Prohibition of Discrimination and Harassment Policy
- Purpose for the policy
The university recognizes the human dignity of each member of the Missouri State University community and believes that each member has a responsibility to promote respect and dignity for others so that all employees and students are free to pursue their goals in an open environment, able to participate in the free exchange of ideas and able to share equally in the benefits of the university’s employment and educational opportunities. To achieve this end, the university believes it should foster a learning, working and living environment free from discrimination and harassment on any basis not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees.
It is the policy of Missouri State University to maintain the campus as a place of work and study for faculty, staff and students free from discrimination and harassment in violation of the university’s policies. In accordance with federal and state law, and the university’s non-discrimination policy statement (G1.05), the university does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin (including ancestry or any other subcategory of national origin recognized by applicable law), religion, sex (including marital status, family status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or any other subcategory of sex recognized by applicable law), age, disability, veteran status, genetic information or any other basis protected by applicable law in employment or in any program or activity offered or sponsored by the university. Sex discrimination encompasses sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence, and is strictly prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. In addition, the university does not discriminate on any basis (including, but not limited to, political affiliation and sexual orientation) not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees. This policy shall not be interpreted in a manner as to violate the legal rights of religious organizations or military organizations associated with the Armed Forces of the United States of America.1
Discrimination or harassment against any member of the university community will not be tolerated at Missouri State University.
The university will respond to instances of discrimination or harassment in accordance with the office for institutional equity and compliance complaint procedures (Op1.02-2) and will respond appropriately to those who violate this policy, up to and including dismissal from the university or termination of employment.
The university's educational mission is promoted by professionalism. Professionalism is fostered by an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. Actions of faculty, staff, students and others affiliated with the university that harm this atmosphere undermine professionalism and hinder fulfillment of the university's educational mission. Trust and respect are diminished when those in positions of authority abuse their power. Those who abuse their power in such a context violate their duty to the university community.
This policy applies to the Missouri State University system. It applies to the conduct of all university employees, including student-employees with respect to conduct that arises out of their employment status, as well as to the conduct of all vendors, contractors, subcontractors and others who do business with the university. Complaints of discrimination or harassment against employees or student-employees will be processed according to the office for institutional equity and compliance complaint procedures (Op1.02-2). Complaints of discrimination or harassment against vendors, contractors, subcontractors and others who do business with the university will also be handled by the office for institutional equity and compliance.
Complaints of discrimination or harassment against students arising out of their conduct as students are addressed by this policy as well as by other university policies addressing student conduct, including the code of student rights and responsibilities (G5.01).2
- Discrimination occurs when individuals having a common characteristic such as age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religious creed, sex or veteran status are unreasonably, whether intentionally or unintentionally, denied equal privilege or treatment.
- Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature toward another person or an identifiable group of persons.
- A "hostile work environment" is created when sexual harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive as to disrupt a person's ability to participate in educational programs or the work place.
- Retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination or harassment, participating in an investigation or opposing discriminatory or harassing practices is also considered a form of discrimination and is prohibited under this policy.
- Whether particular physical, non-verbal, or verbal conduct constitutes prohibited discrimination or harassment in violation of this policy will depend upon all of the circumstances involved, the context in which the conduct occurred and the frequency, severity and pattern of the conduct.3
- Isolated or single-incident inappropriate behavior typically does not constitute prohibited discrimination or harassment. However, in those incidents where the behavior complained of is sufficiently egregious, it may constitute a violation of this policy.
- Conduct alleged to constitute discrimination or harassment will be evaluated according to the objective standard of a reasonable person.
Examples of conduct that may constitute or support a finding of discrimination or harassment in violation of this policy include, but are not limited to, the following types of behavior:
- Physical conduct:
- Unnecessary or unwanted physical contact;
- Blocking someone's path or impeding movement;
- Physical interference with work;
- Physical assault or coerced or forced sexual activity; and
- Deliberate destruction of property.
- Non-verbal conduct:
- Displaying of offensive material or objects; and
- Suggestive or insulting gestures, sounds or whistles.
- Verbal conduct:
- In some instances, innuendo or other suggestive, offensive or derogatory comments or jokes about sex, gender-specific traits or any basis not related to the applicable education requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees;
- Extortion, overt threats or intimidation; and
- Obscene or harassing messages sent via computer or left on an answering machine or voice mail.
- Examples of conduct that is not, or probably not, harassment in violation of this policy:
- Everyday administrative action taken by supervisors with respect to assignment of work and deployment of personnel;
- Everyday evaluations of student or employee performance;
- Discussion in an instructional setting of controversial or even offensive material that is relevant to the subject matter being taught; and
- Social situations and interactions which, while perhaps uncomfortable or even unwelcome, are not sufficiently severe or pervasive to rise to the level of constituting a hostile environment.
- Physical conduct:
- Remedial measures for isolated behavior
Isolated behavior of the kind described in this policy, which does not rise to the level of discrimination or harassment to be in violation of this policy, but which if repeated could rise to that level, demonstrates insensitivity that may warrant remedial measures. University officials (i.e., administrators, supervisors, managers) who become aware of such behavior in their areas should counsel those who have engaged in the behavior. Such counsel should include a clear statement that the behavior is not acceptable and should cease, information about the potential consequences if such behavior persists, and a recommendation, as appropriate, to undertake an educational program designed to help the person(s) understand the harm caused by the behavior.
If a person continues to engage in the conduct described in this policy, he or she may be deemed to have engaged in discrimination or harassment in violation of this policy and disciplinary action will be pursued.
- Sexual harassment
While all forms of discrimination and harassment degrade the quality of work and diminish the academic mission, sexual harassment because of its nature, has received special attention in the courts. Further, because of the unique relationship between student and faculty member, or supervisor and subordinate, and the inequities in power, sexual harassment is especially troublesome in the academic environment. Sexual harassment not only violates the law and university policy but also can damage personal and professional relationships, cause career or economic disadvantage and expose the university to legal liabilities, a loss of federal research funds and other financial consequences.
The best way to prevent sexual harassment is through awareness and education. This policy is aimed at increasing awareness regarding sexual harassment by making available information, education and guidance on the subject.
- Definition of sexual harassment4:
- Sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other unwelcome written, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- Submission to such conduct is made, explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s education, employment or participation in a university program or activity;
- Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for decisions affecting that individual’s academic standing, employment status or participation in a university program or activity; or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for that individual’s employment, education or participation in a university program or activity. (This third situation is commonly known as hostile environment sexual harassment.)
- Sexual harassment may occur between members of the same or opposite sex (i.e., male to female, female to male, male to male, female to female), and may occur between persons of the same or different university status (i.e., student to student, faculty to faculty, staff to faculty, faculty to student). Groups of individuals may also be found to engage in sexual harassment.
- Harassment based on a person's sex is not limited to instances involving sexual behavior. The courts have recognized both sexual harassment based on sexual advances or overtones, as well as sex or gender discrimination because of a person’s sex (i.e., being denied equal treatment because you are female or male, being treated differently because of gender stereotypes).
- A person does not have to be the direct and immediate target of sexual harassment to complain about it. Harassing behavior toward others may be so offensive, demeaning or disruptive as to constitute a hostile work or academic environment, though not specifically directed at the observer or individual lodging the complaint.
- Conduct alleged to constitute sexual harassment will be evaluated according to the objective standard of a reasonable person of the same sex as the victim.
- Except in the case of relationships between employees and students enrolled in their classes or subject to their supervision, consensual sexual or romantic relationships do not automatically violate this policy. However, because of the nature of the relationship and inequities of power, the apparent consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect of abuse of power.5
- Sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other unwelcome written, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- Examples of sexual harassment:
Examples of conduct that may constitute or support a finding of sexual harassment in violation of this policy include, but are not limited to, the following types of behavior:
- An employee complains to her/his supervisor that co-workers direct sexually suggestive remarks and gestures at her/him and the supervisor tells her/him that s/he is overreacting and such conduct is to be expected as part of the job. The employee's submission to the sexually harassing conduct is thereby made an explicit term or condition of her/his employment and s/he is a victim of sexual harassment.
- A student is informed that he/she will get a good grade if s/he grants certain sexual favors. The student is a victim of sexual harassment whether or not s/he complies and whether or not his/her grade is affected.
- A female graduate assistant makes persistent unwelcome sexual advances toward a male graduate assistant. Her conduct may, depending on the totality of the circumstances, unreasonably interfere with his ability to do his work. Likewise, her conduct may unreasonably interfere with the work or education of employees or students of either sex.
- A manager persists in calling women by their first names while addressing men as "Mr.", makes jokes disparaging women, reproaches women for conduct in which both men and women are engaged and permits the display of sexually suggestive pictures in the workplace.
- Academic freedom.
The classroom or other instructional settings (e.g., studio, laboratory) present special problems because academic freedom protects the expression of ideas, even where the idea or its expression is perceived to be offensive. Academic freedom is the particular right of scholars, teachers and students within the university to pursue knowledge, speak, write and follow the life of the mind without unreasonable restriction. The educational process is predicated upon the free exchange of ideas and this policy shall not be interpreted to prohibit free expression protected by the First Amendment. The National AAUP's Statement on Professional Ethics6 provides that professors should avoid any exploitation, harassment or discriminatory treatment of students. The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure provides that professors should not introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject. Accordingly, if the complained of conduct occurs in an instructional context and is germane to the subject matter being taught, wide latitude is required for professional judgment in determining the appropriate content and presentation of the academic material being taught.
- Definition of sexual harassment4:
- Consensual sexual or romantic relationships
In general – There are special risks in any sexual or romantic relationship between individuals in inherently unequal positions, and parties in such a relationship assume those risks. In the university context, such positions include (but are not limited to) supervisor and employee, senior faculty and junior faculty, mentor and trainee, professor and student. Because of the potential for conflict of interest, exploitation, favoritism and bias, such relationships may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation provided. Such relationships may be less consensual than the individual whose position confers power or authority believes. The relationship is likely perceived in different ways by each of the parties to it, especially in retrospect.
Moreover, such relationships may harm or injure others in the academic or work environment. Relations in which one party is in a position to review the work or influence the career of the other may provide grounds for complaints by third parties when that relationship gives undue access or advantage, restricts opportunities, or creates a perception of these problems. Furthermore, circumstances may change, and conduct that was previously welcome may become unwelcome. Even when both parties have consented at the outset to a romantic involvement, this past consent does not remove grounds for a charge based upon subsequent unwelcome conduct.
Where such a relationship exists, the person in the position of greater authority or power will bear the primary burden of accountability, and must ensure that he or she – and this is particularly important for faculty members – does not exercise any supervisory or evaluation function over the other person in the relationship. Where such recusal is required, the recusing party must also notify his or her supervisor, department head or dean, so that such head, dean or supervisor can exercise his or her responsibility to evaluate the adequacy of the alternative supervisory evaluative arrangements to be put in place. Staff members may, instead, as an option, notify the office of human resources. To reiterate, the responsibility for recusal and notification rests with the person in the position of greater authority or power. Failure to comply with these recusal and notification requirements is a violation of this policy, and therefore grounds for discipline.
With students – The university will view it as unethical and a violation of this policy if university employees engage in sexual or romantic relationships with students enrolled in their classes or subject to their supervision. Such employee-student relationships may include, but are not limited to faculty and student, adviser and advisee, teaching assistant and student, coach and athlete, and the individuals who supervise the day-to-day student living environment of student residents. 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-employee 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 student, are covered by this policy.
- Reporting discrimination or harassment
Any member of the Missouri State University community who has been subject to discrimination or harassment or who has witnessed discrimination or harassment, on any basis not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees, is encouraged to report it immediately to their supervisor and/or the office for institutional equity and compliance. One does not have to be the direct target of the discrimination or harassment to report it. The university is committed to handling complaints and reports of discrimination and harassment swiftly, fairly and with sensitivity.
While the office for institutional equity and compliance is formally charged with enforcing compliance with the university’s nondiscrimination policy statement (G1.05), ensuring that the campuses are free of discrimination and harassment is a shared responsibility of all members of the university community. If discrimination, harassment or retaliation is observed by or reported to a university official (administrators, managers and supervisors), then that official must either take appropriate action to resolve the matter or refer the case to the office for institutional equity and compliance7. The official is not required to initiate a formal investigation but is responsible for taking reasonable and prompt steps to resolve the matter or cause it to be referred to the office for institutional equity and compliance. If not resolved, the official will advise the office for institutional equity and compliance that the matter has been referred. The fact that the alleged victim does not wish to file a complaint does not relieve the official of this responsibility.
The method for reporting discrimination and harassment is outlined in the Missouri State University office for institutional equity and compliance complaint procedures (Op1.02-2). A copy of that document may be obtained online and from the following locations:
- Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, Park Central Office Building Ste. 111
- Dean of Students Office, 405 Plaster Student Union
- Academic Affairs, 209 Carrington Hall
- Office of Human Resources, 315 Carrington Hall
- Counseling Center, 304 Magers Health and Wellness Center
- Judicial Programs, 405 Plaster Student Union
- Residence Life and Services Office, 104 Hammons House
- Multicultural Resource Center, 141 Plaster Student Union
- Magers Health and Wellness Center
- Deans' Offices at each college
- Chancellor’s Office, West Plains Campus
- University/Community Programs Office, West Plains Campus
- Guidelines for responding to and reporting child abuse/neglect or victims of violence or harassment
In acknowledging its responsibility for promoting a positive learning environment and understanding that there may be occasions when staff receive information regarding possible child abuse or neglect or acts of violence or harassment to another person, the university has developed guidelines for responding to such incidents. These guidelines provide that some employees, including teachers, nurses, day care workers or those who have care and custody of a minor child are "mandated" reporters under Missouri statutes (R.S.Mo 210.109-210.166) with regard to child abuse or neglect. Specific information regarding these guidelines can be obtained by contacting the office for institutional equity and compliance, 901 S. National Ave., Park Central Office Building, Rm. 111, Springfield, Missouri 65897, 417-836-4252.
- Prohibition of retaliation8
Complaints involving discrimination or harassment will be responded to promptly and equitably. The confidentiality of all members of the university community will be respected in each step of the complaint procedure, insofar as that is reasonably practicable. In addition, retaliation against individuals for bringing complaints of discrimination or harassment or for participating in investigations is strictly prohibited. Similarly, retaliatory conduct against an individual simply because he or she has been accused of discrimination or harassment is strictly prohibited. An individual found to have engaged in harassment or discrimination or retaliation in violation of university policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment or expulsion from school. Conversely, if a complaint is made in bad faith, then the complainant may be subject to disciplinary action.
Individuals who believe they have been retaliated against must follow the Missouri State University office for institutional equity and compliance complaint procedures (Op1.02-2), and such complaints will be processed in accordance with those procedures.
- Filing false report of discrimination or harassment
Notwithstanding the prohibition of retaliation policy, the university may discipline an employee or student who has been determined to have brought an accusation of discrimination or harassment in bad faith.
- Confidentiality provisions9
Any member of the university community who in any way participates in proceedings regarding a complaint, response, investigation and/or disciplinary action shall keep all information and documents related thereto confidential.
Further, it is the policy of the university to protect the confidentiality of members of the university community who may be involved in discrimination or harassment complaint procedures, insofar as that is reasonably practicable. Specifically, the identity of the individual making the complaint (complainant), the identity of the accused (respondent) and information relating to the complainant will be disseminated only to those individuals who have a legitimate need to know, or as reasonably necessary for the purpose of investigating or resolving the complaint. Any person who is the custodian of confidential information shall maintain a record of the dissemination and review of such information.
- Disciplinary actions
In appropriate cases, disciplinary procedures may be initiated. At a minimum, the action taken should be designed to protect the complainant from future discrimination, harassment or retaliation and resolve any procedural or statutory violations. Depending on the case, substantiated evidence of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation can result in suspension or termination. The applicable disciplinary procedure depends on the status of the individual whose conduct is in question.
- Training requirements
In order to create a positive learning, working and living environment, the university must provide an atmosphere free of discrimination or harassment. The most effective way to prevent discrimination or harassment is through awareness and education. There are at least four goals to be achieved through education: (a) ensuring that all alleged victims (and potential victims) are aware of their rights; (b) notifying individuals of conduct that is proscribed; (c) informing administrators about the proper way to address complaints of violations of this policy; and (d) helping educate the community about the problems this policy addresses.
To achieve these goals, the Missouri State University office for institutional equity and compliance has developed a training program designed to inform, educate and guide members of the university community on identifying and preventing discrimination and harassment.
- All current faculty members, staff members, teaching assistants, graduate assistants and student workers are required to successfully complete the online office for institutional equity and compliance training program.
- New university employees are required to successfully complete the online office for institutional equity and compliance training program within thirty (30) days from their start date.
- Every three years, all university employees are required to complete a refresher online office for institutional equity and compliance training program.
- Newly promoted supervisory employees are required to complete the supervisory portion of the online office for institutional equity and compliance training program within thirty (30) calendar days from the start date of their promotion.
- The office for institutional equity and compliance will conduct voluntary, supplemental educational programs throughout the year on the identification and prevention of discrimination and harassment and other equal opportunity topics.
- Educational programs may be recommended and/or individual training may also be mandated for persons found to have violated this policy.
- Awareness education and dissemination of information
The office for institutional equity and compliance is charged with distributing information about this policy so that all current and future members of the university community are advised of their responsibilities in assisting the university in preventing harassment and discrimination on the campus.
- The office for institutional equity and compliance will send an annual notice to all university employees regarding the Missouri State University prohibition of discrimination and harassment policy. In addition, information about this policy will be made available continually at appropriate university centers and offices.
- The office for institutional equity and compliance will provide signage and other materials to be displayed in prominent places in university departments, buildings and residence halls to promote the Missouri State University prohibition of discrimination and harassment policy.
- The office for institutional equity and compliance will maintain and periodically update its website to provide information on discrimination and harassment, to include definitions and examples of harassment and/or discrimination and procedures to follow if a person is a victim of harassment and/or discrimination.
- Responsibilities of university officials (administrators, managers, supervisors)
- University officials (administrators, managers, supervisors) are responsible for knowing and understanding the contents of this policy and the procedures for processing complaints brought to them pursuant to this policy. Missouri State University offers educational programs for academic and administrative officers about their responsibilities under this policy, and those individuals are expected to attend such a program.
- University officials (administrators, managers, supervisors) are responsible for ensuring that their subordinates are advised of the contents of this policy. The office for institutional equity and compliance strongly suggests that this policy periodically be discussed during staff meetings.
- University officials (administrators, managers, supervisors) have a duty to proactively prevent discrimination and/or harassment on campus and, in those instances where discrimination or harassment is observed by or reported to a university official, that official must either take appropriate action to resolve the matter or refer the case to the office for institutional equity and compliance.10
- Review of policy
This policy will be reviewed within three years after the latest revisions are implemented and revised as appropriate. This policy is subject to review at any other time deemed necessary by the president, general counsel or the office for institutional equity and compliance.
2 Under certain circumstances, a student-employee respondent may be required to answer to proceedings concerning both employment and student status.
3 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discusses the issue of isolated instances of harassment in its Policy Guidance on Sexual Harassment. The Policy Guidance provides in part: Unless the conduct is quite severe, a single incident or isolated incidents of offensive sexual conduct or remarks generally do not create an abusive environment…A "hostile environment" claim generally requires a showing of a pattern of offensive conduct. In contrast, in "quid pro quo" cases a single sexual advance may constitute harassment if it is linked to the granting or denial of employment benefits. But a single unusually severe incident of harassment may be sufficient to constitute sexual harassment; the more severe the harassment, the less need to show a repetitive series of incidents. This is particularly true when the harassment is physical.
Compliance manual, Vol. 3, No. 137)
4 This definition is based upon the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's definition of sexual harassment. 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1604.11. See also section 4.20 in the code of student rights and responsibilities.
5 See section X - Consensual sexual or romantic relationships of this policy.
7 See the office for institutional equity and compliance complaint procedures section 2.2.4
8 See the office for institutional equity and compliance complaint procedures section 2.3
9 See the office for institutional equity and compliance complaint procedures section 2.
10 See the office for institutional equity and compliance complaint procedures section 2.2.4
Prior versions approved September 15, 2005, amended July 1, 2013 by Board of Governors.