UR faculty leaders complain about pace of change in policies about sexual harassment

Dec 15, 2017

An open letter from faculty leaders at the University of Rochester is critical of how the university is handling policies dealing with sexual harassment.

The critique comes from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and it was published this week in the campus newspaper, the Campus Times.

The letter stems from the complaint filed this year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in connection with allegations against a professor in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department and related issues.

The Faculty Senate leaders say that since that complaint was disclosed in September, the Senate has acted in a spirit of collaboration to advocate for needed changes in the university’s policies and procedures.

But the letter also says that victims of harassment and sexual misconduct at UR still feel vulnerable, and the university has not yet revised its policies. Among the policy changes the Faculty Senate has urged:

-increasing protections for victims alleging Harassment or sexual misconduct.

-documenting complains and actions.

-identifying patterns of repeated harassing behavior or sexual misconduct.

The letter says inaction by the administration has damaged the university’s climate and reputation, and going forward, the faculty say policies to address harassment and sexual misconduct should include broad-based oversight from faculty, staff and students.

The university administration released this statement:

"The policies and practices in place at the University of Rochester are regularly benchmarked against those of peer institutions, and we believe they currently provide appropriate protections and support for both complainants and respondents. We look forward to the assessments of the independent investigation and the Commission on Women and Gender Equity and Academia and to working collaboratively with our University stakeholders, including faculty, to ensure that our institution embraces best practices in providing a respectful and safe environment for all."

The results of an outside investigation into the EEOC complaint are due by January 12.  And a separate commission on Women and Gender Equity and Academia is also expected to issue recommendations.