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- Does sexual harassment only involve the behavior of males toward females and instructors toward students?
No. Persons of either gender may behave in sexually harassing ways toward members of their own or the opposite gender. Similarly, instructors may engage in sexually harassing behaviors toward other instructor colleagues or students, and students may sexually harass student peers or instructors.
- What are some examples of sexually harassing behavior?
Remember, harassment directed at one person may create a broader environment of harassment since others who have witnessed the behavior may feel uncomfortable with the situation.
- Sexual jokes or innuendoes
- Sexual comments about an individual's body or clothing
- Displaying sexually suggestive pictures or cartoons
- Rubbing or brushing up against a person
- Asking questions about a person's sexual life
- Spreading lies or rumors about someone's sexual life
- Pressure for dates
- Suggestive looks
- Sexist comments
- Demeaning comments about one's sexual orientation
- Offensive graffiti
- Pressure for sexual activity
- Sexual assault
- What can I do as an instructor to discourage the creation of a sexually harassing environment?
Even words and actions that are not intentionally harassing, may be experienced as such by others... so be mindful of how your behavior and the behavior of your students may be experienced by others in your class. The following tips will help to decrease the likelihood of harassment occuring in your class:
- Include a sexual harassment policy statement in your syllabus and discuss it explicitly with your class. This will help your students to understand what sexual harassment is and clearly establish that such behavior will not be tolerated.
- When meeting with students, choose a public setting or make sure the room in which you are meeting (e.g. your office) is open to the public in some way (e.g., keep the door ajar, don't cover windows with a view into your office). Public access will help to create a professional rather than intimate environment for your meeting.
- Avoid asking students to do you favors. When instructors ask students to do favors for them, they often are perceived as having special status in relation to the instructor. Students may see this special status as romantic or sexual interest in nature. In such circumstances, favored students may feel their grade is in jeapordy if they refuse the requests of the instructor. Other students also may perceive this pressure or they may resent what they see as biased grading based on sexual interest.
- What can I do if a student is sexually harassing another student in my class?
- If sexual harassment does occur in your class, address the situation immediately. For example, if a student is making sexist comments during a class discussion, you can stop the discussion and help the class to understand why the comments are sexist and inappropriate. If a student is suggestively looking at others, try to interrupt the behavior by refocusing the student's attention on the class activity or topic and talk with the student after class about the behavior.
- Keep a record of the incident, including the date, time, location, a description of the harassing comments and behaviors, who was involved, others who witnessed the behavior, how you responded, and how the student/s reacted to your response both immediately and during following class periods.
- Seek advice from appropriate others such as a teaching supervisor or mentor, your department head, and/or sexual harassment resources on campus (see Links section).
- Is it ok to date one of my students?
Dating one of your students (either a current student or one you may have in a future class) is strongly discouraged. You, as an instructor, have power over your students since you are in the position of praising and critiquing their work, assigning their grade, and may be asked to provide recommendations for their future schooling or employment. This power differential makes it difficult to truly have a consensual dating relationship between instructor and student. In addition, the student may hesitate to break off such a relationship due to a fear that the instructor will use grades or recommendations to punish him/her for terminating the relationship. Finally, instructor-student dating relationships can have negative consequences for other students in the class as well as class dynamics due to perceptions of favoritism on the part of the instructor for the student he or she is dating.