Dear Penn Faculty, Students and Staff:

As part of the University's ongoing commitment to maintain a civil and respectful learning, working and living environment, our Sexual Harassment Policy is published annually in a fall issue of Almanac. This is an opportunity to educate new and returning community members about the resources available for counseling, support, training, and addressing sexual harassment issues and complaints. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated at Penn.

To provide further assistance to our community members in identifying and resolving these issues effectively, the following Q&A and suggestions for handling sexual harassment complaints have been developed.

We would like to thank the Affirmative Action Council for its ongoing efforts to increase ithe awareness and civility of our diverse Penn family.

Judith Rodin, President  Robert L. Barchi, Provost John A. Fry, Executive Vice President 

On Penn's Sexual Harassment Policy

Q & A

Q: What is the definition of "sexual harassment"?

A: The University considers it any unwanted sexual attention that:

  1. Involves a stated or implicit threat to the victim's academic or employment status;
  2. Has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual's academic or work performance; and /or
  3. Creates an intimidating or offensive academic, living or work environment.

Q: Does this apply to both men and women?

A: Yes. It also applies to same sex harassment.

Q: Does Penn have a stated policy on sexual harassment?

A: Yes. It appears in full in the Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators, the Human Resources Policy Manual, and the PennBook.

Q: What do I do if I feel I'm the victim of sexual harassment?

A: You can get information, counseling and support on issues of sexual harassment from any of several campus resources. They include:

  • Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs*
  • African-American Resource Center
  • Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center
  • Office of Staff and Labor Relations, Division of Human Resources*
  • Office of the Ombudsman*
  • University Police, Special Services
  • Penn Women's Center
  • Student Health Services
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
  • Office of the Vice Provost for University Life
  • Office of Student Conduct*
  • Department Chairs
  • Deans
  • Administrative Directors
  • Office of the Provost

*These University Resource Offices are authorized to conduct investigations of sexual harassment complaints.

Q: How confidential are these Resource Offices' services?

A: The resource offices will respect an employee's/student's request for confidentiality to the extent feasible. However, there may be cases when it is not possible to maintain confidentiality--if, for example, the employee/student reports behavior that may be criminal, illegal or pose a threat to health, safety or security. Anyone seeking service from a resource office should ask about that particular office's limits on confidentiality.

Q: How can individuals, schools or centers obtain training on sexual harassment prevention?

A: Training is provided by any of the following offices:

  • Penn Women's Center
  • Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs
  • Human Resources' Office of Learning and Education
  • Office of the General Counsel


Employee X has worked in the department for six months. He was excited about the job and the opportunities for growth and development. He gets along well with his co-workers and, for the most part, appreciates the support he receives from his manager, Supervisor Y. Supervisor Y has, on occasion, seemed particularly informal with him, a relationship he has never experienced with previous managers. She often compliments him on his appearance and touches his arm or shoulder when they are alone. Employee X is hesitant to address the issue; he very much wants to keep his job.

After a long and busy week, Employee X and several of his co-workers, along with Supervisor Y, decide to go out after work for beer and pizza. Everyone is relaxed and having a good time.

As they leave the restaurant, Supervisor Y asks Employee X for a ride home because her car is in the shop. During the ride, Supervisor Y thanks Employee X for all his hard work and mentions the possible promotion that may come his way if he continues to do a good job.

As they pull up in front of Supervisor Y's house, she invites him in for a drink.

Is this sexual harassment?

  1. Is this an isolated incident?
  2. Does Supervisor Y interact this way with everyone?
  3. Is Supervisor Y's behavior impacting Employee X's ability to do his job?

An investigation would have to be conducted to answer these questions. The behavior must be persistent and pervasive to be considered harassment.

Suggestions for Handling Sexual Harassment Complaints

The University of Pennsylvania is an educational institution and employer that does not tolerate sexual harassment. As such, it has made many informal and formal mechanisms available to faculty, staff and students to resolve complaints. While some individuals may choose formal venues, many will go to an advisor, a trusted professor, or an administrator. Consequently, all members of the Penn community should understand the University's Sexual Harassment Policy and the resources available to address the issue. Those individuals approached for help related to sexual harassment issues should utilize the following points:

  1. Explain your role (confidentiality policy, investigative authority, and services available within your unit).
  2. Listen to the concerns.
  3. Take the report seriously.
  4. Explain that Penn has a policy prohibiting this kind of behavior. Offer them a copy of the policy via the PennBook or the web site at
  5. Know when to refer the individual to someone with more expertise and encourage a meeting with the designated person. ("I'm not the person to talk to about this. Jane Jones has been helpful to a lot of people with the same kind of issue. If it's ok with you, let me give her a call and see when she can see you").
  6. Make a plan for follow-up. ("If that doesn't work out, please get back to me and we'll figure out what to do next").
  7. Consider whether there is a need for you to act. (See the Sexual Harassment Policy for a list of resources available for consultation).

--Dr. Herman Beavers, Chair Affirmative Action Council

--Jeanne Arnold, Chair, Sexual Harrassment Subcommittee

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 25, March 6, 2001