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Gender-Based & Sexual Misconduct

Section 105

Smith College is committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination, including harassment that interfere with the security, well-being, or academic or work experience of any member of the community. All employees are responsible for reading, understanding and abiding by this policy, which applies to allegations involving employees as parties to a complaint.

Sexual harassment on campus or in other settings related to college employment is unlawful, as well as unethical, and will not be tolerated. The college will respond promptly to complaints of sexual harassment, and, where it is determined that sexual harassment has occurred, will act promptly to eliminate the conduct and impose such corrective action as is necessary, including disciplinary action where appropriate. This policy applies to employment at the college. This policy applies to alleged conduct that is not otherwise covered under the college’s Interim Sexual Misconduct Policy.

While this policy sets forth the college’s goal of promoting a work environment that is free from sexual harassment, the policy is not designed or intended to limit the college’s authority to discipline or take remedial action for conduct that the college deems inappropriate or unacceptable, regardless of whether that conduct satisfies the legal definition of harassment.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

Both federal and state laws define and prohibit sexual harassment in employment. In Massachusetts, the legal definition of sexual harassment is as follows: “sexual harassment” means sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  1. submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or is used as a basis for employment decisions; or
  2. such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.

Under these definitions, direct or implied requests by a supervisor, professor, athletic coach or trainer, or other individual responsible for work evaluations for sexual favors in exchange for actual or promised job or academic benefits constitutes sexual harassment. Benefits include academic assignments, research opportunities, favorable reviews and recommendations, salary increases, promotions, increased benefits and continued employment.

Sexual harassment can occur between individuals of the same gender and regardless of sexual orientation. The same standards that apply to harassment between individuals of the opposite sex apply to harassment involving individuals of the same sex.

The legal definition of sexual harassment is broad, and, in addition to the above examples, other sexually-oriented conduct may also constitute sexual harassment. Whether intended or not by the person engaging in the conduct, sexually-oriented conduct that is unwelcome and has the effect of creating an environment that is hostile, offensive, intimidating or humiliating to another on the basis of sex may also constitute sexual harassment.

Commitment to Academic Freedom

As an academic institution, teaching, doing research, and learning are subject to the protections of ‘academic freedom’ as described in the college’s policy on academic freedom. (See related matters at the end of this policy.) Actions or words used in the context of the academic curriculum and teaching environments that serve legitimate and reasonable educational purposes will not be evaluated as sexual harassment or other unlawful discrimination because of the principles underlying academic freedom.

Examples of Conduct

While it is not possible to list all circumstances that constitute sexual harassment, the following are some examples of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment depending upon the totality of the circumstances, including the severity of the conduct and its pervasiveness:

Unwelcome sexual advances - whether they involve physical touching or not;

Threats or insinuations that a person’s employment, wages, promotional opportunities, classroom work assignments or other conditions of employment or academic life may be adversely affected by not submitting to sexual advances;

  • Dissemination of sexually explicit voicemail, email, text messages, graphics, downloaded material, forms of social media or web sites;
  • Unwelcome sexual epithets, sexual jokes, written or oral references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding one’s sex life;
  • Unwelcome comments about an individual’s sexual activity;
  • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures or cartoons;
  • Unwelcome leering, sexual behavior, or sexual gestures;
  • Unwelcome inquiries into another’s sexual experiences;
  • Unwelcome discussion of one’s sexual activities;

Creating a hostile environment for others by engaging in harassing conduct that affects the workplace, or the teaching or research environment, or affects others’ ability to compete for research opportunities, academic or work assignments, compensation, and/or employment benefits. In addition to the conduct described above, romantic involvement (even if consensual) between supervisors and subordinates may create a hostile environment.

Depending on the totality of the circumstances and the nature of the complaint, the fact that a relationship began as a consensual relationship may NOT be a defense to a claim of sexual harassment.

Informal Resolution and Opportunities to Ask Questions

An individual who believes they have  been subjected to sexual harassment is advised to make it clear to the offender that such behavior is offensive. Early informal methods are often effective in correcting questionable behavior or resolving incidents of possible harassment.

By bringing the matter immediately to the attention of a supervisor, the director of equal opportunity and compliance, the vice president for equity and inclusion, the dean of the School for Social Work, the associate provost, the associate vice president for human resources, or the assistant director of human resources the college can assure that prompt efforts will be made to help assess the situation, and determine what informal or formal steps are necessary.

Responding to a Complainant

If you have supervisory responsibilities, as do academic department chairs and managers, and possible harassment or other violations of this policy are reported to you, whether the person making the report is personally affected, you must immediately advise the director of equal opportunity. This reporting will result in an evaluation of how best to respond and can include informal resolution, intervention, or filing of a formal complaint (see below).

If you are a faculty member who receives information from a person who believes that they are being or have been sexually harassed your obligation is to consult with the director of equal opportunity and compliance/Title IX coordinator, the provost, or the vice president for equity and inclusion. Be aware that the complainant’s interest in confidentiality and the reputation of the respondent are of equal importance at every stage of considering information shared.  Depending on the totality of the circumstances and the nature of the complaint, and especially if the complainant is a student, information may have to be shared with the director of equal opportunity/Title IX coordinator.

Formal Complaint

An individual who believes that they have  been subjected to harassment may file a formal complaint with the college. This may be done in writing or orally by contacting the  Interim Title IX Coordinator

If the Interim Title IX Coordinator is unavailable or if circumstances make it more appropriate, the complaint may be filed with the one of the following people:

  • Vice President for Equity and Inclusion (413) 585-2141
  • Associate Vice President for Human Resources (413) 585-2260 
  • Dean of the School for Social Work (413) 585-7977
  • Associate Provost (413) 585-3000
  • Director of Campus Safety (413) 585-2490

These individuals are also available to discuss any concerns related to sexual harassment and to provide information about the college’s policy on harassment and its complaint process.

Complaint Investigation

When the college receives a formal complaint, the director of equal opportunity and compliance/Title IX coordinator or their designee will investigate the complaint allegations in a prompt and thorough manner. The investigator will gather relevant information by interviewing parties, other witnesses and reviewing documentation. 

All employees and students are expected to cooperate fully in efforts to investigate and enforce this policy. When the college has completed the investigation, the findings of the investigation will be shared with the complainant, the respondent, and others involved to the extent appropriate.


The college recognizes that confidentiality is very important. All actions taken to investigate and resolve complaints shall be conducted with as much privacy, discretion, and confidentiality as possible without compromising the thoroughness and fairness of the investigation. All persons involved in an investigation are expected to treat the process with respect and to hold information confidentially. Information about individual complaints and their disposition will be shared only on a “need to know” basis.

However, even informal efforts to end harassment may require that an accused harasser learn of the identity of the complainant. The college will work closely with parties to ensure their ability to continue to work during all stages of handling an informal or formal complaint of sexual harassment.

Disciplinary Action

If it is determined that an employee has engaged in sexual harassment or other inappropriate conduct, the college will take action appropriate under the circumstances.  Such action may include written warnings, required counseling, probation, suspension, or termination, and it may include such other forms of disciplinary action, as the college deems appropriate. Likewise, if it is determined that a complainant invoked the investigatory process in bad faith or knowingly presented false or misleading information, appropriate disciplinary action may be taken.

No Retaliation for Filing or Assisting with a Complaint of Sexual Harassment

Retaliation against any individual for making a good faith complaint formally or informally of sexual harassment or for assisting in good faith in the investigation of such a complaint is prohibited. All acts of retaliation are subject to disciplinary action.  Individuals who believe they have been subject to retaliation should immediately report their concerns to the Director of Equal Opportunity and Compliance.

Commitment to Awareness and Response Training

The college provides regular sexual harassment awareness and response training programs for supervisors and individuals identified with responsibilities in this policy. Additionally, the college informs the community about what constitutes sexual harassment and our moral and ethical commitment to ending sexual harassment.

State and Federal Agency Complaints

In addition to the above, an individual who believes he or she has been subjected to harassment may file a formal complaint with government agencies with jurisdiction.  Using the college’s complaint process does not prohibit an individual from filing a complaint with any of these agencies. Claims filed with MCAD or EEOC must be filed within 300 days from the date of the alleged violation.

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)

Boston Office:
One Ashburton Place, Room 601
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 994-6000

Springfield Office:
436 Dwight Street, Room 220
Springfield, MA 01103
(413) 739-2145

25 Sudbury Street
Boston, MA 02222
(617) 565-3200