Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence

University Policy Prohibiting All Forms of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as:

Unwelcome* sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or education;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or education-related decisions affecting such an individual; or
  • Such conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive  that it has the effect, intended or unintended, of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance because it has created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment and would have such an effect on a reasonable person of that individual’s status.

*Employee conduct directed towards a student--whether unwelcome or welcome--can constitute sexual harassment under OSU Policy 580-015-0010(2).

Student Conduct Code

A Student or Student Organization found to have committed any of the proscribed acts outlined in Oregon State University's Student Conduct Code is subject to sanctions. According to OSU Policy 576-015-0010(11), sexual assault, or sexual misconduct of any kind are prohibited. Sexual assault or misconduct may be found whenever sexual contact occurs without the recipients' consent, as defined by 576-015-0010(6). The Office of Equal Opportunity and Access responds to violations of the Student Conduct Code involving sexual harassment and/or discriminatory harassment as well as to allegations of unwanted sexual contact of any kind.


According to OSU Policy 576-015-0010(6), "Consent" is knowing, voluntary, and clear permission by word or action, to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. To be effective, consent must be informed and reciprocal, freely and actively given, and mutually understandable. These terms are defined as follows:

  • Informed and reciprocal: All parties must demonstrate a clear and mutual understanding of the nature and scope of the act to which they are consenting and a willingness to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way. Consent cannot be informed when one is unaware that the act is being committed.
  • Freely and actively given: An individual cannot consent who is incapacitated by any drug or intoxicant; or who has been compelled by force, threat of force, or deception; or whose ability to consent is compromised because of a mental or physical condition; or who is coerced by supervisory or disciplinary authority.
  • Mutually understandable: Communication regarding consent consists of mutually understandable words and/or actions that indicate an unambiguous willingness to engage in sexual activity. In the absence of clear communication or outward demonstration, there is no consent. Consent may not be inferred from silence, passivity, lack of resistance or lack of active response. An individual who does not physically resist or verbally refuse sexual activity is not necessarily giving consent. Relying solely upon non-verbal communication can lead to a false conclusion as to whether consent was sought or given.

Consent may be withdrawn by any party at any time. Recognizing the dynamic nature of sexual activity, individuals choosing to engage in sexual activity must evaluate consent in an ongoing manner and communicate clearly throughout all stages of sexual activity. Withdrawal of consent can be expressed verbally or can be based on an outward demonstration that conveys that an individual is hesitant, confused, uncertain or is no longer a mutual participant. Once consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity must cease immediately and all parties must obtain mutually expressed or clearly stated consent before continuing further sexual activity.

Prior sexual activity or relationship does not, in and of itself, constitute consent. Consent to some sexual acts does not constitute consent to others, nor does past consent to a given act constitute present or future consent.

Additional Definitions

Force: Force is the use or threat of physical violence or intimidation to overcome an individual’s freedom of will to choose whether or not to participate in sexual activity. For the use of force to be demonstrated, there is no requirement that a Complainant resists the sexual advance or request; however, resistance by the Complainant will be viewed as a clear demonstration of non-consent.

Coercion: Coercion is the improper use of pressure to compel another individual to initiate or continue sexual activity against their will. Coercion can include a wide range of behaviors, including intimidation, manipulation, threats, and blackmail. A person’s words or conduct are sufficient to constitute coercion if they wrongfully impair another individual’s freedom of will and ability to choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity. Coercion includes, but is not limited to: threatening to “out” someone based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; and threatening to harm oneself if the other party does not engage in the sexual activity.

Incapacitation: Incapacitation is a state where an individual cannot make an informed and rational decision to engage in sexual activity because they lack conscious knowledge of the nature of the act (i.e., to understand the who, what, when, where, why, or how of the sexual interaction) and/or is physically helpless. An individual is incapacitated, and therefore unable to give consent, if they are asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware that sexual activity is occurring. 

Incapacitation may result from the use of alcohol and/or drugs. Consumption of alcohol or other drugs alone is insufficient to establish incapacitation. The impact of alcohol and drugs varies from person to person, and evaluating incapacitation requires an assessment of how the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs impact an individual’s:

  • decision-making ability;
  • awareness of consequences;
  • ability to make informed judgments; or
  • capacity to appreciate the nature and the quality of the act.

Alcohol and Other Drugs: In general, sexual contact while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs poses a risk to all parties. Alcohol and drugs impair a person’s decision-making capacity, awareness of the consequences, and ability to make informed judgments. It is especially important, therefore, that anyone engaging in sexual activity be aware of the other person’s level of intoxication. If there is any doubt as to the level or extent of the other individual’s capacity to freely give consent, the prudent course of action is to forgo or cease any sexual contact or activity. 

Being intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol is never an excuse for sexual harassment or other forms of prohibited conduct, and does not diminish one’s responsibility to obtain consent.