University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sexual Harrassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX and university policies. Sexual harassment includes harassment based on gender and gender identity or gender expression. It also includes harassment based on sexual orientation.

When sexual harassment occurs, it degrades the quality of work and education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It erodes the dignity and productivity of impacted individuals and diminishes the quality, effectiveness, and stature of the institution. Sexual harassment not only violates the law and university policy, but also can cause additional harm, including:

  • Damages personal and professional relationships
  • Causes career or economic disadvantages
  • Exposes the university to legal liabilities, loss of federal research funds and other financial consequences

For all these reasons, it is in our best interest to educate all community members and take other steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment. We have a collective responsibility to do so, thereby promoting an environment that better supports excellence in teaching, research, and service.

Sexual Harassment is a Community Concern. Any one of us may experience harassment, be accused of harassment, or be consulted by someone who thinks they have been harassed. Sexual harassment can affect workplace relationships or learning relationships. It can occur in any university setting (an office, a classroom, a university program).

Each of us has a duty not to harass others and to act responsibly when confronted by the issue of sexual harassment.

  • How is Sexual Harassment defined?

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison defines sexual harassment as follows:

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical conduct and expressive behavior of a sexual nature where one or more of the following is true:

    • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education
    • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual
    • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or demeaning employment or educational environment

    For behavior to constitute sexual harassment under this policy, two key elements must first be present.

    1. The behavior must be unwelcome
    2. The behavior must be sexual in nature.

    Unwelcome means the behavior was not requested or invited and that the person subjected to the behavior found the behavior undesirable or offensive.

    In determining whether behavior is unwelcome, it is important to take power differentials into account. When the person engaging in the behavior is in a position of power relative to the person being subjected to the behavior, it may be difficult for the person being subjected to the behavior to object to it. Therefore, in some cases, even acquiescence to the behavior will not be interpreted to mean the behavior was welcome.

    Conduct of a sexual nature includes but is not limited to:

    • objectively offensive touching
    • kissing
    • sexual intercourse
    • sexual advances
    • indecent exposure
    • fondling
    • repeated requests for dates
    • explicit references to sex
    • describing a person’s feelings for another
    • sexually derogatory comments
    • posting of sexually explicit drawings or pictures
    • sexually derogatory taunts
    • sexual innuendo
    • vulgar language and obscenities
    • other types of sexual statements and personal attention
  • When does this conduct violate University policies?

    Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature only violates the university’s sexual harassment policy if it rises to a certain level. That is, it either rises to the level of A. Quid Pro Quo (This for That) harassment or it rises to the level of B. Hostile Environment harassment.

    A. Quid Pro Quo harassment occurs when submission to the conduct of a sexual nature is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education, or when submission to or rejection of the conduct of a sexual nature by an individual is used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual.

    B. Hostile Environment Harassment occurs when the conduct of a sexual nature has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or demeaning employment or educational environment.

    In determining whether conduct of a sexual nature violates the university’s sexual harassment policy, the university considers a variety of factors. These include:

    • the degree to which the conduct affected one or more students’ or employees’ education or work environment
    • the type, frequency, and duration of the conduct
    • the identity of and relationship between the alleged harasser and the subject or subjects of the conduct of a sexual nature
    • the number of individuals involved
    • the age and sex of the alleged harasser and the subject or subjects of the conduct of a sexual nature
    • the location of the incident(s)
    • the context in which the incident(s) occurred

    The university considers these factors from both a subjective and an objective (reasonable person) perspective. Determinations are made based on the totality of the circumstances present using a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., more likely than not) standard.

    Although sexual assault is a criminal act, it is also a form of sexual harassment because it involves unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

    Thus, sexual assault will be addressed by the university using available administrative discipline processes even if it is also being prosecuted as a crime. The university will not delay its administrative process in deference to any criminal process that is underway.

    The same can be said in cases involving dating violence, domestic violence or stalking.

  • Where should I go if I want to file a complaint?

    Complaints of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence or stalking can be filed with the University’s Title IX Coordinator:

    Lauren Hasselbacher
    Title IX Coordinator
    Email: lauren.hasselbacher@wisc.edu or TitleIX_Coordinator@wisc.edu
    Voice: (608) 890-3788; Relay calls accepted
    Office of Compliance
    361 Bascom Hall
    500 Lincoln Dr.
    Madison, WI 53706

Questions? Contact:

Lauren Hasselbacher
Title IX Coordinator
Email: lauren.hasselbacher@wisc.edu or TitleIX_Coordinator@wisc.edu
Voice: (608) 890-3788; Relay calls accepted
Office of Compliance
361 Bascom Hall
500 Lincoln Dr.
Madison, WI 53706