Statement on sexual harassment
Wheaton College is committed to maintaining an academic environment free of discrimination and all forms of coercion that impede the academic freedom, security, or well-being of any member of the community. Sexual harassment is inimical to such an environment. As part of this commitment, the College shall, on a regular basis, undertake to educate the whole community about sexual harassment.
It is the policy of Wheaton College that no member of the College community, including faculty, students, and staff, may sexually harass another. Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature may constitute sexual harassment:
- When submission to such conduct is made (either explicitly or implicitly) a term or condition of an individual's education or employment;
- When submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; or,
- When such conduct substantially and unreasonably interferes with an individual's academic or professional performance; creates an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or sexually offensive educational, employment, or living environment; or implies a discriminatory hostility toward an individual because of her or his sex or sexual orientation.
Sexual harassment is unlawful and will not be tolerated by Wheaton. Further, any retaliation against an individual who has complained about sexual harassment or retaliation against individuals for cooperating with an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint is similarly unlawful and will not be tolerated.
Complaints may be made either orally or in writing. When a complaint is received, we will promptly investigate the allegation in a fair and expeditious manner. The investigation will be conducted in such a way as to maintain confidentiality to the extent practicable under the circumstances. Our investigation will include a private interview with the person filing the complaint and with witnesses. We will also interview the person alleged to have committed sexual harassment. When we have completed our investigation, we will to the extent appropriate, inform the person filing the complaint and the person alleged to have committed the conduct of the results of that investigation. If it is determined that inappropriate conduct has occurred, we will act promptly to eliminate the offending conduct, and where it is appropriate, we will also impose disciplinary action.
Complaints of sexual harassment made against members of the faculty should be lodged with the Provost or her or his designated appointee. Complaints made against members of the staff should be lodged with the Director of Human Resources or the Vice President of Finance and Operations or their designee. Complaints made against students should be lodged with the Dean of Students or her or his designee. Insofar as feasible, complaints shall be investigated by the officers of the College or their designees in confidence. These persons are also available to discuss any concerns you may have and to provide information to you about our policy on sexual harassment and our complaint process.
If these measures fail, the Provost, Director of Human Resources, Vice President for Finance and Operations, Dean of Students, or their designees may initiate one of the following procedures:
- If the subject of the complaint is a member of the faculty, the "Review and Appeals Procedures for Certain Faculty Grievances," (Faculty Legislation, Part I, Article IV, Section E)
- If the subject of the complaint is a staff member, the Employee Grievance Procedure (Staff Handbook).
- If the subject of the complaint is a student, the procedures set forth in the Student Government Association Constitution, Article V.
If it is determined that inappropriate conduct has been committed by one of our community members, we will take such action as is appropriate under the circumstances. Such action may range from counseling to termination from employment or expulsion, and may include such other forms of disciplinary action as are deemed appropriate under the circumstances.
Sexual harassment may range from overt acts of sexual coercion, including rape, to subtle indications of sexual hostility that may not be unlawful. It is the intention of these "Interpretive Comments" to provide examples (but not a definitive or exhaustive list) of conduct which constitute sexual harassment, whether or not unlawful.
Demands for sexual favors in exchange for better grades or job security are examples of the most overt sexual harassment. Milder suggestions that academic or employment conditions may improve if the relationship is sexualized also constitute sexual harassment. Any negative consequences resulting from an individual's rejection of advances (such as lowered grades, expressions of hostility, or more difficult work conditions) are also elements of that harassment.
Harassing behavior is not limited to requests for sexual favors. It includes other unwelcome sexual conduct that can take the following forms: verbal, such as sexual innuendoes, insults, demeaning comments or jokes about gender-specific traits or sexual orientation, discussion of one's sexual activities, etc.; non-verbal, such as obscene gestures, whistling, displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures or cartoons, etc.; and with an individual's performance, create an intimidating environment, or indicate discriminatory hostility.
Perhaps the most difficult question related to sexual harassment concerns intimate relationships between two individuals, one of whom is in a position of authority (for example, between a faculty member and a student, a supervisor and an employee, an administrator and a faculty member, senior faculty and junior faculty). It is incumbent upon those with authority not to abuse, or seem to abuse, the power with which they are entrusted.
Amorous relationships that might be appropriate under other circumstances always threaten the integrity of the educational process when they occur between instructor or administrator and any student for whom he or she has direct professional responsibility. Administrators and faculty should be aware that any romantic or sexual involvement with their students, or others under their authority, makes them liable for official action against them, particularly if a complaint is initiated by the student or employee.
The legal definition of sexual harassment is broad, and, in addition to the above examples, other sexually oriented conduct, whether it is intended or not, that is unwelcome and has the effect of creating an environment that is hostile, offensive, intimidating, or humiliating may also constitute sexual harassment.
It is not advisable (or possible) to formulate a policy so specific that all conceivable incidents are clearly included or excluded from the definition of sexual harassment. Individual cases will be addressed through proper grievance channels. Decisions about alleged improper conduct and determination of appropriate action by the institution will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Sexual Harassment by Visitors
An important area of concern relates to visitors to the campus. The College does not condone sexual harassment by individuals visiting students or attending Wheaton functions; however, it does not have jurisdiction to enforce this policy beyond members of the community (as defined in the policy). If anyone is the victim of sexual harassment by visitors, she or he should call Public Safety, who will escort the visitors off campus and/or take other appropriate action. If visitors' behavior is illegal (for example, disturbing the peace, vandalism, sexual assault, etc.), they are subject to arrest. The best way to reduce sexual harassment by visitors is for all members of the community to make it clear that such behavior is not acceptable at Wheaton.