Compliance

Transcript for Preventing Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in Academic Programs

Welcome to the University of Washington’s training program entitled Preventing Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in Academic Programs.

This program was designed specifically for the University’s faculty. It emphasizes your interactions with students and how your interactions can impact their educational environment.

This training is approximately 30 Minutes in length and was developed in January of 2017 and is presented by the Office of Academic Personnel and Compliance and Risk Services.

Faculty set the tone in the classroom, the lab, and throughout our educational institution. Your students not only look to you as leaders for your academic contribution, but as role models for behavior.

Certain types of behavior can negatively impact our educational environment. Discrimination based on sex can take many forms, including sexual harassment, which we will discuss more in this training program.

You play a key role in preventing discrimination based on sex at the University of Washington, including:

Promoting an environment that is conducive to learning,

Setting the standard for behavior in that environment, and

Supporting the University’s efforts to hold individuals accountable.

Now we will explore how the laws and University policy apply in our community and how you can support an environment free of sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

There are federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination based on protected personal characteristics such as sex.

These include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Higher Education Act,
Federal Executive Order 11246,

and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination.

The University has translated the requirements of federal and state law relating to sex discrimination and sexual harassment into

Executive Order 31 – the University’s Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action policy; and,

Executive Order No. 51 – the Sexual Violence Elimination policy.

In some ways, University policy provides greater protections than both state and federal laws.

In part, Executive Order 31 states:

The University of Washington, as an institution established and maintained by the people of the state, is committed to providing equality of opportunity and an environment that fosters respect for all members of the University community.

This policy has the goal of promoting an environment that is free of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

You play a key role in preventing sex discrimination and sexual harassment at the University of Washington. It is the responsibility of all University faculty to facilitate compliance with University policy prohibiting sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

And when concerns are raised, the University has processes for holding individuals accountable which will be covered later in this training.

Discrimination against an individual based on their membership in any of the protected classes identified in Executive Order 31 is prohibited.

In this training, we are focusing on discrimination based on sex; however, many of the concepts we will discuss translate to other forms of discrimination and harassment.

Discrimination based on sex can take different forms:

Disparate treatment and,

Sexual harassment.

There are two categories of sexual harassment that we will emphasize in this training:

Hostile environment and Quid pro quo sexual harassment

University policy also prohibits retaliation against those who have exercised their right to make a complaint about discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

The protections against sex discrimination and sexual harassment provided by University policy includes:

Discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, which includes LGBTQ status – that is lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans (meaning transgender), or queer and gender queer.

An individual who is gender queer is a person who does not identify as either male or female, but also includes an individual who identifies as between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. The Q also reflects those who are questioning their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Individuals can be exploring their identity at any stage of their life, so individuals who are exploring their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, even if they do not identify explicitly as LGBTQ or use LGBTQ are also protected by University policy.

Discrimination based on pregnancy is also considered a form of sex discrimination.

Pregnant students must be offered the same reasonable accommodations as those offered to students with disabilities. These are facilitated through the disability services offices.

For more information, review the University’s Compliance and Risk Services website for Title IX provided at the end of this program.

Another form of sex discrimination is sexual misconduct, which is also prohibited by Executive Order 31 and Executive Order 51. Sexual misconduct includes sexual assault, relationship violence, domestic violence, and stalking.

There is a nation-wide emphasis on the problem of sexual violence on college campuses. Although the emphasis is more about sexual misconduct that occurs between students, Title IX and other relevant laws that require the University to take action relating to sexual misconduct, also apply in the employment context.

These University policies not only address conduct by faculty, but also staff, academic student employees (such as your TAs and RAs), and third parties, such as visitors to campus.

Conduct by students is governed by the University’s Student Conduct Code.

Referring back to behaviors that could result in sex discrimination or sexual harassment, the first form we will talk about is disparate treatment.

Disparate treatment includes treating a person less favorably than others based on that person’s sex (or gender).

This can be as simple as not admitting an individual to a program because she is female or because he is male or because they are gender queer. This can also include setting different standards or providing differential learning opportunities.

You may not think that this occurs in this day and age, but a perception of favorable treatment of one person of a certain gender over another can lead to complaints of sex discrimination.

So, what is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex.

There are two forms of sexual harassment – hostile environment and quid pro quo.

First we will look at Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment.

A hostile environment is created when conduct meets a three-part test.

The conduct is:

First, Unwelcome,

Second, Based on an individual’s sex or is of a sexual nature, and

Third, is severe or pervasive enough to alter the work or educational environment; in other words, it creates a hostile environment.

What does unwelcome mean?

It means conduct that an individual

Did not invite, and

regard as offensive

The policy protects anyone from harassing conduct, not only the person to whom the conduct is directed.

For example, those who may overhear comments or witness such conduct may raise their own complaint.

Video Vignette One

Student: I couldn’t believe all the offensive jokes that my professor was making in class. They made me really uncomfortable, but I really needed that class to graduate and it was the only one offered that year.

Professor: I think it’s important to use humor. I like to be accessible to students, and I feel like that helps break the tension. Everybody laughs.

Student: I couldn’t believe the professor was making so many off-colored jokes. It was really inappropriate. I really wanted to drop the class, but I couldn’t, it’s required, and only offered once in the fall.

So who decides whether conduct is unwelcome or offensive? The impact is the most important consideration.

While offenders often say things like “lighten up” or “I was just teasing” “just kidding,” or “don’t be so sensitive” – It is not the intent, but the impact based on the perspective of the receiver.

Another response that should give you pause is, “Well, if you want to make it in this profession, you’re going to have to toughen up”

In other words, whether conduct is unwelcome or offensive is considered from both a subjective and an objective perspective.

While there is no definitive list of behaviors that may be considered sexual harassment, examples of harassing conduct of a sexual nature include:

Physical contact such as touching or hugging. Physical behavior could also include blocking someone’s way or violations of personal space.

Verbal behaviors such as jokes, comments or innuendoes which imply sexual behaviors or focus on sex. This also includes repeated requests for dates or requests to engage in sexual activity.

Non-verbal behaviors such as suggestive looks, gestures, or staring.

Visuals, such as suggestive pictures or images.

Additionally, this includes electronic communication methods, such as text messages, Facebook posts, or emails which could be used to engage in harassing behavior.

For example, a faculty member may friend a student on Facebook, and then post content that embarrasses the student so much that they drop the class. The faculty member could then be held accountable under University policy, because it impacted the student’s access to our educational programs.

Faculty can be held accountable for conduct outside the workplace or “off duty”.

The issue is whether the conduct affects the student’s access to our educational programs – or in the case of employees, like your TAs or RAs, whether it impacts the workplace.

Video Vignette Two

Student: So I needed to talk to my professor about a project in class, and I was pretty surprised when my professor asked to meet over coffee off campus.

Professor: I take students out for coffee all the time. This was a project I was particularly interested in, and I just wanted to offer them my expertise.

Student: I wanted to meet with my professor about my project, but when they suggested that we meet off campus for coffee, I was a bit surprised. I thought it was a little weird.

Professor: I take students out for coffee all of the time. It’s one of the ways I get them to feel more relaxed. And anyway I was particularly interested in this project. And it’s a way for me to offer my expertise.

Activities outside the workplace might include conferences, study abroad programs, or field studies.

As an example, if a faculty member makes advances toward a student at a conference or in a study abroad program, what impact might there be on the student if the student needs to continue to take classes with that faculty member or that faculty member is on the student’s thesis committee?

“Off-duty” conduct might also include social activities or use of social media.

As we covered earlier, conduct that occurs in cyberspace, such as inappropriate Facebook posts and emails to students — even from your personal email address – can affect a student’s access to our educational programs.

Video Vignette Three

Professor: I think it’s important to make a personal connection with students. You need to know the whole student in order to effectively reach the student and help the student reach their potential. So, I invite all my students out; some of them come, some of them don’t.

Student: We went to get coffee, and it was ok, but then they started asking me a couple of personal questions, like if I was dating anyone.

Professor: I felt like this student had a lot of promise in my field, and I wanted to put myself out there as a mentor.

Student: We reviewed my project over coffee. It went alright, but he started asking a lot of personal questions; like if I was dating anyone.

We have reviewed the first two elements: conduct that is unwanted and is based on sex or is of a sexual nature.

The final element in determining whether a hostile environment has been created is whether the behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning or working environment.

What this means is that the more severe the conduct, the fewer number of times the behavior must occur to create a hostile environment.

On one end of the spectrum, a single incident could be sufficiently severe to violate University policy, such as one act of sexual violence.

On the other end of the spectrum, if there is a pattern of less serious behaviors, like jokes or comments, a hostile environment can be created if they are sufficiently pervasive.

You might ask yourself, “how do I know what the impact of my behavior might be?”

If you notice a change in others’ behavior – they avoid you, don’t come to office hours, begin not engaging in class discussion – or, even worse, they stop coming to class or working in your lab.

These can all be signs that there is a problem.

A pervasive hostile environment is like a dripping faucet – it’s the day to day uncomfortable interactions that build up to a point where they have no choice but to subject themselves to the environment in order to participate in the educational program – or they feel compelled to withdraw completely.

Video Vignette Four

Student: When meeting for my project I got the impression that my professor wanted to start hooking up. It got really weird, so I ended up just dropping the class.

Student: So, I got the impression that the professor was trying to get me in bed. Which made me really uncomfortable. And again, I didn’t know what to do, so I just ended up dropping the class altogether.

Student: The professor kept hitting on me and it got too weird, and I just felt like I had to go.

You may be thinking – If someone was offended, wouldn’t they say something?

The recipient of sexually harassing behavior is under no obligation to say anything if they are offended. Because it is the University’s responsibility to prevent a hostile environment, we cannot expect that the recipient be the one that has to confront the behavior.

Instead, the University has created complaint reporting processes for those who believe they are being subjected to discrimination or harassment. Reporting options will be discussed later in this training.

And, there are many reasons why students may not speak up. It is likely that they will not feel comfortable talking to faculty about their concerns, given the inherent power imbalance between faculty and students.

If harassing conduct appears to students to be part of the culture of the department, they will likely remain silent and play along just to fit in.

Additionally, students may not raise concerns due to a fear of retaliation.

Video Vignette Five:

Student: I thought about saying something to the professor about the jokes, but I guess, I’m just a student and I didn’t want the professor to get, like mad at me, or give me a low grade or anything.

Professor: I have a special relationship with my students. I really connect with them. And I think if there were a problem or if they were offended, they would come and tell me about it.

Student: I thought about saying something to the professor, but, he’s my advisor, and he kind of holds the keys to my future, here and beyond, so, I didn’t feel like there was much I could do.

Professor: I always try to be friendly and accessible and I figure if I say something that offends someone, they would let me know.

If sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct, then what about when the conduct is not unwelcome?

What about consensual relationships?

Could that be a problem?

The answer is that yes, consensual relationships can be a problem.

Video Vignette Six:

Professor: I had no intention of developing a special relationship with the student, but, one thing led to another, and we’re consenting adults, so we got together a few times, but that didn’t impact my objectivity in the classroom.

Professor: One thing led to another, and yes, we got together a few times, but I’m a professional and I like to keep my objectivity.

Professor: It was nothing serious. One thing led to another and I like to think I kept my objectivity throughout the whole situation.

Student: One thing led to another and we did end up hooking up. It felt really weird going to class. I tried to keep it really quiet.

Student: Yeah, so one thing led to another, from going to drinks and things and we ended up hooking up a couple times. It was a little weird going to class after that, but I think we kept it pretty quiet.

Student: Yeah, everybody figured something was going on between them. And people weren’t too happy about it either. We could all see that it lead to special treatment.

Student: Please, everyone knew there was something going on between them.

Under University policy, faculty are prohibited from engaging in a consensual relationship with a student if that relationship may create a conflict of interest.

This means that no faculty member, teaching assistant, research assistant, department chair, dean, or other administrative officer shall vote, make recommendations, or in any other way participate in the decision of any matter which may directly affect the employment, promotion, academic status or evaluation of a student with whom he or she has a conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest exists when that person participating in a decision has a substantial connection or interest related to an individual affected by the decision that might bias or otherwise threaten the integrity of the decision process or that might be perceived by a reasonable person as biasing or threatening such decisions. This includes familial, romantic, or sexual relationships.

This policy is contained in the Faculty Code Section 24-50.

The reason for this policy is that conflicts of interest resulting from romantic or sexual relationships are detrimental to the functioning of the University because, if present, the professional authority under which decisions are made may be called into question.

First, when others learn of the relationship – and they likely will – the perception of favoritism could arise.

Additionally, the inherent power imbalance between faculty and students can call into question whether a student can truly and fully consent to such a relationship.

For example, a student may have engaged in what appeared to the faculty member to be a consensual relationship, but the student may later discloses that they felt like they couldn’t say no to the relationship because of the power position of the faculty member, including over academics, opportunities to publish, and career prospects.

The Office for Civil Rights, which enforces Title IX, has reinforced in recent guidance that: With respect to sexual activity in particular . . . there will still be a strong presumption that sexual activity between an adult school employee and a student is unwelcome and nonconsensual…..

This brings us to a discussion of quid pro quo sexual harassment.

In its simplest form, quid pro quo sexual harassment involves seeking a sexual act or relationship in exchange for favorable treatment. Or, if the individual does not acquiesce, then subjecting the individual to an adverse action such as a poor grade or a poor evaluation could be considered sexual harassment.

Quid pro quo harassment can arise in subtle ways, such as in our previous example and the impact can be very real.

This is because quid pro quo sexual harassment typically occurs when there is an actual or perceived power differential in the relationship.

This can occur not only between faculty and students. It can also occur between two faculty members who are in differing power positions – such as one who is tenured and one who is not.

Even casual requests for one on one social interactions could be perceived as inappropriate or coercive.

Video Vignette Seven:

Student: Toward the end of the quarter my professor asked me out for drinks to celebrate the end of the class. It was kind of weird, but I didn’t want to make the wrong move. He could give me a good recommendation.

Student: As the quarter wrapped up the professor suggested we go out for a drink, and I wasn’t so sure about that, but honestly I felt like I couldn’t say no.

Student: … and could really advance my career, so I kinda felt like I had to.

Referring back to University policy, in Executive Order 31, quid pro quo means that submission to sexual conduct:

is made either an implicit or explicit condition of employment or academics or,

is used as the basis for a decision that affects employment or academics.

Finally, let’s talk about retaliation.

Video Vignette Eight:

Student: I ended up going to the advisor for my department, and talked to my advisor about concerns and about the strange jokes in class. I don’t really know what happened after that, but I ended up getting really low grades on the next two quizzes.

Professor: The Chair did speak with me about the student’s concerns, and I was surprised. Unfortunately, at the same time, the student’s performance began slipping, and I’m unable to give a grade that has not been earned.

Student: I talked to someone at the University about my professor, all the jokes in class, things that made me feel uncomfortable. I don’t know what happened, but my next two quiz grades were lower than the rest.

Professor: I was totally surprised. It’s really too bad too. I like the student. The project showed some merit. Unfortunately, the performance had been slipping as of late, and I did have to give a lower grade.

Executive Orders 31 and 51 prohibit retaliation, which means to take adverse action against individuals because they have (or are perceived to have) reported concerns or cooperated with or participated in any investigation related to these policies.

An adverse action is something that might dissuade a reasonable person from making or supporting a claim of discrimination. Examples include:

Unwarranted poor grades or assessment of performance,

Confronting the complainant about the complaint,

Treating or encouraging others to treat the complainant in a hostile manner,

Ostracizing or other social behaviors; or,

Using social media or other electronic communication to engage in retaliatory conduct, such as texts and emails.

Even if an investigation of the original discrimination or harassment complaint concludes that the conduct did not violate University policy, an individual can still be held accountable for engaging in retaliatory conduct.

Also, third parties who were not involved in the original complaint can be found responsible for retaliatory acts. This may arise when others attempt to dissuade individuals from making a complaint.

We will now review the University’s complaint reporting processes.

If this type of conduct by Faculty is directed at you or you witness such conduct toward others, there are two options for making a report or complaint.

The first option is to report through the department or unit’s chain of command or Administrator.

The second option is to report to the University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office or UCIRO.

The individual making the complaint can choose either of these options.

Reporting conduct by any UW employee is further described in Administrative Policy Statement 46.3.

When the University learns of potential discrimination or harassment, it has the obligation to respond.

The University’s responses may include taking interim measures designed to:

Protect the person impacted,

And avoid any repeated behaviors or retaliation.

These measures should not negatively affect the complainant.

Let’s take a moment to review how the University can hold individuals accountable for conduct which is determined to have violated university policy.

The enforcement processes and types of sanctions that may occur are based on the individual’s employment program.

For faculty, the conduct process is described in Faculty Code, Section 25-71, Standard of Conduct, which states that

“All members of the academic community, including members of the faculty, have an obligation to comply with the rules and regulations of the University.”

In general, the types of disciplinary actions that can be taken may include:

Warning, written counseling, or reprimand

Suspension,

Reduction in salary,

And dismissal.

To facilitate the university’s goal of creating an environment that is free of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, Executive Order 31 permits the university to discipline or take appropriate corrective action for any conduct that is deemed unacceptable or inappropriate, regardless of whether the conduct rises to the level of unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

The University has resources for Faculty.

Schools and colleges typically have an Administrator on staff to provide support in these types of issues.

Academic Personnel serves all three campuses as a central resource.

That office can be reached via email at a c a d p e r s at u w dot e d u

or on the web at w w w dot a p dot Washington dot e d u.

Other resources include:

University of Washington Tacoma Human Resources provides resources for academic personnel at UW Tacoma and can be reached via email at a c a d a f f at u w dot e d u

Or on the web at w w w dot Tacoma dot uw dot e d u /h r / h o m e

University of Washington Bothell Academic Human Resources, part of UWB’s Organizational Excellence and Human Resources provides resources for academic personnel at UW Bothell and can be reached via email at u w b a h r at u w dot e d u

or on the web at w w w dot U w b dot e d u / h r / f a c u l t y

The University has also appointed a Title IX Coordinator, who provides consultation and support to facilitate compliance with Title IX and other related laws that protect individuals from sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

If you have a concern about the University’s compliance with laws related to sex discrimination and sexual harassment, you may contact the Title IX Coordinator via email at titleix@uw.edu (that is t-i-t-l-e-i-x at u-w-.-e-d-u).

More information about complaint reporting options, and university policies is located on the Title IX Coordinator’s webpage at compliance.uw.edu/titleix

With your help and leadership, the University of Washington can accomplish its goal of providing an educational and working environment free from sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

This concludes this training program.

Thank you for your participation.

The University of Washington reserves the right to alter or amend this program without notification.