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  What Is Racial or Ethnic Harassment?

     Respect for the rights, privileges, and sensibilities of each other is essential in preserving the spirit of community at Princeton. Actions which make the atmosphere intimidating, threatening, or hostile to individuals are therefore regarded as serious offenses. Abusive or harassing behavior, verbal or physical, which demeans, intimidates, threatens, or injures another because of his or her personal characteristics or beliefs is subject to University disciplinary sanctions . . . . Examples of personal characteristics or beliefs include but are not limited to sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and disability. Making tolerance of such behavior or submission to it a condition of employment, evaluation, compensation, or advancement is an especially serious offense. Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, p.4


Recognizing Incidents of Racial or Ethnic Harassment

     Here are some incidents that may constitute racial or ethnic harassment and may result in disciplinary sanctions under University policy. (In order to make an accurate judgment as to whether these incidents constitute racial or ethnic harassment, the full context in which these actions were taken or statements made must be considered.)
  • Several Asian-American students are called names that are racially and ethnically vilifying as they cross the campus. An adviser tells an African-American student not to take a certain course because the adviser says that other African-American students have had difficulty in the course and are therefore not suited for this particular course.
  • A University official requests that a group of Latino students display their student ID's as they enter their dormitory, while white students are not required to display their ID's. The official cannot explain why the Latino students were stopped and asked to display ID's.
  • A student group discovers that swastikas have been painted on the door of a room often used to prepare for the observance of the Jewish Sabbath.
  • A male student approaches an Asian Pacific-American woman student on several occasions and makes statements implying that certain sexual practices are common within her ethnic group.
  • A supervisor assigns only menial tasks to an Hispanic staff member and writes on an evaluation that the staff member could not expect to be promoted because he is an "affirmative action" appointment.
  • Several women students of color receive anonymous phone calls in which the caller uses language that is both obscene and racist.

Racial and Ethnic Harassment Can Take on More Subtle Forms

     Often racial or ethnic harassment is not blatant or obvious. It can be very subtle. In fact, sometimes it is so subtle that it may be only after a series of incidents that a person may begin to feel that harassment is occurring. For example, a member of a racial or ethnic minority may hear colleagues using demeaning terms to refer to persons of his or her ethnic background. In addition, the person is the only racial or ethnic minority in this group and finds that he or she is consistently assigned the least favorable assignments. The person begins to reflect on the mentoring and additional training opportunities that have gone to persons with fewer qualifications. Finally, the person is discouraged from inquiring about opportunities for advancement because he or she is told, "People like you often have difficulty in those positions." These incidents, taken in isolation, may not constitute racial or ethnic harassment. However, when this person views these incidents as a series of on-going offenses, he or she may well conclude that a pattern of racial or ethnic harassment exists. Of course, a final determination of racial or ethnic harassment can only be made when the full context of this situation is taken into account.