Sexual Harassment Policy

William Paterson University of New Jersey is committed to developing and sustaining a community where all can learn and work together free from harassment and exploitation. This policy is intended to address all members of the university community including students, faculty, librarians, professional staff, clerical staff, maintenance, campus police and security, managers, administrators, and the Board of Trustees as well as any vendors doing business with the University.

Sexual harassment encompasses any sexual attention that is unwanted. Sexual harassment can be verbal, visual, or physical. It can range from repeated unwelcome sexual flirtation and inappropriate, gender-based, put-downs of individuals or group of people to physical abuse, such as sexual assault or rape. Whether particular verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct constitutes harassment in violation of this policy will depend upon all the circumstances, the context in which the conduct occurs, and the frequency, severity, and pattern of the conduct.

The University recognizes that even the possibility of harassment is destructive to individuals, to groups and to the community. While sexual harassment most often takes place in situations where there is a power differential between the persons involved,

the University recognizes that sexual harassment may occur between persons of the same status. Sexual harassment may also occur between persons of the same sex. Sexual harassment contaminates teacher/student and supervisor/subordinate relationships as well as those among student peers and faculty or staff colleagues. When, through fear of reprisal, a student, staff member, or faculty member submits, or is pressured to submit, to unwanted sexual attention, the entire community is undermined. The University will not tolerate behavior among members of the community which creates an unacceptable working or educational environment, and it will initiate appropriate sanctions against the offender.

A. Legal Definitions

Effective September 1, 1993, all New Jersey State departments, colleges/universities, and authorities have been required to abide by the State's Sexual Harassment Policy. This policy follows federal and state laws as outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended; N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et. Seq.; Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments; N.J.S.A. 11A: 1-1 et.seq. N.J.A.C. 4A:7-1.3.

1. Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to:

  • Gender harassment: generalized gender-based remarks and behavior.
  • Seductive behavior: inappropriate, unwanted, and offensive physical or verbal sexual advances.
  • Sexual coercion: coercion of sexual activity by threat of punishment.
  • Sexual assault: gross sexual imposition, like touching, fondling, grabbing, or assault.

2. For general policy purposes, sexual harassment may be described as unwelcome sexual advances, requests to engage in sexual conduct, and other physical and expressive behavior of a sexual nature. The Courts have classified cases in two ways:

  • Quid-pro-quo: when submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic status, and/or submission or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis of employment decisions or academic decisions affecting that individual. Quid-pro-quo harassment is equally unlawful whether the person resists and suffers the threatened harm or submits and thus avoids the threatened harm.
  • Hostile environment: when such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's academic or professional performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or demeaning employment or educational environment. A cause of action is established if the complained-of-conduct would not have occurred but for the student or employee's gender, and it was severe or pervasive enough to make a reasonable person of the same sex believe that the conditions of learning and/or employment are altered and the environment is hostile or abusive.

The Courts have recognized that harassing behaviors affect a third party when academic or work benefits are denied because of the sex-biased coercion of another student or employee; or when the conduct directed at another student or employee is so pervasive as to create a hostile learning or working environment. Favoritism, or perceptions of favoritism, that result from consensual relationships may also contribute to a hostile work or learning environment and constitute third party harassment.

B. Reasonable Woman Standard

The Courts have recognized that the difficulty in defining the unwelcome, hostile, or offensive nature of an environment may lie in the fact that men and women may disagree as to what constitutes offensive, degrading conduct. In response to this key issue, the courts have adopted a "reasonable woman" standard. Under this standard, attention is focused on the victim's perspective. In the typical case, in which a woman is the target of harassment, a claim would be found to be harassment if a "reasonable woman" would consider the action hostile or offensive. In other cases, the standard of the Court would concern whether or not a reasonable person of the same gender, similarly situated, considered the action hostile or offensive.

C. Examples of Sexual Harassment

As reported in Sexual Harassment on Campus: A Policy and Program of Deterrence by the American Council on Education, examples of harassment include, but are not limited to:

  1. Threats that submission to sexual advances will be a condition of employment, work status, promotion, grades, living situations, or letters of recommendation (the threat can be overt or implied from the conduct, circumstances, and relationship of the person involved).
  2. Unwelcome sexual advances, whether direct propositions of a sexual nature or subtle pressure for sexual activity.
  3. Unwanted attempts to change a professional or education relationship into a personal one.
  4. Verbal abuse of a sexual nature.
  5. Repeated sexually oriented kidding, teasing, joking, or flirting.
  6. Graphic commentary about an individual's body, clothing, sexual prowess, or sexual deficiencies.
  7. Leering, whistling, touching, pinching, or brushing against another's body.
  8. Offensive, crude language.
  9. Display of objects or pictures which are sexual in nature that would create a hostile or offensive work, learning, or living environment.
  10. Behavior of a sexual nature that discomforts or humiliates and demonstrates insensitivity.

D. Consensual Relations

The University's educational mission is promoted by professionalism in employee/student relationships. Consensual, amorous relationships between supervisors and their subordinates, or faculty and students undermine the ethical integrity of the University community. Such relationships are problematic for the people involved as well as having a negative impact on others in the work environment.

Moreover, other students and employees may be affected by such unprofessional behavior because it places, or may be perceived to place, the staff/faculty member in a position to favor or advance one person's interest at the expense of others and implicitly makes obtaining benefits contingent on amorous or sexual favors.

Therefore, no staff member shall have an amorous relationship (consensual or otherwise) with a student who is enrolled in his or her course and/or whose academic work is being evaluated by the faculty member. No staff member shall have an amorous relationship with a student whom the staff member has the power to penalize or reward.

A staff/faculty member who fails to withdraw from participation in activities or decisions that may reward or penalize a student with whom the staff/faculty member has or has had an amorous relationship will be deemed to have violated his or her ethical obligation to the student, other students, colleagues, and the University.

Supervisory staff/faculty who engage in consensual relationships with individuals they supervise or their students should be aware that they are violating University policy and are subject to formal disciplinary action, up to, and including, removal.

E. Processing Complaints

Copies of the Sexual Harassment Policies and Complaint Procedure can be also obtained from these offices:

Dean of Student Development

Ext.2179

Women's Center

Ext. 2946

Associate VP for Human Resources

Ext. 2887

Associate VP & Dean of Graduate Studies, Research & Academic Administration

Ext. 2121

Director of Employment Equity and Diversity

Ext. 2389

A more inclusive list of persons serving as sexual harassment contact persons is available through the offices listed above.