The University's educational mission is promoted and fostered by an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. Trust and respect are diminished when those in positions of authority abuse, or appear to abuse, their power. Faculty/university supervisory staff exercise appropriate power over students/subordinate staff, whether in praising or criticizing them, evaluating them, recommending them for their further studies and/or continued or future employment. Sexual relationships between faculty members/supervisors and their students/staff can compromise the professional responsibility which faculty members/supervisors have for students/staff members. Such relationships also compromise the ability to exercise appropriate power in relationships under circumstances in which voluntary consent is, at best, suspect. In fact, legal precedent exists in which the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that "common sense, reason, and the good judgment" should alert professors that sexual relationships between professors and their students could be cause for termination. (Korf v. Ball State University)

Other students, faculty, and staff may be affected by such behavior because it places the faculty member/supervisor in a position to favor one of their student's/staff member's interest at the expense of others and implicitly makes obtaining benefits contingent on sexual favors. Such relationships between faculty/supervisors and their students/subordinates outside the instructional context can also present difficulties. Therefore, the University strongly recommends against a faculty member or supervisor engaging in sexual or otherwise seductive behaviors with students enrolled in their classes or students or staff subject to their supervision, even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship. When a sexual relationship exists, effective steps should be taken by the faculty member or staff supervisor to ensure unbiased evaluation or supervision of the student or staff. Failure to do so will merit university sanction, not excluding the possibility of loss of employment.



PART I: THE POLICY: Misericordia University supports the principle that its students, faculty, and staff have a right to be free from discrimination, harassment, or violence founded on gender. Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of Section 703 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, of Title IX, Educational Amendments of 1972, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 PA Cons. Stat. Section 95160.

This Policy applies to all employees, students, clinical and practicum supervisors, contracted services employees, and the Board of Trustees of Misericordia University. It covers conduct occurring both on campus and at off-campus, university related events. Harassment may occur between males and females or between members of the same sex.

Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other speech or conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when:

1. Such advances or requests are made under circumstances implying that one's response might affect academic personnel decisions that are subject to the influence of the person making the proposal; or

2. Such speech or conduct is directed against another and is either abusive or severely humiliating, or persists despite the objection of the person targeted by the speech or conduct; or

3. Such speech or conduct when it is persistent, pervasive and not germane to the matter at hand, is reasonably regarded as offensive and impairs the academic or work opportunity of students, colleagues, or co-workers.

Because of the nature of sexual harassment, it is important to note that the University has other policies which interface with the Policy Statement on Sexual Harassment. These include the most recent copies of the Sexual Assault/Misconduct Policy, the Professional Ethics Statement and Faculty Grievance Procedure: Full-time Faculty Handbook, Misericordia University Affirmative Action Policy, the Student Handbook and the Human Resources Policies and Procedures Manual. Please note that sexual assault is addressed in the University's sexual assault policy.

As part of the University commitment to a pro-active stance regarding the prevention of sexual harassment, all members of the University community are required to attend an educational session on sexual harassment which will be offered as part of faculty, staff, and student orientations. Opportunities for further training will be provided regularly for university students and personnel. In addition, every member of the university community will receive written information regarding sexual harassment including a copy of this policy.


A. Overview: The purpose of this policy statement on sexual harassment is to recognize the importance of education, prevention, and due process in dealing with sexual harassment policy and process. The support of a pro-active approach includes:

1. distribution of this policy statement to all current and new members of the University community in a format which is easily understood;

2. provision of workshop discussions, lectures, and other educational programs on an on-going basis which are available to members of the University community;

3. access to a set of procedures which attempts to insure just treatment of all parties should a complaint of sexual harassment arise.

Confidentiality is an important consideration in the implementation of the policy. Understanding the nature of confidentiality at each stage can help to protect all parties, ward off retaliation, and control adverse publicity.

All complaints of sexual harassment are treated seriously. Complaints affect both parties and may have a negative impact on performance. Making false charges of sexual harassment is considered a serious offense and will be subject to disciplinary action.

B. Procedure: The emphasis of this policy statement is to seek resolution rather than retribution. The policy is structured to encourage its use by members of the university community and to discourage its use as a weapon against the innocent. The procedure includes four consecutive stages: Information Stage, Informal Resolution Stage, Informal Complaint Stage, and Formal Complaint Stage. There are opportunities for education and resolution beginning at the Informal Stage. Every effort should be made to resolve a complaint at the lowest level possible. While any individual involved in an incident of alleged sexual harassment reserves the right to pursue the matter before governmental agencies or in the courts, these avenues, which are potentially lengthy and costly, may be avoided through appropriate and effective internal guidelines, procedures and remedies. This policy represents such an internal alternative.

1. Information Stage: Anyone may seek advice, information or counseling on matters related to sexual harassment without having to lodge a complaint. Persons who feel they are being sexually harassed, or are uncertain as to whether what they are experiencing is sexual harassment, are encouraged to talk with a member of the university community with whom they feel comfortable. Staff of the university Counseling Office or the Department of Human Resources are among those who can offer such assistance.

2. Informal Resolution Stage: An initial course of action for any faculty, staff, or student who feels that s/he is being sexually harassed is for that person to tell or otherwise inform the Alleged Sexual Harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. Should the Complainant determine the reprisal has followed this course of action, the Complainant should notify Pamela Parsnik.

In some circumstances Informal Resolution may not be feasible, may be unsuccessful, or the individual experiencing what is believed to be sexual harassment may be uncomfortable dealing with the matter in this manner.

3. Informal Complaint Stage: If there is no satisfactory resolution or the Complainant is uncomfortable dealing with the Alleged Sexual Harasser, then the Complainant may bring the allegation of sexual harassment to the attention of the individual designated to handle such complaints, the (Sexual Harassment Complaint Resolution Officer), SHO.

The initial discussion between the Complainant and the SHO should be kept confidential, with no written record. The Complainant should verbally present the complaint as promptly as possible after the alleged sexual harassment occurs. After the initial meeting, if the Complainant wishes to proceed further in the process, the Complainant must file with the SHO a written statement of the act or acts alleged to constitute sexual harassment. One consequence of the failure to present a complaint promptly is that it may preclude recourse to legal procedure should the Complainant decide to pursue that route at a later date.

The Complainant has a full year from the date of the alleged harassment to decide whether to file a written complaint with the SHO. If the complainant determines to proceed at any time during that period, the Complainant should submit a written statement to the SHO, specifically detailing the facts which are alleged to constitute sexual harassment. No later than five (5) working days following the submission of the complainant's written statement, the SHO will complete and disseminate the Sexual Harassment Information Report (See Appendix B). Dissemination of information relating to the case should be on a need to know basis in the judgment of the SHO, in order that the right to confidentiality of all individuals is safeguarded as fully as possible.

No later than five (5) working days following the submission of the complainant's written statement, the SHO should inform the Alleged Sexual Harasser of the allegation and of the identity of the complainant. The written statement of the complaint should be given to the Alleged Sexual Harasser. Every effort should be made to protect the complainant from retaliatory action by the Alleged Sexual Harasser. The nature of such prohibited retaliatory action (i.e., "reprisals") is described in the Glossary of this document.

A Complainant whose allegations are found to be both false and brought with malicious intent will be subject to disciplinary action.

Promptly after a written complaint is submitted, the SHO should initiate whatever steps s/he deems appropriate to effect an informal resolution of the complaint acceptable to both parties. Appropriate records are kept in a locked file in the office of the SHO and are not disseminated in any form except as noted above. The purpose of these records is to assist in the investigation of any repeated or persistent complaints against individual persons or by individual persons.

4. Formal Complaint Stage: If either party is not satisfied with the informal resolution of the complaint, or is not satisfied with the progress of the Informal Complaint Stage, s/he may make a written request to the SHO for a formal hearing by a Sexual Harassment Review Committee. Following this written request, the SHO will initiate the formal complaint stage process.

There is no standing Sexual Harassment Review Committee hereafter referred to as the Committee. Instead an ad hoc committee will be convened each time a hearing is required. The composition of each committee will vary depending on the status of the Complainant and the Alleged Sexual Harasser. The five member Committee shall consist of members of the university community. One person will be chosen by the Complainant. One person will be chosen by the Complainant. One person will be chosen by the Alleged Sexual Harasser. One person will be chosen by the President or the President's designee, unless the President is a party to the complaint in which case the Chair of the Board of Trustees will make the selection. One person will be chosen by the Dean/Vice President to whom the Alleged Sexual Harasser reports. One person will be chosen by the Chair of the Faculty Senate, the Chair of the Staff Council or the President of the Student Government Association, depending on the status of the Complainant. A Chair, other than a student, will be selected by the Committee from among its membership. The committee must be seated, the chair selected, and the hearing process initiated within ten (10) working days of the request for a formal hearing.

The Chair is responsible for taping the hearing and ensuring that a verbatim transcript is created and that both the tapes and transcript are stored in a locked file in the Human Resources office. Confidentiality will be maintained to the highest degree possible, and no records will be surrendered unless subpoenaed. The Committee is responsible for assessing the validity of the sexual harassment complaint based upon a review of the facts and circumstances. Finally, the Committee, devoid of powers of enforcement, can recommend sanctions or solutions to the President, or his or her designee.

A maximum of nine people may attend the entire hearing including the five Committee members, the Alleged Sexual Harasser and a support person and the Complainant and a support person. Support persons cannot be legal counsel to these individuals. At this stage of resolution of the complaint, there must be an effort to settle the complaint based on this Policy. Witnesses called by either side will be present only while providing testimony. Neither party is precluded from choosing legal recourse at a later date. However, should either the Alleged Sexual Harasser or the Complainant wish to move immediately to legal recourse, the internal process will terminate in order to avoid simultaneous duplicate processes.

The hearing commences with the Chair calling the meeting to order, introducing the panel members, and reading the complaint. The past sexual history of the Complainant is not matter for consideration in the course of the hearing. The Chair then instructs the Complainant to describe her/his complaint, providing any available evidence, and calling witnesses if desired. After hearing the Complainant, the Chair instructs the Alleged Sexual Harasser to respond following the same format. Both the Complainant and the Alleged Sexual Harasser may question each other as well as the witnesses. During or following both presentations, any member of the committee may question either party and any witnesses who offered evidence. The purpose of the questions is to clarify information which has been presented, and to gather any additional, pertinent information which committee members may need. After the Chair and participants determine that the discussion has covered all the relevant points of the matter, the Chair will bring the hearing to a close. Everyone but the Committee members will leave the room. In a non-taped discussion, the Committee will discuss the matter, arrive at its position, develop possible solutions and/or recommended sanctions to be presented to the President, or his or her designee. A formal report will be written by the Chair and distributed to the Complainant, Alleged Sexual Harasser, President or his/her designee, the SHO and the Human Resources Office within five (5) working days of the completion of the Committee's deliberations.

A complaint that is withdrawn by the Complainant at any point in the Formal Complaint Stage will require the Chair to secure a signed withdrawal by the Complainant indicating that s/he voluntarily decided not to pursue the matter.

In the event of a withdrawn complaint during the Formal Complaint Stage, and absent a mutually agreed upon resolution between the Complainant and the Alleged Sexual Harasser, the Committee's report will summarize the complaint and related information and, if deemed appropriate, suggest possible solutions and/or recommended sanctions to be presented to the President, or her/his designee. The Committee's report will summarize the complaint and make recommendations, but the Committee does not have the authority to impose sanctions.

In a complaint where the President is the Complainant or the Alleged Sexual Harasser, or where a conflict of interest exists, the report will be sent to the Board of Trustees alone.

The President (or the Board of Trustees, if that is the appropriate body) can adopt, reject or modify the recommendation of the Committee as deemed appropriate. Such action must be taken within five (5) working days of the Committee's recommendation to the President (or to the Board of Trustees if that is the appropriate body). A copy of the President's decision (or the decision of the Board of Trustees if that is the appropriate body) will be provided to the Complainant, the Alleged Sexual Harasser, and the appropriate Dean/Vice President(s) no later than two (2) days following the decision.

5. Appeal Stage: In the event that the resolution, recommendation, and/or sanctions are considered unjust by either the Alleged Sexual Harasser or the Complainant, an appeal (grievance) may be submitted to the Board of Trustees.

This Policy should not preclude the governance of the university from investigating alleged sexual harassment abuses absent a complaint, and disciplining employees and students should such abuses be proved to be factual.

Revised 10-11-02
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