Clarification needed in sexual harassment procedures

By Gus Bode

The procedures for the revised sexual harassment policy could require clarification in certain areas before its finalized.

Philip Howze, Faculty Senate president, said the executive council of the senate would discuss the proposed procedures at the Oct. 6 meeting, which would be followed by a discussion in the full senate at its regular meeting Oct. 13. Howze said because it cannot comment as a group until then, the Faculty Senate would not be able to meet the Oct. 1 deadline for comments.

‘There’s no way we’re going to finish this review by Oct. 1,’ Howze said.


Howze said he believes the senate needs to coordinate all of the past documents on the subject in order to understand it and provide more complete commentary. The main question, he said, before the senate would be whether it thought its voice had been included in the final document.

‘Trying to get the will of over 800 people reflected in a document is not easy to do,’ Howze said. ‘You can only put so much in procedures. They can’t put everything that all of us had to say inside of this procedures document.’

Eric Hellgren, chairman of the Graduate Council, said there were about four or five minor comments made on the procedures, which he said otherwise seemed straightforward. One concern, Hellgren said, was the timing constraints on reporting incidents, investigations and appeals.

According to the working draft of the sexual harassment complaint and investigation procedures, complaints ‘shall be made no later than 60 calendar days following the last alleged incident of harassment or retaliation.’ According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires a charge to be filed within 180 days after an incident occurs.

Hellgren said he thought the shorter time period for complaints was to allow the university process to happen without holding up existing state and federal deadlines.

Other timing constraints outlined in the procedures involve the follow-up process to the initial complaint. According to the working draft, an initial determination on whether there are sufficient facts to warrant an investigation must be provided to both parties within five business days of receiving the complaint. Hellgren said this is to make sure those in charge of the investigation are proceeding in a timely manner.

‘I think all of it is just to make sure that the process moves quickly,’ Hellgren said.


Hellgren said certain language would need clarification. He said his constituency group wanted clarification on the application of procedures on those who file false accusations and on the definition of confidential within the document.

‘The wording is kind of unclear as to how confidential this really is,’ Hellgren said.

Another minor clarification Hellgren said was needed is whether the proceedings would be part of an employee’s permanent record.

Hellgren said the Graduate Council would be discussing the proposed procedures as a group at the Oct. 1 meeting.

The sexual harassment policy was revised to be in compliance with recent U.S. Supreme Court, federal appellate and state decisions.

Two of the university’s most distinguished professors – John Y. Simon and Cal Meyers – faced sexual harassment allegations in 2008. Simon was acquitted of the charges, but not until after his death. Meyers filed a federal lawsuit against the university.

The Faculty Association used Simon’s case to show what it called a double standard in the way the university handles sexual harassment allegations.

Madeleine Leroux can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 254.