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Prohibited Forms of Discrimination

Vassar College prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or religious belief, citizenship status, sex, marital status, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, military service or affiliation, genetic information, age, or any other characteristics protected by law. 

If you believe you are experiencing any form of discrimination or harassment, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined by law and includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute harassment when:

1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a college activity;

2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for or a factor in decisions affecting that individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a college activity; or

3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive, or abusive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a college activity. The college considers such behavior, whether physical or verbal, to be a breach of its standards of conduct and will seek to prevent such incidents and take corrective action when sexual harassment occurs.

Generally speaking, there are two types of sexual harassment, “quid pro quo” and hostile environment.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo (meaning “this for that”) sexual harassment occurs when it is stated or implied that an academic or employment decision about a student or employee depends upon whether the student or employee submits to conduct of a sexual nature. Quid pro quo sexual harassment also occurs when it is stated or implied that an individual must submit to conduct of a sexual nature in order to participate in a college program or activity. See FAQs for examples of college programs and activities. So, for example, if an employee is made to believe that a promotion is likely if the employee goes on a date with the employee’s supervisor, the employee is possibly being subjected to “quid pro quo” sexual harassment.

Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

A sexually harassing hostile environment occurs when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature (see examples below) creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive working or learning environment or is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it affects a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from a college program or activity.

While a person engaging in harassing behavior most often has some form of power or authority over the person being harassed, that is not always the case. The harasser can be a peer of the person being harassed. Sometimes the harasser is harassing a person who has power over them. For example, a supervisee can sexually harass a supervisor, or a student can sexually harass a faculty member.

To determine whether a hostile environment exists, the college examines the context, nature, scope, frequency, duration, and location of incidents, as well as the identity, number, and relationships of the persons involved. Another factor in determining if a hostile environment exists is whether, on balance, the harassing conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent as to alter the conditions of the environment and create an abusive environment, when judged both objectively (meaning that a “reasonable person” would find the environment hostile) and subjectively (meaning the affected individual felt the environment was hostile). In some cases, a single incident may be so severe as to create a hostile environment. Such incidents may include injury to persons or property, or conduct threatening injury to persons or property.

Conduct of a Sexual Nature

The following descriptions, while not all-inclusive, will help you understand the types of behavior that are considered “conduct of a sexual nature” and that, if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment:

  • Unwanted sexual statements: Sexual or “dirty” jokes, comments on physical attributes, spreading rumors about or rating others as to sexual activity or performance, talking about one’s sexual activity in front of others and displaying or distributing sexually explicit drawings, pictures and/or written material. Unwanted sexual statements can be made in person, in writing, electronically (email, instant messaging, blogs, web pages, etc.) and otherwise.
  • Unwanted personal attention: Letters, telephone calls, visits, pressure for sexual favors, pressure for unnecessary personal interaction and pressure for dates where a sexual/romantic intent appears evident but remains unwanted.
  • Unwanted physical or sexual advances:Touching, hugging, kissing, fondling, leering, exposing oneself, touching oneself sexually for others to view, sexual assault, intercourse or other sexual activity.

Notice

The college cannot address sexual harassment unless it is aware it is occurring. Once the college has notice, it has a responsibility to respond. The response will be designed to determine whether the behavior at issue is sexual harassment and, if it is, the college will take action reasonably calculated to prevent recurrence and ensure that individuals are not restricted in their participation in or receipt of benefits of any college program or activity.

Where to go for help

If you believe you are experiencing sexual harassment, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

Gender Discrimination

Sex (Gender)

Discrimination and harassment are also prohibited on the basis of a person’s gender. Gender discrimination can occur when persons are excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, any college program or activity because of their gender. For example, if a woman applied for a job on campus and was deemed the most qualified, yet was not hired because the hiring official was more comfortable working with men, the woman would have been discriminated against on the basis of her gender. 

Pregnancy

The college’s policy prohibiting gender discrimination also prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and childbirth.

Hostile Environment Gender Harassment

The college will not tolerate the creation or existence of an environment that is hostile on the basis of gender. Such a hostile environment is defined as harassing conduct (e.g., physical, verbal, graphic or written) related to gender that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to (1) interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the college’s programs and activities or (2) unreasonably interfere with an individual’s work or academic performance by creating an objectively intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or learning environment. Whether the harassing conduct is considered severe, persistent, or pervasive depends upon the context in which the behavior occurred.

Where to go for help

If you believe you are experiencing gender discrimination, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

Race, Color, and National Origin Discrimination

As outlined in the college’s nondiscrimination statement, no Vassar College student, faculty or staff member may, on the basis of their race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any college program or activity (see FAQs for examples of college programs and activities). Conduct that has such an effect and that consists of different treatment of students, faculty or staff on the basis of race, color or national origin violates college policy.

For example, a student could not be denied the opportunity to participate in a student organization solely because the student is from a particular country or has ancestors from a particular country.

Hostile Environment Race, Color or National Origin Harassment

The college will not tolerate harassment on the basis of race, color or national origin. A hostile environment of this type is defined as an environment that, through harassing conduct, becomes sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from a college program or activity. See FAQs for examples of college programs and activities.

To determine whether a hostile environment exists, the college examines the context, nature, scope, frequency, duration, and location of incidents, as well as the identity, number, and relationships of the persons involved. Another factor in determining if a hostile environment exists is whether, on balance, the harassing conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent as to alter the conditions of the environment and create an abusive environment, when judged both objectively (meaning that a “reasonable person” would find the environment hostile) and subjectively (meaning the affected individual felt the environment was hostile). In some cases, a single incident may be so severe as to create a hostile environment. Such incidents may include injury to persons or property, or conduct threatening injury to persons or property.

Where to go for help

If you believe you are experiencing race, color, or national origin harassment, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.