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Wright State University and the School of Professional Psychology are committed to maintaining an atmosphere in which students are free from difficulties which distract them from focusing their energy on their academic and clinical endeavors. This policy regarding sexual harassment has been developed to assist in providing such an environment.
Although a policy on sexual harassment can be difficult to enforce due to varied definitions and the subjectivity involved in applying these definitions, guidelines have been set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In addition, sexual harassment is considered illegal according to both federal and state laws. Specifically, it is a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and of Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments Act. Finally, the American Psychological Association (APA) states in standard 1.11 of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct that sexual harassment is unethical.
Sexual Harassment: The following EEOC definition of sexual harassment has been adapted to an academic environment. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, and/or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- submission to such conduct is made (either implicitly or explicitly) a term or condition of the student's academic standing -OR-
- submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for academic decisions affecting the student -OR-
- such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a student's academic performance or creates an offensive, intimidating, or hostile learning environment.
Perpetrator: For the purposes of this policy, the perpetrator of such behavior may be teaching faculty, clinical faculty, administrative faculty, practicum or internship supervisors, or other SOPP students, interns, or post-doctoral residents. The perpetrator may be male or female.
Victim: For the purposes of this policy, the victim is a female or male SOPP student, intern, or post-doctoral resident.
The following examples serve to illustrate some, but not all, possible forms of sexual harassment:
- The perpetrator tells sexually explicit jokes, teases about sexual issues, or makes sexually explicit statements in the presence of a student.
- The perpetrator makes sexual advances to a student either by innuendo or by explicitly asking the student to engage in sexual behavior.
- The perpetrator makes comments about or asks questions about a student's sexual behavior.
- The perpetrator refers to a student in an unprofessional and/or demeaning manner such as "A honey" or "A sweetie."
- The perpetrator makes sexist remarks or behaves in a manner that is clearly sexist toward a student.
The following list of common responses of victims is provided to further clarify the potential impact of sexual harassment:
- Fear of retaliation by the perpetrator
- Fear of not being believed
- Emotional reactions such as anxiety, anger, shame, or guilt
- Physical reactions such as headaches or stomach problems
- Changes in self-perception such as powerlessness or hopelessness
- Social withdrawal
- Educational difficulties such as absenteeism or impaired academic performance
The following suggestions may prove helpful in dealing with sexual harassment:
- Keep records - Document in writing, the incident(s) of harassment, including the date, time, location, detailed description of the incident, and list of others present. Documentation can be made in a personal journal or file.
- Gather witnesses - Talk with classmates, faculty, or anyone else who was present during the incident(s) and ask them for corroborating information.
- Obtain support - Seek out classmates, family, friends, etc. who may be supportive as you go through this process.
- Education - Educate yourself regarding sexual harassment, your rights, etc. Having this information may help validate your experience, as well as empower you to take action.
Deciding on a Course of Action
Students may elect to deal with instances of sexual harassment through informal or formal procedures, both of which are outlined below. Students may want to seek the support of other students, members of student government or any trusted faculty member in deciding on which course of action to take. Written documentation (date, time, location) and a detailed description of the incident(s) of harassment are an important aid to students, faculty or others called on for support or advising. Faculty who are called on for support or advising in instances of possible sexual harassment cannot assure strict confidentiality of information shared with them, however, they will exercise discretion and professional judgment in the handling of sensitive information of this sort. In deciding on a course of action, students need to remember that formal charges must be filed within 180 days of the last occurrence of harassment.
Prior to taking formal action, a student may handle an incidence of sexual harassment through informal channels. The following procedure is suggested:
- Speak directly with the person who you believe has harassed you. Sometimes such situations can easily be remedied by being direct and assertive about your feelings, needs, etc.
- If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the first step, ask another person, including a trusted faculty member, to serve as a mediator between you and the perpetrator. Many difficulties can successfully be handled at this level.
- You may make an informal complaint within SOPP by contacting the Dean, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, or the Associate Dean for Clinical Training and Psychological Services in person or in writing. The Dean or either of the Associate Deans may serve in an advising or mediating role in an effort to resolve the harassment issues. Alternatively, these individuals may support you in your efforts to file formal charges.
When the sexual harassment is very serious or when informal procedures have not been successful in resolving the issue, two options for filing formal charges are available. In serious instances students may incur an ethical obligation to file formal charges. Students may choose either or both of these options, and they do not have to be exercised in the order listed below.
Within Wright State University
If you choose to begin at the university level, or if efforts within SOPP are unsuccessful, you may file a formal complaint with Wright State by following these steps: (the University's procedures for handling complaints are attached)
- Call the Office of Affirmative action, (937) 775-3207, and tell them you would like to file a complaint. (This step must be taken within 180 days of the last incident of harassment).
- The university mediator will then speak with you and make a determination regarding the disposition of the complaint.
- The mediator will speak informally with the alleged perpetrator to clarify the source of conflict, as well as to identify possible avenues of resolution.
- The mediator will then walk you through the remaining steps of the complaint procedure. It is important to remember that you have the option to stop these proceedings at any point in the process.
Outside the University
If you choose to file a complaint outside the university setting, or if the above two channels do not satisfactorily resolve the issue, you may file a formal complaint with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights by following these steps:
- Call the Wright State Office of Affirmative Action, extension (937) 775-3207, and tell them you would like to go outside the university to file a complaint. They will facilitate this process for you.
* Note: If you call the Office of Civil Rights directly, they will automatically send you back to your university and will not process your complaint until you have contacted your university Affirmative Action Office.
Any retaliatory action of any kind taken by faculty, staff or students against any member of SOPP as a result of that person's making a formal or informal complaint of sexual harassment is prohibited by law and by the ethical principles of psychologists. Retaliatory actions shall be grounds for disciplinary action by the School of Professional Psychology and/or Wright State University.