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Phone: (814) 863-0471
Email: aao@psu.edu

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Sexual Harassment Information

Penn State University is committed to an open, respectful, understanding, and responsive campus environment. The single most important key to opening the doors wider to all people is to create an environment in which everyone feels welcome. To do this, we must eliminate intolerance and harassment within what should be an enlightened community of faculty, staff and students.

We must all work together to discourage behavior within our community that is dehumanizing, including sexual harassment. This web site defines instances of sexual harassment and delineates actions that can be taken to deter this behavior. I urge you to read it.


Sexual harassment of faculty, staff or students is prohibited and will not be tolerated at The Pennsylvania State University. It is the policy of the University to maintain an academic and work environment free of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment violates the dignity of individuals and impedes the realization of the University’s educational mission. The University is committed to preventing and eliminating sexual harassment of faculty, staff and students through education and by encouraging faculty, staff and students to report any concerns or complaints about sexual harassment. Prompt corrective measures will be taken to stop sexual harassment whenever and wherever it occurs. (see policy statement on consensual relationships)


Sexual Harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted, inappropriate, or unconsented to.  Any type of Sexual Harassment is prohibited at the University.

Sexual harassment when committed by a student can lead to discipline under the Code of Conduct.  The precise definitions of the Code of Conduct should be reviewed and applied when a student is accused of or commits harassment.  (See Student Code of Conduct).

Sexual Harassment committed by an employee or third party can lead to discipline or corrective action when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made implicitly or explicitly a condition for employment, promotion, grades, academic status, or participation in the University’s activities; or
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment or academic or other decisions affecting an individual; or
  3. Such conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to substantially interfere with the individual’s employment, education or access to University programs, activities and opportunities. To constitute prohibited harassment, the conduct must be such that it detrimentally affects the individual in question and would also detrimentally affect a reasonable person under the same circumstances.

Examples of Sexual Harassment: 

SEXUAL HARASSMENT (unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature)
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT (rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual exploitation and other forms of non-consensual sexual activity)
STALKING (repeatedly following, harassing, threatening or intimidating including by telephone, mail, electronic communication or social media)
DATING VIOLENCE (including emotional, verbal, and economic abuse without the presence of physical abuse)
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (including emotional, verbal and economic abuse without the presence of physical abuse)
RETALIATION (adverse employment, academic or other actions against anyone reporting or participating in an investigation of Title IX allegations)

These examples are not all-inclusive of the types of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment. Each situation must be considered in light of the specific facts and circumstances to determine if sexual harassment has occurred.


Both women and men may be sexually harassed. Targets of sexual harassment may include heterosexuals, bisexuals, lesbians, gay men and transsexuals. Most reported cases involve women harassed by men who are in a position of power over them, either on the job or in the classroom. Sexual harassment may also occur between peers or between individuals of the same sex. Although anyone can be a target of sexual harassment, some groups are more vulnerable.

Examples include:

  • students, undergraduate and graduate, involved in close working academic relationships that can develop into personal
  • women in nontraditional fields who may be perceived as entering an area where “they do not belong” and, thus, competing with men for jobs;
  • minority women who may be sexually harassed as a form of racism;
  • young people whose inexperience and lack of self-confidence may be exploited by the harasser pressuring them into unwanted relationships;
  • employees who, by the nature of their subordinate positions,are vulnerable to sexual harassment by superiors.


Romantic and/or sexual relationships between faculty and students, staff and students or supervisors and subordinate employees are strongly discouraged. Such relationships have the potential for adverse consequences, including the filing of charges of sexual harassment. Given the fundamentally asymmetric nature of the relationship where one party has the power to give grades, thesis advice, evaluations, recommendations, promotions, salary increases or performance evaluations, the apparent consensual nature of the relationship is inherently suspect.

Even when both parties have consented to the relationship, there may be perceptions of conflicts of interest or unfair treatment of others. Such perceptions undermine the atmosphere of trust essential to the educational process or the employment relationship. Under such circumstances, the person in the position of supervision or academic responsibility must report the relationship to his or her immediate supervisor. If you are involved in a romantic relationship of the sort described above, and that relationship has not been reported, you can seek confidential guidance from the Affirmative Action Office. Once the consensual relationship is reported, the immediate supervisor is responsible for eliminating or mitigating the conflict of interest to the fullest feasible extent and ensuring that fair and objective processes are in place for decisions relative to grading, thesis advice, evaluations, recommendations, promotions, salary increases or performance evaluations. The new supervisory or academic arrangement should be documented. (University Policy AD85)


Sexual harassment is not only against University policy – it’s illegal. A person who sexually harasses another can be held liable for his or her actions. Differences between behavior that is friendly or complimentary and behavior that is sexually harassing are recognizable. However, it is important that people consider how their behavior is viewed by others. Many accused harassers are surprised to learn how their behavior is perceived by those who feel victimized. Consider the following:

  • Review your attitudes and actions toward others. Is your behavior sex neutral and bias free?
  • Do not assume that colleagues, peers, employees, or studentsenjoy sexually oriented comments, jokes, inappropriatecomments about their appearance, or even minor physical contact.
  • Do not assume that others are comfortable telling you that they are offended or harassed by what you say or do.
  • Be sensitive to cultural and experiential differences of those with whom you interact.
  • Consider the impact your position of power may have on others’ feeling, behaviors, and responses.

The University actively investigates complaints of sexual harassment. Appropriate disciplinary action, which may include termination of employment for offending employees or expulsion from the University for offending students, will be taken if it is determined that sexual harassment has occurred.


Don’t ignore it. Take action.

Know your rights.
Be familiar with Penn State’s policies and resources that protect you as a student, faculty, or staff.

Seek information and support.
You may feel a range of emotions – from helplessness, to anger, to confusion, to fear. Taking with someone often helps to lessen isolation and may help you to develop strategies to remedy the situation.

Ask for help explore your options.

  • Keep a written and dated record.
  • Let the harasser know the behavior is not welcome and you want it stopped immediately. You can talk to the harasser orwrite a letter. Deliver the letter by certified mail or in person; keep a copy.
  • Discuss the situation with a supervisor, the Affirmative Action Office or a sexual harassment resource person in your area.


Penn State has a policy prohibiting sexual harassment (Policy AD85) and a complaint procedure to assist students, faculty, and staff.


Student Affairs
Students may contact the University-wide designated sexual
harassment resource person for students:

Gender Equity Center
204 Boucke Building, University Park PA 16802
(814) 863-2027

To file a complaint against a student, contact:

Office of Student Conduct
• Danny Shaha, Senior Director of Student Conduct
• 120 Boucke Building, University Park PA 16802
• (814) 863-0342

To file a complaint outside the University, contact:

Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
Harrisburg Regional Office
Riverside Office Complex
1101-1125 S. Front Street, Harrisburg PA 17104
(717) 787-9780

Office for Civil Rights, Philadelphia Office
Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East, Suite 515
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3323
Phone: (215) 656-8541
Email: OCR.Philadelphia@ed.gov

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