FAQs on Bullying, Harassment, Assault, and Relationships

In the Fall of 2015 and throughout 2016, UBC responded to allegations of mishandling sexual assault reports on campus and began to draft a policy on how to do better in the future. This situation highlighted just how confusing existing University policies are, so we set out to find as many University policies relating to interpersonal conduct around issues of bullying, harassment, sexual assault and intimate relationships as we could.

This material below was gathered in the summer of 2016 and is correct to the best of our knowledge as of the initial date of posting (October 4, 2016).

Since then, the University has implemented Policy #131 on Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Misconduct (effective May 18, 2017). Policy #131 can be read in full at this link. For more information on this policy, including how to report an instance of sexual misconduct, visit http://sexualviolenceresponse.ubc.ca.


Please note that the material on our website is posted as a guide to the University’s policies and procedures, but as the policy landscape shifts frequently, this should be considered a starting point, and not a definitive resource. We have also included a CUPE National resource on bullying and harassment.

If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact advocate@cupe2278.ca. Your messages are 100% confidential.

To view PDF versions, please see University Policy Q and A and CUPE Guide to Stopping Harassment


  • What is discriminatory harassment?
    • Discrimination is defined by UBC as “intentional or unintentional treatment, which can be individual or systemic, that imposes burdens, obligations, or disadvantages on or limits access to opportunities, benefits and advantages to specific individuals or groups as defined by the B.C. Human Rights Code and for which there is no bona fide and reasonable justification.”  Harassment is defined as “comment or conduct that one knows or ought reasonably to know is unwelcome, that creates a negative impact for the recipient, and that is related to one or more of the prohibited grounds of discrimination as set out in the B.C. Human Rights Code.”
  • What do I do if I have a concern about discriminatory harassment?
    • Allegations of discrimination and harassment are dealt with via the procedures outlined in UBC Policy 3. The purpose of the policy is to prevent discrimination and harassment on the 13 grounds protected by the BC Human Rights Code: age, ancestry, colour, family status, marital status, physical and mental disability, place of origin, political belief, race, religion, sex (including gender and pregnancy), sexual orientation and unrelated criminal conviction.
    • According to Policy 3, concerns regarding discrimination or harassment can be brought to either Administrative Heads of Unit (AHU) or the Equity Office. The primary responsibility for maintaining a study and work environment free of discrimination lies, however, with the AHU. The Equity Office is responsible for providing information, advice and assistance regarding discrimination and harassment in a fair and impartial manner; educating the university community and other offices on prevention and remediation of discrimination and harassment; and addressing concerns or complaints of discrimination and harassment that have been made to it directly.
  • What is workplace bullying?
    • UBC defines workplace bullying and harassment according to WorkSafeBC’s definition: “Bullying and harassment includes any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause the worker to be humiliated or intimidated but, excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.”
  • What can I do if I have a concern about workplace bullying? 
    • The UBC Statement on Respectful Environment for Students, Faculty and Staff outlines how concerns regarding workplace bullying and harassment should be addressed. When a faculty, staff or student employee has concerns about disrespectful behavior, they should contact their direct supervisor or AHU. The AHU has the responsibility of responding to concerns, incidents or complaints, with the support and advice of Human Resources if necessary. When concerns, incidents or complaints are not satisfactorily addressed by the AHU, or where a conflict of interest exists with the direct supervisor or AHU, the complainant should address their employee association, union, or HR. In the case of students, the appropriate contact would be the UBC Ombudsperson or the Associate Vice-President Students.
  • Bullying and Harassment Resources


  • What is sexual assault?
    • UBC defines sexual assault as “any unwanted sexual contact within or outside a relationship.” This “can include anything from unwanted sexual touching to forced sexual intercourse without a person’s consent, and also includes the threat of sexual contact without consent.”
  • What can I do if I have a concern about sexual assault or harassment?
    • UBC does not have a stand-alone policy for sexual harassment and assault. Instead, concerns and complaints are addressed using the procedures outlined in Policy 3.
    • There are a number of reporting options, depending on where the assault took place and by whom:
      • For on-campus assault:
        • Any assault: RCMP UBC Detachment
        • If the assault was committed by a UBC employee, it may be reported to the Equity and Inclusion Office
        • If the assault was committed by a UBC student, it may be brought to the Student Conduct Manager, UBC Non-Academic Student Misconduct, Student Services
      • For off-campus assault:
        • Any assault: Local law enforcement agency
        • If the assault was committed by a UBC employee, under certain circumstances it may be brought to the Equity and Inclusion Office
        • If the assault was committed by a UBC Student, under certain circumstances it may be brought to the Student Conduct Manager, UBC Non-Academic Student Misconduct, Student Services
  • Sexual Assault and Harassment Resources 


  • What can I do if I have a concern about a student-faculty relationship? 
    • UBC has no specific policy prohibiting consensual relationships between students and faculty. The university does also not necessarily discourage student-faculty relationships, although it does acknowledge the risks involved in intimate relationships where such power differentials exist.[1] Section 4.7.2 of UBC’s Policy on Discrimination and Harassment states: “When power differentials exist amongst or between faculty, staff, and students, those holding positions of authority shall not abuse, nor seem to abuse, the power with which they are entrusted … Anyone who enters into a sexual relationship with a person where a professional power differential exists must realize that, if a charge of sexual harassment is subsequently lodged, it will be extremely difficult to defend the conduct on grounds of mutual consent.”
      • Note as of this posting, the creation of such a policy is being rumoured
    • Consensual student-faculty relationships are dealt with using the procedures outlined in UBC Policy 97: Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment. A conflict of interest is considered to exist in such relationships “where a UBC Person’s responsibility to instruct and evaluate students in a fair, unbiased and effective manner is or could be impeded or compromised.” In such cases the conflict of interest must be disclosed to the Administrative Head of Unit or their designate. Managing conflicts of interest in student-faculty relationship usually entails reassignment of evaluation and supervision responsibilities, and ensuring that proper disclosure procedures have been followed.
  • Student-Faculty Relationship Resources
  • Student-TA Relationships
    • While not specifically outlined anywhere we could find, it is reasonable to apply the above rules for student-faculty relationships to student-TA relationships too and steps should be taken to ensure there is no conflict of interest and that power differentials and the challenges they pose are taken into consideration by all involved. Extra care should be taken to ensure the mental, physical, professional and academic safety of all parties.