It Matters - Vol. 2, No. 5 - February 2013
Referrals to Campus Resources
To ensure that students with disabilities are fully integrated into the academic community, Appalachian State University provides a number of resources and support services in addition to approved reasonable accommodations.
The Learning Assistance Program (LAP), located in DD Dougherty Hall, offers a range of integrated services, including tutoring in introductory level courses, supplemental instruction, study skills enhancement, time management support and academic course offerings that focus on learning skills. http://lap.appstate.edu/
Counseling & Psychological Services, located in the Miles Annas Student Support Building, offers individual counseling, group therapy, couples and family counseling and the opportunity for outreach and consultation to all currently enrolled students at no charge. http://counseling.appstate.edu/index.php
The University Writing Center, located in the Belk Library and Information Commons, provides experienced writing consultants for one-on-one consultation with students through all stages of a writing project, from writing a first draft to final editing. http://writingcenter.appstate.edu/
The Wellness Center, located in Miles Annas Student Support Building, offers programs and services that focus on the social, environmental, occupational, physical, intellectual, financial, spiritual and emotional dimensions of wellness. http://wellness.appstate.edu/
The Peer Career Center, located in Plemmons Student Union, helps students explore potential majors and careers by identifying interests, strengths and options for planning their educational path. http://peercareer.appstate.edu/
The Career Development Center, located in the John E. Thomas (JET) Building, assists current students, graduating seniors and alumni in developing skills for internship and job searches by providing networking opportunities for students to meet with potential employers. Online services such as Career Gear and Perfect Interview make it easy to search for a job anytime, anywhere. http://careers.appstate.edu/
EDC Article One: More on Protected Classes
Winter Greetings from the EDC Staff! We hope that 2013 has started off on a positive note for one and all.
And we’d like to thank everyone who has participated in EDC’s continuing conversation about unlawful harassment and discrimination – what they are and what they are not.
“Harassment Quiz” submissions continue each week, and several readers responded to the “Is It Harassment?” scenarios that were published in the November newsletter. Our analysis of the behaviors discussed in those five situations is the subject of EDC Article Two (see below.)
To recap EDC’s role on campus, the issues and behaviors EDC staff members investigate are those involving “protected classes.” Sometimes those words are changed to “protected categories” or “protected groups.” This subject has several layers and is sometimes quite difficult to understand. For example:
- Do both federal and state law protect a category – or just state law?
- Do federal and/or state law and Appalachian policy prohibit a behavior – or just Appalachian policy?
- Are individuals or groups protected – or both?
If you’re confused, you’re not alone.
But there is a bottom line: harassment prevention laws and policies exist to protect everyone from unfair treatment.
Here’s another opportunity to test your knowledge. If you click on the link below you’ll find a questionnaire about the 13 protected classes to which Appalachian employees and students may belong. Everyone belongs to at least five protected classes and it is possible for an individual to belong to all of them.
How many protected classes do you belong to?
A broader discussion of protected classes, with an analysis of your responses, will be published in the March newsletter.
If you believe you have experienced impermissible or unlawful harassment or other forms of discrimination, or if you are aware that someone else is being subjected to harassment or other forms of discrimination, please contact EDC at 828-262-2144 or email@example.com.
Scenarios for Discussion: Is It Harassment?
The following scenarios were published in November for your consideration. Following each is the EDC conclusion.
Scenario One – Excused absences for religious observances
At the beginning of fall semester 2013, a Jewish student requests that he be excused from class on Friday, September 6 to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Friday, September 13 to celebrate Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets and the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are two of Judaism’s High Holy Days. The class meets on M-W-F. A quiz is scheduled every Friday, and the average of the weekly quiz scores counts for 80% of the final grade. When the professor denies the student’s request for excused absences, the student brings a complaint of discrimination based on religion to the Office of EDC.
Does the student have grounds for such a complaint?
Appalachian’s Interim Religious Observance Policy states, in part:
- Students must be allowed a minimum of two excused absences each academic year for religious observances. Students are responsible for requesting excused absences for religious observances required by the faith of a student. Instructors are responsible for complying with this requirement. In classes in which attendance is taken and/or penalties are applied for student absences, instructors must document their compliance with the religious observance policy by tracking student excused absences for religious observances.
- For purposes of this policy, the term “religious observances” shall include religious holidays or holy days or similar observances required by a student’s religion and that require absence from class.
- Students must be afforded the opportunity to make up tests or other work missed due to an excused absence for a religious observance.
- Except in extraordinary circumstances, student requests for excused absences for religious observances must be submitted to instructors in writing no later than three weeks after the first class day of the term.
- This policy on excused absences for religious observances must be referenced on all course syllabi.
Read the complete policy at:
Scenario Two – Competition between men and women
A public institution with a successful intramural sports program hosts an annual badminton tournament with both a men’s and a women’s division. This year’s tournament has been publicized widely across campus. When registration ends, 36 men and two women have signed up to play. The men’s tournament begins and is scheduled to continue over three days. The women’s tournament begins and ends after one game. The woman who won her match tells the intramural council that she did not have an equal opportunity to compete because of her sex. The tournament planners state that the tournament was publicized in venues, residence halls and programs frequented by both men and women, and that they had no control over how many people signed up for either division. The female player persists in making her requests to compete further in the men’s division.
If the female student is denied the opportunity to continue in the competition, does she have a valid complaint of sex discrimination under Title IX?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. Appalachian receives federal funding in a number of areas, including grants and financial aid. Therefore, Title IX applies to all university programs and activities, including, but not limited to academics, admissions, athletics, educational opportunities, employment, financial aid and housing.
Badminton is not a contact sport (like football). It can be played by both men and women with comparable skill. Therefore, it is reasonable to allow competition between the sexes to ensure equal opportunity to engage in competitive play at a comparable level.
Scenario Three – Service animals
A member of the public with a visual impairment requires the services of a guide dog who is trained to assist him with navigation at all times. When the individual attends a sports event, a university official stops him at the gate and says that pets are not allowed in the sports arena.
Is the official’s response an example of discrimination based on disability?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides that businesses and other entities that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their Service Animals into all areas of the facility where customers or other members of the public are normally allowed to go.
Individuals with disabilities may be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of the university's grounds and facilities where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees are allowed to go.
Read more about policies regarding animals on campus at:
Scenario Four – Improper relationships between students and employees
A male graduate teaching assistant (GTA) in biology supervises an evening lab for nine male and one female undergraduate students. The GTA is especially attentive to the female student. When male students have questions, he puts them "on hold" because, “Girls need a little extra help in the hard sciences." The female student is flattered when the GTA asks her to get a beer after lab one night to continue discussing ways she can improve her performance. They have a good time and the GTA offers to take the student home afterwards. When they reach her residence hall, the GTA kisses the student on the cheek, and says he'll see her “next time.” The after-lab social sessions continue and the student and the GTA begin a sexual relationship that lasts for several weeks. The student then decides she does not want an exclusive relationship and she tells the GTA of her decision. In future labs the GTA ignores the female student. When the course ends, she receives a failing grade, though her research techniques have improved. She wonders if ending the relationship had anything to do with the failing grade and she wants to talk to the GTA about it, but is afraid.
Could the failing grade given by the GTA constitute unlawful harassment and/or retaliation?
The GTA’s behavior changed markedly after the female undergraduate student ended their sexual relationship. Leading up to their liaison, he had been more attentive to the female student than to the male students. When she ended the affair, he began to ignore her.
Because the female student’s research skills improved over the term, her concern that the GTA issued a failing grade in retaliation is not unreasonable.
However, there are other concerns with this scenario that could lead to an allegation of sexual harassment or hostile environment based on sex.
While a liaison may be entered into willingly by both people, a consensual relationship cannot truly exist when there is a power imbalance between the individuals.
The University of North Carolina’s Policy Concerning Improper Relationships Between Students and Employees states, in part:
- The University of North Carolina does not condone amorous relationships between students and employees … which can harm affected students and damage the integrity of the academic enterprise.
- It is misconduct, subject to disciplinary action, for a University employee, incident to any instructional, research, administrative or other University employment responsibility or authority, to evaluate or supervise any enrolled student of the institution with whom he or she has an amorous relationship.
This policy includes graduate students who are employed as teaching assistants for undergraduate classes and labs.
In addition, language such as “Girls need a little extra help in the hard sciences,” is demeaning and sexist, as well as untrue. In this scenario, the GTA demonstrates particularly troublesome behavior by simultaneously singling out and demeaning the female student.
Finally, though not the main subjects in the scenario, the male undergraduate students could bring forth a claim of disparate treatment because of their sex during the first part of the semester, when the GTA devoted a majority of his attention to the female student.
Read the complete policy concerning improper relationships at
Scenario Five – Hostile environment based on religion
An employee in the finance department was promoted recently to supervisor of a unit which consists of six employees who are friendly with one another and often socialize outside of work. She hosts a barbecue to celebrate the promotion and invites all of her former co-workers, whom she now supervises. During the barbecue, the supervisor tells a couple of jokes about Muslims. Later in the evening, she shares two cartoons that show demeaning caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. One employee is visibly upset by the jokes and cartoons and abruptly leaves the barbecue without saying anything to the supervisor. Over the course of the next few months, the supervisor repeatedly makes derogatory comments about people of the Islamic faith. The same employee who abruptly left the barbecue is increasingly uncomfortable with the supervisor’s religious statements but is afraid to speak up.
Could the supervisor’s behavior be considered harassment based on religion if the employee in question is not Muslim?
Even though the events in question take place outside of work, the supervisor is still an agent of the university. By repeatedly telling jokes, sharing demeaning cartoons and making derogatory comments to her employees about people of the Islamic faith and the Prophet Mohammed, the supervisor in this scenario engages in behavior that violates both law and policy that protect individuals from harassment based on religion.
If you have questions or comments about these analyses, please contact EDC at 828-262-2144 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome the opportunity to talk with you.
Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance
123 I.G. Greer Hall
Boone, NC, 28608 USA