Sexual Harassment Policy

Boston University is committed to the principle that no employee, student, or applicant for employment or admission should be subject to sexual harassment. The University strives to provide workplaces and learning environments that promote equal opportunity and are free from illegal discriminatory practices, including sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a violation of federal and state laws and University policy, as is retaliation against any individual who in good faith files a complaint of sexual harassment or cooperates in the investigation of such a complaint. Upon receipt of a complaint of sexual harassment or retaliation, Boston University will undertake a fair and thorough investigation with due regard for the rights of all parties. Every reasonable effort will be made to protect the confidentiality of the parties during the investigation. After an investigation, any person who is found to have sexually harassed or retaliated against another will be subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment and, if the person is a student, expulsion from Boston University.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and any other verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature, whether intentional or unintentional, where:

  • an individual’s submission to or rejection of the conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of employment or of status in a course, program or activity, or is used as a basis for an employment or academic decision; or,
  • the conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance, academic performance, or educational experience, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive working, educational or living environment.

Examples of Conduct Which May Constitute Sexual Harassment

It is not possible to list all circumstances that might constitute sexual harassment. In general, sexual harassment encompasses any sexually related conduct which causes others discomfort, embarrassment, or humiliation, and any harassing conduct, sexually related or otherwise, directed toward an individual because of that individual’s sex. Such conduct is subject to this policy whenever it occurs in a context related to the employment or academic environments, or if it is imposed upon an individual by virtue of an employment or academic relationship.

A determination of whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment is dependent upon the totality of the circumstances including the pervasiveness or severity of the conduct.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination lists the following as examples of conduct which may constitute sexual harassment:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances—whether they involve physical touching or not;
  • Sexual epithets, jokes, written or oral references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding one’s sex life; comment on an individual’s body; comment about an individual’s sexual activity, deficiencies, or prowess;
  • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures or cartoons;
  • Unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, or suggestive or insulting comments;
  • Inquiries into one’s sexual experiences; and
  • Discussion of one’s sexual activities.

In order to constitute sexual harassment, conduct must be unwelcome. Conduct is unwelcome when the person being harassed does not solicit or invite it and regards it as undesirable or offensive. The fact that a person may accept the conduct does not mean that he or she welcomes it.

As a university, Boston University, its employees, and students also must be aware of the need for freedom of inquiry and openness of discussion in its educational and research programs, and must strive to create and maintain an atmosphere of intellectual seriousness and mutual tolerance in which these essential features of academic life can thrive. No university can or should guarantee that every idea expressed in its classrooms or laboratories will be inoffensive to all; pursued seriously, education and scholarship necessarily entail raising questions about received opinions and conventional interpretations. Boston University does guarantee, however, that credible accusations of inappropriate sexual remarks or actions will be investigated promptly, thoroughly, and fairly.


If you have questions or concerns about sexual harassment, or if you wish to file a complaint of sexual harassment, you are strongly encouraged to contact immediately the appropriate office listed below:

Faculty, staff or applicants for employment

Contact the Equal Opportunity office, 19 Deerfield Street, 2nd Floor, 617-353-9286. Medical campus employees and applicants may also contact the Medical Campus Human Resources office, 801 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 400, 617-638-4610.


Contact the Dean of Students, 775 Commonwealth Avenue, 617-353-4126, or the Equal Opportunity office, 19 Deerfield Street, 2nd Floor, 617-353-9286. Students living in campus residences may also contact their local hall or area office.

Applicants for admission

Contact the Equal Opportunity office, 19 Deerfield Street, 2nd Floor, 617-353-9286.

Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement

Specific provisions of the agreement may provide additional options for addressing a sexual harassment complaint.

Nothing in this policy is intended to limit the authority of Boston University to take appropriate disciplinary action against any individual who violates University rules or policies, whether or not the conduct constitutes sexual harassment under law or University policy.

State and Federal Agencies

In addition to the above, you may file a formal complaint with the government agencies listed below:

Faculty, staff, applicants for employment, or students:

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
One Ashburton Place, Room 601
Boston, Massachusetts 02108

Faculty, staff or applicants for employment:

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
John F. Kennedy Building
475 Government Center
Boston, Massachusetts 02203

Students, applicants for admission, faculty, staff, or applicants for employment:

Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
33 Arch Street, Suite 900
Boston, Massachusetts 02110