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The Lowdown
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Statement of Policy

The University of South Alabama is committed to establishing and maintaining an environment
in which students, faculty, staff, and guests are free from sexual harassment, including sexual
violence/sexual assault. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited under Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the of the Educational Amendments of 1972, as
well as the University’s Nondiscrimination Policy. Sex discrimination, consequently,
encompasses both sexual harassment and sexual violence, which seriously undermine the
atmosphere of trust and respect that is essential to a healthy work and academic environment and will not be tolerated by the University. All members of the University community (including
faculty, staff, students, and visitors) must abide by this policy. University jurisdiction and
discipline attaches to conduct which occurs on University premises, or at University related or
sponsored activities, whether on or off of University premises, or which adversely effects the
University community and the pursuit of the objectives of the University.  Persons found to be in
violation of this policy will be subject to disciplinary actions by the University – including, but
not limited to – warning/reprimand, demotion, transfer, suspension, expulsion, dismissal, or
termination.  Under certain circumstances, moreover, acts of sexual harassment and sexual
violence may result in criminal and/or civil sanctions.   All members of the University community are expected, and in some cases required, to report incidents of sexual harassment or sexual violence.

Definitions

Sexual Harassment

For the purposes of University policy, sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, verbal or non-verbal conduct that is intimidating, demeaning, hostile, or offensive with an inappropriate focus on sex, sexual history, individual gender-based characteristics, or sexual orientation; unwelcomed verbal or physical advances; attempts to subject a person to unwanted sexual attention or to coerce a person into sexual relations; and/or retaliation for refusal to comply with sexual demands.
Sexual harassment is defined, further, as unwelcomed 1) sexual advances, or 2) requests for sexual favors, or 3) other behavior of a sexual nature where:

  • Submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment, academic standing, or participation in a University-sponsored program or activity; and/or if such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or educational performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for work or learning, or;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is or may be used as the basis for an academic, employment, or other University decision affecting that individual, or:
  • Such conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual’s academic and/or work performance, participation in University-sponsored programs or activities, or it creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working, educational, or residential environment provided by the University.

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Sexually degrading words or gestures used to describe an individual;
  • Unnecessary touching, patting, pinching, or brushing of another’s body or clothing;
  • Repeated offensive sexual flirtation, leering, or ogling;
  • Stalking, telephone (including texting), or computer harassment (including use of social media);
  • Display of sexually demeaning objects, pictures, or cartoons in hallways, outdoor areas, offices, and rooms publicly accessible to members of the University community;
  • Direct or implied threats or insinuations that an individual’s refusal to submit to sexual advances will affect adversely the individual’s status, evaluation, wages, advancement, duties, or career development.

Evaluative Factors for Sexual Harassment Allegations
Conduct alleged to be sexual harassment that does not involve violence will be evaluated by considering the totality of the circumstances including, but not limited to, the nature, frequency, intensity, and duration of the questioned behavior.  Unwelcomed conduct of a sexual nature can form the basis of a sexual harassment claim if a reasonable person, similarly situated, would consider it so unreasonable, severe, or pervasive as to interfere with academic, educational, or employment performance or participation in a University program or activity or residential environment.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence means any physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent.  Lack of consent means that the person who has alleged the occurrence of sexual violence has not said “yes,” or otherwise specifically and unambiguously indicated agreement to participate in the act, including instances in which she/he is unable to give informed consent because of the victim’s youth, or because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including but not limited to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A number of acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.  Sexual contact can include, but is not limited to:  unwelcomed sexual behavior, including kissing, intentional touching of another person’s intimate body parts or the clothing covering these intimate areas, and unwelcomed sexual penetration.  Sexual penetration includes sexually intended intrusion, however slight, into any opening of a person’s body, by parts of another person’s body, or any other object.

Assurance Against Retaliation

The University seeks to encourage students, faculty, and staff to express freely, responsibly, and in an orderly way opinions and feelings about any problem associated with sexual harassment.  Retaliation against persons who report or provide information about sexual harassment/violence or behavior that might constitute sexual harassment/violence is strictly prohibited.  Any act of reprisal, including internal interference, coercion, and restraint, by a University employee or by one acting on behalf of the University violates this policy and will result in disciplinary action.  The Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice President for Health Sciences and/or their designees are authorized to take all necessary steps to ensure persons acting in good faith are not subject to sexual harassment/violence.
This policy, however, shall not be used to bring frivolous or malicious complaints against students, faculty, or other employees.  Bad faith complaints may result in disciplinary action against the person bringing the complaint.

Confidentiality Provisions

The University will do everything consistent with the enforcement of this policy to protect the privacy of the individuals involved and to ensure that the complainant and the accused are treated fairly.  Information about individual complaints and their disposition is considered confidential and will be shared only as determinedto be appropriate in the University’s discretion.  To the extent possible, the confidentiality of all parties involved in a sexual harassment/violence complaint investigation and proceedings will be observed, provided it does not interfere with the University’s ability to investigate the allegations, take corrective action, or comply with federal, state or local laws.  Consequently, the University cannot ensure confidentiality but will evaluate any request for confidentiality in the context of its responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all members of the University community.   

Academic Freedom, the First Amendment, and Sexual Harassment

In cases of alleged sexual harassment, the protections of the First Amendment must be considered if issues of free speech or artistic expression are involved.  Free speech rights apply in the classroom and in all other educational programs and activities of public institutions, and First Amendment rights apply to the speech of students and teachers.  Speech or conduct of a sexual or hostile nature which occurs in the context of educational instruction may exceed the protections of academic freedom and constitute prohibited sexual harassment if it meets the definition of sexual harassment as noted above and (1) is reasonably regarded as non-professorial (i.e., advances a personal interest of the faculty member as opposed to furthering the learning process or legitimate objective of the course), or (2) lacks pedagogical purpose or is not germane to the academic subject matter.

Responding to Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence

The University strongly encourages any victim of sexual harassment or sexual violence to report the event. Reporting is the only way that action can be taken against the alleged perpetrator or that the University community can be protected from future incidents of that nature.  

If sexual harassment or sexual violence occurs, the complainant/victim should take the following actions, as applicable:
a. Go to a safe place as soon as possible.
b. Try to preserve all physical evidence of any incidence of sexual violence—avoid bathing, using the toilet, rinsing one’s mouth or changing clothes. If it is necessary, put all clothing that was worn at the time of the incident in a paper bag, not a plastic one.
c. Contact University police by calling 511 if the incident occurred on campus or the local police by calling 911 if the incident occurred off campus.
d. Get medical attention - all medical injuries are not immediately apparent. This is also necessary to collect evidence in case the victim decides to press charges. USA Medical Center Emergency Room and USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital have the evidence collection kits necessary for criminal prosecution if that option is selected.
e. Contact someone the victim trusts such as a friend, family member, or Resident Advisor for support.
f. Call the Assault Hotline at 460-7151, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A certified Victim’s Advocate will contact the victim to offer assistance to make recovery as smooth as possible.
g. Talk with a counselor who will help explain options, give information, and provide emotional support.
h. Contact the appropriate campus official to make a report.
i. Explore legal avenues for either criminal or civil action as well as utilize University complaint/grievance procedures.

If a report of sexual harassment or sexual violence is received by anyone in the University Community, that individual should refer the complainant/victim to, as well as make personal contact with, the victim’s Title IX Coordinator and the University Police.  

Victims of sexual harassment or sexual violence will have their reports of such events taken seriously and will be treated non-judgmentally and with dignity and respect.

University Complaint/grievance procedures will proceed pursuant to University policy, as applicable.

The University will take the steps necessary to prevent the recurrence of the sexual harassment or sexual violence and correct its effects.  Action may be taken in order to prevent unnecessary or unwanted contact or proximity of the complainant with the accused when reasonably possible.

COMPLAINANT’S/VICTIMS’ RIGHTS

The University of South Alabama has given the following rights to each complainant/victim of any sexual harassment or sexual violence committed against them while on University premises,  or at University related or sponsored activities, whether on or off University premises, or which adversely effects the University community and the pursuit of the objectives of the University:

a. The right to be present during the disciplinary hearing, if one is held. However, if the victim fails to appear at the hearing, the hearing may be held in his/her absence.
b. The right to present evidence by witness, or by affidavit if a witness is unable to attend the hearing.
c. The right to question all witnesses at the disciplinary hearing.
d. The right to appeal if such right is given to the accused.
e. The right to have sexual history excluded from consideration during the complaint/grievance process.
f. The right to immunity from university discipline charges stemming from the victim’s use of a narcotic or intoxicating substance administered with or without the victim’s consent at the time of the perpetration of a sexually violent event against the victim.

 
     
     
     
University of South Alabama