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Policies

This BSU Student Handbook is a guide to students' rights, responsibilities and resources.

Prohibition against Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, and Retaliation

Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Policy Statement

Bridgewater State University is committed to a policy of non-discrimination, equal opportunity, diversity, and affirmative action.  The university is dedicated to providing an educational, working, and living environment for students, employees, and other members of the campus community which values the diverse background of all people.

The university does not discriminate unlawfully in admission or access to, or treatment or employment in, its educational programs and activities on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, marital or parental status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, or veteran status.  The university prohibits unlawful discrimination or discriminatory harassment on all of those bases.

Discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and retaliation are unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Bridgewater State University.  Such behavior violates these policies and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination or expulsion.

These policies apply in all university programs and activities, including, but not limited to, athletics, instruction, grading, university housing, and university employment.  These policies apply to all members of the university community, including, but not limited to, students, faculty, staff, employees, applicants, and campus visitors and guests.  These policies also apply to off-campus conduct that negatively affects an individual’s experience on campus or the overall university environment.

The university has appointed a Director of the Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Office (“EO Director”) to oversee its compliance with non-discrimination and equal opportunity laws:

Director of the Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Office

Bridgewater State University

Boyden Hall, Room 207

131 Summer Street

Bridgewater, MA 02325

(508) 531-1486

erin.debobes@bridgew.edu

The EO Director handles discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and retaliation complaints from and about students, applicants, employees, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus.  The EO Director is also the university’s Title IX coordinator.  Questions regarding Title IX may be referred to the EO Director at the above address or the Office of Civil Rights at the address set forth in Question 1 below.

To View, Print, or Obtain the University’s Full Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, and Retaliation Policies:

The university’s official Policy Against Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, and Retaliation and Policy Against Sexual Harassment (including Sexual Assault and Sexual Violence) are included in its Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Plan (see Section VI and VII and Appendices 2 and 3) (the “Plan”).  The Plan is available here.  The university’s Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy is included in the Student Handbook. Each of these policies is also available upon request from the Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Office at (508) 531-1486.

PLEASE NOTE:  The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education has proposed revisions to the Plan, each of the policies, and the grievance procedures described below.  Once adopted, revisions will be published on the university’s website, in the Student Handbook and the university’s intranet, among other locations.

The following section addresses frequently asked questions about these policies:

  1. How Do I Make a Complaint about Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, or Retaliation?

All complaints or concerns about discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and/or retaliation should be filed with the EO Director:

Director of the Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Office

Bridgewater State University

Boyden Hall, Room 207

131 Summer Street

Bridgewater, MA 02325

(508) 531-1486

erin.debobes@bridgew.edu

 

As described above, the EO Director handles discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and retaliation complaints from and about students, applicants, employees, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus.

The EO Director is also the university’s Title IX coordinator.  Questions regarding Title IX may be referred to the EO Director or the Office of Civil Rights at the address set forth below.

Please do not wait to report conduct of concern until it becomes serious. The EO Director, designees, and other university officials can take proactive steps to prevent harassment from continuing and perhaps escalating and to protect or otherwise assist the person harassed.

Additional Reporting Options.  There are additional internal options for reporting complaints or concerns about discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and/or retaliation. However, the additional internal options will generally report the matter to the EO Director unless the complaint relates to the EO Director or Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Office:

Complaints or concerns about student behavior:

Office of Community Standards

DiNardo Hall

(508) 531-6177

 

Office for Student Affairs

Boyden Hall, Room 106

(508) 531-1276

 

Residential Life and Housing

(508) 531-1277

 

GLBTA Pride Center

Rondileau Campus Center, 109

(508) 531-1408

Complaints or concerns about employee behavior:

Human Resources

Boyden Hall, Room 103

(508) 531-1324

Make a Report to Another University Official

President or any vice president, dean, resident director, resident assistant, member of the Athletic Department

Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Sexual Misconduct, Dating or Domestic Violence, Stalking Complaints:

There are additional reporting options, including criminal complaints to the police and confidential options set forth in the Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy.  This policy also lists on-campus and off-campus help and assistance.

In addition to the university’s procedures, if you believe you have been subjected to unlawful discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or retaliation, you may contact or file a complaint with the appropriate governmental agencies listed below:

Inquiries regarding federal laws may be directed to:

U.S. Department of Education

Office for Civil Rights

5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor

Boston, MA 02109-3921

(617) 289-0111

Email: OCR.Boston@ed.gov

Website: https://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/CFAPPS/OCR/contactus.cfm

Generally, you must file within 180 calendar days of alleged incident.

 

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

John F. Kennedy Federal Building

475 Government Center

Boston, MA 02203

(617) 565-3200; TTY: (617) 565-3204

Generally, you must file within 300 calendar days of alleged incident

Inquiries regarding state laws may be directed to:

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

One Ashburton Place

Sixth Floor, Room 601

Boston, MA 02108

(617) 727-3990 (x588 for TTY)

Generally, you must file within 300 calendar days of alleged incident

 

2.         What Should I Do If I Think That I Am the Victim of, a Witness to, or Learn of Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, or Retaliation?

You are not required to address the matter directly with the offending party.  Occasionally, informal discussions between the parties may resolve the problem.  However, the university strongly urges anyone who has a complaint of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or retaliation to report the issue if they are not comfortable speaking directly with the offending party, if the conduct continues, or if the conduct involves sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating or domestic violence, or stalking.

All employees should review “What Are My Obligations as an Employee or Trustee to Report Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, or Retaliation to the EO Director if I Learn of an Incident?” below.

3.        How Are Internal Complaints Resolved?

The university has established internal complaint procedures to help resolve claims and complaints of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and retaliation.  There are different procedures that apply in different situations as described below.

PLEASE NOTE:  The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education has proposed revisions to the Plan, each of the policies, and the grievance procedures described below.  Once adopted, any revisions will be published on the university’s website, in the Student Handbook and the university’s intranet, among other locations.

Complainant” means the individual who makes a complaint. “Respondent” means the individual who is accused of violating the university’s discrimination, discriminatory harassment and retaliation policies.

  1. Student complainants reporting behavior committed by another student.  All allegations of discrimination, discriminatory harassment including race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, marital or parental status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, or veteran status, sexual misconduct, dating or domestic violence, stalking or retaliation committed by a student involving a student as the alleged victim are adjudicated under the grievance procedure set forth in this section.  

 

  1. Reports Are Referred to the EO Director.  Reports of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, or retaliation will be referred to the EO Director.  Prior to commencing an investigation, the EO Director will determine whether the report or complaint states facts, which if true, would violate the Plan policies or the Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy and may consult with complainant to obtain additional information. The complainant will be provided with a written explanation of their options and rights under these policies and the grievance procedures.
  2. Retaliation Is Prohibited.  The university prohibits retaliation against any person who files a claim, complaint, or charge under these policies or applicable law or who assists or participates in an investigation or resolution of such claim, complaint, or charge.  In addition, no university employee or agent may retaliate, intimidate, threaten, coerce or otherwise discriminate against any individual for exercising their rights or responsibilities under these policies.  Retaliation is a serious violation of university policies and the university will take strong responsive action if it occurs, including disciplinary action up to and including termination or dismissal.
  3. Prompt, Fair, Impartial.  These  grievance procedures have been designed to include prompt, fair, and impartial processes from investigation to final result. The proceedings will be conducted in a manner consistent with university policies and transparent to the parties. Formal rules of process such as those applied in criminal or civil courts are not used in these investigations.
  4. Trained Grievance Officials.  All grievance proceedings regarding sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking are conducted by officials who receive annual training on those issues, on how to conduct an investigation and grievance process that protects the safety of victims and promotes accountability, and provides the respondent and the complainant with the same opportunities to be accompanied to any related meeting or proceeding by an advisor of their choice.  Officials conducting the grievance proceedings are required by the university to disclose any conflict of interest or bias for or against the complainant or respondent and if one exists, such official may not participate in the proceeding.
  5. Interim Protective Measures.  The university will put in place interim measures as necessary to protect the complainant as described in Section B.5 of the Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy.  These actions may be instituted and modified at any point during the process.
  6. Standard of Review. All complaints will be evaluated under the “preponderance of the evidence” standard.  Under this standard, conclusions must be “more likely than not.”  Accordingly, the fact-finder must find that it is more likely than not that the respondent violated the university’s policies.
  7. Timing.  Investigations are normally completed within 60 days of receiving a complaint. If more time is necessary, written notice of the delay and the reasons for the delay will be provided to the complainant and respondent.
  8. No Mediation for Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Cases.  Mediation is not available for sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking cases.
  9. Notice of Meetings and Access to Information. Each complainant and respondent will be provided timely notice of meetings at which such party or both parties may be present.  They will also be given timely access to any information that will be used after the fact-finding investigation but during informal and formal disciplinary meetings.
  10. Advisor.  Each complainant, respondent, and/or victim may have an advisor of their choice accompany them to all meetings and disciplinary proceedings. The advisor may observe, but may not participate in, the meeting or proceeding in any way whatsoever, including, without limitation, by asking questions or speaking.
  11. Student Amnesty with respect to Allegations of Sexual Misconduct or Relationship Violence.  At times, students are hesitant to report the occurrence of sexual misconduct or relationship violence to the university because they are concerned that they, or witnesses to the misconduct, may be charged with violations of the Student Code of Conduct and Community Standards or other university policies.  While these behaviors are not condoned, the importance of dealing with them pales in comparison to the need to address sexual misconduct and relationship violence.  Accordingly, in connection with an incident of sexual misconduct or relationship violence, the university typically will not pursue disciplinary action against a student who claims, in good faith, to be the victim of, or a witness to, such incident for violations of the Student Code of Conduct or other policies if the violation(s) did not place the health or safety of another person at risk.
  12. Investigation by EO Investigator and Report.  Following receipt of a report, the EO Director or designee (the “EO Investigator”) will investigate the complaint. The EO Director may be the EO Investigator.  Each complainant and respondent is permitted to submit evidence and questions in writing to the EO Investigator to ask each other and the witnesses. The evidence, questions and answers will be included in the EO Investigator’s report.
  • Note:  Generally, in regards to sexual misconduct cases, questions, statements, or information about the sexual activity of the complainant or alleged victim with anyone other than the respondent is not relevant, and thus will not be considered. If the complainant raises their own sexual activity with anyone other than the respondent, relevant questions may then be asked about that relationship.

If the respondent does not respond to requests to participate in the investigation, the EO Investigator will complete the investigation based on the other information obtained. The EO Investigator may utilize police investigation reports.

The EO Investigator typically will complete their investigation within 60 days as indicated in above.  Upon completion of the investigation, the EO Investigator will prepare a report containing factual findings based on a preponderance of the evidence standard, a determination of responsibility, and a sanction recommendation, if applicable.

  1. Administrative Review Committee; Final Report.  The Director of Community Standards will appoint one or two Administrative Review Officers to an Administrative Review Committee (as defined in the Community Standards) to review the EO Investigator’s report (minus the sanction recommendation).  The Administrative Review Committee may consult with the EO Investigator, request further investigation by the EO Investigator, request clarifications or revisions by the EO Investigator to the EO Investigator’s report, or require a new investigation by another investigator.  The Administrative Review Committee may approve the EO Investigator’s report or require a new report if a new investigation by a new investigator has been required.  The Administrative Review Committee may not, however, conduct its own investigation or hearing.

Following its approval of the investigator’s report (the “Final Report”), the Administrative Review Committee will send the Final Report to the Director of Community Standards and the EO Director.  Where there has been a finding of responsibility, the EO Investigator will send the sanction recommendation to Administrative Review Committee. The Administrative Review Committee will also consult with the Director of Community Standards (or designee) and, if the EO Investigator is not the EO Director, the EO Director, regarding sanctioning.  The respondent and complainant will simultaneously be notified of the factual findings(s) of the Final Report in writing.  Upon written request, a copy of the Final Report, in compliance with applicable law, will be made available to the respondent and complainant.

  1. Impact Statements.  If there is a finding that the respondent violated university policy, the Administrative Review Committee will provide the respondent and complainant notice of their opportunity to provide to the Administrative Review Committee written impact statements describing aggravating or mitigating circumstances related to the incident which may impact sanctioning within 5 business days of the date of this notice.

If complainant or respondent does not submit to the Administrative Review Committee an impact statement  within such 5 business day period, the review committee will determine sanctions without such party or parties’ input.  Additionally, the Administrative Review Committee will review the respondent’s Student Code of Conduct and Community Standards history, if one exists.

  1. Sanctioning. Following consideration of any timely submitted impact statements and the recommendation of the EO Investigator, the Administrative Review Committee will issue a final decision regarding sanctioning regarding a respondent found responsible of violating university policy and forward it to the EO Director and Director of Community Standards.  The EO Director will consider additional remedies for the complainant as described below.  The Director of Community Standards will then inform the respondent of the imposed sanctions.

If a respondent is found responsible for committing a violation of university policies, appropriate sanctions or disciplinary measures will be imposed up to and including, expulsion or termination.

Sanctions are determined by the seriousness of the violation, precedent for similar violations, and any other circumstances indicating that the sanction should be more or less severe. For further detail regarding each sanction, please see the Student Code of Conduct and Community Standards. The complainant will be notified of sanctions where permitted by law as described below.

  • The sanction precedent for students for Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse is expulsion. The sanction precedent for Non-Consensual Sexual Contact, Sexual Exploitation, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence and Stalking is suspension or expulsion.  Definitions of those terms are found in the Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy.
  1. Notice of Results.  The university will simultaneously notify, in writing, both the complainant and the respondent of:
  • The result of the investigation and grievance procedure, the rationale for the result, and, if applicable, all sanctions imposed that arise from an allegation of sexual assault, sexual violence, dating or domestic violence, stalking, or other crime of violence and any sanctions that directly relate to the victim that arise from an allegation of sexual harassment.  If the victim is deceased as a result of the offense, the university will provide the results of the disciplinary hearing to the victim’s next of kin, if so requested. “Result” includes an initial, interim, or final decision by any official authorized to resolve these matters on behalf of the university.
  • Appeal rights of the complainant and the respondent;
  • Any change to the result; and
  • When such results become final.
  1. Right to Appeal.  Both the respondent and complainant will be informed of their right to appeal the findings in accordance with the appeals process as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct and Community Standards, including the stated time limits.
  2. Additional Remedies Following Finding of Responsibility.  The university will take steps to prevent recurrence of harassment and to correct its discriminatory effects on the complainant and others, as appropriate.  This includes providing additional remedies, in addition to any sanction, to remedy the effect of offense.  These remedies are separate from, and in addition to, any interim measure that may have been provided prior to the conclusion of the investigation and grievance process.  In any instance in which the complainant declined or did not take advantage of a specific service (e.g., counseling) offered as an interim measure, the complainant will be re-offered the services.  In addition, the EO Director will consider broader remedial action for the university community such as increased monitoring, supervision, or security at locations where the incidents occurred, increased or targeted education and prevention efforts, conducting climate assessments/victimization surveys, and/or revisiting its policies and procedures.  In addition, whatever the outcome of the investigation, a complainant may request ongoing or additional accommodations which may be granted by the EO Director, in consultation with the Director of Community Standards, such as moving the complainant’s residence or changing the complainant’s academic or work schedule in connection with sexual misconduct and relationship violence cases.
  1. All other complaints about behavior committed by faculty, staff, students, vendors, and other visitors to campus.  All complaints (other than student complaints about student behavior which are addressed as described above) will be addressed through Discrimination Grievance Procedures that are included in the Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Plan (Appendices 2 and 3) and are available here or upon request from the Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Office at (508) 531-1486.

Appendix 2 sets forth the process for complaints of discrimination and harassment on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital or Parental Status
  • Genetic Information
  • Veteran’s Status

Also includes retaliation complaints

Appendix 3 sets forth the process for complaints of discrimination or harassment on the basis of

  • Sex (includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating and domestic violence and stalking)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression

Also includes retaliation complaints

 

The university prohibits retaliation against any person who files a claim, complaint, or charge under these policies or applicable law or who assists or participates in an investigation or resolution of such claim, complaint, or charge.  In addition, no university employee or agent may retaliate, intimidate, threaten, coerce or otherwise discriminate against any individual for exercising their rights or responsibilities under these policies.  Retaliation is a serious violation of university policies and the university will take strong responsive action if it occurs, including disciplinary action up to and including termination or dismissal.

The following generally summarizes the grievance process set forth in Appendix 2 and Appendix 3.  Please see Appendices 2 and 3 for the full grievance procedures.

  1. Written Complaint.  A signed and dated written complaint must be submitted to the EO Director by the person making the complaint. The complaint must identify the prohibited basis on which the complaint is filed, the alleged act(s) of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and/or retaliation, the names of any witnesses, and any other pertinent information. Please note that the university reserves the right to investigate claims for which a complaint form was not completed.
  2. Timeframe to File the Complaint.  A complaint should normally be filed within 60 working days from the date that the individual had knowledge of the alleged act(s) of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and/or retaliation.  However, the time limit may be extended when there is a continuing effect or acts or for other circumstances.
  3. Optional Informal Mediation of Complaints under Appendix 2.  Appendix 2 allows the parties to engage in informal mediation, if desired. However, no mediation is permitted for complaints under Appendix 3 (including, but not limited to, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking cases).
  4. Optional Resolution at Any Time by Written Agreement under Appendix 2.  A complaint may be resolved at any step of the procedure by a written agreement of the parties approved by the EO Director or designee.
  5. Investigation Process.

 

  1. The EO Director or designee (the “EO Investigator”) will promptly review the complaint and determine whether it alleges a violation of these polices.  If so, the EO Investigator will investigate the complaint by taking, at a minimum, the following steps:
  • providing a copy of the formal complaint to the respondent;
  • requesting and considering the response of the respondent;
  • providing a copy of the respondent’s response to the complainant if the respondent provides a written response to the complaint;
  • reviewing relevant university policies and documents;
  • interviewing of other persons having information pertinent to the allegations;
  • collecting further evidence relevant to the investigation;
  • presenting the evidence to each party and considering any rebuttal; and
  • any other steps as the EO Investigator or designee believes are necessary.
  1. Statement of Findings.  The EO Investigator will determine whether it is more likely than not that the respondent violated the university’s policies regarding discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and retaliation. The EO Investigator will provide a Statement of Findings and Recommendation to the complainant, respondent, the senior area administrator who reports to the President and has overall responsibility for supervision of the respondent (the “Senior Area Administrator”), and the President, together with a statement regarding the parties’ rights of appeal.
  2. First Appeal. Either the complainant or the respondent may appeal within 10 working days of receipt of the Statement of Findings.  The Senior Area Administrator will review the appeal and the investigation records and will offer the non-prevailing party the right to a hearing or to proceed without a hearing.  The Senior Area Administrator will determine whether it is more likely than not that the respondent violated the university’s policies regarding discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and retaliation. Senior Area Administrator will provide a Statement of Findings and Proposed Remedy to the complainant and respondent, together with a statement regarding the parties’ rights of appeal to the President.
  3. Second Appeal.  Either the complainant or the respondent may appeal within 10 working days of receipt of the Statement of Findings and Proposed Remedy.  The President or designee will review the appeal and the record and may (a) remand the case to the Senior Area Administrator, the EO Director, or other designee for further investigation or hearing or (b) make a final determination on the complaint using the “more likely than not” standard and take what action they deem appropriate to the situation.  A Notice of Final Resolution will be issued by the President or designee to the complainant, the respondent, the Senior Area Administrator, and the EO Director.
  4. Sex Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Gender-Based Misconduct, Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Proceedings.  The University prohibits sex discrimination, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, sexual coercion, dating and domestic violence and stalking.  Please see the university’s Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy for further applicable information regarding definitions of the offenses and examples, reporting options, including details regarding confidential reporting options and how requests for confidentiality and not to investigate are handled, available on and off campus assistance, available interim safety and support measures, rights of complainants, victims, and respondents (including, but not limited to, the right to an advisor of choice, notice of meetings, access to information and notice of results), training of grievance officials involved in the process, additional remedies that may be provided to a complainant to remedy the effect of an offense, and other terms.

 4.        Can I Be Retaliated Against For Making a Complaint or Being a Witness?

The university prohibits retaliation against any person who files a claim, complaint, or charge under these procedures or applicable law or who assisted or participated in an investigation or resolution of such claim, complaint, or charge.  Retaliation is a serious violation of the university’s policies and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination or expulsion.  Even if the original claim or complaint of discrimination or harassment is found to be without merit or otherwise dismissed, a finding of retaliation may still occur.

Retaliation includes intimidating, threatening, coercing, or in any way discriminating against an individual because of the individual’s complaint or participation. Action is generally deemed retaliatory if it would deter a reasonable person in the same circumstances from opposing practices prohibited by these policies. Examples of retaliation, include, but are not limited to:

  • Terminating or denying a promotion to an employee for complaining about alleged discrimination or harassment;
  • Issuing an unjustified negative evaluation or poor grade to a person who complained or a witness cooperating in a discrimination or harassment investigation or proceeding;
  • Assigning a student an unjustified poor grade or refusing to admit an applicant for requesting a reasonable accommodation based on a disability;
  • Refusing to hire an individual because of the individual’s discrimination or harassment charge against a former employer.

5.        What Is Discrimination?

Discrimination is an intentional or unintentional act that adversely affects a person’s employment and/or educational opportunities in violation of applicable law based on the person’s:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Marital or parental status
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Gender Expression
  • Genetic Information
  • Veteran’s status

Examples of discrimination include, but are not limited to, unlawfully:

  1. Screening out or refusing to hire or admit a person on one of these bases;
  2. Limiting access to promotions or assignments on one of these bases;
  3. Making determinations regarding a person’s salary on one of these bases;
  4. Denying a person access to an educational program or service on one of these bases;
  5. Grading students more harshly than other students on one of these bases;
  6. Singling out, treating, or causing to treat persons differently from others because of assumptions about or stereotypes of the intellectual ability, interest, or aptitudes of persons on one of these bases;
  7. Maintaining a policy, practice, or procedure that in practical application, but in the absence of a legitimate business function, has less favorable consequences for members of one of these groups than for the dominant group.
  8. Failing to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability in violation of applicable law.

6.        What Is Discriminatory Harassment?

Discriminatory harassment is verbal, written, and/or physical conduct that is based on a person’s:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Marital or parental status
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Gender Expression
  • Genetic Information
  • Veteran’s status

and:

a.   has the purpose or effect of creating an objectively intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment;

b.   has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or educational opportunities; or

c.   otherwise unreasonably adversely affects an individual’s employment or educational opportunities.

Harassing conduct constitutes a “hostile environment” when it is:

  1. targeted against a person or persons on the basis of their race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, marital or parental status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, or veteran status;
  2. not welcomed by the person(s); and
  3. sufficiently severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of educational or employment and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, hostile, or offensive.

The university determines whether a hostile environment exists based on the totality of the circumstances, such as the frequency of the conduct, its severity, and whether it is threatening or humiliating.

Simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) may not amount to hostile environment harassment.  

7.        What Are Some Examples of Discriminatory Harassment?

Examples of discriminatory harassment include, but are not limited to, the following behavior based on or because of a person or persons’

  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Marital or parental status
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Gender Expression
  • Genetic Information
  • Veteran’s status

  1. Physical harassing, assaulting, touching, patting, pinching, grabbing, staring, or leering, making lewd gestures, invading their personal space, blocking normal movement, or other physical interference;
  2. Encouraging others to abuse an individual or group;
  3. Threatening to harm an individual or group;
  4. Directing epithets, slurs, derogatory comments, unwelcome teasing, jokes or stories at an individual or group;
  5. Displaying hostile, derogatory and/or intimidating symbols or objects, such as offensive posters, cartoons, bulletins, drawings, photographs, magazines, written articles or stories, screen savers, or electronic communications, to an individual or group.

Additional examples can be found in the Plan.

8.        What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal, non-verbal and/or physical behavior of a sexual nature when:

  1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education; and/or
  2. submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; and/or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance or creating a sexually intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment, educational, or living environment.

Anyone can be a victim regardless of an individual’s sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or other personal characteristics.  Sexual harassment can also take place on the basis of gender identity or expression or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.

A hostile environment exists when the discriminatory harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to interfere with an employee’s professional performance, or to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the university’s programs or activities based on sex.

Sexual harassment includes sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating violence or domestic violence, and stalking.  A single isolated incident of sexual violence may create a hostile environment. For further information regarding the university’s Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy, regarding, including definitions of sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, and consent with respect to sexual activity, please see the policy here or upon request from the Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Office at (508) 531-1486.

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

  • Harassment or abuse on the basis of sex;
  • Requests or demands for sexual favors accompanied by threats negatively to affect, or promises to improve, work or academic status, such as reviews, grades, salary increases, promotions, or letters of recommendation;
  • Unwelcome sexual advances, whether or not they involve physical touching, including repeated unsolicited requests for dates and/or sexual activity;
  • Suggestive or insulting gestures or sounds, such as whistling, wolf-calls, kissing sounds, hand gestures to denote sexual activity, or holding or eating food provocatively;
  • Display or distribution of sexually suggestive materials, objects, pictures, magazines or cartoons;
  • Jokes, slurs, or other comments about sex or gender-specific traits, gender identity, or sexual orientation;
  • Unwanted comments of a sexual nature, including, but not limited to, lewd or sexually suggestive comments, jokes, and innuendos, questions or discussion about any individual’s sexual activities, persistent and unwelcome flirting, and other references to sexual conduct;
  • Kissing, fondling, and unnecessary touching of any kind that is sexual in nature;
  • Sexual assault, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.  A single incident of sexual violence may constitute sexual harassment.

Additional examples of sexual harassment can be found in the Plan and in the Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy.

9.        How Long Does the Investigation Process Take?

Investigations are normally completed within 60 working days of receiving the complaint.  The investigation process may be extended for good cause.  The EO Director or designee will provide written notice to the complainant and the respondent of any extension and the reasons for the extension and reasonable periodic status updates.

10.        What is the Standard of Review for Internal Complaints?

All internal complaints of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or retaliation will be evaluated under the “preponderance of the evidence” standard.  Under this standard, conclusions must be “more likely than not.”  Accordingly, the fact-finder must find that it is more likely than not that an individual violated the university’s policies on discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and retaliation.

11.        Will I Be Guaranteed Confidentiality If I Make A Complaint?

If university officials receive a report of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or retaliation, there may be an obligation to investigate under applicable law or when deemed necessary to protect the interests of the university community. In addition, the university has a responsibility to seek to ensure the safety of all students and employees on campus. The university will take steps to keep information as private as possible, but cannot guarantee confidentiality.

To the extent possible, the university will protect the privacy of all parties to a report of misconduct by sharing information only with university officials and representatives who are responsible for handling the university’s response to these incidents to the extent possible.  Information will be maintained in a secure manner.

With respect to issues of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating or domestic violence, and stalking, please see the additional important information regarding confidentiality and privacy and requests not to investigate, on-campus and off-campus help and services and an anonymous reporting option set forth in the university’s Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy.

12.        What Are My Obligations as an Employee or Trustee to Report Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, or Retaliation to the EO Director if I Learn of an Incident?

The mandatory requirement to report discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and retaliation to the EO Director generally does not apply to the following types of employees when they are required by law to maintain confidentiality:

  • Licensed Counselors, Licensed Health Care Professionals, and Pastoral Counselors.  These employees may report to the EO Director only general information about these incidents such as the nature, date, time, and general location of the incident and should take care to avoid reporting personally identifiable information.
  • BSU Police.  BSU Police may be prohibited by Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c. 41 § 97D and/or c. 265, § 24C) from providing sexual assault, domestic violence, or dating violence information to the EO Director under certain circumstances.

However, there are mandatory requirements to report discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and retaliation to the EO Director that apply to all other university employees as follows:

  • Any trustee, administrator, department chair, program coordinator, manager, or supervisor who is aware of any claim of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or retaliation by any member of the university community is required to report it to the EO Director as soon as they become aware of it.
  • With the exception of the licensed counselors and health care professionals, pastoral counselors, and the BSU police described above, every employee must report any complaint of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking received by him or her from any other member of the campus community to the EO Director as soon as they become aware of it. This includes having reliable knowledge of an incident.

Please note, however, that employees are not required to report information provided at public awareness events such as “Take Back the Night,” the Clothesline Project, candlelight vigils, protests, “survivor speak outs” or other forums in which individuals disclose incidents of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking but may be reported on a non-personally identifiable basis to inform education and prevention efforts.

Finally, every employee who receives any other complaint of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or retaliation should give to the person making the complaint as much assistance in bringing it to the attention of the EO Director as is reasonably appropriate given their position at the university and relationship with the person making the complaint.

Any employee who has a question about their responsibilities should contact the EO Director.

13.        What Is an Employee’s Duty in Connection with an Investigation?

Every employee has a duty to cooperate fully and unconditionally in an investigation, subject to the provisions of any relevant collective bargaining agreements.  This duty includes, among other things, speaking with the EO Director or other investigator and providing all documentation that relates to the claim being investigated.  The failure and/or refusal of any employee to cooperate in an investigation may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

14.        What about Academic Freedom and the First Amendment?

Any form of speech or conduct that is legally protected by the principles of academic freedom or the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is not prohibited by university policies.  Members of the university community should not assume that the forms of speech described as prohibited by the Plan and university policies are protected by the principles of academic freedom or the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The university is committed to protecting, maintaining and encouraging both freedom of expression and full academic freedom of inquiry, teaching, service, and research.  Nothing in the university’s policies regarding discrimination and harassment shall be construed to penalize a member of the university community for expressing an opinion, theory, or idea in the process of responsible teaching and learning.

15.        What Happens If Someone Files a False Charge?

Filing a false charge of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or retaliation is a serious offense.  If an investigation reveals that a complainant knowingly filed false charges, the university may take disciplinary action up to and including termination or expulsion.

16.        Who is the University’s Title IX Coordinator?

The EO Director is the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

17.        Who Oversees the University’s Compliance with Title VI, Section 504, and the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The EO Director also oversees the university’s compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

18.        How Do I Obtain a Reasonable Accommodation?

Consistent with state and federal law, reasonable accommodations will be provided to individuals with disabilities.  Employees with disabilities who desire reasonable accommodations should contact the EO Director and students and others with disabilities who desire reasonable accommodations should contact Disability Resources Office at (508) 531-1214 or TTY at (508) 531-6113 or by email.  The Disability Resources Office is located in the Academic Achievement Center (located on the ground floor of the Maxwell Library).

19.        How Are Consensual Relationships Between an Employee and a Student Viewed?

In these cases, there will be a strong presumption that sexual activity may be unwelcome and non-consensual.  These relationships are strongly discouraged.

20.        What Equal Opportunity, Discrimination, and Harassment Laws apply to the University?

The university is committed to compliance with executive order 11246, Titles VI (Title VI) and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), Sections 503 and 504 (Section 504) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Violence Against Women Act, Massachusetts General Laws Chapters 151B and 151C, Section 402 of the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, the directives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Board of Higher Education and the Board of Trustees of the university, and other applicable federal, state, and local constitutions, statutes, regulations, ordinances and executive orders, all as amended and as applicable to the university.

21.        Massachusetts Criminal Harassment Laws:

Massachusetts has several laws that specifically encompass acts of criminal harassment, including Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 265, sections 37 and 39.  Section 39 describes the crime of assault or battery upon a person or damages the real or personal property of another for the purpose of intimidation because of said person's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

In addition, a description of Massachusetts laws relating to sexual misconduct and relationship violence crimes can be found in the Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy.

Updated/Confirmed 8/2017 by Erin DeBobes, Office of Equal Opportunity

Bridgewater State University
Student Handbook 2016-2017
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