Catalog & Student Handbook

Sexual Harassment

Policy on Sexual Harassment

All Berea College employees and students are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the high human and spiritual values that arise from the College’s commitments and traditions. The College is committed to study, reflection, work, and social interaction that manifest these high values and foster healthy human and spiritual development. This requires an environment of mutual respect free of religious, racial, or sexual discrimination and free from harassment.

Berea College specifically prohibits sexual harassment of students, employees, or visitors, and is committed to investigating and resolving all such complaints. Such conduct will result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, whether the offender is faculty, staff, administrator, student, or trustee. The policy applies also to vendors, contractors, or other persons doing business with the College, in which case-appropriate recommendations and business decisions will be made. Also prohibited is retaliation through discrimination, intimidation, threat, coercion, or any other means against anyone who has reported sexual harassment or filed a grievance alleging sexual harassment.

In prohibiting sexual harassment in all its forms, Berea seeks to preserve and enhance academic freedom for all members of the campus community. Nothing in this policy is intended to limit the freedom of inquiry, teaching, or learning necessary to the College’s educational purposes, or to inhibit scholarly, scientific, or artistic treatment of subject matter appropriate to an institution of higher education.

Explanation of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; as amended, by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; and, in Kentucky, by the Fair Employment Practices Act, KRS 344.010- .500, 207.170.

Sexual harassment involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical behaviors related to a person’s gender, sexual identity, or sexuality when:

  1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s academic advancement or employment;
  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions or academic decisions affecting such individual; or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or academic environment.

Items 1 and 2 above describe what is known as quid pro quo (this for that) harassment. This type of harassment involves promise of reward or threat of punishment, explicitly or implicitly, for sexual cooperation. In quid pro quo one incident is enough to constitute sexual harassment.

Item 3 above describes what is known as “hostile environment” harassment. Though this type of harassment is not always recognized, and often goes unreported and unpunished, it is nevertheless an offense under federal and College guidelines. Generally, a pattern of behavior is required to create a hostile environment, though such behavior may be so egregious that a single incident is enough to create such an environment.

Sexual Harassment Contains These Two Elements

  1. Sexual harassment is behavior that is unwanted and unwelcome
  2. Sexual harassment is behavior related to the gender, sexual identity, or sexuality of the person

Sexual harassment is behavior that is unwanted and unwelcome by the recipient. Because sexual conduct only becomes unlawful when it is unwelcome, it is important to note that most courts have not considered intent relevant in determining whether sexual harassment has occurred. Acquiescence is not evidence of consent. Acquiescence, especially to a person with authority to give or withdraw such things as employment or grades, or when the two individuals have unequal power, should not be considered evidence that the behavior is welcome.

Sexual harassment often occurs in situations where one person is in a position of power or authority over another, but it can occur where there is no evident power differential. Both women and men can be harassed, and harassment can be samesex harassment. Gender harassment is sex-based behavior that is non-sexual in nature.

Gender harassment does not involve sexual compliance but its effect is to dominate or degrade an individual or group of people. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines recommend that the “totality of the circumstances” be considered in determining whether sexual harassment has occurred. Thus, the appropriateness or legitimacy of behavior or objects is largely determined by the context and purpose of their presence in a particular situation. Harassment may be verbal, visual, or physical. Verbal harassment may include comments on one’s appearance or body; questions about one’s intimate relationships; graphic, obscene, degrading comments or jokes. Suggestive sounds, ridicule, written or oral invitations and advances that are inappropriate and unwelcome may be harassment.

Visual conduct that can be harassing includes such actions as leering, staring at certain body parts, displaying sexual objects, offensive posters or pictures.

Physical harassment includes any unwelcome hugging or touching, and certainly pinching, fondling, or kissing. Forced sexual contact, the most extreme of which is rape, is clearly physical harassment.

Examples of Sexual Harassment

The following types of conduct and situational examples illustrate only some of the ways in which sexual harassment may occur in violation of College policy:

  • Physical assault
  • Direct or subtle solicitation of sexual activity
  • Direct or subtle solicitation of sexual activity or sex-related behavior with a promise of reward or threat of punishment
  • Unwelcome physical contact such as touching, or physical interference which limits participation in or benefit from work or academic performance;
  • Unwelcome remarks about a person’s clothing or body;
  • Explicit sexual questions, innuendoes, gestures, jokes, stories, and anecdotes;
  • Display of sexually offensive posters, pictures, words, graffiti or messages;

Situational examples of conduct that may illustrate sexual harassment include:

  • Connie is attending an open house in a crowded room. She encounters several male students. As she moves past, one of the males turns his body next to hers and rubs across her breast. When she protests, he turns to his friends and laughs aloud saying: “She’s a real ice queen.”
  • Matt walks into a line at Food Service where he is pinched from behind by a female who says: “Nice buns!”
  • A female student who has received A’s and B’s in all of her courses unexpectedly receives a poor grade on her essay. She makes an appointment with the professor and meets at his office to discuss her concerns. The professor closes the office door and suggests that she might improve her grade if she “treats him right.”
  • Bob keeps a baseball bat in his residence hall room with the words “fag basher” painted on it. In an altercation with a gay student on the same floor, Bob grabs his bat and waves it around in an attempt to intimidate Jay;
  • While visiting his girl friend at a residence hall, Stuart sees a poster with his name on it along with several other male students. Next to each name is a number from 1 to 10 with a caption stating “Stud Poll” reflecting the results of an informal floor ballot among female students on the sex appeal of the students;
  • A male labor supervisor is known for his inclination to make sexual advances or remarks to women, frequently trying to touch them if they are alone or in an out of the way place. Others in the workplace are aware of this behavior but ignore it or feel it is none of their business;
  • A male coach remarks to a female colleague: “You’re awfully cranky today, must be that time of the month again.”

Reporting Sexual Harassment

Berea College is committed to investigating and resolving all complaints of sexual harassment. Complaints made against employees are handled according to procedures established for such.

Complaints against students fall under the jurisdiction of the Student Conduct Regulations and Community Judicial Code outlined in those sections of this publication.

All reports of sexual or other types of harassment should be directed by email to or by phone to 859.228.2323.

See Non- Discrimination Policy for information on reporting Disabilities Discrimination, and Harassment.

Notice and Disclaimer

This online publication is the official text of the Berea College Catalog & Student Handbook. Berea College reserves the right to amend, revise, or modify content within this publication at any time.

Posted: 7-21-2011Updated by Beverly Penkalski

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