Discrimination and Harassment

Studying at a university means that you will meet new people with whom you will solve tasks together. Therefore, it is not so unusual that problems can sometimes arise. But discrimination and harassment are something more serious.

What is discrimination?

At a university, many different people come together, and, normally, not everyone always agrees with one another. But discrimination is something more severe. According to the Discrimination Act, discrimination means that a person is treated worse than others in a comparable situation. It can also involve the person being subjected to degrading treatment in the form of harassment. For it to be considered discrimination, the treatment must have a connection to one of the seven grounds of discrimination.

Who can be subjected to discrimination?

If you are a student at MDU, you may be subjected to discrimination by a University employee. This may also happen if there are rules that seem to be the same for everyone, but that negatively affect a particular group of students.

As a student, you can be reported for harassment or sexual harassment towards another student or any University employee. Your conduct may also be reported to the Disciplinary Board. Students and employees at the University all have a responsibility to be fair and respectful towards one another and to follow the University's Code of Conduct.

Sexual harassment is also considered as discrimination in addition to the seven grounds of discrimination:

  • Gender. This means that someone is female or male, from a legal point of view. This also includes someone who has changed/plans to change their gender identity.
  • Transgender identity or expression. The social gender, which refers to the self-perceived gender identity. May express themselves in different ways based on the individual's identity, such as clothing.
  • Ethnic origin. A person's national or ethnic origin and skin colour also belong to this ground of discrimination.
  • Religion or other beliefs. Someone's religious beliefs such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or belief systems like Buddhism or atheism.
  • Disability. A disability pertains to a limitation of someone's functional capacity. The disability is permanent and can be either psychological, physical or intellectual. Temporary disabilities do not fall within the scope of the law.
  • Sexual orientation. Homosexuality, heterosexuality as well as bisexuality.
  • Age. How old an individual is.

Situations where discrimination may have occurred:

  • An invigilator asks a student if they are hiding a cheat sheet in their religious attire without asking the same question to the other students. Explanation: It could be a case of discrimination as there is a connection to the grounds of discrimination based on religion or other beliefs.
  • A teacher has repeatedly made fun of your disability, despite you explaining that it is not okay, the behaviour has continued. Explanation: It could potentially be a case of harassment as there is a connection to the grounds of discrimination based on disability. You have also made it clear to the teacher that it is not okay, but the behaviour has continued.

Situations where discrimination has probably not occurred:

  • You have failed an exam and the examiner justifies it by saying that you use colloquial language and do not meet the goals for academic writing. Explanation: There are many courses where academic writing is part of the intended learning outcomes as well as the grading criteria for the examination. The fact that your exam does not meet the criteria for a pass grade is not related to any grounds for discrimination.
  • The examiner has denied you a more detailed explanation as to why you failed and refers to their previous comments. Explanation: The examiner's obligation to justify a decision on grades is very limited, as stated by law. The examiner's behaviour is not linked to any grounds for discrimination.

Particularly concerning neurodevelopmental disorders

If you have a permanent disability, either physical or neuropsychiatric, you can receive a recommendation for adaptation of your study situation. It is common for students with a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosis to have difficulty expressing themselves in writing. It can feel unfair if you fail because you have difficulty formulating written texts. However, it is essential to remember that the recommendations do not override the intended learning outcomes. Therefore, the examiner can never disregard the intended learning outcomes in their assessment.

What the University is required to investigate

There are different forms of discrimination. The University is obliged to investigate harassment and sexual harassment.

Harassment refers to conduct that noticeably and clearly violates someone's dignity and is related to one of the grounds of discrimination. It could, for example, be about someone saying something derogatory about your sexuality, writing something demeaning about your religion, or making mean gestures related to your disability. For it to be considered harassment, the person who is subjecting you to it must also understand that you feel offended. Therefore, it's usually important that you tell the person to stop.

Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It may, for example, be about groping, intrusive stares, compliments, or pictures that are sent to you. Sexual harassment does not need to be linked to any of the grounds of discrimination.

If you or someone else is subjected

Mälardalen University will not accept any form of discrimination or harassment that occurs in the organisation. You can always contact the University's Student Ombudsman if you feel that you have been subjected to something and get advice on how to proceed with it.

If you have been subjected to discrimination, you can submit a report to registrator@mdu.se You can also submit a report to the Discrimination Ombudsman, at www.do.se External link.

If you believe that someone else is being targeted, you can provide support and ask if you can help. You can also inform the staff at the University. They are then obliged to inform the relevant Head of unit in case of suspicion of discrimination or harassment.

Universities are obliged to investigate harassment and sexual harassment that may have occurred within the scope of the University's operations. The University does not investigate incidents between students that have occurred in private contexts, such as at a party.

The investigation begins when a report or other information is received by the University. The purpose is to find out what has happened and whether it can be considered harassment or sexual harassment according to the Discrimination Act. If you report or are reported, you will receive more information about how an investigation is conducted.

If the investigation shows that harassment or sexual harassment has occurred, the University is obliged to take measures to ensure that something similar does not happen again.

Support for you as a student

If you wish to get advice and guidance on issues related to discrimination, you can turn to the University's Student Ombudsman.

You can also book an appointment with a counsellor at Student Health Care if you want to talk and get help processing what has happened. Counsellors have a duty of confidentiality and do not record the visit.