Harassment is any unwanted physical or verbal conduct that offends or humiliates you. It is a type of discrimination that can take many forms including unwelcome remarks, jokes or written displays about race, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, as well as threats, intimidation or unwanted physical conduct.
Harassment can come from an advisor, faculty, staff or other students. This conduct can interfere with a student’s ability to do research and complete the graduate degree. Harassment by an advisor can be particularly traumatizing for graduate students who are most vulnerable and face a power differential in which they rely solely on one individual for publications, funding, references and their degree.
You are not alone if you are facing this. For confidential action or support, please contact the GSU’s Resource Co-ordinator / Fieldworker at 416-978-8464.
The University of Toronto has a Sexual Harassment Policy and a complaints procedure to deal with this problem. The Sexual Harassment Education, Counselling and Complaint Office is located at 40 Sussex Avenue, 2 blocks south of Bloor, near Spadina, top floor.
The Sexual Harassment Officer advises those involved in sexual harassment complaints and educates the university community on this issue. For information, call 978-3908 and ask for Paddy Stamp. Calls to the Office and the complaints procedure itself are confidential. You may be accompanied by a friend or advisor when you meet with Ms. Stamp; please call the GSU or the Women’s Centre for assistance.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment may include verbal innuendo, unwelcome references to someone’s sex or sexual orientation, jokes, suggestive or obscene remarks, unwanted sexual advances or unwanted touching. It may be a single incident, or part of a continuous barrage. It can happen to women and to men; most often women are harassed by men, and frequently the harasser has some power or authority over the victim. Homophobic harassment is covered under the policy. It is often very difficult for the target of harassment to know how to deal with it; often it arises in the context of previously amicable teacher/student relationships or friendships. It rarely stops if you simply ignore it. The more threatening forms of sexual harassment may make the University environment intolerable to their victims, and result in people abandoning their studies.
What do I do if sexual harassment happens to me?
- Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. It won’t go away; it may escalate.
- Keep a record; include dates, times, locations, witnesses and details of what is happening. This is useful if you want to make a formal complaint, or if you want to confront the harasser.
- Refuse to blame yourself. You are not responsible for the harasser’s behaviour.
- If you feel able to, tell the person harassing you as clearly, directly and firmly as you can that their behaviour is offending you and you want it to stop.
- Contact the Women’s Centre for more information and options.
- Call the Sexual Harassment Officer.
How does the complaints procedure work?
- As soon as possible after the harassment starts, phone the Sexual Harassment Officer. There is a six-month time limit from the last incident for filing complaints. The Officer will discuss the incident with you and will decide with you whether to initiate mediation.
- Once a complaint has been filed, the Officer contacts the alleged harasser and attempts to resolve the problem informally.
- If this doesn’t work, an outside mediator may be appointed to help work out an agreement between the two parties.
- If that fails, the case may go before a formal Hearing Board for a decision. The Board has the power to impose penalties on those they find guilty of sexual harassment and to order remedies for the complainant.
- If you are past the time limit, call the Sexual Harassment Officer. If the alleged harasser was your instructor, the time limit may be extended to a maximum of 12 months.
Sexual Harassment is unlawful… you don’t have to put up with it! Call 978-3908 for help or information.
- The Sexual Harassment Office is available to give workshops on sexual harassment and University of Toronto’s policy to your department, individual groups or to your course union.
- If you are a TA, the CUPE 3902 Collective Agreement contains a useful clause dealing with sexual harassment.