What Is Harassment?

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is serious enough to significantly interfere with an individual’s work, education, living conditions, or participation in university programs and activities. Sexual harassment (including sexual violence) is perhaps the most commonly understood form of harassment, but it is important to note that harassment on any basis (such as age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status) can also occur.

Harassment occurs when either:

  • There is conduct that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to significantly interfere with an individual's work, education, living conditions, or participation in university programs or activities
  • A person uses a position of authority to engage in unwelcome conduct, such as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a sexual nature

What Is Duke’s Policy on Harassment?

Harassment of any individual for any reason is not acceptable at Duke University. In all cases, it undermines the university's commitments to excellence and to respect for the dignity and worth of all people.

The following Duke policy prohibits harassment:

All Duke faculty, other employees (including graduate students) with teaching or supervisory authority, Student Affairs professionals, HR representatives/managers, Athletics staff, and other Responsible Employees are required to share information about suspected harassment with OIE. Reports involving employees or students can be made to OIE. Individuals who are not required to report are nonetheless strongly encouraged to consult with OIE.

What Are Some Examples of Harassment?

Generally, harassment occurs when there is unwelcome behavior that is either so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it significantly interferes with your work, education, or ability to participate in Duke’s programs and activities. Examples could include:

  • Continued unwelcome questioning about intimate or personal matters
  • Severe, persistent, or pervasive comments or jokes based on race or national origin
  • Emails that contain extreme or persistent comments about an individual’s disability
  • Repeated derogatory comments relating a particular religion and targeted to a specific individual of that religion
  • Sexual violence
  • Domestic or dating violence
  • Violence based on race, national origin, disability, gender expression or identity, etc.

Note that some types of harassment could be criminal in nature and can also be reported to Duke Police.

What’s Not Considered Harassment?

Harassment is distinguished from behavior that, even though unpleasant or disconcerting, is appropriate to the carrying out of certain instructional, advisory, or supervisory responsibilities. Examples of situations that are not considered harassment include:

  • Discussion of issues regarding race or national origin in a classroom setting with a legitimate educational purpose
  • Presentation of sexually explicit material as part of a theatrical presentation
  • Perceptions of unfair treatment generally; for example, disagreement or dissatisfaction with the way a supervisor manages an employee’s work

Need Help?

Individuals are encouraged to report allegations of discrimination to OIE. Someone from OIE will contact the complainant to offer supportive measures, and to identify the appropriate action to respond to the report. Learn about available resources below or download a helpful flyer.

Flyer listing confidential and non-confidential reporting options at Duke

Confidential Resources

Confidential resources will not share information about a report without the individual’s express written permission unless there is a continuing threat of serious harm to the Complainant or to others or there is a legal obligation to reveal such information (e.g., suspected abuse or neglect of a minor). These individuals can also help an individual make a report to the University.

Non-Confidential Reporting Options

If you report concerns to a Non-Confidential Reporting Option, someone will reach out to you to provide information regarding resources, support, and how to file a complaint. You are not required to respond. You do not need to file a complaint to receive support.

What Happens Next?

If you report concerns to a Non-Confidential Reporting Option, someone will reach out to you to provide information regarding resources, support, and how to file a complaint. You are not required to respond. You do not need to file a complaint to receive support.

A Confidential Resource will not share any information you disclose to the Office for Institutional Equity.


Duke's Minors in Duke University Programs Policy sets out Duke's policy regarding children under the age of 18 who participate in Duke programs and activities. This includes athletic camps, academic camps, the Talent Identification Program, and similar activities. Every member of the university community is required to immediately report instances or suspected instances of the abuse of or inappropriate interactions with or involving minors to Duke University Police and to the Program Director. In addition, the Program Director is required to report harassment involving minors to the Office for Institutional Equity to be addressed through the Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Misconduct. Parents of participants in these programs and activities can also report harassment to OIE. The program and/or OIE will connect the participant with appropriate supports and resources.

Special Notice for International Students

International students, whether complainants or respondents, should contact Duke Visa Services for assistance in determining how their actions will affect their visa statuses in the U.S. This office will provide regulatory guidance for any complainant or respondent considering a reduced course load, leave of absence, or change to a nonimmigrant status. Respondents will also receive guidance on how any disciplinary actions by the institution could affect their visa status and/or referral to a qualified immigration attorney.

Reporting an Incident

Use the confidential online Incident Reporting tool to provide OIE with preliminary information concerning incidents of protected status harassment, discrimination and related misconduct involving students, faculty, or staff. OIE will respond to all submissions regardless of the nature of the report, and will forward it to the office responsible for addressing it, as appropriate. Though the form may be submitted anonymously, Duke University cannot provide supportive measures (such as academic accommodations, no-contact orders, safe housing options, changes of work schedules) with anonymous submissions. In addition, anonymous reports may also impact the University's ability to investigate and/or take disciplinary action.

Report an Incident