Harassment Policy

Messiah University 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 based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, amnesty, or veteran status.

The University takes active measures to uphold existing federal and state laws to prevent harassment. Harassment violates federal and state laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment in the workplace, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits harassment of students as a form of discrimination that denies or limits a student's ability to participate in or benefit from the University's programs.

The authorization of, cover-up or participation in any act of harassment of any kind is strictly forbidden. Failure to abide by this policy will lead to disciplinary action which may include suspension of enrollment or loss of employment.

The University will take seriously any adverse action taken against an individual for reporting an incident of discrimination or harassment. Retaliation towards a student for reporting is prohibited. Examples of this can be but are not limited to: faculty lowering a grade, loss of a work-study job or loss of a leadership position. The University’s commitment to address complaints related to discrimination and/or harassment should not be viewed as license for individuals to continually submit frivolous or unfounded complaints. Such behavior is a violation of the intent of this policy.

This includes harassment of or by:

  • Individuals directly affiliated with the University (e.g. faculty, staff, students)
  • Individuals not directly affiliated with the University (e.g. contractors, vendors, visitors)

This policy also applies to harassment off-site or after normal business hours in University related settings including and not limited to: 

  • Academic placement (practicums, internships, etc.)
  • Field trips
  • Athletic events
  • Conferences
  • University related social events

Harassment Looks Like…   

Please take into account that harassment may not be clear, visible or obvious to everyone in the room. There are generally two forms of harassments: 

  • Hostile environment – conversation, images, humor or activities present in an academic environment that are overtly derogatory, sexual, and/or racial in nature. That makes it difficult for students and employees to concentrate on their work/studies. (The victim feels uncomfortable, unwelcome, intimidated or afraid.) This harassment is usually vague.
  • Quid Pro Quo – the harasser makes sexual advances/requests or unwelcome behavior towards the victim which then becomes a condition of the victim’s success in some way.

Examples of harassment:

  • Offensive insults, slurs, remarks, pranks or language meant to disgrace another based on sexual orientation, race, religion, or ethnicity.
  • Offensive and demeaning images based on what’s listed above.
  • Aggressive or hostile behavior or taunts based on what’s listed above.
  • Cyber harassment: when digital media, including instant messaging, blogs, websites, e-mails, chat rooms, and cell phones are used to threaten and/or humiliate (see definition.)
  • Verbal harassment disguised as humor such as ethnic jokes.
  • Obscene gestures and suggestive remarks about a person’s body, clothing or sexual activities.
  • Physical aggression or intimidation including even subtle contact like pinching or patting.
  • Sexual innuendos or sexually suggestive charged language that an individual finds offensive or demeaning.
  • Racially charged language that an individual finds offensive or demeaning.
  • Pressure for sexual activity subtle or not.
  • Offensive graffiti.
  • Using insulting or "fighting" words or non-verbal symbols. In the context of harassment, insulting or "fighting" words or non-verbal symbols are those "which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite to an immediate breach of the peace," and which are commonly understood to convey direct and visceral hatred or contempt for human beings on the basis of their personal characteristics.

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 requested readings, 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.

Reporting Harassment

Students are encouraged to begin the process by talking with an employee with whom they feel comfortable. This could include a Residence Director, Coach, Faculty Member, Assistant Director of Multicultural Programs, Assistant Director of International Student Programs, Director of Student Involvement and Leadership Programs, Director of Human Resources, University Ministries, Work Study supervisor, Director of Safety, Dean of Students, Associate Dean of Students and the Vice Provost for Student Success and Engagement. Reports may also be submitted via the Harassment Incident Reporting Form found on the web at The completed form should be submitted to the Associate Dean of Students. Students do have the option of remaining anonymous; however that does minimize the investigation and the subsequent outcomes. Students should be aware that all employees, with the exception of pastors and counselors, who are notified about a possible harassment incident are expected to report it to the Associate Dean of Students.

Any form of harassment that includes sexual harassment, misconduct, assault or violence will be dealt with through the Title IX protocols

Student Handbook on harassment

Information on Harassment Policy