Published: July 8, 2019

Sexual harassment can be a tricky subject to navigate. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions from graduate students about sexual harassment.  

On-campus resources

CU Boulder has a variety of on-campus resources that can provide support if you or a friend are experiencing sexual harassment. 

  • The Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) provides free and confidential support to students, staff and faculty. They can help you navigate resources, explore reporting options and connect with other resources. 
  • The Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) is the official reporting office for complaints of sexual misconduct, protected-class discrimination and harassment at CU Boulder. 
  • Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers a variety of confidential counseling services for students including brief individual counseling, workshops and groups.  
  • Ombuds provides confidential support for students. Their office listens to concerns, provides impartial perspective and helps students develop options and strategize resolutions to university-related issues.  

What is the difference between flirting at work, asking a colleague out and sexual harassment? 

The key difference between flirting and sexual harassment is whether or not the behavior is wanted and mutual. Colleagues can flirt if it is welcome and reciprocated. Similarly, asking a coworker out is okay, but punishing or continuing to pursue someone for saying, "no," is not. 

What counts as sexual harassment? 

CU Boulder defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. 

How can someone report sexual harassment? 

CU Boulder has a variety of resources for students who may be experiencing sexual harassment. Students, staff and faculty are encouraged to visit the Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) to explore their options. OVA provides free and confidential support for students, staff and faculty for a number of concerns, including sexual harassment. Official reports can be filed through an online submission form to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). 

How does CU Boulder respond to reports of sexual harassment? 

Once a report is filed with OIEC, a representative will follow up and provide information on confidential resources. They will review options for interim remedies and supportive measures, such as changes to academic, living, transportation and work situations. Once the initial inquiry is complete, reports can be resolved informally or through an official adjudication process by OIEC.  

What is the difference between an informal resolution and an official adjudication? 

Informal resolutions do not determine if a policy was violated. These types of resolutions allow the university to tailor resolutions to the unique facts and circumstances of an incident and discuss appropriate behavior going forward.

A formal adjudication is an investigative process conducted by trained officials who are neutral fact finders to determine whether a policy violation occurred. If someone is found responsible for violating university policy through the formal process, it will most likely result in some form of disciplinary action based on the severity of the behavior, up to and including being suspended, expelled, demoted or fired from the university. 

How should you respond if someone tells you they are experiencing sexual harassment? 

If someone discloses an experience of sexual harassment to you, it is important to listen non-judgmentally and check in on their safety. Take them seriously, validate their feelings and support their decisions regarding how they wish to move forward. 

If you are not sure what to do, reach out to OVA for support. They provide free and confidential support for students, staff and faculty. You can reach out to them for support and guidance on how to help a friend or yourself.