Sexual Harassment on Campus

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This federal legislation holds that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Under Title IX, it is unlawful to engage in sexually harassing conduct toward a student.

Title IX prohibits the two generally recognized forms of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environment.

Quid pro quo” sexual harassment occurs when a student must submit to unwelcome sexual conduct in exchange for receiving a grade or similar opportunity in the academic environment.

“Hostile environment” sexual harassment entails unwelcome sexual conduct that unreasonably interferes with a student’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive academic setting.

Under the California State University policy, no employee, student or campus visitor may:

  • Make unwelcome sexual advances to a student.
  • Make unwelcome requests for sexual favors, regardless of whether or not such requests are accompanied by promises or threats to the academic relationship.
  • Engage in verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature with a student that may threaten or insinuate that the student’s submission to, or rejection of, sexual advances will influence the student’s grades, participation in or access to academic programs, class standing or other educational opportunities.
  • Engage in conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with a student’s ability to learn or participate in a class, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive academic environment.
  • Commit any act of sexual assault or public sexual indecency against a student, or continue to express sexual interest in a student after being informed that the interest is unwelcome.

A variety of behaviors might constitute sexual harassment as prohibited under Title IX. Sexually degrading words to describe a student, sexually aggressive language or jokes, or commentary about a student’s body or appearance; all might be considered sexual harassment on campus.

Federal and state courts have determined that an institution of higher learning may be liable for monetary damages to a student who is the victim of sexual harassment by the institution’s employee. Under Title IX, however, an institution may also be responsible for the conduct of more than just its employees.

The law requires that students comply with the institution’s policies against sexual harassment. These policies prohibit sexual harassment by students against other students, as well as sexual harassment by students against employees of San Diego State University.

A student who violates SDSU’s sexual harassment policy may be suspended or expelled. An employee who violates the policy is subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

A student who experiences sexual harassment should report that conduct as soon as possible following the most recent occurrence to the responsible academic or administrative official, or to the Office of Employee Relations and Compliance.

The student may first attempt to resolve the problem informally, through discussions with the alleged offender. A victim of sexual harassment is encouraged (but not required) to inform perceived offenders of SDSU’s policy against sexual harassment and that the conduct is offensive and unwelcome.

Finally, a student may report the conduct to an appropriate governmental agency such as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The academic or administrative official who receives an informal report of sexual harassment against a student by an employee or student must report the allegation to the Office of Employee Relations and Compliance as soon as possible. (A supervisor, manager, administrator, or faculty member who disregards or fails to report allegations of sexual harassment by a student is in violation of SDSU policy.)

A student, staff, or faculty member who believes that he or she has been sexually harassed may initiate a complaint with the Office of Employee Relations and Compliance or the designated office in the appropriate auxiliary. The Office of Employee Relations and Compliance or the auxiliary shall investigate complaints of sexual harassment and coordinate a formal investigation, a mediated intervention, or a formal mediation.

A formal investigation shall be initiated by the complainant filing and submitting a Formal Complaint Form with the Office of Employee Relations and Compliance or by lodging a complaint with the appropriate auxiliary office. The procedures and time schedule for a formal investigation shall be available from the investigating office.

Mediated interventions shall include but not be limited to steps to stop the harassing behavior or to remove the complainant or alleged harasser from the harassing environment.

At any time from the initiation of a complaint to the conclusion of the campus investigation, either party or the university may suggest a confidential, nonbinding formal mediation of the dispute. Both parties and the university shall agree to any formal mediation and any resolution that arises therefrom.

Without filing a formal complaint, a student, faculty member, or staff member may discuss with staff in the Office of Employee Relations and Compliance behaviors that could be sexual harassment. If a described behavior fits the definition of sexually harassing behavior, some intervention may be required.