conduct and harassment policy

GSA Conduct and Anti-Harassment Policy

Harassment of German Studies Association (“GSA”) employees, members, or volunteers and other individuals attending (“attendee”) GSA operated, sponsored and/or affiliated events is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Prohibited conduct includes but is not limited to sexual harassment (as defined and protected by applicable law).  It includes harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, socio-economic status, and marital status.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment has been defined generally as including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature whenever: (1) submission to the conduct is either an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment; (2) an individual's reaction to the conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting that individual; (3) the conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with the individual's work performance; or (4) the conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

No employee, member, volunteer, or attendee should be subjected to sexual harassment or unsolicited and unwelcome sexual overtures, nor should any employee, member, volunteer, or attendee be led to believe that any benefit will in any way depend upon “cooperation” of a sexual nature.

Sexual harassment is not limited to demands for sexual favors.  It also may include such actions as: (1) sex-oriented verbal “kidding,” “teasing,” or jokes; (2) repeated offensive sexual flirtations, advances, or propositions; (3) continued or repeated verbal abuse of a sexual nature; (4) graphic or degrading comments about an individual or their appearance; (5) the display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures; (6) subtle pressure for sexual activity; and (7) inappropriate physical contact.

Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature or consensual personal and social relationships without a discriminatory employment effect. It refers to behavior that is not welcome and that is personally intimidating, hostile, or offensive.

Further Categories of Prohibited Harassment or Conduct

Harassment of any kind, including on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, socio-economic status, and marital status is also prohibited.  Harassment may include such actions as: (1) jokes or verbal “kidding,” or “teasing”; (2) verbal abuse and epithets; (3) degrading comments; (4) the display of offensive objects and pictures; (5) conduct or comments of a lewd or lascivious nature; (6) conduct or comments that marginalize others by denigrating their expertise or field of research; and (7) any other conduct that the individual might reasonably find to be intimidating, hostile, offensive, coercive, threatening or demeaning.

Scope of Policy

This policy prohibiting harassment, whether sexual or of another nature, is not limited to relationships between and among employees, members, and volunteers, but also extends to interaction with attendees and vendors.  No officer, director, member, or other volunteer shall subject any employee, member, volunteer, attendee, or vendor to sexual or other harassment of any nature, including conduct enumerated in previous section, “Further Categories of Prohibited Harassment or Conduct.”  


In a large organization such as the GSA, conflicts of various kinds inevitably arise, due both to individual conduct and to pervasive structural inequities such as racism, sexism, and status privilege. The GSA Ombuds’ role is to provide a space where such concerns can be articulated in complete confidentiality. Consulting the Ombuds does not preclude seeking formal conflict resolution, such as filing a complaint under the GSA’s Conduct and Anti-Harassment Policy. There are, however, many instances in which formal conflict resolution is not possible or not desirable: for instance, the conduct that gave rise to the conflict is not expressly prohibited by GSA policy; those targeted by prohibited conduct prefer non-formal resolutions or are not comfortable coming forward because they fear repercussion or retaliation; conflicts are rooted in structural aspects of the GSA or the profession at large.

The GSA Vice President will appoint an Ombudsperson for a two-year-renewable term. The GSA Ombuds seeks to address and, where possible, mediate or resolve conflicts arising in the context of the organization’s operations in general and of its annual conference in an independent, neutral, confidential, and informal manner. The Ombuds’ role is:

  • to listen carefully to concerns or complaints, assuring complete confidentiality unless in the rare case where disclosure is mandated by law;
  • to offer assistance in informal mediation and conflict resolution if desired by all parties involved;
  • to assist members who seek formal conflict resolution or adjudication in identifying the proper venues and procedures in bringing forth a formal complaint;
  • to bring to the GSA’s attention pervasive concerns voiced by its members and, when appropriate, recommend ways of addressing them.

The Ombuds can be contacted by email or telephone throughout the year and will attend the annual conference. The Ombuds’ work will be governed by the principles articulated by the International Ombudsman Association here:


Members, employees, volunteers, or attendees who in good faith believe that they have been aggrieved by or witnessed conduct prohibited by this policy should contact a member of the GSA Conduct & Anti-Harassment Committee, a list of whom appears in conference programs and on the GSA website.  The members of the Conduct & Anti-Harassment Committee will receive special training at the start of their terms.  At least two members of the Conduct & Anti-Harassment Committee will interview the complainant and (if different) the person subject to the harassment.  Providing that the latter consents to further investigation, the committee will gather relevant information (including notifying and receiving information from the respondent regarding the incident) and produce a confidential report that will be given to the Executive Director (ED) and the current President.  The ED and President will review the report and determine if the harassment policy has been violated.  If their determination is that the policy has indeed been violated, this conclusion will be presented to the Executive Council (EC); if in agreement, the EC will determine a proportional and fair action to be taken. Such sanctions might include but are not limited to (1) required remediation; (2) being barred from a GSA activity such as a conference in progress; (3) being blocked from future participation in GSA activity or activities; or (4) revocation of membership for a limited or unlimited period of time. The ED will inform the complainant and respondent of the outcomes.  Outcomes can be appealed to the Chair of the ITSJ Committee.  If the Chair of the ITSJ Committee considers the appeal to have merit, the ED and the President will appoint a review committee of three Board members whose decision will be final.  Confidentiality will be maintained to the maximum possible.  Investigations and decisions will be carried out as quickly as possible, while maintaining confidentiality and respecting the integrity of the individuals involved and the process.


Any individual who by virtue of their position in the GSA plays a role in the process as outlined above, will promise to maintain the highest professional ethical standards, by recusing themselves from future professional situations in which they might be exercising power over the complainant or the respondent.  Such situations might include (1) hiring; (2) tenure or promotion; (3) book contracts; or (4) prize committees.

Any individual involved in the process as outlined above could be the complainant or respondent.  The most immediate Past President will have the responsibility to ensure that such an individual does not serve and that an appropriate substitute is found to play the missing role. 

Acknowledgement of This Policy

In applying for membership in the GSA or signing up for participation in any GSA-sponsored activity, including as a vendor, staff member, or volunteer, individuals must be given a link to this policy and actively signal that they have read it.  Hence participation in any GSA event constitutes acknowledgement of, and agreement to abide by this policy.


Any part of this policy can be amended by a majority vote of the GSA Executive Board.