The University Record, October 1, 1997

Policy: Sexual harassment 'will not be tolerated'

By Jane R. Elgass

Incidents of sexual harassment or assault, which may precede or include domestic violence, are taken very seriously at the University, and there are two policies directed at preventing such incidents.

The Policy on Sexual Harassment by Faculty and Staff reads, in part:

"It is the policy of the University of Michigan to maintain an academic work environment free of sexual harassment for students, faculty and staff. Sexual harassment is contrary to the standards of the University community. It diminishes individual dignity and impedes equal access to freedom of academic inquiry. Sexual harassment is a barrier to fulfilling the University's scholarly, research, educational and service missions. It will not be tolerated at the University of Michigan."

Policy elements define sexual harassment, consensual relationships and responses and education.

Under the policy, complaints may be made by the University or by individual faculty, staff, students and others based on the conduct of any University employee.

The Sexual Assault Policy, written to ensure compliance with the Higher Education Reauthorization Act of 1992 Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights, deals with student-to-student harassment. It includes information on survivors' rights, the University disciplinary process, off-campus legal options, medical services, statistical reporting, and counseling and educational services.

Assistance with sexual harassment problems involving faculty, staff and other University affiliates is handled by Human Resources/Affirmative Action through the Employee Relations Office. Diane Jordan is the coordinator of the Sexual Harassment Prevention and Resolution Program and Begona Garcia is the education and training coordinator.

The two work closely with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC), the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FASAP) and the Department of Public Safety (DPS), as well as the Office of the General Counsel.

They are supported by more than 120 individuals across campus who have agreed handle issues and concerns surrounding sexual harassment. According to the policy, each campus unit must have at least one such individual and if there is only one, it must be a female. Their role is to receive complaints and help faculty and staff understand the policy and their options.

Jordan notes that the complaint receivers represent the University and its organizational, moral and legal responsibilities in cases of sexual harassment. "They are very responsive to any complaint," Jordan says, "and if they feel they aren't the right person for the victim to talk to, they find another appropriate resource."

These unit representatives all receive intensive training that includes scenarios to help them determine the appropriate response to sexual harassment behaviors, from bantering, lewd comments, gender harassment, up to and including sexual assault. They also are required to notify DPS of incidents involving touching that might be considered criminal sexual conduct.

Jordan says every effort is made to protect confidentiality but there are cases in which the complaint receiver, on behalf of the University, is required to report the incident˜physical assault, criminal sexual conduct and stalking.

Complaint receivers are coached in how to initiate discussions with individuals who want to maintain confidentiality, referring them to SAPAC and FASAP, which assures confidentiality.

Jordan's office handles harassment complaints from employees, guests and individuals not affiliated with the University. She does not deal with student-to-student harassment unless one of the students also is an employee of the University.

In addition to the initial eight hours of in-depth training, unit complaint receivers take a four-hour refresher course. Jordan is available any time if complaint receivers have questions or concerns, which Jordan says happens often.

Training also is available for other staff and supervisors, with staff trained separately from supervisors.

There also are occasional additional training and educational opportunities, including a teleconference that aired Monday from the University of Vermont on how to handle sexual harassment on a college campus.

Jordan says her office is more than willing to go out into the field and offer unit-based training. This is frequently done for units that may have special issues to contend with that are specific to that department. They also do one-on-one training and customized training for students, graduate student instructors and faculty.

"We'll do anything, as much as we can, anytime, anywhere," Jordan says.

A course for supervisors is scheduled for Oct. 24. To register, call 764-8569 or send e-mail to bgarcia@umich.edu or mdianej@umich.edu.

Both the faculty/staff and student harassment policies are printed in full in a guidebook for students, "University Policies Affecting Students, that is distributed at orientation, and are referred to in the "Campus Safety Handbook," annually distributed campuswide and available from DPS.

What you can do

If you have a colleague male or female you sense may be a victim of harassment, assault or domestic violence, tell someone your supervisor, the person in your unit trained to handle sexual assault incidents or staff in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center or the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program. If you suspect your colleague has been hit or physically abused in some other way, contact the Department of Public Safety (DPS).

At the very least, one of these individuals will talk with you about how you might intervene to "get her or him into the system and talking to someone," says Diane Jordan, coordinator of the Sexual Harassment Prevention and Resolution Program.

Supervisors and unit complaint receivers have an immediate responsibility to contact DPS if they suspect domestic violence is affecting an employee in the workplace and "certainly if the spouse is showing up in the workplace," she states.

This does not often happen, Jordan says, "but we do have a lot of couples in the University. Sometimes there are problems after a consensual relationship is broken."