A hostile environment is defined as an environment on campus that, through harassing conduct (e.g., physical, verbal, graphic or written) based on a person’s protected status (e.g., sexual orientation, age, etc.), becomes so severe, pervasive or objectively offensive as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from a university program or activity.
To determine whether a hostile environment exists, the university examines the context, nature, scope, frequency, duration and location of incidents, as well as the identity, number, and relationships of the persons involved. The university also determines whether the person at whom the conduct was directed found it harassing and whether a “reasonable person” would find the conduct harassing. Factors such as these assist in determining whether the conduct at issue is harassing and whether it is so severe, pervasive or objectively offensive to have created a hostile work or learning environment. In some cases, a single incident may be so severe as to create a hostile environment.