Belmont University values the dignity and worth of every individual, recognizing that each person is unique with certain rights and responsibilities; therefore, any form of harassment is contrary to our Community Commitments and to the Christian standards of conduct expected of all members of the university community. Employees and students have the right to be free from harassment. Employees and students are prohibited from engaging in harassing conduct toward any other person.
The university's prohibition of harassment applies to members of the university community, visitor's to the campus and contractors and others who do business with the university or who use university facilities. The policy prohibiting harassment applies regardless of the gender of the harasser or of the person being harassed. The policy applies to harassment that takes place in any relationship, including both those involving a power differential and those between peers, colleagues and co-workers.
Harassment denotes any conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for another individual when:
- submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of instruction, employment, or participation in University activities;
- submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for evaluation in making academic or personnel decisions affecting the individual;
- such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work, academic performance, or participation in University activities or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive University environment.
Harassing conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Acts that invade the privacy of another individual (including but not limited to repeated contact in person, in writing, via phone, online, etc.), so as to create fear for that individual's life or personal safety.
- Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination prohibited by civil rights law including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and university policy. It is defined as unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. 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 and drawings in physical or virtual/online contexts.
- PHYSICAL CONDUCT such as assault, blocking normal movement or interference with activities 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, participation in University activities, or to avoid some other loss and offers of job benefits or academic opportunity in return for sexual favors.
- OBSCENE MATERIALS, which must be both (1) materials which a reasonable person, applying contemporary Belmont community standards, would conclude they are expressions of an explicitly sexual nature and appeal to prurient sexual/physical interests, and (2) materials that, given their content and their particular usage or application, lack any redeeming literary, scientific, political, artistic or social value.
- Harassment based on Protected Categories: In addition to prohibiting sexual harassment, the University also prohibits harassment based upon an individual’s race, sex, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, or sexual orientation. For these purposes, prohibited harassment includes, without limitation, slurs, jokes, other verbal, graphic, or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual, or that of his/her relatives, friends or associates.
In determining whether an alleged behavior constitutes harassment, the full context in which the incident occurred will be considered. Any retaliatory action or behavior taken toward an alleged victim as a consequence of his or her decision to report a violation, pursue conduct action or criminal prosecution, is prohibited. Retaliation by either party may result in immediate disciplinary action.
Rights and Responsibilities Relative to Relationships between University Employees and 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.
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, etc. 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.
Likewise, a power differential must be considered for any interactions between members of the faculty and staff and Belmont students that would constitute immoral conduct on the part of the faculty or staff member, 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) or conduct that would be contrary to Belmont's mission, vision and values (e.g., inappropriate off campus fraternization, underage drinking or any drug and alcohol abuse).
Filing a Report
It is university policy to respond promptly and sensitively to all complaints of harassment. Once the university is made aware of a possible situation of 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 harassment response system is designed to offer a number of choices and access points for dealing with the problem.
Any person who engages in harassment will be subject to disciplinary action ranging from a warning to discharge, if appropriate.
- Steps You Can Take on Your Own
All of the following are appropriate ways to confront sexual harassment directly:
- 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 it 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, follow the procedures outlined below.
Many reports of harassment can be handled informally. If you believe you have been the victim of harassment, report it to your department chair, dean (including dean of students), director, supervisor, or team leader. The university requires that anyone with supervisory responsibility who receives a report of conduct that, if proven, would constitute harassment, to disclose the report to Human Resources (for employees) or the Dean of Students (for students). An investigation into the situation will begin, including initiating effective action against any harassment and follow up to ensure harassment has stopped. The dean of students or director of Human Resources will discuss and seek agreement with the complainant on remedial action to be taken
- Formal Complaint
Members of the University committee may file a formal written complaint that alleges a violation of the university's policy against harassment. If the complaint involves only university employees, it should be sent to the director of Human Resources. Any complaints involving students should be directed to the dean of students. Upon receipt of a formal written complaint, the dean of students or director of Human Resources will designate a person to begin the 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 dean of students or director of Human Resources, depending on which channel the complaint was investigated, for a final decision. Either the dean of students or the director of Human Resources may choose to interview persons involved, direct further investigation or hold a formal hearing on the matter. If formal hearings are ordered, no party shall be allowed to be represented by legal counsel. This process shall be completed and a final decision communicated on the merits of the complaint within 60 days of receipt of the complaint by the university. The decision shall be final. Throughout this process the university will strive to keep the identities of the complaining party and accused confidential.