Sexual harassment has had the majority of complaints over the years here at West Chester, but unfortunately, it’s not the only form of harassment that members of this University have dealt with.”It’s equally important to know how to handle other forms [of harassment],” said Barbara Schneller, from the Office of Social Equity. Schneller held a program open to faculty and students titled, “Discriminatory Harassment: It’s Not Just Sexual” on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005 in Sykes Student Union. “Our goal is to protect the people of this campus and make them feel comfortable,” said Schneller.
“Inappropriate comments do not have to be tolerated, students have plenty of options,” stated Schneller referring to the Office of Social Equity, Campus Police/Public Safety, the Campus Climate Intervention Team (CCIT), the Director of Student Affairs, Lynn Klingensmith, or any trusted staff member.
She then explained that the standards held are not just by University policy, but there are many applicable laws to help stop and prevent discriminatory harassment. Some of the laws mentioned were the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in which Title VI applies to students and Title VII applies to employees; Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Age Discrimination in Employment Act; Pregnancy Discrimination Act; Pennsylvania Human Relations Act; Local Ordinances; Pennsylvania Hate Crimes Act.
Harassment is discriminatory if it is based on one or more of the protected classes as defined in the foregoing laws and policies. Harassment is conduct that is based upon, or because of, an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or sexual orientation if the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment or interferes with the individual’s work.
“It’s not always a clear line… but physical behavior, yelling and name-calling leads to hate crimes,” said Schneller. Federal and State Hate Crimes Acts protect classes such as race, color, religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation.
Philadelphia, Allentown and Pittsburgh have ordinances prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identification. The P.A. Human Relations Act applies to students and employees and may also apply to visitors on campus.
“We find that the longer things go on, the more difficult things get and the more drastic the steps are that need to be taken,” said Schneller referring to counseling, mediating, or sometimes even legal action.
Students and employees may file either formal or informal complaints of discriminatory harassment with the Director of Social Equity, Mrs. Richeleen Danshield. The formal complaint process is an investigative process which will be conducted by trained fact finders if the complaint sufficiently outlines discrimination or harassment. Complaints are encouraged to be filed within 180 days of the incident(s). An advantage is that sanctions may be imposed and it creates a record in the event of future complaints.
“Of all the complaints I’d say at least 90 percent are formal and investigated,” said Schneller. There is also the option of an informal complaint recommended to stop the offensive behavior and involves mediation. But at any point throughout the process, a complaint may be moved into a formal complaint process by either the complainant or the Office of Social Equity if they see no progress with the informal process.