Harassment

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, national origin, gender or sex, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, race, religion, or sexual orientation) 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.

Duke has several policies that prohibit harassment, including:

  • Harassment Policy and Procedures, which applies to anyone enrolled at or employed by Duke University or Duke University Health System as well as visitors, applicants, and patients.
  • Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, which covers sexual and gender-based harassment, sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and sex- or gender-based stalking committed by undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

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

Whom Can I Contact for Help?

If you think you’ve been harassed or you have any questions about Duke’s harassment policies, please contact the Office for Institutional Equity 919-684-8222 or the Office of Student Conduct.

You may also get help from any of the following resources:

Employees

Confidential assistance is available for employees through the Personal Assistance Service at 919-416-1727 (Duke Raleigh employees should call 919-872-4786).

Students

Confidential assistance for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students of all genders is available through:

Harassment Prevention Advisors (HPAs) are Duke administrators who have been trained to help students with harassment concerns or complaints, including those involving Title IX. Please be aware that, when responding to harassment concerns or complaints, HPAs are unable to guarantee confidentiality. See a list of current HPAs.

Applicants, Visitors, and Patients

If you are a Duke applicant for employment or admissions or a visitor or patient, there are resources to assist you with your concern or question involving harassment. You may contact either:

  • The office or department with which you directly interacted
  • OIE at 919-684-8222

Learn how to file a harassment complaint.

Have You Been Accused of Harassment?

If you’ve been accused of harassment, there are resources to assist you. Resources available for Duke students who are respondents in an investigation include:

Resources available for Duke non-faculty employees who have been accused of harassment include:

Resources available for Duke faculty employees who have been accused of harassment include:

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.

Glossary Term

Harassment

A type of discrimination that occurs when verbal, physical, electronic, or other conduct based on an individual’s protected status interferes with that person’s educational environment, work environment, participation in a university program or activity, or access to legitimately requested services.

Hostile environment harassment

Unwelcome conduct based on protected status that is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it alters the conditions of education, employment, or participation in a university program or activity, thereby creating an environment that a reasonable person in similar circumstances and with similar identities would find hostile, intimidating, or abusive.

Sexual- or gender-based harassment

Unwelcome conduct that may include sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, physical, or electronic conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile, intimidating, or abusive environment.