Harassment Policy and Grievance Procedures

Harassment Policy

As an expression of our Christian values, Messiah University is committed to creating an atmosphere of dignity and respect for all people by fostering a learning, living, and working environment free from harassment and/or misconduct.

Likewise, Messiah University takes seriously its responsibilities under state and federal law to actively prohibit harassment and/or misconduct and address complaints of harassment and/or misconduct promptly.

As defined in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's regulations, the following conduct constitutes harassment:

  1. Inappropriate disrespectful and/or demeaning conduct that has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's academic or work performance and is so severe and pervasive that it creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment
  2. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, 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 or education, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting an individual.

Whether intentional or unintentional, any such conduct will be considered a violation of human dignity, addressing the expectation of consent on all interpersonal conduct and communication, including the opportunity to express consent or lack thereof.

As such, harassing behavior in any manner or form, including misconduct, by anyone in the University community is expressly prohibited. This includes harassment and/or misconduct of or by individuals not directly affiliated with the University, e.g. contractors, vendors, visitors. This policy also applies to harassment and/or misconduct off-site or after normal business hours in University-related settings, including but not limited to business trips, athletic events, conferences, and University-related social events.


All employees and all students are responsible for maintaining an environment free of harassment and/or misconduct. Individuals who believe that they have been subjected to or witnessed harassing behavior and/or misconduct are encouraged to report the matter. There are options for reporting harassment and/or misconduct:

  1. An employee can speak to his/her supervisor or division executive.
  2. An employee can speak to an HR representative or the Title IX Coordinator.
  3. An employee can report the incident anonymously through our "Silent Witness" program.

The following link outlines reporting options:

The authorization of, cover-up or participation in any act of harassment and/or misconduct of any kind is strictly forbidden. Failure to abide by this policy shall be cause for disciplinary action, which may include termination of employment.


Retaliation against an individual who complains of harassment and/or misconduct is strictly prohibited. There will be no adverse action against any individual for reporting what he/she believes is an incident of harassment and/or misconduct, or for participating in or cooperating with an investigation of an alleged incident. The University's commitment to address complaints related to harassment and/or misconduct should not be viewed as license for individuals to engage in unfounded, frivolous or vindictive actions that are not made in "good faith." Such behavior is a violation of the intent of this policy.

Forms of Harassment.

Harassment generally takes one of two forms: "quid pro quo" harassment, in which the harasser makes sexual favors or tolerance of unwelcome behavior a condition of the victim's success in some way; or "hostile environment" harassment, in which the overtly sexual nature or derogatory nature (based on such things as one's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, etc.) of conversations, pictures, humor and/or activities taking place in an academic or work environment makes it difficult for students and employees to concentrate on their work/studies. Harassment often makes the victim feel devalued, uncomfortable, unwelcome, intimidated, or afraid to speak or choose freely. Examples of harassing behavior include (but are not limited to) the following:

  1. Offensive insults, slurs, remarks, pranks or language meant to disgrace another based on such things as one's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, etc.
  2. Offensive and demeaning images based on such things as one's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, etc.
  3. Aggressive or hostile behavior or taunts based on such things as one's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, etc.
  4. Using digital media, including instant messaging, blogs, websites, e-mails, chat rooms, and cell phones to threaten and/or humiliate (Cyber-harassment).
  5. Verbal harassment disguised as humor.
  6. Obscene gestures and suggestive remarks about a person's body, clothing or sexual activities.
  7. Physical aggression or intimidation including even subtle contact like pinching or patting.
  8. Sexual innuendos or sexually suggestive charged language that an individual finds offensive or demeaning.
  9. Racially charged language that an individual finds offensive or demeaning.
  10. Pressure for sexual activity
  11. Offensive graffiti
  12. Policies, behavior, attitudes, and practices related to personal characteristics of an individual or group that have the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, offensive, isolating, and/or degrading environment for that individual or group. This includes (but is not limited to) the use of images, language, or actions that foster, condition, or tolerate discrimination based on skin color, race, culture, religion, disability, gender, personal choices and/or national or ethnic origin.
  13. Any type of violence, including sexual violence and stalking. See Interpersonal Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy:

Unwanted, offensive and/or culturally insensitive conduct, language, or images do not have to be directed at a specific individual in order to create an atmosphere that is intimidating or offensive to an individual. It is important to note that harassment may take place in an academic, residential or work setting.

Intent and Effect.

Harassment is unwelcome behavior that is either intended to harass or has the effect of harassing by abusing the dignity of an individual or creating an intimidating, offensive, or coercive environment. Behavior that was not intended to be harassing can be perceived as harassing.


Harassment most often occurs between people of unequal power: when such a power differential exists (e.g., such as a physically larger person over a smaller one, a supervisor over a subordinate employee, a faculty member over a student), the victim is not in a position to freely object, resist, or give fully free consent. However, harassment can also occur where no formal power differential exists, if the behavior is unwanted by, or offensive to, the victim.

Educational Activities.

In order to cultivate a creative learning environment, Messiah University encourages free inquiry and expression within the bounds of our Christian commitments. Members of the community have the right to hold and defend a variety of viewpoints within an educational setting. For educational purposes required readings(s), educational activities (videos, projects, discussions, etc.), music, drama or art may include historical information that portrays groups or individuals in a pejorative fashion. Educators carry responsibility for directing these activities with care and sensitivity.

Same-Sex Harassment.

Both males and females are protected by law from sexual harassment. Moreover, the law prohibits sexual harassment regardless of the sex of the harasser; i.e., even if the harasser and the person harassed are members of the same sex.

Grievance Procedures

In foundational documents that outline the University's mission, university-wide educational objectives, foundational values, and strategic plan, the University has affirmed that reconciliation across lines of racial and cultural division as well as behavior respectful of gender is central to our identity as a Christian institution. We seek to create a welcoming community which is characterized by the Biblical vision for justice, respect, inclusiveness, diversity, and shalom. Therefore, Messiah University deplores all incidents of harassment, misconduct, intimidation, violence and discrimination. Any act of harassment, misconduct, intimidation, violence or discrimination, whether it be committed intentionally or unintentionally, by employees of the University or students, is contrary to the ideals of Christian ethics, Christian community, and our educational mission.

This means that the University will respond promptly and firmly to reported incidents in ways that are educational and redemptive and that encourage both personal responsibility and reconciliation within the community. It should be noted that incidents of sexual misconduct or interpersonal violence are not typically addressed through an informal process. See Sexual Misconduct Policy: Unless the complainant requests an informal process, reports of sexual misconduct are considered egregious and addressed through the formal process. In such incidences, the complainant is not required to meet with or "work things out" with the respondent.

Once made aware of a grievance, Messiah University is committed to commence an appropriate investigation of the allegations. As such, a grievance procedure has been established for the benefit and use of all.

Informal Resolution Process

Since many complaints and disputes can be settled in conversation between the people involved, employees are encouraged to begin the resolution process by speaking with their immediate supervisors. If a supervisor or manager becomes aware that harassment and/or misconduct is occurring, either from personal observation or as a result of an individual coming forward, the supervisor or manager needs to respond immediately and contact the Office of Human Resources for guidance in managing the situation.

If an individual has a concern with his or her supervisor or, for any reason considers it to be more appropriate, a conversation may be scheduled with the department head, the division executive or with a representative from Human Resources.

The Office of Human Resources guides the process in several ways:

  1. gather the input and support of appropriate University resources related to the situation (such as those with applicable expertise, i.e., the Vice President for Diversity Affairs, the Director of the Academic Success Center, the Provost, etc.)
  2. recommend appropriate options for addressing the matter
  3. assist in identifying problematic behavior
  4. facilitate conversations
  5. monitor agreed upon resolution process

This process typically leads to an informal resolution (such as a meeting to make the offending party aware of the impact of his/her actions and establishing an appropriate resolution).


Formal Resolution Process - Second Step for Unresolved Issues or First Step for Egregious Issues

If the problem is not resolved by the process above or if a situation is egregious, an individual who feels harassed or retaliated against may initiate the formal complaint process by filing a complaint with Human Resources. A complaint form is available at:

  1. The complainant needs to provide a grievance statement, background information, and the requested resolution.
    1. The investigation may include interviewing individuals other than the complainant and the respondent. Discretion in how information is handled is paramount throughout the process. Every reasonable effort will be made to protect the privacy of all parties. However, strict confidentiality cannot be guaranteed due to the necessity for investigation and fact-finding. Beyond that, any individual who wrongfully discusses or discloses confidential information will be subject to disciplinary action.
    2. Should any individual refuse or fail to cooperate fully with an investigation, he or she may be subject to disciplinary action, which may include suspension or termination of employment.
  2. The Office of Human Resources and Compliance is responsible for reviewing the situation and will partner with specific resources (such as community experts, i.e., the Vice President for Diversity Affairs, the Director of the Academic Success Center, the Provost, etc.) in determining if an investigation is warranted.
  3. If warranted, the Office of Human Resources and Compliance is responsible for the following:
    1. establishing an appropriate timeline and relevant partner(s) for processing the grievance
    2. reviewing the anticipated schedule and interview agenda with the resource representative(s) and investigatory partner(s)
    3. organizing, implementing, and/or partnering in an appropriate investigation
      Please note: Those who conduct the investigation should be without a conflict of interest and anyone with a conflict of interest will be removed from the investigation.
    4. ensuring all parties have been provided with documentation of the grievance process, rights, and complaint
    5. interviewing persons believed to have relevant information, or facilitating interviews by appropriate investigatory partner(s)
    6. reviewing findings with the appropriate investigatory partner(s), VP/Provost, and resource representative (Please note for complaints related to violations of the University's Interpersonal Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy, the Grievance Review Board will serve as the final investigatory partner.)
    7. rendering or reviewing a written decision and resolution recommendation in conjunction with investigatory partner(s) (Please note for complaints related to violations of the University's Interpersonal Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy, the Grievance Review Board will render the final determinations and resolution recommendation(s)
    8. closing and retaining the investigation file
  4. The Office of Human Resources and Compliance will ensure that both the complainant and the respondent are notified that they may request to have a colleague present for support. No party or participant in the employee grievance process shall be accompanied by legal counsel at any meeting held for the purpose of resolving the grievance. (Please note should a complaint involve both students and employees, the matter of legal counsel will be reviewed in advance.) The final written decision will reflect either a determination that the allegations were unwarranted, the allegations cannot be corroborated, or the allegations have merit thereby requiring resolution. Determination of responsibility will be made based upon a preponderance of credible evidence (defined as where it is more likely than not that the respondent is responsible for the alleged violation). Credible evidence depends upon the following factors: (i) the quality of the evidence (first-hand knowledge, credible corroboration etc.); (ii) prior complaints against the respondent; and (iii) prior complaints made by the complainant. In such situations, the written decision will include the terms of the prescribed resolution including any disciplinary action deemed appropriate. The appropriate action will depend on the following factors: (i) the severity, frequency and pervasiveness of the conduct; (ii) the response of the participants; and (iii) the potential impact on community.
  5. If the investigation determines that, while there has been no harassment, misconduct or violation of policy, there has been some potentially problematic conduct, reparative action may be required.
  6. Copies of the decision will be shared with all parties as well as all parties' supervisors and the appropriate Vice President or Provost.
  7. If either the complainant or the respondent is not satisfied with the decision and wishes to pursue the matter further, he/she may prepare a written summary of the concerns and request an appeal to the Grievance Review Board. Both parties have three (3) days to appeal and the reason for appeal must be one of the following: (1) new evidence; (2) flaw in process; or (3) sanctions are over- or under-whelming. This request should be made through the Vice President of Human Resources and Compliance who will convene an appeals session of the Grievance Review Board. One or more of the following appeal criteria must be cited in order for the appeal to be considered:
    1. A procedural error or irregularity materially affected the decision of the Vice President of Human Resources and Compliance
    2. Previously unavailable evidence is produced
    3. The outcomes issued are too severe or too lenient in relation to the violation
  8. The Grievance Review Board is appointed by the President. Typically three (3) members will serve at an appeal hearing. Membership includes at least one faculty member and at least one staff/hourly employee. In the event that the grievance is against a member of the Grievance Board or in any way connected to a member of the Grievance Board (spousal relationship, mentor relationship, etc.), an alternate Board member shall stand in replacement of the Board member with a conflict of interest.
  9. The Grievance Board, after a full review of the facts (which may include a review of the written summary of the problem, interviews with the people involved, and further investigation if necessary), will inform the individuals involved of its decision and any recommendations. The decision of the Grievance Board will be final.
  10. The final written decision by the Grievance Board will reflect either a determination that the allegations were unwarranted, cannot be corroborated, or the allegations were founded. The terms of the prescribed resolution, including any disciplinary action deemed appropriate, will be provided in the final decision.
  11. Copies of the decision will be shared with both parties as well as both parties' supervisors and the appropriate Vice President or Provost.

The grievance and appeals process can also be viewed here.