SMU Policy on Sexual Harassment

Southern Methodist University is committed to providing a work and study environment that encourages intellectual and academic excellence and the emotional well-being of its students, faculty, and staff. Circumstances, facts, and conduct that violate this policy contradict the University’s educational philosophy and standard.

Southern Methodist University expressly prohibits sexual harassment of its students, faculty, or staff, or of applicants who seek to join the University community in any capacity.

SMU strives to provide an educational and working environment for its students, faculty, and staff free of intimidation and harassment. The unprofessional treatment of students and colleagues in any form is unacceptable to the University community.

  • Educational materials and programs designed to increase awareness and understanding of sexual harassment and ways to prevent its occurrence

  • Prompt, effective grievance procedures that are fair to both the complainant and the accused

  • Appropriate sanctions

  • Reasonable action to protect complainants and others participating in the proceedings against retaliation

  • Counseling and consultation services by professional counselors for those involved in sexual harassment complaints

  • Informal proceedings that safeguard the identifies of the persons involved and the outcome of the proceedings



    Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, such behavior as unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature directed toward a student, member of the faculty or staff, or an applicant seeking to join the University community, particularly when any of the following circumstances is present:

    1. Tolerance of sexual harassment is made an explicit or implicit term or condition of status in a course, program, activity, academic evaluation, employment, firing, or admission.

    2. Submission to or rejection of sexual harassment is used as a basis for academic evaluation or an employment decision affecting such individual.

    3. The behavior described has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for work or learning, or unduly interfering with an individual’s work performance. For purposes of this policy, “undue interference” is defined as improper, unreasonable, or unjustifiable behavior going beyond what is appropriate, warranted, or natural.


  • Physical assault

  • Direct propositions of a sexual nature

  • Direct statements regarding submission with promise of reward (i.e., higher grade, promotion, etc.) or threats of reprisal

  • Implied statements regarding submission to sexual advances with promise of reward or threats of reprisal (i.e., “Meet me tonight for a drink, and I bet we can take care of your grade.”)

  • Subtle pressure for sexual activity (i.e., “How would you like to go to a conference in Minneapolis with me?”)

  • Pattern of conduct (not legitimately related to office business or the subject matter of a course) that causes humiliation or discomfort, such as sexually explicit or sexist comments, questions, anecdotes, or jokes


    Faculty/Student Relationships

    It is a serious breach of professional ethics for a teacher to initiate or acquiesce in a sexual relationship with a student who is under the personal supervision of the faculty member. Therefore, Southern Methodist University prohibits consensual sexual relationships between a faculty member and a student enrolled in a course taught by the faculty member or whose academic work is supervised by the faculty member. This applies even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship. A faculty member who is or has been involved in a consensual sexual relationship with a person should not enter into a student/teacher relationship with that person.

    A consensual sexual relationship between a faculty member and a student, particularly when the faculty member is of power, will irreparably undermine the professional relationship between them. The issue of power and control over the student remains so strong in a sexual relationship that voluntary consent by a student is improbable and highly questionable. What one thinks is voluntary consent may be only forced consent that the hidden, subtle pressure stemming from the faculty member’s position of power has transformed into a “voluntary” act. Such a relationship creates in inevitable conflict of interest when the teacher makes judgments about a student’s work.

    The appearance of impropriety to the University community, which such relationships produce, casts doubt on the faculty member’s academic decisions concerning a particular student’s performance, the faculty member’s overall professionalism and credibility, and the genuineness of the student’s accomplishments where the faculty member is directly supervising and teaching the student.

    For purposes of this policy, a faculty member or a teacher is any member of the full-time or part-time faculty, a teaching assistant, an academic adviser, or any other person making academic judgments about a student’s work.

    * “Consensual sexual relationships” may include amorous or romantic relationships, and the term is intended to indicate conduct between a faculty or staff member and a student that passes beyond what a person of ordinary sensibilities would believe to be a collegial relationship.


    Consensual sexual relationships between staff and students are prohibited in cases where the staff member has authority or control over the student. Even where there is no power or authority of the staff member over the student, consensual sexual relationships are discouraged between the staff person and the student.


    The University has two levels of review - informal and formal proceedings. If after informal proceedings, the complainant and/or the person accused are not satisfied with the results, formal proceedings may be made.

    Informal proceedings may be handled by the alleged offender’s principal administrator, in consultation with the Institutional Access and Equity Office (IAE), or by the IAE Office.

    Formal proceedings involving a:

  • faculty member, teaching assistant, or other instructional personnel ... are submitted to the Faculty Senate Ethics and Tenure Committee for consideration;

  • student ... are handled by the University Judiciary System;

  • staff or other member of the University community ... are submitted to the vice president or person designated by the vice president, responsible for the unit in which the person is employed.

  • Details of these grievance procedures may be obtained from the Institutional Access and Equity Office or any administrative office, and are listed under the University Policy 2.5, Sexual Harassment and Consensual Relationships.


  • Know your rights. Sexual harassment is a violation of University policy and the Student Code. It is also prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. You have a right to an education or work environment that is free of bias, intimidation, or hostility.

  • State your objections at the time. Express your objections to undesirable behavior clearly and firmly. Your response could prevent future harassment from the person especially if he or she did not realize the behavior was offensive.

  • Tell someone. It is helpful to talk to a trusted friend, teacher, resident assistant, colleague, or counselor to help clarify the nature of the incident, receive support, and discuss alternative responses. Many victims of sexual harassment feel ashamed, angry, even frightened, and have a tendency to blame themselves for the incident. The office of Psychological Services may be particularly helpful if you need emotional support and information on University policies and procedures. The services of this office are free and confidential.

  • Document incidences. Note dates, times, places, persons involved, descriptions of the behavior, and how you responded in a journal or datebook. Keep notes or letters received from the person.

  • Write a letter. A letter to the harasser can be an effective way to communicate one’s objections to certain behaviors. Such a letter should state: (a) the facts of the situation, (b) the effects the behavior has had on the harassee, and (c) that the harassee would like the behavior to stop.

  • Report the incidences on course evaluation forms. This option permits the complainant to report an incident anonymously to the faculty member and the chairperson of the department.

  • Report the incident. The Institutional Access and Equity Office - administratively neutral and knowledgeable - can be helpful if you need information or want to file an informal or formal complaint. You may remain anonymous up until the point that you may decide to request an official review of the charges.


    For General Information, Reporting Incidents, or Consultation on Grievance Procedures

    Office of Institutional Access and Equity
    204 Perkins Administration

    For General Information, Reporting Incidents, Counseling, or Educational Programs

    Psychological Services for Women & Gender Issues
    Health Center - 2nd Floor

    Women’s Center
    313 Hughes-Trigg

    Dean of Student Life
    302 Hughes -Trigg

    Additional Counseling Options

    CAPS (Counseling & Psychiatric Services)
    Health Center - 2nd Floor

    Office of the Chaplain
    316 Hughes-Trigg


    Last revision - 27 June 2011


    The Office of the Dean of Student Life is a department in the Division of Student Affairs.