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Non-discrimination Policy for Students and Employees

Updated 11/6/2020

I. Statement of Policy 

Wentworth Institute of Technology (“Wentworth” or “The University”) values diversity, equity, and inclusion. The University is committed to providing a safe and respectful educational experience and work environment free from discrimination and harassment on the basis of an individual’s race, color, religion, gender, age, marital status, national origin, ancestry, alienage, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by law. Students, faculty, and staff are expected to adhere to a standard of conduct that is respectful of the rights of the Wentworth Community.

II. Applicability and Jurisdiction

This Policy applies to all University students, employees, vendors, and volunteers affiliated with the University. Third Parties are both protected by and subject to this policy. A third party may make a report of a violation of this policy committed by a member of the University community. A third-party may also be permanently barred from the University or subject to other restrictions for failing to comply with this policy. This policy applies to conduct that occurs on University property (i.e., on campus) and in the local vicinity. This policy also applies to conduct that occurs off University property (i.e., off campus) when the conduct is associated with a University-sponsored program or activity, such as travel, research, or internship programs or when such conduct may have a continuing adverse effect or could create a hostile environment on campus. All actions by a member of the University community that involve the use of the University’s computing and network resources from a remote location, including but not limited to accessing email accounts, will be deemed to have occurred on campus. On-line and/or social media conduct may violate this Policy if it meets the definition of Prohibited Conduct. Online postings are in the public sphere and are not private. These postings may subject an individual to allegations of Prohibited Conduct or other misconduct. Individuals are encouraged to report any violation of this policy as soon as possible in order to maximize the University’s ability to respond promptly and effectively. Reports and Complaints may be made at any time without regard to how much time has elapsed since the incident(s) in question.

III. Prohibited Conduct 

A. Discrimination: An intentional or unintentional act that adversely affects employment and/or educational opportunities because of the person’s race, color, religion, gender, age, marital status, national origin, ancestry, alienage, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by law. Discrimination may be classified as either disparate impact (facially neutral practices that fall more harshly on one group than another and cannot be justified by business necessity) or disparate treatment (treatment of an individual that is less favorable than treatment of others based on discriminatory reasons). A single act of discrimination may be based on more than one legally protected identity.

B. Discriminatory Harassment: Conduct or speech that is:

1. based on race, color, religion, gender, age, marital status, national origin, ancestry, alienage, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by law; and

2. is sufficiently serious that it unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, terms or conditions of employment, or participation or ability to benefit from a University program, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for study, work, or social living. 

Under this policy, related conduct or speech constitutes a policy violation when the alleged speech or conduct is considered to be harassment by the listener/observer(s) and is objectively severe or pervasive, such that a reasonable person would agree that the speech or conduct constitutes harassment. 

In determining whether reported speech or conduct qualifies as harassment under this policy, the University will consider all circumstances surrounding the reported incident(s), including, without limitation, the frequency, location, severity, context and nature of the speech or conduct, including whether the speech or conduct is physically threatening or humiliating, rather than a merely offensive remark. The University may also consider the intent of the alleged party/parties.

C. Bias-Motivated Acts and Behaviors: An expression of hostility against the person or property of another, which reflects bias against a legally protected identity and contributes to or creates an unsafe or unwelcoming environment. For the purpose of this policy, bias is defined as the personal, unreasoned judgment or attitude that inclines an individual to treat someone negatively because of the individual’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, gender, age, marital status, national origin, ancestry, alienage, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law. Bias-motivated acts and behaviors may be verbal, graphic and/or physical in nature. Incidents may qualify as bias-motivated acts or behavior even when delivered with humorous intent or presented as a joke or a prank.

Examples of bias-motivated acts and behaviors may include:

  • Use of an identity-related slur in the presence of, or in communication with, one or more parties
  • Mimicking or mocking an individual or group based on a legally protected identity
  • Creating derogatory graffiti or images/drawings related to a legally protected identity
  • Imitating someone with a disability 
  • Making jokes based on stereotypes 

D. Hate Crimes: Hate crimes are a type of bias-motivated act or behavior in which the conduct constitutes a criminal offense against persons or property. Hate crimes are defined by Massachusetts law and must be reported to the Wentworth Department of Public Safety.

IV. Protection Against Retaliation 

Wentworth will not tolerate retaliation against persons who report or charge discrimination, harassment or bias-motivated acts or behavior, or against those who participate in any investigation, proceeding or hearing involving a report of discrimination, harassment or bias-motivated acts or behavior. Retaliation is speech or conduct that targets an individual or group because of their participation in a procedure related to this policy, where such conduct adversely impacts participation in a University program or activity and/or terms or conditions of employment.

V. Reporting

Wentworth encourages the reporting of all perceived incidents of discrimination, harassment or bias-motivated acts or behavior, as defined by both law and policy. Upon receiving a complaint of discrimination, harassment or bias-motivated acts or behavior, the University will conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations. 

A. Reporting Allegations of Discrimination, Harassment and Bias-Motivated Acts or Behavior Under University Policy Complaints of discrimination, harassment or bias-motivated acts or behavior against employees will be addressed by the Executive Director of Equity and Compliance, pursuant to established procedures. Individuals reporting incidents pertaining to this policy should contact:

Catlin Wells, M.Ed., J.D.
Executive Director of Equity and Compliance/Title IX Coordinator
206 Williston Hall
Boston, MA 02115-5998
Phone: 617-989-4119
Email: wellsc1@wit.edu

Upon completing the investigation, the University will take appropriate action, consistent with the results of the investigation. Disciplinary action may be taken against students, faculty or staff who violate this policy, up to and including dismissal from the University or termination of employment.

Wentworth reserves the right to investigate circumstances that may involve discrimination, harassment or bias-motivated acts or behavior in situations where evidence suggests that discrimination, harassment or bias-motivated acts or behavior may have occurred, regardless of whether or not a formal complaint has been made. 

B. Initiating a Civil Rights Complaint of Discrimination and Harassment, as defined by Law The University complies with all federal and state laws regarding non-discrimination. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, age, marital status, national origin, ancestry, alienage, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law. 

If a student, faculty or staff member or other participant in a University program or activity feels that they have been subject to illegal discrimination or harassment under state or federal law on the basis of a legally protected characteristic they are encouraged to contact:

Catlin Wells, M.Ed., J.D.
Executive Director of Equity and Compliance/Title IX Coordinator
206 Williston Hall
Boston, MA 02115-5998
Phone: 617-989-4119
Email: wellsc1@wit.edu

VI. Assistance Outside of Wentworth 

There are state and federal agencies that share responsibility for administering the laws of unlawful discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault. Individuals may contact these agencies by telephone or in person.

The agencies are

State

Commission Against Discrimination
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
617-727-3990

Springfield Office:
424 Dwight Street, Room 220
Springfield, MA 01103
413-739-2145

Federal

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 
One Congress Street 
Boston, MA 02114 
617-565-3200

Office of Civil Rights 
Leon Rodriguez, Director 
Office for Civil Rights

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 
200 Independence Avenue, S.W. 
Room 509F HHH Bldg. 
Washington, D.C. 20201

Office for Civil Rights Region I 
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 
Government Center J.F.K Federal Building - Room 1875 
Boston, MA 02203 
Voice phone 800-368-1019 
FAX 617-565-3809 
TDD 800-537-7697

VII. Grievance Procedures for Complaints of Discrimination 

Upon receipt of any report or complaint of alleged discrimination, the University shall respond to any allegation of discrimination in a manner that is prompt, thorough, and impartial. 

A. Complaints against Students and Guests: Complaints against students and guests may be resolved through an informal resolution or through a formal grievance procedure.

 1. Informal Resolution: At the discretion of the Executive Director of Equity and Compliance and with consent of the Complainant, the University may utilize informal resolution to resolve allegations of discrimination. Informal resolutions may include, but are not limited to, mediated conversations, educational meetings, or attendance in an educational workshop. An informal resolution does not constitute a finding of responsibility. 

2. Formal Grievance Procedure: Complaints shall be investigated by the Executive Director of Equity and Compliance or designee in a manner that is prompt, thorough, and equitable. The investigator will compile an investigative summary, which will be provided to the Vice President of Student Affairs or designee. Complaints under this policy will be adjudicated pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Student Code of Conduct. 

Complaints against guests will be addressed pursuant to the University’s Guest policy. 

B. Complaints against Faculty, Staff, or Third-Party Vendors: Complaints against faculty, staff, or third parties may be resolved through an informal resolution or through a formal grievance procedures.

1. Informal Resolution: At the discretion of the Executive Director of Equity and Compliance and with consent of the Complainant, the University may utilize informal resolution to resolve allegations of discrimination. Informal resolutions may include, but are not limited to, mediated conversations, educational meetings, or attendance in an educational workshop. An informal resolution does not constitute a finding of responsibility. 

2. Formal Grievance Procedure: Complaints that implicate this policy shall be investigated by the Executive Director of Equity and Compliance or designee in a manner that is prompt, thorough, and equitable. During the investigation, the investigator may speak to the person raising the complaint (Complainant), the person or entity against whom the allegations are made (Respondent), and any relevant witnesses. The investigator will gather any relevant evidence or documentation, which will be combined in an investigative report. The report shall include:

  1. A description of the alleged conduct
  2. Notice of the policy that was allegedly violated
  3. A summary of evidence gathered in the course of the investigation
  4. A summary of the findings and
  5. Any sanctions or recommendations.

In determining whether the alleged conduct occurred, the University shall use the preponderance of the evidence standard. Preponderance of the evidence is defined as a standard of proof in which the totality of the evidence offered in support of a fact is greater or more convincing than the evidence which is offered in opposition to it; given the totality of information the version of events that is more likely than not. Preponderance of the evidence is understood to require more than 50 percent certainty to determine responsibility for a policy violation. 

Sanctions and recommendations may be determined in conjunction with the Vice President of Human Resources or designee. Parties who are dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation may appeal may take the issue to the President or designee for review. If the President or President’s designee find that the Respondent is not responsible for a policy violation, the matter will be closed. If the President or President’s designee finds that the Respondent engaged in conduct that constitutes a policy violation, further action will be taken including, but not limited to, disciplinary action up to and including termination. 

Employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement may challenge a sanction imposed under this Policy through the grievance and arbitration procedure contained in that collective bargaining agreement.