Policy Against Sexual Harassment
Q: A friend of mine insisted that there
is a PSU policy that no faculty member can make any comment about a
person "below the shoulders," so that a professor could say "Nice
haircut," but not "Nice sweater." I contended that it sounded like an
urban legend, and I told her I'd look into it. Can you confirm or deny
the existence of such a policy?
A: Penn State does have a policy against Sexual Harassment. It is AD 41 and this is the link to it: http://guru.psu.edu/policies/AD41.html It does not specifically prohibit comments about a person "Below the Shoulders" and I have never encountered such a statement at any of the training sessions. I could say I like your shoes, that is below the shoulders. Sexual Harassment can include verbal harassment. It usually depends on what is said, how it is said, repetitiveness of the comments, and any accompanying gestures, touching, eye scanning, etc.. One of the criteria used to define sexual harassment is the "reasonable person" standard. Which asks, "Would a reasonable person consider this harassment?" Also, a good way to judge what you are saying or doing is to ask yourself, "Would I do this if my wife, sister, or mother were present?" If the answer is no, then don't do it. We expect all our faculty, staff, and students to use good judgement in their interactions with others. And if someone says, "I don't like it when you compliment me on my clothing" then that person should apologize and stop it because to continue might be considered harassment.
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