Equal Opportunity, Anti-Discrimination & Harassment and Sexual Harassment

Equal Opportunity: Anti-Discrimination & Harassment

It is the policy of WPI to provide each qualified individual - regardless of race, sex, age, color, national origin,  religion, genetic identity disability, gender identity or expression, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, transgender status, veteran status, or any other protected status – the opportunity to participate in the University’s educational and employment programs and activities in a discrimination and harassment-free environment, in accordance with state and federal laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.

Furthermore, WPI prohibits and will not tolerate unlawful discrimination or harassment.  Unlawful discrimination or harassment consists of treating a person differently in any WPI program or activity based on their race, sex, age, color, national origin, religion, genetic identity, disability, gender identity or expression, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, transgender status, veteran status, or any other protected status.  This includes, for example, the display or circulation of written or electronic materials or pictures degrading to either gender or to racial, ethnic, or religious groups; and verbal abuse or insults directed at or made in the presence of members of a racial, ethnic, or minority group.

WPI prohibits and will not tolerate any form of retaliation against persons who have complained about, or participated in an investigation of a complaint about, unlawful discrimination or harassment.

WPI will administer any complaint of discrimination or harassment with the utmost degree of privacy and confidentiality possible under the circumstances of each matter and as permitted by law.  Failure of any participant in an investigation process conducted under this policy to respect confidentiality, both during or after any investigation, may constitute retaliation and subject the violator to discipline.  

WPI will make an independent inquiry into complaints of unlawful discrimination and harassment, according to applicable WPI procedures.  Students who are determined to have violated this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, including suspension or expulsion, where appropriate.

Any individual who believe(s) that he or she has been subjected to prohibited discrimination or harassment in connection with any University program or activity should immediately bring the matter to the attention of Tracy Hassett, Vice President of Human Resources/Title IX Coordinator, 1-508-831-5470 (for faculty or staff conduct), Philip Clay, Dean of Students/Deputy Title IX Coordinator, 1-508-831-5201 (for student conduct), or one of the other Deputy Title IX Coordinators.

Student inquiries concerning disability discrimination should be referred to Aaron Ferguson, Office of Disability Services/Section 504 Coordinator, 1-508-831-4908.

Sexual Harrassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited by state and federal laws and WPI policy.  Students are entitled to learn and to work in an environment free of unlawful sex discrimination and harassment: such conduct will not be tolerated by WPI.  Sexual harassment by WPI community members will be addressed using applicable University procedures.

Definition of Sexual Harrassment

Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful sex discrimination and encompasses a wide range of behaviors of sexual nature.  Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment where:

  • submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of, or as a basis for, decisions relating to a person’s academic or work experience;
  • such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with  a person’s academic or work experience by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive academic or work environment.  

While it is not possible to list all of the circumstances that may constitute sexual harassment, the following are examples of conduct that, depending on the circumstances, may rise to the level of sexual harassment:  

  • Non-consensual physical touching of a sexual nature, including rape, sexual assault, or attempts to commit rape or sexual assault;
  • Direct or implied requests for sexual favors in exchange for an actual or promised benefit in any University educational or employment-related program or activity – such as a positive performance review, salary increase, promotion, favorable grades in a course or classroom assignment, preferential treatment in the classroom, an extra-curricular activity, or research opportunity, a grant, fellowship or internship opportunity, or any other term or condition of a student’s educational or employment-related performance; 
  • Withholding – or threatening to withhold  - a benefit in any University educational or employment-related program or activity on the condition that the student provides sexual favors or submits to sexual conduct; 
  • Unwelcome sexual advances - whether or not they involve physical touching; 
  • Sexual epithets, jokes, written or oral references to sexual conduct; gossip regarding one’s sex life; comments on one’s body; comments about one’s sexual activity, deficiencies or prowess;
  • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons;
  • Unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, suggestive or insulting comments;
  • Inquiries into one’s sexual experiences;
  • Discussion of one’s sexual activities;
  • Romantic involvement, whether consensual or not, between a person in a position of authority and a subordinate (for example, professor/student, supervisor/supervisee, coach/athlete, advisor/student).

In addition to sexual harassment, amorous relationships between a WPI faculty member and any student for whom he or she has a professional or advisory responsibility – even if consensual – are inappropriate and should be avoided.  Implicit in the area of professionalism is the recognition by those in positions of authority that in their relationships with students there is always an element of power and consent to a romantic relationship may not be valid where either person has direct or indirect power or control over any aspect of the other person’s academic or employment environment.  It is incumbent upon members of the profession to refrain from abusing, and seeming to abuse, the power with which they are entrusted, since relationships between members of the faculty and students are always fundamentally asymmetric in nature.  Such relationships may have the effect of undermining the atmosphere of trust among students and faculty on which the educational process depends.

WPI will make an independent inquiry into complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination by a WPI student in accordance with the standard student disciplinary procedures established by WPI, and students who are found to have violated this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, including suspension or expulsion, where appropriate.

Retaliation Prohibited

Retaliation of any kind against any person involved in a complaint concerning a violation of this policy will not be tolerated by WPI.  Complaints of retaliation arising from a person’s participation in the investigation of a complaint of sexual harassment will be handled in accordance with applicable WPI policies and procedures and may result in discipline, up to and including suspension or termination.

Confidentiality

WPI will administer any complaint of sexual harassment with the utmost degree of privacy and confidentiality possible under the circumstances of each matter and as permitted by law.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, WPI reserves the right to promptly and thoroughly investigate any complaint, including but not limited to speaking to relevant witnesses, taking such steps as are necessary and appropriate to immediately eliminate any sexually harassing conduct.  Failure of any participant in an investigation process conducted under this policy to respect confidentiality, either during or after any investigation, may constitute retaliation and subject the violator to discipline.

University Resources

The University has designated the following individuals as having oversight responsibility for receiving complaints of and investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by a WPI student in connection with a University program or activity:

Title IX Coordinator (Student, Faculty or Staff Conduct)

Tracy Hassett, Vice President for Human Resources
1-508-831-5470

Deputy Title IX Coordinators (Student Conduct)

Philip Clay, Dean of Students
1-508-831-5201

Emily Perlow, Director of Student Activities
1-508-831-5291

Art Heinricher, Dean of Undergraduate Studies
1-508-831-5397

Kris Wobbe, Associate Dean, First Year
1-508-831-5375

Cherise Galasso, Associate Athletic Director
1-508-831-5063

Dana Harmon, Director of PERA
1-508-831-5243

Anne Ogilvie, Director of Global Operations
1-508-831-5485

Cindy Lindberg, Director of Human Resources
1-508-831-5737

Filing a Complaint of Sexual Harassment

Although the circumstances of a particular situation may make it difficult to do so, any individual who believes they have been subjected to sexual harassment by a WPI student, faculty or staff member in connection with a WPI program or activity is strongly encouraged to immediately and firmly inform the offender that their conduct is inappropriate and unwelcome and to immediately report the conduct to Tracy Hassett, Vice President of Human Resources/Title IX Coordinator or  one of the Deputy Title IX Coordinators in order to initiate a complaint.  

Appropriate Response/Disciplinary Action

If it is determined that a member of the WPI community has been engaged in inappropriate conduct, appropriate action will be taken immediately, using the University’s established procedures, to fulfill its obligations under the law to promote a workplace and academic environment that is free of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. Such action may range from counseling to termination of employment, or suspension or expulsion, and may include such other forms of disciplinary action as appropriate under the University’s procedures.