Approved by the AAR Board of Directors on November 2015
At its November 1996 meeting the AAR Board of Directors adopted a policy condemning sexual harassment in academic settings. Building upon the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's definition of sexual harassment, the statement is designed to elevate member's awareness of the range of behaviors that can be described as sexual harassment, and to articulate the AAR's own commitment to ensuring that its own activities and operations are free from the pernicious effects of such behavior.
The AAR's Status of Women in the Profession Committee drafted the statement that also draws from statements by a number of other learned societies that have established similar policies. When asked why it was important for the AAR to put forward such a statement, Emilie Townes, a former chair of the AAR's Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession, said "…it is important to match the high standards the American Academy of Religion has for scholarship and research with a policy that calls forth the best of each of us professionally and interpersonally. It is important for AAR to make a clear and unambiguous statement against sexual harassment and provide all of the membership of the Academy resources for understanding and combating such dehumanizing behavior."
The American Academy of Religion is committed to fostering and maintaining an environment of rigorous learning, research, and teaching in the field of religion. This environment must be free of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a discriminatory practice which is unethical, unprofessional, and threatening to intellectual freedom. It usually involves persons of unequal power, authority, or influence but can occur between persons of the same status.
Sexual harassment is illegal under federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments. Various state and local governments have also enacted laws and regulations prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace and in academic settings. Sexual harassment is a gross violation of professional ethics comparable to plagiarism or falsification of research. It should be regarded and treated as such by members of the Academy. The policy of the American Academy of Religion is to condemn sexual harassment. Members of the Academy are encouraged to file complaints about sexual harassment with the appropriate administrative office of the institution where the harasser is employed or where he or she is enrolled, or with appropriate law enforcement authorities.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the United States Government defines sexual harassment in the workplace or in the academic setting as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man, and the victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the Academy, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee, such as a student or volunteer.
Having friendships with students is common for teachers. It is also possible that teachers will experience attraction to students and experience students' sexual attraction to them. This cuts across gender and sexual orientation. Because of the inherent power differential between teacher and student, it is imperative that members of the Academy maintain the integrity of an environment that is not coercive, intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
The work of the Academy is best carried out in an atmosphere that fosters collegiality and mentoring. Sexual harassment can destroy or undermine this relationship. The impact of this on the life and future of the Academy cannot be belittled or ignored. When our actions are in violation of the dignity and integrity of another person, these actions are a profound violation of professional and human relationships. These are violations because they are exploitative and abusive.
Sexual harassment includes all behavior that prevents or impairs an individual's full enjoyment of educational or workplace rights, benefits, environments, or opportunities. These behaviors include but are not limited to:
- sexist remarks, jokes, or behavior
- sexual innuendos and unwelcome sexual advances, including unwanted touching
- request for sexual favors
- sexual assault, including attempted or completed physical sexual assault
- the use of professional authority to inappropriately draw attention to the gender, sexuality or sexual orientation of an employee, colleague, or student
- insults, including lewd remarks or conduct
- visual displays of degrading sexual images or pornography
- pressure to accept unwelcome social invitations
Sexual harassment occurs from these behaviors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when any or all of the following conditions apply:
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used, implicitly or explicitly, as a basis for employment decisions or academic decisions affecting such individuals; or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or academic environment.
Such an atmosphere cannot and does not foster intellectual rigor or valuable, trusting human relationships. Both are necessary ingredients for good scholarship and professional excellence. The impact on the victim of sexual harassment can be profound. Studies on the effect of sexual harassment reveal disturbing consequences, such as loss of self-confidence, decline in academic performance, and inhibited forms of professional interaction. Sexual harassment has no place in the American Academy of Religion at any organizational level—formal or informal. It is behavior that we must seek to identify and eradicate.
Act Responsibly: As an employee or member of the AAR, it is your responsibility to behave in a manner that will minimize the possibility that someone else will regard your conduct as sexual harassment. The AAR trusts that all employees and members will act respectfully and responsibly in maintaining a pleasant academic and working environment free of harassment.
Also, please remember that the very nature of harassment makes it virtually impossible to detect unless a complaint is made. Do not assume that the AAR is aware of your problem! It is your responsibility to bring this information to the attention of the AAR so that the issue can be promptly investigated and resolved.
If you have any questions concerning this policy, please contact Alice Hunt, Executive Director.
Professional Conduct Grievance Procedure
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Facts About Sexual Harassment.
Baridan, Andrea P., Working Together: The New Rules and Realities for Managing Men and Women At Work. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.
Bouchad, Elizabeth, Everything You Need to Know About Sexual Harassment. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1990.
Grauerholz, Elizabeth. ed., Sexual Coercion: A Sourcebook on Its Nature, Causes, and Prevention. Lexington, MA; Lexington Books, 1991.
Paludi, Michele A., Ivory Power: Sexual Harassment on Campus. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1990.
Sexual Harassment on the Job: A Guide for Employers. Washington, DC: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1982.
(Board policy, November 1996; Amended by the AAR Board of Directors, September 2015; Replaced by Professional Conduct Policy, September 2018)