Policy on Sexual Harassment and Additional Guidance

Northwestern University's Policy on Sexual Harassment

It is the policy of Northwestern University that no member of the Northwestern community - students, faculty, administrators, staff, vendors, contractors, or third parties - may sexually harass any other member of the community. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances; the use or threatened use of sexual favors as a basis for academic or employment decisions; conduct that creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive academic or working environment; conduct that has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance; and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to limit a person's ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity.

Some examples of sexual harassment may include:

  • Pressure for a dating, romantic, or intimate relationship
  • Touching, kissing, hugging, or massaging
  • Pressure for or forced sexual activity
  • Unnecessary references to parts of the body
  • Remarks about a person's gender or sexual orientation
  • Sexual innuendoes or humor
  • Obscene gestures
  • Sexual graffiti, pictures, or posters
  • Sexually explicit profanity
  • Stalking or cyberbullying
  • E-mail and Internet use that violates this policy
  • Sexual assault
Sexual Violence Statement

Sexual violence is a prohibited form of sexual harassment.  Sexual violence includes physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person's will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to use of drugs and/or alcohol or to an intellectual or other disability.  Some examples of sexual violence may include rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.

Additional Guidance

Investigation and Confidentiality

All reports describing conduct that is inconsistent with the Policy on Sexual Harassment or the Policy on Discrimination and Harassment will be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Complaints about violations of these policies will be handled discreetly, with facts made available to those who need to know to investigate and resolve the matter.


The University prohibits retaliation against anyone for registering a complaint pursuant to these policies, assisting another in making a complaint, or participating in an investigation under the policies. Anyone experiencing any conduct that he or she believes to be retaliatory should immediately report it to one of the individuals listed under Where to Get Advice and Help


If a complaint of discrimination, harassment, or sexual harassment is found to be substantiated, appropriate corrective action will follow, up to and including separation of the offending party from the University, consistent with University procedure.

Your Responsibilities

All members of the University community are responsible for creating a working, learning and living environment that is free of discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment. It is important to contact one of the individuals listed under Where to Get Advice and Help if any of the following occurs:

  • You believe you have been subjected to conduct or comments that may violate these policies;
  • You believe you have been retaliated against in violation of these policies; or
  • You have been told about or witnessed conduct that may violate these policies.

Vendors, Contractors and Third Parties

The University's policies on discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment apply to the conduct of vendors, contractors and third parties. If a member of the University community believes that he or she has been subjected to conduct by a vendor, contractor or third party that violates these policies, the community member should contact one of the individuals listed under Where to Get Advice and Help. The University will respond as appropriate, given the nature of its relationship to the vendor, contractor or third party.

Academic Freedom

While Northwestern University is committed to the principles of free inquiry and free expression, discrimination and harassment identified in this policy are neither legally protected expression nor the proper exercise of academic freedom.

If you believe you have been discriminated against or harassed:

  • Contact one of the individuals listed under Where to get Advice and Help.
  • Don't blame yourself.
  • Don't delay reporting a problem.
  • Consider keeping a written, dated record of events.

If you witness or become aware of possible discriminatory or harassing conduct by others:

If you think you may have offended or harassed someone:

  • Don't assume others will tell you when they feel offended or harassed by what you say and do.
  • Examine how others respond to what you say and do.
  • Apologize as soon as possible.
  • Change your behavior.

What You Should Know About Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Harassment