What is harassment?

Harassment is unwarranted, unwelcome and uninvited behaviour, which violates an individual’s dignity, or creates an intimidating, humiliating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment for them. Harassment is prohibited by the University’s Dignity and Respect Policy. 
Harassment may be connected to an individual’s characteristics, directly, indirectly or via association, one or more of which may be protected under the Equality Act 2010. An individual or individuals may be subjected to harassment because they are perceived as being different or in a less powerful position than the harasser or because they have submitted or refused to submit to such behaviour in the past. Consequently, people who are in a minority position are more vulnerable to being harassed. Harassment may, however, occur in less obvious scenarios and outside traditional power relationships. A student may, for example, harass a member of staff or a manager may be harassed by a member of their staff. 
Usually, behaviour that amounts to harassment is persistent and develops over a period of time. However, one-off incidents, particularly those of a serious nature, can also constitute harassment. Harassment may also constitute unlawful discrimination or hate crime (see below). 
Harassment is to be distinguished from vigorous academic debate. The latter is respectful and stimulates and encourages thought and discussion as opposed to the former, which is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive to others.

Examples of harassment may include: 
  • unwanted physical conduct or ‘horseplay’, including touching, pinching, pushing, grabbing, brushing past someone, invading their personal space and more serious forms of physical or sexual assault. 
  • offensive or intimidating comments or gestures, or insensitive jokes or pranks
  • mocking, mimicking or belittling a person’s disability
  • racist, sexist, homophobic, biphobic, transphobic or ageist jokes, or derogatory or stereotypical remarks about a particular ethnic or religious group or gender
  • outing or threatening to out someone as  Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender
  • ignoring or shunning someone, for example, by deliberately excluding them from a conversation or a social activity.
A person may be harassed even if they were not the intended "target". For example, a person may be harassed by racist jokes about a different ethnic group if they create an offensive environment.

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