FAQs

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions for the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). Click below to see the answer.

What is the mission of OIEC?

The mission of the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) is to prevent and address protected class discrimination and harassment at CU Boulder by educating the campus and by investigating complaints under the University of Colorado Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures, the University of Colorado Boulder Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures, and the University of Colorado Policy on Conflict of Interest in Cases of Amorous Relationships.

What are protected classes?

The protected classes include race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, religion, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation, and political philosophy.  It is a violation of the Discrimination and Harassment Policy to discriminate or harass another person on the basis of one or more of these protected classes.  Additionally, federal and state laws, as well as Regent Law, prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of one or more protected classes.

What is sexual harassment?

Interaction between individuals of the same or opposite sex that is characterized by unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, living conditions, and/or educational evaluation; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for tangible employment or educational decisions affecting such individual; or (3) 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 educational environment. Hostile environment sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of education or employment and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, hostile, or offensive. The determination of whether an environment is “hostile” is a fact specific inquiry based upon subjective and objective factors of the circumstances. These circumstances could include the frequency of the conduct, its severity, and whether it is threatening or humiliating.  

What is protected class discrimination?

Discrimination occurs when an individual suffers an adverse consequence, such as failure to be hired or promoted, denial of admission to an academic program, etc., on the basis of her/his protected class.

What are some definitions of sexual misconduct?

For definitions of terms such as coercion, force, intimate partner abuse, intimidation, non-consensual sexual contact, non-concensual sexual intercourse, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, stalking, threats, see pages 7-9 of OIEC's Process and Procedures or the definitions found here. This page also provides examples of prohibited conduct and a link to the State of Colorado definitions of criminal behavior.

What is consent? What is not consent?

CU Boulder Definition of Consent

  • In order for individuals to engage in sexual activity of any type with each other, there must be clear, knowing and voluntary consent prior to and during sexual activity. Consent is sexual permission. Consent can be given by word or action, but non-verbal consent is not as clear as talking about what you want sexually and what you don’t.
  • Consent must be active; silence by itself cannot be interpreted as consent.
  • Consent is not effectively given if it results from the use of force, including threats, intimidation or coercion.

Guidance Regarding Consent

  • When alcohol or other drugs are being used, a person will be considered unable to give valid consent if they cannot fully understand the details of a sexual interaction (who, what, when, where, why, or how) because they lack the capacity to reasonably understand the situation. Individuals who consent to sex must be able to understand what they are doing. Anything but a clear, knowing and voluntary consent to any sexual activity is equivalent to a “no.”
  • A person who does not want to consent to sex is not required to resist.
  • Consent to some forms of sexual activity does not automatically imply consent to other forms of sexual activity.
  • Silence, previous sexual relationships, or the existence of a current relationship do not imply consent. Consent cannot be implied by attire or inferred from the giving or acceptance of gifts, money or other items.
  • Consent to sexual activity may be withdrawn at any time, as long as the withdrawal is communicated clearly. Withdrawal of consent can be done in numerous ways and need not be a verbal withdrawal of consent.
  • A respondent’s intentional use of alcohol/drugs will not function as a defense to a possible violation of this policy.
What if I am a victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or gender-based harassment?

The information found in the Reporting Options and Assistance document provides a useful summary of the rights and options of victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or gender-based harassment.  The document describes the processes that will be utilized by both the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC).

What are examples of discrimination?

Examples of discrimination include:

  • During a tenure review committee meeting, Pat, a tenured faculty member, says, “I do not think Susie should be given tenure because she has three children and is obviously not devoted to her research.” Susie was denied tenure because of Pat’s statement. 

  • Tony was not interviewed for a position because he wears a crucifix.

  • Mark was not considered for promotion because he is hearing impaired. Mark has the same qualifications and experience as other candidates, and he can perform the essential duties of the position.

What should I do if I think I have experienced or witnessed discrimination?

Contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance at 303-492-2127.

What is protected class harassment?

Protected class harassment is verbal or physical conduct directed at an individual because or his/her protected class, that unreasonably interferes with that individual’s work or academic performance and creates an intimidating or hostile work, educational, or living environment. 

What constitutes sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, or protected class harassment?

Harassment may involve:

  • physically assaulting or repeatedly intimidating, teasing, mocking, or joking based upon an individual’s race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, religion, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or veteran status. 

  • repeatedly directing racial or ethnic slurs at an individual 

  • repeatedly telling an individual they are too old to understand new technology

  • repeatedly pressuring an individual for dates or sexual favors

  • repeatedly displaying sexually explicit visual material (calendars, posters, cards, software, and websites)

  • 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 (repeatedly brushing against someone)

  • sexual assault*

*While all sexual harassment is against the law, sexual assault is a criminal act and should be reported to the campus or city police.

What are examples of harassment?

Examples of protected class harassment or sexual harassment include:

  • LaToya, a supervisor, repeatedly makes ethnically disparaging comments to Juan, such as, “If you don’t do your job correctly, I’m going to send you back south of the border.” 

  • Thomas acts and behaves in a more feminine manner and as a result, his classmates frequently tease him and call him a “queer” and a “girlie man.”

  • Professor Nguyen is in her office when her student Steve comes in, closes the door and suggestively says, “I’d do anything for an A in your class.”

What if I feel harassed or discriminated against but I do not believe that it is because of one or more of my protected classes?

If you are reporting the conduct of an employee, you may speak to your supervisor or contact the Office of Employee Relations for advice at 303-492-0956.  If you are reporting the conduct of a student, you may contact the Office of Student Conduct at 303-492-5550.

What should I do if I think I have experienced or witnessed harassment or discrimination?
  1. Tell the harasser or discriminator to stop 

  2. If you feel comfortable doing so, directly and succinctly tell the individual to stop the offensive behavior. The individual may be unaware that you find the behavior to be offensive or unwelcome. 

  3. Write a letter

  4. In many cases, a letter to the individual may clear up any misunderstandings and cause the behavior to stop. 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 want you to stop that behavior immediately.”

  5. Tell someone

  6. Discussing the situation with someone will help you sort out your feelings and decide what to do. You may want to talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, or a confidential resource on campus. (See the list of Resources.)

  7. Keep a record

  8. What happened? When? Where? Who were the other people present? How did you feel? Save written notes/correspondence, voice mail, and e-mail messages.

  9. Report the incident promptly

Incidents of discrimination and harassment should be reported to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance as soon as possible.

Professional staff will work with you to determine the most appropriate means of addressing your concerns.  Additionally, all supervisors are required to report possible discrimination or harassment to OIEC whenever they experience, witness or are told about it. 

Am I required to report discrimination or harassment that I witness or have reported to me?

Some employees are required to report this information to OIEC. An employee who is designated as a "responsible employee" who witnesses or receives a written or oral report or complaint of sexual misconduct, protected class discrimination and harassment, or related retaliation must promptly report it to OIEC. For more information about who is considered a "responsible employee," what information must be reported, how to report, and what happens when a report is made, view the Reporting Obligation For Responsible Employees section on the Reporting Options page.

What are examples of retaliation?

Examples of retaliation:

  • John’s supervisor gives him an unsatisfactory performance review because John participated in a sexual harassment investigation. 

  • Sylvia received a D as her final grade after complaining that her professor used racially inappropriate comments in class, even though she received high grades on her assignments and exams.

  • George continually calls, texts, emails, and shows up at Angelica's residence hall after she filed a complaint of intimate partner abuse against George.

What should I do if I think I have experienced retaliation?

Contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance at 303-492-2127.

How do I access the mandatory online discrimination and harassment training?

For step-by-step instructions on how to access the online Discrimination and Harassment training, please go to our training webpage.

Can I file a complaint outside of the university?

If a person chooses not to pursue a complaint through OIEC, complaints can also be filed with the Office for Civil Rights, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the Colorado Civil Rights Division.  Each of these offices has its own requirements for filing a complaint, so you should consult the websites for these offices and contact the offices directly if you have any questions.  Further information about these offices can be found on OIEC's Resources page.