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Sexual Harassment Policy

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual attention that is a form of illegal sex discrimination under federal and state law. It is usually repeated behavior, but could be one serious incident. Sexual harassment may be blatant, as in:
  • Deliberate touching, pinching, caressing.
  • Attempts to fondle or kiss,
  • Pressure for dates or sex,
  • Requests for sex in exchange for grades or promotions.
  • OR sexual harassment may be more subtle - like staring, sexual jokes, or teasing, sexually demeaning remarks.

Although such forms of harassment may be unintentional, persistent or severe sexual behavior and words are harassing if a reasonable person would find them intimidating, hostile, or offensive, or if they unreasonably interfere with a person's academic or work performance. When the harassing conduct is not sexual, but is based on someone's gender, it can also contribute to creating a hostile environment.

Sexual harassment usually occurs in situations where one person has power over another, but it can also occur between equals. Both men and women can be sexually harassed, though women are most often victimized. Sexual harassment can also occur between members of the same sex.

What is The University's Policy?

The University of Maine System is committed to providing a positive education and work environment for all students and staff. Sexual harassment, whether intentional or not, undermines the quality of this climate and is against the law. The University has a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that all students and employees can learn and work in an environment free of sexual harassment. The Board of Trustees has adopted this policy regarding sexual harassment:

Sexual harassment of either employees or students is a violation of federal and state laws. It is the policy of the University of Maine System that no member of the University System community may sexually harass another. In accordance with its policy of complying with non-discrimination laws, the University System will regard freedom from sexual harassment as an individual employee and student right which will be safeguarded as a matter of policy. Any employee or student will be subject to disciplinary action for violations of this policy.

In conformance with this policy, the University of Maine System will ensure fair and impartial investigations that will protect the rights of the person(s) filing sexual harassment complaints, the person(s) complained against, and the institution or unit. Retaliation against anyone who makes a complaint process will not be tolerate.

Consenting relationships may constitute sexual harassment under this policy. When a professional power differential exists between members of the University of Maine system and a romantic or sexual relationship develops, there is a potential for abuse of that power, even in relationships of apparent mutual consent. Faculty and staff members are strongly advised not to engage in such relationships. Further, the University System prohibits the abuse of power in romantic or sexual relationships.

To assure that power is not abused and to maintain an environment free of sexual harassment, a faculty or staff member must eliminate any currently or potential conflict or interest by removing himself or herself from decisions affecting the other person in the relationship. Decisions affecting the other person include grading, evaluating, supervising, or otherwise influencing that person's education, employment, housing, or participation in athletics or any other University System activity.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or education;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting the individual; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual's academic or work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive employment, education or living environment.
What Can You Do About Sexual Harassment?

As someone who has experienced or may experience sexual harassment-

Set your own boundaries. Say "NO" emphatically and clearly when you are asked to go places, do things, respond to questions, or engage in situations that make you uncomfortable. Do not worry about offending the other person or hurting his or her ego. Take care of yourself first.

Be aware of situations and people who may harm you. Don't ignore other's warnings about particular people or social settings. Acknowledge their concern for you and for themselves. Trust your own instincts about possible danger.

In an uncomfortable situation, be direct and honest, and remove yourself from the situation immediately. Regardless of your previous behavior or signals you may have given earlier, you have the absolute right to halt any sexual exchange at any time. Accept this right and act on it. If someone tells you to stop and encounter, listen to her or him and respect that request. Anything else is harassment.

Tell someone. Being quiet or stoic about sexual harassment lets it continue. Talk to other students or co-workers; you may not be the only one harassed by this person. Report the harassment to the appropriate University staff. Do not blame yourself and do not delay.

Keep records. Write down dates, places, times, witnesses, and the nature of the harassment - what was done and said and your response. Later it may be important for you to remember the details of incidents.

As a student: respect the rights and preferences of all members of the University community. Support another student who comes to you with a problem by encouraging her or him to report sexual harassment to appropriate University personnel. Be aware that sexual harassment complaints against students often involve excessive alcohol consumption.

As a faculty member: make sure you are aware of how classroom behavior and interaction with students may constitute, or be construed as, sexual harassment. Discuss the issue with your colleagues, perhaps your students.

As a supervisor: you have a special, legal responsibility to stop sexual harassment. The University could be liable, and you could be found personally liable by a court or government agency, if you sexually harass someone. In the University, supervisors include department chairs and directors, administrators, and any other person who is responsible for the work of another employee, including a student employee. Employers may be legally responsible if they knew or should have known about sexual harassment policy. Encourage the person to contact the campus Equal Opportunity Officer or other campus complaint advisor as soon as possible. In addition, it is essential that you promptly report the situation to the Equal Opportunity Officer.

As an employee: report any harassment you become aware of, and be sensitive to how others, view what you say and do.

How Are Complaints Handled?

The University has an Equal Opportunity Complaint Procedure to deal promptly and fairly with concerns and complaints about discrimination or harassment. Any student or employee who feels that he or she has experienced sexual harassment, and anyone with knowledge of an incident, should contact his or her supervisor, the campus Equal Opportunity Officers (if the alleged harasser is an employee), or Student Judicial Officer (if the alleged harasser is a student) as soon as possible after the incident. Any supervisor who becomes aware of a problem should promptly contact the Equal Opportunity Officer. If the Equal Opportunity Officer has a substantial conflict of interest regarding either the complaint or the person accused an alternate investigator may be requested.

Complaints are handled as confidentially as possible to protect the rights of both the complainant and the person accused. Retaliation against anyone who makes a complaint or participates in a complaint process is not tolerated. The complainant and the person accused have certain rights to representation during the complaint process.

The Equal Opportunity Officer discusses informal and formal options for resolving the problem. The goal of the informal process is to seek a resolution acceptable to everyone involved. Many concerns can be addressed through the informal process, which provides the maximum privacy and an opportunity for the earliest possible resolution.

If the complainant chooses or if a problem cannot be resolved informally, the complainant may request a formal investigation. When the person accused of sexual harassment is a student and a formal complaint is filed, the Student Judicial Officer conducts the investigation according to the procedure in the Student Conduct Code.
When the person accused is an employee, the Equal Opportunity Officer conducts the Investigation. An appropriate administrator then decides whether the complaint has been substantiated and what corrective action will be taken. When charges of sexual harassment are substantiated, severe discipline may result, up to and including termination for an employee or dismissal for a student.

Under certain circumstances, the campus findings and decisions about a complaint can be appealed to the Equal Opportunity Coordinator for the University System. Copies of the Equal Opportunity Complaint Procedure are available at your campus library (on reserve), in the Equal Opportunity, Human Resources, and Student Affairs Offices and on the Web at www.maine.edu/system/hr/eocp.php. All members of the University community are encouraged to use this procedure. Sexual harassment complaints may also be filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission, State House Station 51, Augusta, ME 04333, (207) 624-6050. Employees may choose instead or in addition to file a grievance.

Where Can You Go For Help?

If you think that you are being sexually harassed, or if you have information about sexual harassment, seek help - the sooner the better. Report sexual harassment to your supervisor or Equal Opportunity Officer, or to the Student Conduct Officer if the alleged harasser is a student. In addition to the individuals listed here, you may talk with any faculty member, administrator, or staff person with whom you feel most comfortable, including your supervisor, the harasser's supervisor, or your resident assistant. If you need personal help in dealing with the effects of sexual harassment, contact the campus counseling center (students) or employee assistance program (employees).

If you have questions or concerns about sexual harassment contact:

University of Maine at Presque Isle

Barbara DeVaney
EEO/AA Director
South Hall
768-9750

To report harassment by a student, contact:

James Stepp
Director of Residence Life
Emerson Annex
768-9560