the report will be placed in the personnel or student files of both parties and will remain confidential under all circumstances within the University's control. In the absence of similar complaints in the five years following the date of the report, both copies of the report retained by the University will be destroyed.
f. The fact that, within the stated time periods, a faculty member agreed to adverse findings in a complaint of sexual harassment may be used as evidence of a pattern of misconduct in a subsequent inquiry. However, a faculty member shall not be held accountable twice for the same misconduct if he/she had abided by the terms to a previous complaint. Evidence of a pattern of misconduct may be used to justify more severe sanctions or penalties in a subsequent complaint. No claims of a pattern that are not substantiated by written reports signed by the faculty member or by the findings of a formal hearing or by direct testimony ill be allowed.
g. In the case of a student complaint against a faculty member where the faculty member makes counter allegations against the student and where the inquiry by the department chair or Director of Equal Employment Opportunity finds merit in the faculty member's counter allegations, the allegation against the student will be referred to the Office of Student Affairs for disposition. In the case of a classified or unclassified professional employee's complaint against a faculty member where the faculty member makes counter allegations against the employee; and where the department chair or Director of Equal Employment Opportunity finds merit in the faculty member's counter allegations, the allegations against the employee will be referred to the Office of Human Resources for disposition.
3. FORMAL HEARING FOR FACULTY
a. In the event that informal procedures fail to resolve a complaint, either party may request a formal hearing.
b. When a case is appealed to a formal hearing because one or both parties is unwilling to accept the findings of the informal procedure, the case will be heard by a panel convened under the procedures of the Faculty Grievance process. At the complainant's request or if the dean of the college/school/University Libraries so determines, the complaint will be presented and argued at the hearing by the department chair, the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity, or another designated administrative officer. The complainant must appear as a part to the case and must give testimony. Failing to do this, the case will be dismissed. Both complainant and accused may be assisted during the hearing by a member of the University community of their own choosing.
c. As provided for in the Grievance Procedure, the Findings of the hearing panel will be reviewed by the Provost and Senior Vice President and the President of the University. The President's decision will be final in all matters. Although the President has final legal authority in personnel matters from the Board of Regents, the interest of the University in faculty self governance and the principle of peer evaluation suggest that the recommendations of internal hearing panels will be accepted generally. In cases where the recommendations of an internal panel are not accepted, the President will discuss said recommendations with the internal hearing panel as well as the direct participants in the grievance process. If additional or new information or evidence is brought to the attention of the Provost and Senior Vice President or the President of the University during their respective reviews, the internal hearing panel should be reconvened to hear said additional or new information or evidence to consider whether revisions of its original findings and recommendations are justified.
d. Neither findings of fact, assessments of responsibility, nor sanctions or penalties recommended or imposed after a formal hearing require the approval or agreement of either party involved in the complaint.
e. The final report of the hearing panel and a record of the final decision by the President regarding the complaint will be provided to each party and placed in the personnel or student files of both parties.
f. The University will protect the confidentiality of the report under all circumstances within its control except that it may report the filing and resolution of a complaint and imposition of sanctions or penalties without identifying the parties or their departmental or college/school/University Libraries affiliations. In the absence of similar complaints in the next five years, both copies of the report retained by the university will be destroyed. While the full report may be destroyed, a record of the fact that sanctions or penalties were imposed and agreed to will be retained permanently in the personnel record and may be reported to potential employers.
g. All complaints of sexual harassment will be reviewed initially according to the procedures in this policy. In some cases, however, a formal hearing panel may recommend or the administration may determine that a faculty member found guilty of sexual harassment should be dismissed for cause due to the nature of his/her offense. In that case, the Provost and Senior Vice President will refer the case to the Dismissal for Cause procedure. The issue in those proceedings shall be whether the offense of which the faculty member has been found guilty warrants dismissal or whether a lesser sanction is appropriate. The dismissal proceedings may consider alleged mitigating circumstances but shall not retry the question of guilt. If the dismissal case is rejected, the original hearing panel in the harassment case, if necessary, will recommend a lesser sanction; and the disposition of the case will proceed as provided for in this policy.
C. PROCEDURES FOR CLASSIFIED AND UNCLASSIFIED PROFESSIONALS
1. INFORMAL PROCEDURES
a. Any member of the University community or applicant for employment or admission who, in good faith, believes that he or she may be experiencing sexual harassment may bring such a complaint to any appropriate member of the University community, including any academic or administrative office of the University. For example, any dean, director, supervisor, department chair, or advisor may serve as the initial contact for an informal complaint. Successful resolution efforts will be facilitated greatly by the timely reporting of complaints. The more time that elapses, the more difficult it will be to ascertain the truth of the matter and pick appropriate remedial action.
b. Upon receipt of possible sexual harassment complaint, the University officer, administrator, or other person shall notify promptly the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity of the existence of the complaint. The Director of Equal Employment Opportunity shall maintain a record of the informal complaint as well as the result of the informal procedures.
c. The responsible University official to whom the complaint was brought or the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity shall function as a mediator to attempt to resolve informally the complaint of sexual harassment. To this end, the mediator's responsibilities are:
Listen to the complaint and assist the complainant in clarifying his/her experiences and feelings.
Advise complainant on his/her options, both informal and formal.
At the request of complainant, talk to the person against whom the complaint is brought in an attempt to work out a satisfactory solution and convey to the complainant the results of that discussion.
If the complainant is pleased with the outcome of the mediation process, the matter ends there.
2. FORMAL PROCEDURE FOR CLASSIFIED AND UNCLASSIFIED PROFESSIONALS AND STUDENTS
Procedures for resolution of formal complaints should be thorough yet expeditious. Should a formal review be deemed necessary, both the complainant and the person against whom the complaint is brought (the respondent) will be informed of the content of the complaint and will have a full opportunity to be heard. All parties will be able to obtain information about the progress of the review. The time period required for the review may vary from case to case, but all parties will be informed if an extended delay is anticipated. Normally, the review period will be completed within 60 days. The Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and the responsible administrator must remain impartial during the administrative process and work in concert to ensure that all involved be treated fairly.
1. Report the complaint to the University administrator responsible for the department or other unit in which the harassment is believed to have occurred (henceforth referred to as the responsible administrator), unless that person already is involved personally or already is aware of the behavior that is the subject of the complaint. In some cases, there may be more than one responsible administrator. For students with complaints of harassment by other students, the designated administrators in the Division of Student Affairs are identified as the responsible administrator. The complaint also may be initiated directly with the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity.
2. Complaints filed later than 180 days from the most recent occurrence normally will not be considered due to the fact that, with the passage of time, it becomes more difficult to investigate a complaint. However, a complainant who files after 180 days will have the opportunity to argue that special circumstances exist and request that the complaint be submitted for investigation or mediation or administrative action in light of special circumstances.
3. If a complaint is made to the responsible administrator, that individual will confer with the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity concerning the resolution of the complaint. Likewise, should the complaint be made to the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity, the Director will confer with the responsible administrator. If the substance of the complaint warrants further review, both administrators, acting together, will review the complaint. If a complaint is made to the Division of Student Affairs, a staff member will contact the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity.
4. The Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and the responsible administrator will conduct an interview with the complainant to acquire a thorough understanding of the complaint. A written statement of the complaint will be developed by the complainant. The responsible administrator and the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity will offer assistance to the complainant in the development of this written statement.
5. The Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and the responsible administrator, after consultation as necessary, will determine whether the complaint, as reported, alleges sexual harassment in violation of Wichita State University Policy Prohibiting Sexual Harassment. The conclusion(s) reached will be communicated to the complainant. The responsible administrator will communicate the conclusion(s) to the respondent of the complaint.
6. If it is concluded that further inquiry is warranted, a meeting will be scheduled with the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity, the responsible administrator, the respondent, and a fourth person, if the respondent chooses to bring one for personal support. At that meeting, the respondent will receive both a verbal explanation and the written statement of the complaint. The respondent will have access to relevant information pertaining to the complaint and will be given the opportunity to respond but is under no obligation to respond immediately. The respondent also will be cautioned against retaliation and to maintain confidentiality. Future meetings may be scheduled to allow the respondent the opportunity to reflect and respond to the complaint. If the respondent chooses to make a written response to the complaint, the responsible administrator and the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity will offer assistance to the respondent, if needed, in the development of the written response.
7. With or without a response from the respondent, the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and the responsible administrator may interview other persons who have specific knowledge about the alleged incident(s). Persons interviewed will be informed 1) that the fact that an investigation is underway should not lead to any assumed conclusion and 2) to maintain confidentiality.
8. A determination will be made, after completion of all interviews, as to whether a violation of the Policy Prohibiting Sexual Harassment has occurred.
9. If it is determined that sexual harassment has not occurred, both the complainant and the respondent will receive letters stating the steps that have been taken in the review process and the determination from the administrators involved in the review.
10. If it is determined that sexual harassment has occurred, the following measures will be taken:
Both the complainant and the respondent will receive letters from the administrators involved in the review outlining the steps taken in the review process, the determination made and the sanctions to be imposed.
Sanctions will be devised in accord with the seriousness of the behavior. Sanctions may range from admonishment to, in extreme cases, a recommendation for dismissal.
Steps will be taken to prevent further acts of sexual harassment.
Steps will be taken to prevent acts of retaliation for bringing the complaint.
If a remedy exists and is within the ability of the University community to provide, then a recommendation to that effect may be made.
It is the obligation of administrators and supervisors to whom a complaint of sexual harassment is brought to maintain confidentiality. This will not preclude investigation, allowing respondents to reply to a complaint, or provision of a remedy to persons injured by acts of harassment where that is practical.
VI. APPEAL BEYOND THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES
A. Complainants who believe that a satisfactory resolution of their complaint of sexual harassment has not been reached by the administrative process described above may take their complaint to the appropriate Grievance Review Committee within 90 days. Unresolved complaints of sexual harassment by students against other students also may be heard by the appropriate student judicial council.
B. Any employee of Wichita State University aggrieved by sanctions imposed in relation to an alleged act of sexual harassment may appeal through the appropriate grievance procedure.
The Director of Equal Employment Opportunity of Wichita State University is responsible for providing training to all University employees concerning sexual harassment issues and procedures. The training program should be designed to: 1) sensitize employees to the rights and responsibilities of all concerned parties; 2) provide supervisors and administrators with current information on applicable laws, rules, regulations and procedures; and 3) demonstrate appropriate techniques for the careful investigation and mediation of sexual harassment allegations.
The University administration shall make every reasonable effort to inform all members of the University community regarding the proper procedures and persons available for the handling of sexual harassment complaints. In particular, this information should be comunicated to all new students and employees as an integral part of their orientation experience.
August 4, 2000