Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Stalking and Retaliation Policy

Policy Statement

Western Governors University (WGU) is committed to providing an environment that emphasizes the dignity and worth of every member of its community and that is free from harassment and discrimination based upon race, color, religion, national origin, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, age, marital or family status, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Such an environment is necessary to a healthy learning and working atmosphere because discrimination and harassment undermine human dignity and the positive connection among all people at our university. Acts of discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, stalking, and retaliation will be addressed consistent with this policy. This policy of nondiscrimination applies (without limitation) to student recruitment, admissions, academic programs and services, student discipline, grading, and participation in WGU sponsored forums.

Consistent with state and federal law, reasonable accommodation will be provided to persons with disabilities.

It is important that members of the University community understand that the law does not just prohibit discrimination and harassment of employees by employers. The law also prohibits discrimination and harassment between members of the University community more generally; for example, between faculty or staff and a student, between two students, or between a student and an applicant or visitor/guest. This policy applies in all University programs and activities, including, but not limited to, discrimination in instruction, grading, and university employment. In addition, the law prohibits retaliation against an individual for opposing any practices forbidden under this policy, for bringing a complaint of discrimination or harassment, for assisting someone with such a complaint, for attempting to stop such discrimination or harassment, or for participating in any manner in an investigation or resolution of a complaint of discrimination or harassment. It is central to WGU values that any individual who believes they may have been the target of unlawful discrimination or harassment feel free to report their concerns for appropriate investigation and response, without fear of retaliation or retribution.

All complaints or any concerns about conduct that may violate this policy and retaliation should be filed with the WGU Title IX coordinator:

Dr. Lucas Kavlie
Western Governors University
4001 South 700 East, Suite 700
Salt Lake City, Utah 84107

Upon receiving a complaint, the Title IX coordinator will follow the procedures described in WGU's discrimination grievance procedures.
Important Note!  Please do not wait to report a concern until the situation becomes severe or persistent. The Title IX coordinator, designees, and other University officials can take proactive steps to prevent harassment from continuing, and to protect or otherwise assist the person being harassed. For example, the University can arrange for no-contact orders, counseling and personnel changes as needed. The Title IX coordinator and designees can also provide expertise and advice to help evaluate conduct that might be a warning sign of, or constitute, conduct prohibited by this policy and address any concerns or complaints appropriately.

Discriminatory Conduct

The following definitions are for general reference only; and may differ from applicable legal definitions in the state in which the conduct occurred.

I. Discrimination is conduct that is based upon an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, age, marital or family status, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation that excludes an individual from participation, denies the individual the benefits of, treats the individual differently or otherwise adversely affects a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education or participation in WGU programs or activities. This includes failing to provide reasonable accommodation, consistent with state and federal law, to persons with disabilities. 

II. Harassment is covered under this policy if it is based upon an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, age, marital or family status, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.  Harassing conduct may take various forms, including, name-calling, graphic or written statements (including the use of cell phones or the Internet), or other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating. Harassment does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents. Sex-based harassment includes sexual harassment, which is further defined below, and harassment based on stereotypical notions of what is female/feminine v. male/masculine or a failure to conform to those gender stereotypes. Harassment violates this policy when it creates a hostile environment, as defined in Section II.B, below.

A. Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment can include unwelcome: sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual assault. Sexual harassment, including sexual assault, can involve persons of the same or opposite sex.
Consistent with the law, this policy prohibits two types of sexual harassment:

1. Tangible Employment or Educational Action

This type of sexual harassment occurs when the terms or conditions of employment, educational benefits, academic grades or opportunities or participation in a University activity is conditioned upon, either explicitly or implicitly, submission to or rejection of unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, or such submission or rejection is a factor in decisions affecting that individual’s employment, education or participation in a University program or activity. Generally, perpetrators will be WGU employees, contractors or others acting with some authority from the University.

2. Hostile Environment

Sexual harassment may create a hostile environment as defined in section II.B below.

B. Hostile Environment Harassment

Hostile Environment based on race, color, religion, national origin, creed, service in the uniformed services, veteran status, sex, age, marital or family status, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation exists when harassment:


  • Is sufficiently serious (i.e., severe, pervasive, or persistent) and objectively offensive so as to deny or limit a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s programs, services, opportunities, or activities; or
  • When such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment.


Harassment that creates a hostile environment (“hostile environment harassment”) violates this policy.

A hostile environment can be created by anyone involved in a University program or activity (e.g., administrators, faculty members, students, and even campus guests). Mere offensiveness is not enough to create a hostile environment. Although repeated incidents increase the likelihood that harassment has created a hostile environment, a serious incident, such as a sexual assault, even if isolated, can be sufficient.

In determining whether harassment has created a hostile environment, consideration is made not only as to whether the conduct was unwelcome to the person who feels harassed, but also whether a reasonable person in a similar situation would have perceived the conduct as objectively offensive. The following factors will also be considered:


  1. The degree to which the conduct affected the education of one or more students or an individual’s employment;
  2. The nature, scope, frequency, duration, and location of incident or incidents;
  3. The identity, number, and relationships of persons involved;
  4. The nature of higher education.

III. Sexual Misconduct includes sexual assault, inducing incapacitation for sexual purposes, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, dating violence, and relationship violence. Definitions of sexual misconduct may vary by state.

A. Sexual Assault means an actual or attempted sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent. Sexual assault includes, but is not limited to:


  1. Involvement in any sexual contact when the victim is unable to consent.
  2. Intentional and unwelcome touching of, or coercing, forcing, or attempting to coerce or force another to touch a person’s intimate parts (defined as genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttocks, or breast).
  3. Sexual intercourse without consent, including acts commonly referred to as “rape.”


Consent is informed, freely given, and mutual. If coercion, intimidation, threats, or physical force are used there is no consent.  If a person is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that such person cannot understand the fact, nature or extent of the sexual situation, there is no consent; this includes impairment or incapacitation due to alcohol or drug consumption, or being asleep or unconscious. There is no consent when there is force, expressed or implied, or use of duress or deception upon the victim.  Silence does not necessarily constitute consent. Past consent to sexual activities does not imply ongoing future consent. Whether an individual has taken advantage of a position of influence over an alleged victim may be a factor in determining consent.

B. Inducing incapacitation for sexual purposes includes using drugs, alcohol, or other means with the intent to affect or have an actual effect on the ability of an individual to consent or refuse to consent (as “consent” is defined in this policy) to sexual contact.

C. Sexual Exploitation occurs when a person takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for anyone’s advantage or benefit other than the person being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of the preceding sexual misconduct offenses. Examples of behavior that could rise to the level of sexual exploitation include:


  • Prostituting another person;
  • Non-consensual visual (e.g., video, photograph) or audio-recording of sexual activity;
  • Non-consensual distribution of photos, other images, or information of an individual’s sexual activity, intimate body parts, or nakedness, with the intent to or having the effect of embarrassing an individual who is the subject of such images or information;
  • Going beyond the bounds of consent;
  • Engaging in non-consensual voyeurism;
  • Knowingly transmitting a sexually transmitted disease, such as HIV, to another without disclosing your health status;
  • Exposing one’s genitals in non-consensual circumstances, or inducing another to expose his or her genitals;
  • Possessing, distributing, viewing or forcing others to view illegal pornography.


D. Intimate Partner Violence (including both domestic and dating violence) is abuse or violence between partners or former partners involving one or more of the following elements:


  • Battering that causes bodily injury;
  • Purposely or knowingly causing reasonable apprehension of bodily injury;
  • Emotional abuse creating apprehension of bodily injury or property damage;
  • Repeated telephonic, electronic, or other forms of communication - anonymously or directly - made with the intent to intimidate, terrify, harass, or threaten.


IV. Stalking includes repeatedly following, harassing, threatening, or intimidating another by telephone, mail, electronic communication, social media, or any other action, device or method that purposely or knowingly causes substantial emotional distress or reasonable fear of bodily injury or death.

V. Retaliation is action taken by an accused individual or an action taken by a third party against any person because that person opposed any practices forbidden under this policy or because that person has filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under this policy. This includes action taken against a bystander who intervened to stop or attempt to stop discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct. Retaliation includes intimidating, threatening, coercing, or in any way discriminating against an individual because of that individual’s complaint or participation.  Action is generally deemed retaliatory if it would deter a reasonable person in the same circumstances from opposing practices prohibited by this policy. 

This policy applies to conduct that occurs in WGU offices and facilities, at University-sponsored events, and to conduct which occurs between University students and employees through University networks, phones and websites or between University email accounts. Conduct that occurs completely outside of the University’s control is subject to this policy when the conduct can be shown to create a hostile learning or working environment.

Mandatory Employee Reporting of Sex-based Discrimination, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Involving Students

To enable the University to respond effectively and proactively stop instances of sex-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct involving students, all University employees must, within 24 hours of receiving the information, report information they have about alleged or possible sex-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct involving students to the Title IX coordinator or deputy. 

Upon receiving a report of alleged or possible sex-based discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual misconduct, the Title IX coordinator will evaluate the information received and determine what further actions should be taken. The Title IX coordinator will follow the procedures described in the Discrimination Grievance Procedures. The Title IX coordinator will take steps, either directly with the complainant or through a reporting employee, to provide information about the University’s discrimination grievance procedures, as well as available health and advocacy resources and options for criminal reporting.

If a student wishes to confidentially discuss an incident or seek resources without filing a report with the university, he or she may contact WellConnect at 1-877-685-3269 to speak with a counselor, or contact other rape crisis resources. These resources will maintain confidentiality and are not required to report to the University.

Sanctions and Corrective Action

Violations of this policy are addressed through the discrimination grievance procedures.  Consequences for violating this policy will depend upon the facts and circumstances of each particular situation. Sanctions and corrective action could include: a requirement not to repeat or continue the discriminatory, harassing, or retaliatory conduct, a reprimand, a no-contact order, denial of a merit pay increase, reassignment, suspension or termination. The severity of sanctions or corrective action depends on the frequency and severity of the offense and any history of past discriminatory, harassing or retaliatory conduct. A finding of discrimination, harassment that creates a hostile environment or results in a tangible employment or educational action, or sexual misconduct may be cause for disciplinary action, up to and including the discharge of employees and the expulsion of students, in accordance with applicable University procedures. The University may also take appropriate action if it does not find discrimination or harassment that creates a hostile environment or results in a tangible employment or educational action, but (a) the University found that the respondent engaged in disruptive behavior or (b) to prevent the creation of a hostile environment.

Free Speech and Academic Freedom

Constitutionally protected speech and traditional notions of academic freedom are valued in higher education and at WGU. These ideals help to create the stimulating and challenging learning environment that should characterize a university. In the spirit of a true university environment, individuals are encouraged to invite, rather than inhibit, discourse on ideas.  In addressing all complaints and reports under this policy, the University takes all permissible actions to ensure the safety of students and employees while complying with free speech requirements for students and employees. 
While the University will vigilantly protect students’ and employees’ rights against sex discrimination under this policy, this policy does not apply to curriculum or in any way prohibit or abridge the use of particular textbooks or curricular materials.





Article Number: 20490, 1017

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