Statement on Offensive Behavior

The University of St. Thomas is a Catholic institution of higher learning. As such, it is dedicated to the proposition that hatred has no place in a community based on principles of Christian love for our fellow human beings. Harassment of an individual or group of individuals based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, marital status, creed, religion, socio-economic status, physical or mental disability is an attack on the very fabric of the institution itself.

Harassment is defined as unwelcome verbal or physical conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a person's performance, or which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

It includes, for example:

  • The display or circulation of written materials or pictures which are offensive to either gender or to racial, ethnic, or religious groups,
  • Verbal abuse, jokes, or insults directed at members of a racial, ethnic, or minority group.

Should any St. Thomas student be confronted with the stain of discrimination or harassment, once reported, the University will vigorously engage, investigate and confront any such conduct through the procedures and policies found in The Student Policy Book. These procedures and policies are meant to deal with issues of harassment and discrimination wherever they arise - be it in the classroom, in a residence hall, in a commons area or in an electronic medium.

In addition to being a community based on principles of Christian love, the University is also an institution based on open inquiry. While the University condemns harassment of any kind, it is important to distinguish harassing speech from the normal discomforts engendered in an arena of free intellectual exchange and disagreement. This is particularly the case in the classroom setting, where in the course of legitimate intellectual inquiry and argument a student might encounter (or even introduce) course materials or comments that are disturbing, challenging, or perhaps even offensive to one's own or others' belief systems. Such discomfort does not in and of itself constitute harassment, unless it is so egregious as to satisfy the definition outlined above. It is the responsibility of professors to maintain an atmosphere of open inquiry in the classroom, just as it is the responsibility of students to participate in their own learning process with open-mindedness and receptivity to new ideas and perspectives. This ensures that controversial, even potentially offensive, material discussed with the objective of critical analysis for learning can be dealt with in an atmosphere of mutual respect. This policy in no way diminishes the protection of academic freedom as stated in the Faculty Organization Plan.

St. Thomas students facing such situations should proceed directly to the Dean of Students Office. Members of the Dean's staff will be able to provide information and support with regard to the procedures in place at the University to deal with such issues.