Harassment Policy

The teaching and learning of the liberal arts at Earlham College rest on the principle of free inquiry and open discourse.  This principle, however, does not imply that all manner of speech must be tolerated.  Various forms of verbal intimidation lie beyond the bounds of academic freedom.  As the AAUP "Preliminary Report on Freedom of Expression and Campus Harassment Codes" states: "the commitment to reasoned discourse that is a defining characteristic of colleges and universities entails a corollary commitment to maintain an environment free from such impediments to intellectual exchange. [R]easoned discourse depends upon common adherence to minimum standards of civility." (Academe, May-June 1991.24)

The testimonies of the Religious Society of Friends regarding equality, peace and social justice affirm the centrality of mutual respect in inquiry and social discourse. In the language of Earlham's Community Principles and Practices, "everyone is worthy of respect regardless of differences." Earlham seeks to create an environment in which members of the College community can express themselves and strive for excellence without fear of violence, oppression, intimidation, or abusive epithets. Members of the college community are called upon to foster reasoned, respectful and ethical standards of behavior and to be responsible in their actions towards one another.

Earlham is a community, and acts of physical violence are inimical to its social fabric.  Such acts shall be dealt with promptly according to steps outlined in the Earlham College Student Handbook, the Faculty Handbook and the Staff Handbook for dealing with physical violence. Because Earlham is an intentional community, it will take steps to protect its members from harassment or harm arising from insensitivity or ignorance and assure the integrity of the College's commitment to free inquiry in a civil community.  If harassment is judged to have occurred, punishment will be administered. Because Earlham is also an educational institution, an important response to harassment or harm arising from insensitivity or ignorance is to educate the guilty party or parties and the rest of the community to clarify the nature of the offending behavior and reduce the likelihood of the recurrence of such behavior in the future. It is particularly important that the community be educated regarding the distinctions among freedom of expression, harassment, and insensitive or ignorant behavior.

The "Preliminary Report on Freedom of Expression and Campus Harassment Codes" informs this policy and underscores the difficulties and subtleties associated with distinguishing harassment from the expression of objectionable ideas. "[M]uch speech that may not be proscribed may nonetheless be morally objectionable. Threats and verbal assaults need not be tolerated, but idea, however offensive and however offensively expressed, may be met only with other ideas."  (25,26)

Terms and Assumptions

The following definitions rest on these assumptions:

  • that persons are accountable for their behavior that willful ignorance is unacceptable behavior;
  • that conduct should be evaluated from the standpoint of a "reasonable person"; [1]
  • that the purpose of adjudication is to make judgments about complex relationships, and especially to distinguish free speech, including the expression of unpopular ideas, from harassing behavior.

In determining the line between harassment and the proper exercise of the rights of free expression, all parties involved in adjudication will be guided by the preamble to the policy. Harassment is intentional harm characterized as any action, expression, or other behavior that seeks to oppress or to convey hatred, contempt or ridicule, based upon such characteristics as race, gender, ethnicity, physical disability, or sexual orientation of individuals; and the effect of which is to degrade, humiliate or deny a person or persons the full and free exercise of their rights or privileges, or creating an intimidating or hostile environment.

Sexual harassment may take any of the above forms. Sexual harassment may, in addition, consist of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual or gender related nature which has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's performance or create an intimidating or hostile environment.  Such proposals, when made under circumstances implying that one's response might affect academic or personnel decisions subject to the influence of the person making the proposal, are especially abhorrent. Many behaviors that do not seek to harm still are harmful in their impact. These are characterized as unintentional harm.  Such behaviors may arise from ignorance and/or insensitivity. Ignorant behavior denotes harmful action or speech by a person unaware of the harm that is inflicted.  Insensitive behavior is harmful action or speech that is the result of poor judgment about the likely consequences or that behavior.

Grievance Procedures

A person who thinks that he or she has been harassed is invited to consulted with a member of the Active Listener's Group for clarity on what happened and the options available to the complainant.  A list of Active Listeners shall be posted in the Provost's and Business Manager's offices and widely disseminated.  Where a satisfactory resolution of the problem seems possible, the active listener should attempt such an effort.  If the active listener is able to resolve the problem to everyone's satisfaction, the matter ends there. If an attempt at resolution involves inordinate risk, is not possible for any reason, or has not produced a satisfactory resolution, or if the complainant wishes to take immediate action, the complainant should contact the Grievance Officer to discuss his or her experience and clarify the procedural steps that may be taken to file a formal charge. If the complainant wishes to proceed, the Grievance Officer shall refer the matter for adjudication as follows:

  • if the alleged offender is a student, to the Dean of Student Development. These cases will be reviewed according to the procedures for social violations as outlined in "Community Principles and Practices."
  • if the alleged offender is staff or faculty, to the Harassment Board.

In hearing the parties and any appropriate witnesses, the judicial body shall seek to minimize the potential for intimidation, coercion or abuse of power.  In its deliberations, the judicial body will consider the terms and assumptions in section II and adjudicate accordingly. Upon completion of its hearing the judicial body shall recommend action to the responsible officer. [2]   The recommendation shall include:

  • if intentional harm or harm caused by willful ignorance is deemed to have occurred, punishment and steps to educate the guilty parties.
  • if harm caused by insensitive or ignorant behavior is determined to have occurred, steps to educate the guilty party/ies.

When education is a part of the recommendation, its form will be determined jointly by the guilty party and the Provost. If appropriate, there will be a recommendation on steps to educate the community. Public education offers an opportunity to clarify the distinctions between free expression and intolerable behavior.  In publicizing the issues, the panel shall take care to safeguard the identity of the participants. The recommendations of the Harassment Board shall be forwarded to the responsible senior officer for action and to the Grievance Officer who shall keep confidential records accessible only to future grievance hearings. No adverse action of any kind will be taken by the College against anyone for bringing a complaint of harassment regardless of the final disposition of that complaint unless, in the judgment of the Harassment Board, the charge brought was a fabrication. The College does not waive any rights it may have to take adverse action if the complaint is found to be a fabrication. In the absence of such a finding, the college insists that no person, acting as a member of the Earlham community, take adverse action against a complainant.

The President will decide on the disciplinary action to be taken for a College employee who is found guilty of harassment. The severity of the penalty will depend on the seriousness of the offense; the penalty may include termination of employment. When implementing disciplinary action for faculty, the President will consult the then-current guidelines published by the American Association of University Professors. The right of appeal and the procedures for appeal will conform to the processes described in the handbooks for the various constituencies: staff and students.

The policy should not be construed to limit the College's ability to address independently acts of harassment that fall outside the parameters of this policy.  Furthermore, this policy is not a contract of employment or part of any such contract. The College reserves the right to revise, modify, amend, or terminate any part or all of the policy at any time at the College's sole discretion.

Community Education

Basic to any policy on harassment is the education of the entire community: students, administration, faculty and staff. The responsibility for such education lies with the Provost or designated representative. The objective of the education should be to:

  • enable persons to understand and recognize the nature and dimensions of prejudice based on race, gender, ethnicity, physical disability, or sexual orientation, and to recognize harassment when it occurs in their own behavior or in that of others;
  • provide members of the community with the means for confronting potential or actual harassing behavior, or accusations of harassment. Education and discussion about harassment is encouraged within the curriculum wherever appropriate.

Appointment of the Active Listeners Group and the Harassment Board

The Active Listeners Group shall be appointed by the Provost after seeking recommendations from Student Government, Faculty Nominating Committee, and Employee council.

The Harassment Board shall be appointed in the manner appropriate to the various constituencies and shall consist of two students, two staff members, and two faculty members. The staff and faculty members shall have three year overlapping terms. Student terms should be as long as possible but not longer than three years.

When adjudicating a case, the Board shall consist of at least one peer of the alleged offender, one peer of the complainant (if from a different constituency than the accused) and one representative from each of the constituencies. [3]

All appointees should be provided training so that they are enabled to carry out their responsibilities with fairness, sensitivity and speed.

Under the direction of these guidelines, the Harassment Board, the Grievance Officer and the group of "Active Listeners" shall define procedures to govern the operations of the Board in a fair and efficient manner.

Part of this policy is a set of administrative guidelines, which follow immediately below. One provision of the Guidelines is that the definition of harassment contained in the policy must not be interpreted in ways that make unpopular or even offensive speech qualify as harassment. [4]

Harassment Board Procedures

The Harassment Board will be called together by the appropriate senior officer of the College, upon receipt of a formal charge letter from the Grievance Office. If a faculty member is the alleged offender, the Provost will bring the Board together. If the alleged offender is a staff member, the Vice President for Finance will do so.

The Harassment Board will then meet to decide if the charge meets the definition of harassment.

If the case is to proceed, the Provost or the V.P. for Finance will talk with the accused, explaining the Board procedures. The senior officer will write a formal charge letter to the accused, including the time of the hearing.

The Harassment Board will decide if further information is needed and, if appropriate, ask the Director of Security to investigate.

The Hearing shall be schedule to occur at least 24 hours after the accused received the statement of charges. Before the hearing, the individual(s) shall have the opportunity to discuss the matter with the Provost or V.P. for Finance, at which time procedures will be explained and questions answered.  A hearing is closed to the community unless the accused and the Harassment Board agree that it should be open.

The alleged offender shall be required either to attend the hearing or submit a statement. The hearing will still be held even if the accused does not attend or submit a statement. Either the accused or the accuser or both may select a member of the Earlham community to accompany him/her throughout the proceedings. This person shall not participate actively in the proceeding (except as a witness) nor in the consensus of the Harassment Board. No lawyers or non-community members may attend the hearing.

The charges will be read and the accused will have the opportunity to respond to the charges during the hearing. The accused has the right to face and question his/her accuser at the hearing. The accused, accuser and Harassment Board may invite witnesses to speak on either side of the issue. The Harassment Board may direct questions to the witness or the accused. The accused may remain silent or may direct questions to the witness. The accuser may direct questions to the accused and any witnesses. All participants are expected to refrain from being abusive or disruptive. Repeated disruptions will result in exclusion of the individual from the proceedings. The accuser has the option of being in the hearing room separately and will only be there while giving information. At the end of the hearing, both the accused and the accuser may make a personal statement to the board.

Upon completion of the hearing, the Harassment Board shall, by consensus, decide on a recommendation to be made to the responsible senior officer who will inform the president or his/her designate. The senior officer will also inform the accused and the accuser of the recommendation of the board.

The President or his/her designate will decide on the disciplinary action to be taken for a College employee who is found guilty of harassment.

A faculty or staff member who is found guilty may appeal the decision by submitting a written statement to the President. The President will decide if an appeal should be heard. This decision will be based on new evidence or a failure to observe due process. Appeals will not be heard to reconsider penalties. If the President decides that an appeal should be heard, he/she will convene the Appeals Board. The Appeals Board consists of the President (or his/her designee), one faculty member chosen by the Faculty Nominating Committee, and two students chosen by the Student Nominating Committee.

This procedure may be amended by the consensus of the Harassment Board. [5]



[1] According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the "reasonable person" standard does not make the existence of harassment turn on the perception of the accuser alone. However, in applying the standard we must consider (as quoted from the EEOC document) "the context in which the alleged harassment took place; the 'reasonable person' standard should consider the [accuser's] perspective and not stereotyped notions of acceptable behavior."

[2] If a senior officer is the alleged offender, the recommendations of the Harassment Board will go to the President.  If the President is the alleged offender, the recommendations will go to the Board of Trustees. Nothing in this policy prohibits any party in a dispute from seeking legal counsel if legal advice is desired or if criminal or civil action is anticipated.

[3] For the purposes of this policy, all Earlham students are considered to constitute one set of peers, all staff members constitutes a second set of peers, and all teaching and administrative faculty constitute a third set.

[4] The Harassment Policy was approved by the Earlham College faculty on April 15, 1992, and was updated on October 18, 2001 to reflect references in the Principles and Practices.

[5] Discussed and recorded in the Minutes of the Earlham College faculty meeting, April 7, 1993.


A much-abridged form of this policy has sometimes been published, as follows:

The teaching and learning of the liberal arts at Earlham College rest on the principle of free inquiry and open discourse. This principle, however, does not imply that all manner of speech must be tolerated. Various forms of verbal intimidation lie beyond the bounds of academic freedom. As the AAUP "Preliminary Report on Freedom of Expression and Campus Harassment Codes" states: "The commitment to reasoned discourse that is a defining characteristic of colleges and universities entails a corollary commitment to maintain an environment free from such impediments to intellectual exchange... [R]easoned discourse depends upon common adherence to minimum standards of civility." (Academe, May-June 1991, 24)

Earlham seeks to create an environment in which members of the College community can express themselves and strive for excellence without fear of violence, oppression, intimidation, or abusive epithets. Members of the College community are called upon to foster reasoned, respectful, and ethical standards of behavior and to be responsible in their actions towards one another. Earlham is a community, and acts of physical violence are inimical to its social fabric. Such acts shall be dealt with promptly.

Earlham College will take steps to protect its members from harassment or harm arising from insensitivity or ignorance and assure the integrity of the College’s commitment to free inquiry in a civil community. If harassment is judged to have occurred, punishment will be administered. Because Earlham is also an educational institution, an important response to harassment or harm arising from insensitivity or ignorance is to educate the guilty party or parties and the rest of the community to clarify the nature of the offending behavior and reduce the likelihood of the recurrence of such behavior in the future. It is particularly important that the community be educated regarding the distinctions among freedom of expression, harassment, and insensitive or ignorant behavior.

Harassment Board

 

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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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Richmond, Indiana
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