Tips for Instructors on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment Problems

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You can prevent misunderstandings - and increase your own personal safety - if you*:

  • Schedule your office hours when you know others are likely to be in the building (generally M-F, 8-5).
  • Stick to your office hours and ask students to make an appointment to see you.
  • Do not give out your home number or address, and consider not listing them in the campus or community directory.
  • Impose some limits on how much you share with your students about your personal life, outside interests, etc.
  • Let students know in advance if an upcoming assignment, lecture, or class activity contains sexualized material. It may also help to explain to them why it’s included in the course. If you’re teaching a class where the course content is sexual by definition (human sexuality, reproductive biology, etc.), ensure that your approach is professional, and hold students to a similar standard.

If you have concerns about a particular student or the interactions among students:

  • Document incidents or interactions which feel inappropriate to you. Brief notes to yourself about what happened, when and where are sufficient.
  • Tell the instructor of the course (if you’re a TA).
  • Consult with colleagues. Other instructors may have had similar experiences with the same student.
  • Avoid being alone with the student if doing so makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Consult with HDAPP (2-9255) or Student Judicial Affairs (2-1128).

If anyone reports sexual harassment to you, you must call us and consult.

*These tips were suggested by UCD instructors, based on their own experiences.

Instructors may be MISUSING THEIR POWER if they:

  • Make personal jokes or comments about students.
  • Ask a student personal questions which make the student uncomfortable.

Instructors ARE misusing their power, and probably violating policy, if they:

  • Pressure a student to spend time with them outside the academic setting, including urging a student to get romantically and/or sexually involved.
  • Touch a student when and where the student doesn’t want to be touched.
  • Ask a student for sexual favors in exchange for a better grade, recommendation, or other academic benefit.

To maintain an INCLUSIVE learning environment:

  • Avoid using stereotypical generalizations such as “Older people don’t belong in college” or “Men don’t think in those terms.”
  • Avoid humor which demeans people on the basis of protected characteristics such as gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, appearance, religion or ability.
  • Find a comfortable alternative to using generic masculine terms such as “he” and “man”. They tend to evoke masculine images, and render women invisible or peripheral.
  • Use inclusive language when talking about couples. Do not assume that a female student has a “boyfriend” or a male student is only interested in women. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community’s experience is a vital part of campus life.
  • If you must use course material which ignores or deprecates a group on the basis of protected characteristics or categories, be clear with your students about why the material warrants inclusion in your course.
  • Monitor your behavior as an instructor, or ask someone to observe you for the following patterns. You may demonstrate bias in very unconscious, unintentional ways:
    • Do you call on all students equally?
    • Do you interrupt, or allow others to interrupt, certain students more than other
    • students?
    • Do you respond equally to comments made by all your students?
    • Do you address the class as if no one from a certain group were present, with expressions such as “Your wives can tell you about…”? (Is your class all married men?)

(These suggestions are based in part on materials produced by CSU, UCSB and the University of Minnesota.)