Harassment or Discrimination

"Do I have to deal with this if I want to be here?"

General Information

Harassment and discrimination are pervasive and can take place in many different contexts. Some harassment and discrimination is a clear violation of university policy or other laws and some is not covered. Regardless, the impact of the harassment and discrimination is the concern of the the Office of Victim Assistance (OVA). OVA and many other resources on campus are available to help you explore your options and resources whether harassment and discrimination has happened on or off campus, is presently happening or has taken place in the past.

University policy states that  harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation, or political philosophy is behavior directed at an individual that interferes with their work or academic performance or participation in University programs or activities, and creates a working or learning environment that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or hostile. Harassment may occur between students, faculty, staff, and administrators of any gender. It may occur when one individual holds a position of real or perceived authority over the other or between individuals of equal status. Harassment can occur anywhere on campus, including the classroom, workplace, residence hall or within any University sponsored program or activity. Harassing behaviors might include:

  • physically assaulting or repeatedly intimidating, teasing, mocking or joking based on an individual's race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.
  • repeatedly directing racial or ethnic slurs at an individual.
  • repeatedly telling an individual that he/she is too old to understand new technology.
  • repeatedly displaying disparaging visual material (calendars, posters, cards, software, and web sites).

Discrimination Discrimination is conduct that deprives an individual of a benefit of employment or educational opportunity on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status (Veteran is defined as a person who serves or has served in any branch of the U.S. military, including ROTC.), political affiliation, or political philosophy.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual attention that unreasonably interferes with an individual's working or learning environment. It may involve intimidation, threats, coercion, sexual advances, request for sexual favors or other verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Sexually harassing behaviors might include:

  • physically assaulting or repeatedly intimidating, teasing, mocking or joking based on an individual's gender or sexual orientation.
  • repeatedly directing sexual or gender-based slurs at an individual.
  • persistent remarks about another person’s clothing, body or sexual activities.
  • repeatedly pressuring an individual for dates or sexual favors.
  • repeatedly displaying sexually explicit visual material (calendars, posters, cards, software, and web sites).
  • repeatedly giving or sending inappropriate gifts, calls, letters or e-mails.
  • promises or rewards (a better grade or a promotion) in return for sexual favors.
  • unwelcome physical contact like unnecessary touching, pinching, patting or brushing against another person’s body.
  • disparaging comments about a particular gender as a group.
  • giving unequal work assignments.
  • sexual assault (see Sexual Assault section).

For a handout on this click here


Practical Information There are many reasons attempting to stop harassing or discriminatory behavior directly and on your own can be costly, complicated and difficult, especially if the person/people doing it are in a position of power. At the same time, the direct approach is frequently very effective for people who just want the harassment to stop. It gives you the most control over how the situation is handled and may produce better and quicker results than intervention by a third party. The direct approach also helps protect your privacy. No one else needs to know about the problem unless you or the offender speaks to others. There are some steps that you could consider taking that may help to end the harassing or discriminatory behavior.

  • If you feel comfortable doing so, consider telling the harasser(s) to stop. The individual may be unaware that you find the behavior to be offensive or unwelcome. Consider talking to someone you trust about how you might approach the individual(s) and what you might say. Practicing and thinking this through may help you feel more confident.
  • Consider writing a letter. In many cases, a letter to the individual(s) may clear up any misunderstandings and cause the behavior to end. The letter should include a statement such as: "When you (stare at me, put your hand on my shoulder, make sexual, racial or religious comments/jokes), I feel uncomfortable. I would like you to stop.” If you send your letter solely as an informal, private communication you should not send copies to others; but be sure to keep a copy of the letter and proof that you sent it in case the behavior does not cease.
  • Consider printing out a copy of the university policy against discrimination and harassment, highlighting the relevant portion and giving it to the person. Try to keep a record. What happened? When? Where? Who were the other people present? How did you feel? Save written notes/correspondence, voice mail and e-mail messages. This information may be useful if you decide to report the situation.


Experiencing discrimination or harassment can take a toll on your day to day life. Taking care of yourself may involve getting help about what to do. Seeking support takes many different forms. Individuals who experience discrimination or harassment often look to their communities first for understanding and advice. Discussing the situation with someone may help you sort out your feelings and decide what to do. You may want to talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, co-worker, family member, spiritual advisor. Other people may seek out a supervisor, professor or individual in a position of power to help remedy the situation but keep in mind that if you tell a university employee they may have a supervisory duty to report. While you may want to talk to someone you trust there are also resources available on campus. When you seek help from professionals, first ask what their confidentiality is, and who they are required to tell if you were to disclose your situation. That way, you can make an informed decision.

Some things you might discuss:

  • figuring out what you feel and think about what’s going on.
  • getting information that will help you assess the situation, and figure out what you want.
  • talking about how to manage your academics or work given your situation.
  • talking about making a safety plan if applicable. There are many strategies available.
  • getting medical treatment if you have injuries or are worried about your health.
  • changing where you live to get some space, or safety. There is community help with this.
  • reporting to the police or the CU Office of Student Conduct or Office of Discrimination and Harassment if appropriate.

If you are not ready to talk to somebody but want to get more information about your situation, the web is a great place to do that. If you are concerned about privacy, you should know that most computers keep track of websites you visit. There is a lot of useful information on the web, and it might be best to seek these resources on a public computer such as at a lab on campus, a public library or at a friend’s house.

OVA can provide you with information that may be helpful in dealing with your situation and is a confidential resource with no duty to report. If you’d like to know more about how people sometimes react to these kinds of events, click here.


If the discrimination or harassment you are experiencing is affecting your living environment, OVA may be able to help you arrange housing.


If you are worried about how this situation may be impacting your schoolwork, that’s important to notice. You deserve to be in school and to meet your goals. It is extremely difficult to concentrate in class especially if the harasser is the professor, or a fellow student in the class. OVA can discuss options for managing academic issues while maintaining privacy. There are concrete things the University can do to help with your situation.


For content specific information about reporting see below. For general information about reporting and the possibilities and limits of working with systems click here.


If you are being repeatedly harassed by another individual, reporting the behavior to the police is an option. Reporting can take many forms and doesn’t necessarily have to lead to the filing of criminal charges. Some people simply want to file an “informational” report with the intention of making the police aware of their situation without pursuing charges. Other people are interested in having the police contact the person and give a verbal warning. At the same time, many people choose to file criminal charges. OVA can talk with you about reporting issues, as well as help you make connections with the police if you want help in assessing the situation.

Reporting to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance

If you experienced harassment or discrimination by a CU student, faculty, or staff member, you can report to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance. The Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance investigates university policy infractions and may have jurisdiction over your situation. You can learn more at: http://www.colorado.edu/institutionalequity/file-report/guidelines-filing-complaint

The Office of Institutional equity and Compliance can provide another avenue for reporting and may be able assist with an informal solution. The Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance process is different from criminal or civil processes. You can choose one or both (unless this is an intimate partner violence situation). You can contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance anonymously to get a better understanding of how they might handle your situation, or OVA can help you with getting that assessment.

To learn more about the filing guidelines and process go to:


Protective Orders

A protective order is a legal document obtained through the courts that puts restrictions on individuals who may be dangerous to you. If they violate these restrictions they can be sanctioned by the court.

If you have questions about obtaining a protective order you can talk to an advocate in the OVA or call the Boulder Protective Order clinic at 303-441-4867, or if there is no answer, call Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence at 303-449-8623. You can also learn more online at http://www.bouldercounty.org/cs/cb/dapp/protectorder.htm.

Depending on the situation, campus authorities may be able to offer an exclusion of individuals

responsible for certain kinds of incidents. To learn more, consult OVA or UCPD.

Confidential Reporting

If you do not want to or have not yet decided whether to report officially, you can still inform a confidential resource of harassment, discrimination, violent or abusive experiences on this campus.

Completing this form does not constitute a report to the University and will not initiate any law enforcement, judicial or administrative action.

This information goes to a confidential office, the Office of Victim Assistance and will not be shared except in aggregate, non-identifiable form. OVA can help you with support, information and referrals.

For Confidential Reporting, click here.

How to Help

If someone you know is experiencing a form of discrimination or harassment, there are ways you may be able to help.

  • First, take the situation seriously. It is important that your friend or colleague feel understood.
  • If you have been the target of a similar situation your experience may help. Your friend’s reaction may differ, and their choices may differ, but knowing that they aren’t alone can be helpful in itself.
  • If you haven’t been the target of a similar situation, you can listen, and then learn more about how harassment and discrimination impact people (see links below).
  • Ask the person how they feel the situation is impacting their life. Are they having a hard time concentrating on school work? Do they feel they can no longer work productively at their job?
  • Encourage the person to keep a record of the behavior, including dates, places, times and witnesses.
  • Consider referring the person to OVA for confidential support and options.
  • Don’t investigate the situation or overreact. It is important that the person experiencing the harassment have the opportunity to address the situation at their own pace and in a way that causes them the least impact.
  • If you are a CU employee, you may have a reporting obligation. Click here to learn more

For more information on how to help please click here.