The University’s discrimination and harassment policies,1 including its sexual and gender-based misconduct policy2 and the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities (Statement), which prohibits harassment and bullying more broadly,3 apply regardless of the modality of instruction. Conduct occurring in an online environment, including instructor-student and student-student interactions, may violate and be managed according to these University policies. Similarly, the reporting obligations of Responsible Employees and Campus Security Authorities continue even in online environments.

In Practice

Faculty members should consider ways to proactively reduce incidents of harassment and other prohibited conduct. This might involve providing language devoted to these topics in course syllabi, addressing these topics in lectures, or directing students to any relevant school-level conduct policies and University policies through emailed announcements or course onboarding materials. It is important to note both that prohibited conduct will not be tolerated and that help is available to students seeking support.

While online students may not always have the ability to access certain on-campus services in person, resources remain available to these students and they should be encouraged to contact the appropriate office when issues arise. Specifically, students should contact the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) to report discriminatory behavior as well as to report incidents involving sexual or gender-based harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, and retaliation. Students can also contact the Office of Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR) for help with resolving situations involving bullying, harassment, and other personal conflict.


What are some examples of prohibited conduct that can occur in online learning environments?
Sexual or gender-based harassment can occur, whether in person or online, when the behavior creates a hostile learning environment, or is made a term or condition of participation in University programs. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. Gender-based harassment can include the exchange of sexually explicit language/content, threats, and language likely to offend on the basis of sexual orientation and gender norms or stereotypes.4 Off-campus conduct, including electronic or online conduct, may fall under University policies in some circumstances, particularly if it occurs in connection with a University-related program or activity. The University has an interest in protecting and supporting students whether on campus, or in an online learning environment. Faculty should contact the Office for Institutional Equity ([email protected]) for advice on specific occurrences.

Meanwhile, harassment or bullying is broadly defined in the Statement and includes any conduct, regardless of whether it relates back to gender characteristics, that would reasonably cause substantial emotional distress (e.g., making threats or directing racist, sexist, or otherwise derogatory remarks/content at an individual).

Does this guidance replace anything I’ve learned during Title IX training offered by U-M?
No. This guidance is meant to clarify that what you learn in the mandated Title IX trainings provided by the University applies regardless of course modality. It also serves to highlight the ways in which prohibited conduct may occur online and recommends actions that may deter such conduct.

Where can I find additional resources on this topic?
The Center for Academic Innovation maintains this Collection of Additional Resources.

1See SPG 201.89-1 (Discrimination and Harassment) and SPG 201.35 (Nondiscrimination)
2Interim Policy and Procedures on Student Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence (“Interim Policy and Procedures”)
3The Statement, Definitions. Note also that Section IV.V of the Statement further prohibits behavior motivated on the basis of any person’s identity as protected by U-M’s Nondiscrimination Policy (race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status). Such behavior will be evaluated under applicable legal standards in addition to U-M policies.
4Section VIII.A.2 (Gender-Based Harassment) of the Interim Policy and Procedures.