Defining and Facing Discrimination and Harassment
“No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
--Title XI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Office for Civil Rights, Compliance, and Community Initiatives oversees Wofford’s compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI requires that institutions receiving any type of federal financial support operate in a non-discriminatory manner.
Title VI’s statutory language prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin. In its implementation, Title VI outlaws all forms of ethnic discrimination, including discrimination based on actual or assumed religious faith, assumed ethnic or religious identity based on family name or physical appearance, and one’s facility with the English language. For more on the educational programs and activities that Title VI covers, please consult the Office for Civil Rights’ Education and Title VI page.
Wofford is committed to building an open and welcoming academic community in which discrimination is not tolerated. This is reflected in the college’s mission statement, its statement of nondiscrimination, Article II, Section 2.01 of the college’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy and its historic and ongoing commitment to liberal education and moral principle.
Allegations of discriminatory and harassing behavior will be reported and investigated as follows.
Defining and Reporting Discrimination or Harassment
Section 3.02 of the Nondiscrimination and Antiharassment Policy explicitly forbids discriminatory harassment. The college defines “discriminatory harassment” as “unwelcome conduct by any member or group of the community on the basis of actual or perceived membership in a class protected by policy or law.”
Wofford pledges “to act to remedy all forms of harassment when reported, whether or not the harassment rises of the level of creating a ‘hostile environment.’ A hostile environment is one that unreasonably interferes with, limits or effectively denies an individual’s educational or employment access, benefits or opportunities. This discriminatory effect results from harassing verbal, written, graphic or physical conduct that is severe or pervasive and objectively offensive.”
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many kinds of conduct may be considered harassing, but the EEOC particularly references “offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults of put-downs, offensive objects of pictures, and interference with work performance.”
Anyone experiencing discrimination and/or harassment from a college employee or student should report it using the college’s Discrimination and Harassment Reporting Form or by contacting Jennifer Larimore, interim Title IX coordinator, at email@example.com or at 650-383-4753 ext. 157. If the discriminatory behavior involves physical abuse or threats, please contact Campus Safety at 864-597-4911 immediately.
The Office for Civil Rights, Compliance, and Community Initiatives takes all reports of ethnic, racial, and religious harassment seriously. Each harassment allegation will be investigated in accordance with the investigative procedure outlined in Section 5.01 and Article VI of the Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy. Some reported behaviors may be offensive, but not rise to the level of a punishable policy violation. The college may still take corrective action in those cases as outlined in Section 2.06 of the policy: “The college reserves the right to address reported conduct that does not or would not rise to the level of a violation of this policy. Addressing such reports will not result in the imposition of discipline under this policy, but the college may conduct educational conversations, implement remedial actions, organize mediated conversations and/or effectuate other informal resolution mechanisms.”
For more information about how discrimination and harassment investigations are conducted and your rights during the proceedings, please contact the Title IX coordinator or review the Title IX FAQs.
What is Not Considered Discriminatory or Harassing Behavior
Quoting from Section 2.05 of the Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy: “Students, staff and faculty are entitled to learn, live and work in an educational and employment environment that is free of discrimination and harassment. This policy is not intended to inhibit or prohibit educational content or discussions inside or outside of the classroom that include germane but controversial or sensitive subject matters protected by academic freedom. When speech or conduct is protected by academic freedom, it will not be considered a violation of this policy, though remedies may be offered to those impacted.”
Strategies for Facing Discrimination and Harassment
We are taught as children that words can never hurt us. Lived experience tells us otherwise. We hope that your Wofford experience will be free of insensitive, hurtful or racist encounters; however, we acknowledge that prejudice has not been eradicated and that some members of the Wofford community may have painful experiences.
The college will address issues reported to it, but that process may not help you process the complex emotions and stress that encountering prejudice directed against you provokes. What should you do if you are being discriminated against or are being harassed? How do you cope with it?
The following tips for facing discriminatory behavior are derived in part from recommendations from the American Psychological Association and the scholarship of Dr. Steven Kniffley Jr.
TIP #1: Build support networks on and off campus.
Dr. Derald Wing Sue’s research demonstrates that microaggressions—“[t]he everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership”—are particularly harmful to students’ academic achievement and feelings of inclusion. It will be critical for you to have trusted family, friends and mentors around you and to share their experiences and coping skills. Be as involved on campus as you can. Wofford has a lot of academic and social opportunities to offer!
TIP #2: Get to know faculty members, campus administrators and staff.
Wofford’s community is relatively small, which affords you the opportunity to develop friendships that may last a lifetime. At the same time that you are getting to know your peers, be sure to establish relationships with the faculty and other campus staff members. Wofford’s faculty and staff are positioned to help you make the most of the educational and professional opportunities the college has to offer. As college employees, they also can also help you address any concerns you may have to the appropriate persons on campus.
TIP #3: Prepare to be the “only one” in some of your classes.
Wofford is committed to improving the campus’ diversity, but you may find yourself as the only person of your ethnicity, race or religion in one or more classes. In classes that talk about cultural differences and/or race, this may make you feel “put on the spot” or you may actually be “put on the spot” when someone asks you to speak as if you are your group’s designated representative. At best, these conversations are awkward or inappropriately humorous; at their worst, they may be hurtful and infuriating. You may never experience a situation like this, but, because they often provoke strong emotional responses, you should prepare for the possibility and how you do—or do not—want to respond.
TIP #4: Acknowledge your emotions and develop healthy ways to process them.
Experiencing prejudice often produces simultaneous competing instinctive emotional responses: the desire to fight, to flee and to freeze in place. It causes even the strongest of persons to question their identity and whether they belong or should stay where they are, so don’t think you have to “tough it out” or not talk about it. Accept your emotions and take all the time you need to work through them. Consider taking advantage of the college’s counseling resources or pursuing an external counselor from your own ethnic, racial or religious background. Try not to allow the incident to cause you to become withdrawn or to disrupt your academic life.
TIP #5: Practice self-care.
If your emotional reserves have been depleted, take a mental health break. Escape from your ordinary obligations for an afternoon, evening or weekend. Listen to your favorite music, read a book for pleasure, get some exercise or watch your favorite movie for the 400 th time. For more creative self-care ideas, check out the resources available. Remember: when you’re climbing a mountain, it’s OK to stop along the way. This allows you both to look back to appreciate how far you have already come and to gather the strength necessary to keep going.
TIP #6: Affirm yourself by learning more about your identity and your history.
Take some time to learn what people who look like you or come from your faith tradition have accomplished and endured. Learn about the sacrifices that have been made for you to have the opportunities that you have right now. Every person admitted to Wofford College has earned the right to be a member of the college’s community. Make sure that you believe that and don’t let anyone else make you feel otherwise.
TIP #7: Keep your eyes on the prize.
Wofford wants you to have the best extracurricular and social experiences it can offer, but the most important thing Wofford has to offer you is a first-rate education that prepares you for a fulfilling future. Keep focused on the doors that your Wofford degree will help you open.
The Office for Civil Rights
Colleges and universities are responsible for complying with Title VI, but ultimate responsibility for compliance rests with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Persons who feel that their rights under Title VI have been violated by an institution may choose to file a discrimination complaint with OCR directly. Please consult the information provided about how to file a discrimination complaint with the appropriate regional OCR office.