Sexual Harassment

The University takes sexual harassment very seriously, and there are many resources on campus to address this problem. This page focuses on providing information and resources for students.

Table of Contents:

What is sexual harassment?

The University of California defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of instruction, employment, or participation in any University activity;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for evaluation in making academic or personnel decisions affecting an individual;
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive university environment.

In determining whether the alleged conduct constitutes sexual harassment, consideration shall be given to the record as a whole and to the totality of circumstances, including the nature and frequency of the conduct and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred.

Sexual harassment may be distinguished from sexist attitudes in that sexual harassment is both sexual in content and behavioral, rather than attitudinal.

It is not unlawful to hold sexist attitudes, as long as they are not translated into discriminatory treatment. Harassment by someone with the power to affect your employment or academic relationship includes situations in which any person with institutional authority explicitly threatens negative consequences, or promises positive consequences, as a means of securing acquiescence to unwelcome sexual behavior. While such explicit conditioning of academic or employment benefits upon acceptance of sexual advances may be rare, supervisors, instructors, and others with institutional authority should be aware that in some circumstances, a student or employee may feel that tolerating unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature is the tacit price s/he must pay in order to receive the services and benefits to which s/he is entitled. Such behavior is a violation of the UCSC Policy on Sexual Assault, the UC Policy on Sexual Harassment and Procedures for Reports of Sexual Assaults and Sexual Harassment.

Whereas this type of harassment can be perpetrated only by a person with institutional authority, a sexually hostile and intimidating environment may be created by the actions of instructors, supervisors, subordinates, or peers.

Behaviors that may contribute to a hostile environment include, but are not limited to:

  • verbal, non-verbal, and physical sexual behaviors
  • coerced sex
  • sexual jokes and innuendoes
  • remarks about a person's body
  • turning discussions inappropriately to sexual topics
  • whistling or cat calls
  • looking a person up and down or staring in a sexually suggestive manner
  • invading someone's personal space or blocking her/his path
  • sexually explicit visuals such as pin-ups
  • suggestions of sexual intimacy
  • repeated requests for dates
  • unwanted letters, electronic mail or other computer communications
  • unwanted gifts
  • touching, hugging, massaging, and other gestures or sounds that a reasonable person of the same sex as the recipient would find offensive

It is important to be aware that in many instances, the intentions of the accused may be regarded as irrelevant in determining whether her/his behaviors constitute sexual harassment; it is the effect of the behavior on the recipient that may define a hostile environment.

If any of this conduct is occurring because of your sex, it may be a violation of The UCSC Policy on Sexual Assault, The UC Policy on Sexual Harassment and Procedures for Reports of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.
  • Unwelcome physical, verbal, or nonverbal behavior of a sexual nature or based on sex.
  • Uninvited, unwanted and/or unsolicited attention/conversations.
  • Terms of endearment.
  • Sabotaging a person's work or academic standing.
  • Withholding information.
  • Exclusion from informal meetings/social events.
  • Sexual jokes, comments, or innuendoes.
  • Cartoons or visuals that ridicule or denigrate a person's gender.
  • Employment or academic decisions that are based solely or partially on a person's gender.
  • Sexual assault, and/or rape.

Who can be a victim of sexual harassment?

Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment regardless of gender or gender identity. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex of the harasser. The victim does not have to be the person directly harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

Who can be a sexual harasser?

The harasser may be a woman or a man. Sexual harassment may occur between any two members of the UCSC community, for example, between faculty and students, faculty and faculty, students and staff, and student and student. While sexual harassment often occurs when there is a power differential between the two people, it can also happen between peers or colleagues where there is no power difference.

Can one incident constitute sexual harassment?

It depends. In "quid pro quo" cases, a single sexual advance may constitute harassment if it is linked to the granting or denial of employment or educational advancement. In contrast, a single incident of offensive sexual conduct or remarks generally does not create a "hostile environment." A hostile environment claim usually requires a showing of a pattern of offensive conduct. However, a single incident that is severe could create a hostile environment.

It is important to remember that every situation is unique and needs to be evaluated based on several factors, including the nature of the behavior, the frequency and context of the behavior, and the relationship between the two people involved. Because of this, we recommend talking to any one of the resources listed below so that you can better understand the situation, your options and your rights.

What can I do to prevent sexual harassment?

It is important to be aware that sexual remarks or physical conduct of a sexual nature may be offensive or can make some people uncomfortable even if you wouldn't feel the same way yourself. Follow these guidelines to help avoid making someone else uncomfortable:

  • Do not repeat behavior if you have been told that it is not wanted. If you are in doubt, stop the behavior.
  • Ask if something you do or say is being perceived as offensive or unwelcome. If the answer is yes, stop the behavior.
  • Do not interpret someone's silence as consent. Look for other nonverbal signals.
  • Do not retaliate if someone accuses you of sexual harassment. Retaliation is against the law and is considered an additional or separate offense.

What do I do if I think I'm being sexually harassed?

Whether sexual harassment comes from a person in authority or a peer, it is not acceptable. UCSC regards any behavior which is sexually harassing as a violation of the standards of conduct required for everyone associated with the University, whether faculty, staff or students.

If you are being sexually harassed, there are a number of things you can do:

  • Tell the person that their behavior is making you uncomfortable, if you feel that you can do this. There are other ways of addressing the situation if this approach is not right for you.
  • Save any written material, including pictures, notes and email, that is part of the harassment. You may be tempted to get rid of it immediately, especially if it is offensive. However, your feelings may change over time about whether or not you want to file a complaint, and that physical evidence will be very helpful in holding someone accountable.
  • Know your rights and UCSC’s policies. You can contact any of the resources below and ask about services, confidentiality and the process of filing a complaint. You can call a staff member anonymously to discuss the situation and then decide what to do next.
  • By discussing the situation with a staff member, you will learn about the options available to you. These options may include:
    • Informal resolution
    • Intervention by a third party (such as a Dean of the College)
    • Formal complaint process for faculty, students, or staff

How do I help a friend?

  • It's important to take what your friend says seriously. Experiencing sexual harassment can be confusing and difficult to sort out. Providing a sympathetic ear will help your friend feel understood.
  • Learn as much as you can about the available resources. It may be difficult for your friend to take the first step to talk to someone. You can call any of the resources and discuss the situation without identifying the people involved or filing a formal complaint. Gathering this information for your friend can help them make the best decision for their situation.
  • Don't confront the harasser. Although it is normal to want to do this, it may only make things worse for your friend.
  • Encourage your friend to save any physical evidence, including notes, pictures and emails. If your friend decides to file a complaint at some point, this evidence will be very important.
    • If you are a residence hall staff member, be sure to follow your reporting protocols.
    • It's important to recognize that hearing about your friend's situation could affect you in many different ways. Taking care of yourself will enable you to provide your friend with better support.

Where do I go for help?

Information, advice, referrals, and/or copies of the UCSC Policy on Sexual Assault, the UC Policy on Sexual Harassment and Procedures for Reports of Sexual Assaults and Sexual Harassment are available to all students, faculty, and staff by contacting Tracey Tsugawa, Title IX/Sexual Harassment Officer, 29 Clark Kerr Hall, (831) 459-2462, or You do not have to identify yourself or anyone else to receive the information you need to decide what YOU want to do.


Title IX/Sexual Harassment Office
Kerr Hall, Room 119

The Title IX/Sexual Harassment Officer provides information, consultations, and complaint resolution in all areas of sex discrimination, including sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment Internet Resources 
A list of several different links provided by the Feminist Majority Foundation.

US Department of Education 
This website lists several publications on sexual harassment and the educational setting.

US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 
This website contains fact sheets and recent court decisions on sexual harassment.