Sexual Harassment

It is the policy of Messiah University to prohibit sexual harassment of its employees and students in any form. In maintaining this policy the University seeks to assert basic Christian precepts, to affirm ethical standards universally accepted in the work place, and uphold existing laws. Any practice or behavior that constitutes sexual harassment will not be tolerated.

Sexual harassment is primarily a desire for a locus of control over the victim, intended to intimidate, coerce, embarrass, or degrade another person. Usually the aggressor has implied power over the victim such as a supervisor of an employee, faculty to student, or student to student. However, the roles could be reversed such that a student could attempt sexual harassment of faculty or staff. The result of this harassment is exploitation of power. In any form, such behavior undermines the atmosphere of trust and collegiality which Messiah University seeks to foster and is unacceptable.

While harassers may think that their words/actions are meaningless, the victim may be emotionally distraught or even internalize the events into physical symptoms. Emotive responses may include anger, embarrassment, fear, feeling intimidated, powerless, and degradation. Physical responses may include physical illnesses, withdrawing from social situations, drug and alcohol use to ease/lessen emotions and tension, and also distrust of previously trusted individuals. It is imperative that if you have been harassed, to contact the Department of Safety, Director of Human Resources, Engle Health Center, Dean of Students, or your RD (if a student).

Definition of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Guidelines were issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1980 incorporating sexual harassment in the workplace as a violation of Title VII. Under Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, as clarified by the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, gender may not be a basis for exclusion from participation, denial of benefits, or discrimination in any educational programs or activity.

The following conduct, as outlined in the Equal employment Opportunity Commission Sexual Discrimination Guidelines and state law, is illegal:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting an individual, (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

Examples of behavior that may constitute sexual harassment include (but not limited to) the following:

  • subtle pressure for sexual activity
  • unnecessary brushes or touches
  • offensive sexual graffiti
  • disparaging remarks about one's gender
  • physical aggression such as pinching and patting
  • sexual innuendos
  • verbal sexual abuse disguised as humor
  • obscene gestures
  • sexist remarks about a person's clothing, body, or sexual activities.

Messiah University's concern with abuses of power which may find expression in sexual contexts extends beyond the specific behavior indicated in the EEOC Guidelines. Employees and students should refer to the Community Covenant of Messiah University.

Educational Programs

Education and training are essential to the establishment of a campus environment that is as free as possible of sexual harassment and in which high standards of conduct in consensual relationships are observed.

These educational efforts are designed to achieve the following goals:

  • insuring that all victims are aware of their rights
  • notifying persons of conduct that is proscribed
  • informing supervisors and administrators of proper methods of dealing with complaints of sexual harassment
  • helping educate the campus community about the problems which this policy addresses and facilitate discussion of harassment related issues

The Director of Human Resources or his/her designee shall be responsible to conduct orientation sessions and periodic in-service training for all employees to familiarize them with the policy and its implications. The Dean of Students or his/her designee shall be responsible to provide similar training for Residence Life staff and all students. A brochure will be provided to all employees and students describing the nature of sexual harassment and explaining the University's Sexual Harassment policy.

Prompt Reporting

An extended period of time between an alleged occurrence and an inquiry into the circumstances of that incident may make fact-finding extremely difficult or impossible. Therefore, any person who believes that he/she has been the object of sexual harassment should report the incident to the Director of Human Resources as soon as possible. Harassment is considered a crime, and you if feel that your personal safety may be compromised, you are encouraged to call the Department of Safety at ext. 6005, or the local police department. As a victim, this is your right.


Student grievances against employees or student allegations of discriminatory acts or sexual harassment by employees will be investigated and adjudicated. The Director of Human Resources will act jointly with the Dean of Students in resolving such grievances.