Guidance on sexual harassment and amorous relationships

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is interaction of a sexual nature between people that results in sex discrimination.  It occurs where work or study relationships are inappropriately and gratuitously sexualized and encompasses such conduct as:  

1.      The use of sexual favors as a basis for actions affecting an individual's welfare as a student or employee.

2.      Flagrant or repeated sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and physical contacts of a sexual nature harmful to anothers' work or academic performance or the work or learning environment.

3.      Repeated demeaning verbal or expressive behavior that is harmful to another's work or learning environment.

4.      Unwelcome sexual conduct with such conduct becoming a term or condition of an individual's education or employment.  Often, sexual harassment involves relationships of unequal power and so contains elements of coercion and threat.  The sexual attention forced on a particular individual may not only be unwanted, but also disturbing, producing feelings of inferiority and discomfort in the victim.  Sexual harassment as described and defined in this paragraph is prohibited at Missouri State University.  

Some Examples of Sexual Harassment

·         Sam needs help with a literature assignment.  He is wary of talking to his professor because the one time Sam asked for help before, the professor said, "I don't have any office hours free.  The only time I have available is at night.  Why don't you come over to my apartment?"

·         Jane is one of three women in her mathematics class.  The male professor frequently says things like, "Women just can't do math," and he tells jokes about women in sexual situations.

·         Brad is a legislative intern in the state capital.  His supervisor, a respected legislator, has told him that he can guarantee himself a good evaluation by being "friendly".

·         Pete, who is in Amanda's history class, has asked her out several times.  She has said no.  He sits right next to her each class period, talks about her attractive body and "accidentally" bumps up against her all the time.  

University Procedure for Sexual Harassment

If you believe that you are the survivor of sexual harassment, you may use either the informal or formal procedures outlined below:  

Informal Procedures

1. You may seek a resolution of the matter through discussions with the alleged offender.  Before adopting this approach, however, you may choose to seek advice from Mr. Wes Pratt, the Equal Opportunity Officer, Park Central Office Building 111, 836-4252, on how best to confront an individual whose conduct you believe to be offensive.  

2. You may report the incident(s) to the alleged offender's immediate or general supervisor.  The appropriate supervisor to contact in each of the following cases is as follows:

 Alleged OffenderAppropriate Contact
Faculty Member Department Head or Dean of the College
Staff Member   Immediate Supervisor or Department Head
Student  Residence Hall Director or Office of Student Conduct                       



Formal Procedures

If you decide to file a formal complaint, you should contact Wes Pratt, the Equal Opportunity Officer, Park Central Office Building, 836-4252.  

Amorous Relationships

The University's mission is promoted by professionalism, which is fostered by an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.  These are diminished when persons in positions of authority abuse their authority, as in the case of amorous relationships between faculty and students.  

An amorous relationship between a faculty member and a student is generally wrong when the faculty member has professional responsibility, such as grading or advising, for the student.  Such a situation increases the chances for abuse of power.  The University will view it as unethical if faculty members engage in amorous relationships with students enrolled in their classes or subject to their supervision.  The behavior is, in most cases, unethical even when the relationship is consensual (i.e., both parties have consented) because the voluntary consent of the student is in doubt given the power imbalance in the student-faculty relationship.  Even if consent were to be shown, a clear conflict of interest would still exist which might create the appearance of discrimination or favoritism in grading or access to educational opportunities.  

Relationships between a graduate student and an undergraduate student, when the graduate student has some supervisory responsibility for the undergraduate, are covered by this policy.  Relationships between a student and an administrator, coach, advisor, program director, counselor, or residence life, housing and dining services staff member who has supervisory responsibility for that student also are covered.  

An employee may make a request for a specific exception to this policy to his or her supervisor, who may approve or deny the request.  The supervisor should maintain written documentation of the employee request and the decision to approve or deny the request.  

Faculty or employees engaged in unethical conduct of the type described in this policy are subject to the normal disciplinary procedures of the University.  Such unethical conduct may or may not involve sexual harassment as proscribed by the Sexual Harassment Policy.                                                             

- Revised February 2002