Human Resources

Belmont University

Sexual Harassment Policy


Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination prohibited by civil rights law and university policy. Those who engage in sexual harassment may be subject to civil and criminal penalties as well as disciplinary action by the university. Sexual harassment occurs when unwanted attention of a sexual nature interferes with a person's ability to obtain an education, work or participate in recreational or social activities at Belmont University. Although most complaints of sexual harassment are filed by women, men can also be the targets of sexual harassment. Harassment can also occur between two people of the same sex, provided that the unwanted sexual attention is based on the target's gender. In most instances, the alleged harassment involves an abuse of power or authority by an individual who has control over the employment or academic status of another. However, harassment can occur between peers (e.g., student-against-student harassment).

Sexual harassment may result from an intentional or unintentional action and can be subtle or blatant. Harassing conduct may be verbal such as lewd comments or physical such as sexual assault. The context of events and the totality of the circumstances surrounding those events are important in determining whether a particular act or series of events constitutes sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment subverts the mission of the university and threatens the careers, educational experience, and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and visitors to the campus.  Sexual harassment is destructive to individual students, faculty, staff, and the academic community as a whole.  It blurs the boundary between professional and personal relationships by introducing a conflicting personal element into what should be a professional situation.  When, through fear of reprisal, a student, staff member, or faculty member submits or is pressured to submit to unwanted sexual attention, the university's ability to carry out its mission is seriously undermined.

Sexual harassment is especially destructive when it threatens relationships between teachers and students or supervisors and subordinates.  Through control over grades, salary decisions, changes in duties or workloads, recommendations for graduate study, promotion, and the like, a teacher or supervisor can have a decisive influence on a student, staff, or faculty member's career at the university and beyond.  Sexual harassment in such situations constitutes an abuse of the power inherent in a faculty member's or supervisor's position.

Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

Belmont University affirms its commitment to providing its students, faculty and staff with an environment free from implicit and explicit coercive behavior used to control, influence or affect the well-being of any member of the university community.� Sexual harassment of any person is inappropriate, unacceptable and contrary to the Christian standards of conduct expected of all members of the university community, students, staff and faculty.

Employees and students have the right to be free from sexual harassment. Belmont University has a "zero tolerance" policy toward sexual harassment. Employees and students are prohibited from engaging in sexually harassing conduct towards any other person. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature imposed on the basis of sex by an employee, agent or student of the university when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or status in a course, program or activity; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting such individual, including, but not limited to, grades or academic progress; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or educational environment.

The university's prohibition of sexual harassment applies to members of the university community, visitors to the campus, and contractors and others who do business with the university or who use university facilities. The policy prohibiting sexual harassment applies regardless of the gender of the harasser or of the person being harassed. The policy applies to sexual harassment that takes place in any relationship, including both those involving a power differential and those between peers, colleagues, and co-workers.

Any person who engages in sexual harassment will be subject to disciplinary action ranging from a warning to discharge, if appropriate. Those who have a complaint regarding sexual harassment should follow one of the dispute resolution procedures outlined in "Responding to Sexual Harassment," below.

Examples of Sexual Harassment Behavior

Unlawful sexual harassment may take many forms, including but not limited to:

VERBAL CONDUCT such as epithets, derogatory comments, slurs or unwanted sexual advances, invitations or comments. Other examples include such conduct as persistent, unwanted sexual or romantic attention, discussion of and rating sexual attributes and attractiveness, or asking or commenting about someone's sexuality or sex life.

VISUAL/ELECTRONIC CONDUCT such as derogatory posters, cartoons, calendars, drawings. NOTE: All members of the Belmont community should be aware that information transmitted electronically, by telephone, voice mail, email or other computer-based communication is subject to the same rules and laws that apply to written and oral communications. In addition, the university's computer use policy prohibits the communication of obscene or other inappropriate information over university-owned equipment.

PHYSICAL CONDUCT such as assault, blocking normal movement, or interference with work that is sexual in nature and directed at an individual because of his/her gender.

THREATS AND DEMANDS to submit to sexual requests in order to keep a job, or academic status, or to avoid some other loss, and offers of job benefits, or academic opportunity in return for sexual favors.

RETALIATION for having reported the harassment.

Responding to Sexual Harassment

Harassment is unlikely to stop until confronted. In some cases, particularly when the harassment is unintended, this may simply mean informing the person directly that his or her actions are offensive or unwelcome. Other situations may require an informal talk with accused by a supervisor, faculty member or Student Affairs professional, a formal reprimand, or a disciplinary hearing. The university supports and encourages all members of its community who believe they are being sexually harassed to take steps to end the situation.

Steps You Can Take on Your Own

All of the following are appropriate ways to confront sexual harassment:

Speak up at the time and say "NO" to the harasser. Be direct and firmly tell the harasser to stop.� Clearly communicate your disapproval of behavior that makes you uncomfortable and that you consider to be harassing.� There is no need to apologize or smile. Whether or not you confront harassing behavior immediately, you can still take actions, and the behavior can still be judged harassing.

Write a letter to the harasser, particularly if speaking up is uncomfortable or unsuccessful. First, describe in plain terms the behavior you found objectionable, then describe your feelings in response to it. State clearly that you want the behavior to stop. Send the letter by registered, return receipt mail, and keep a dated copy of the letter for yourself. Also, tell someone you trust about the letter.

Keep records, regardless of whether you have decided to take other action.

Document all incidents and conversations that involve sexual harassment, noting date, time, place, witnesses, and what was said and done.

Get help at any point. If the harassment does not stop, or if you would like advice on deciding how to deal with the harasser, contact one of the sexual harassment mediators (see Campus Resources page).

When You Need Help from Others

It is university policy to respond promptly and sensitively to all complaints of sexual harassment. Once the university is made aware of a possible situation of sexual harassment, the university responds. The university will strive to maintain the confidentiality of all parties to the fullest extent possible while meeting this legal mandate to act.The university's sexual harassment response system is designed to offer a number of choices and access points for dealing with the problem. The options include both informal and formal procedures. 

Informal Procedures

Many reports of sexual harassment can be handled informally.  If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment, report it to your department chair, dean (including dean of students), director, supervisor, team leader, or to a sexual harassment mediator. The university requires that anyone with supervisory responsibility who receives a report of conduct that, if proven, would constitute sexual harassment, disclose the report to a sexual harassment mediator. The mediator will investigate the situation, initiate effective action against any harassment, and follow up to ensure harassment has stopped.  They will discuss and seek agreement with the complainant on remedial action to be taken. For example, they may meet privately with the person whose behavior has been considered harassing to talk about acceptable and unacceptable behavior, without revealing the complainant's name or any identifying circumstances. They may, if the complainant desires, speak directly on the complainant's behalf. They may sponsor a sexual harassment workshop for the entire unit in which both parties work. If the harasser is a professor or supervisor, the mediators may make alternative arrangements for the complainant to work without further exposure to the harasser.

Formal Procedures

Upon receipt of a formal written complaint that alleges a violation of the university's policy against sexual harassment, the sexual harassment mediator or his/her designee shall begin an investigation of the charge(s).An investigation shall include an interview with the person filing the complaint, the person(s) accused of violating the anti-harassment policies and any person designated by either of the principle parties as witnesses to the incident in question. The investigation shall be completed within 30 days of the receipt of the complaint. The matter shall then be presented to the provost in the form of written recommendations. At the provost's discretion, he may accept the recommendations, interview the persons involved, direct further investigation by the mediator and/or hold formal hearings on the matter. If formal hearings are ordered, no party shall be allowed to by represented by legal counsel. This process shall be completed and the provost shall make a final decision on the merits of the complaint within 60 days of receipt of the complaint by the university. The decision of the provost shall be final. Throughout this process the university will keep the identities of the complaining party and accused confidential.

Choosing a Response to Sexual Harassment

Informal Response

Process is designed to end unwelcome behaviors.

A written statement of complaint is not necessary.

A sexual harassment mediator investigates concerns confidentially and acts to end any harassment.

Offender may voluntarily agree to change behavior or submit to sanctions imposed by mediator in lieu of formal investigation.

Formal Response

Process is designed to reach an official determination of whether sexual harassment occurred.

Written charges are filed.�

Complaint formally investigated by sexual harassment mediator.

Written report with recommendations made to provost who may hold hearings on the matter.

If sexual harassment is found, sanctions will be applied.

Campus Resources




Types of complaints

Sally McKay (Primary contact)

Director of Human Resources


Complaints regarding faculty and staff

Susan West

Vice President for Presidential Affairs


Complaints regarding faculty and staff

Jimmy Davis

Associate Provost and Dean of University College


Complaints regarding faculty and staff

Andrew Johnston

Associate Provost and Dean of Students


Complaints regarding harassment by students toward faculty and staff

Information and Questions about Sexual Harassment

Jason Rogers

Vice President for Administration and University Counsel


Questions about Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment Awareness Workshops

The university will conduct half-day workshops for faculty and staff on an on-going basis to promote awareness.These will be modifiable for use with intact groups, as requested or needed. The university also provides an on-line sexual harassment tutorial located on the Human Resources web site for faculty and staff to review.

Sexual Harassment and the Law

Sexual harassment of employees is a form of sexual discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment of students is a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.These laws apply to both the university and to individuals. Those who engage in sexual harassment may be subject to legal consequences, including civil and criminal penalties and monetary damages.

Sexual harassment as defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and adapted to the academic environment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct or written communication of a sexual nature, regardless of where such conduct might occur, when:

1. submission to the conduct is made either implicitly or explicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment with the university or of an individual's academic status or advancement in a university program, course, or activity;

2. submission to or rejection of the conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment or academic decisions affecting that individual; and/or

3. the conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.

Sexual harassment is distinguished from voluntary sexual relationships in that it introduces such elements as coercion, threat, unwanted sexual attention, and/or promises of academic or professional rewards in exchange for sexual favors. Sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior. Behavior that the courts have found to constitute sexual harassment is usually repeated or continues even after the individual makes it clear that it is unwanted.

There are two types of sexual harassment: (1) quid pro quo harassment and (2) harassment resulting from a hostile or abusive environment.

Quid pro quo harassment involves an explicit or implied exchange; that is, the granting or denial of a benefit or privilege in exchange for sexual considerations. The harasser uses submission to or rejection of the offensive conduct as the basis for decisions such as employment, promotion, transfer, selection for training, performance evaluation, or the basis for academic evaluation or recommendations.

Court decisions have established that a hostile or abusive working or learning environment may also constitute sexual harassment. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that, to constitute sexual harassment, the offensive conduct must be sufficiently severe and pervasive that a reasonable person would find the conditions of the working or learning environment to have been adversely affected. The employee or student must also subjectively perceive the environment to be hostile or abusive. However, it is not necessary that an employee's or student's psychological well-being be seriously affected or that she or he suffers injury for a discriminatorily hostile or abusive environment to exist. One utterance of an offensive epithet does not by itself constitute sexual harassment. The Supreme Court has indicated that whether an environment is hostile or abusive can be determined only by looking at all the circumstances, which may include the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it's physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance or a student's learning.

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Rights and Responsibilities Relative to Relationships with Students

Belmont's faculty and staff have the right and, in many cases, even the responsibility to maintain congenial relationships of a professional nature with students. Such relationships often enhance the educational processes of the university. The university also recognizes that faculty and staff have a right to have personal relationships with their students that are mutually desired. Such relationships can also occur between faculty and staff supervisors and those who report to them.

However, members of the faculty and staff must avoid any conduct with Belmont students or other Belmont employees that would constitute immoral conduct on the part of the faculty or staff member, or that would represent a professional conflict of interest for the employee (e.g., dating a student who is in one's class; dating a person that one supervises).

Romantic relations between faculty members and students or supervisors and those who report to them do not necessarily involve sexual harassment. However, the power faculty members exercise in evaluating students work, awarding grades, providing recommendations and the like will generally constrain a student's actual freedom to choose whether to enter into a romantic relationship with a faculty member. Similarly, the power supervisors exercise over the terms and conditions of their subordinates' employment will constrain the employee's freedom of choice. Where such power differentials exist, it may be exceedingly difficult to defend against a charge of sexual harassment on the grounds that the relationship was consensual. In internal proceedings, the university generally will be unsympathetic to a defense based on consent when the facts establish that the accused had the power to affect the complainant's academic or employment status or future prospects. Even genuinely consensual relationships between faculty or staff and students and between supervisors and those who report to them may be problematic. For example, they may result in favoritism or perceptions of favoritism that adversely affect the learning or work environment. Consensual relationships involving a power differential, therefore, may violate university policy and equal opportunity law. All university employees are expected to exercise good judgment and avoid such relationships. Failure to exercise good judgment may result in disciplinary action such as formal reprimand or suspension, or depending on the gravity and nature of the incident, it may be cause for discharge.