The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

How Institutions Are Leveraging Partnerships and Education to Address Sexual Harassment and Assault on Campus

The “Me Too” movement has prompted a heightened awareness of and national conversation around unequal treatment and inappropriate or criminal sexual conduct in the workplace, and many colleges and universities have strengthened their resolve to eliminate these unacceptable behaviors on their campuses.

To create an environment where harassment, incivility, inequality and bias are neither welcome nor tolerated, it’s going to take widespread education and frank conversations, a commitment from the entire campus community, and, in some instances, culture change.

How as HR can we contribute? Where can we take the lead? How can we partner with other campus leaders to rethink, refine and recraft policies, practices and strategies to address these challenges over the short- and long-term?

HR leaders from four universities shared with us the strategies they and other campus leaders are using to help address and alleviate harassment and bias on their campuses.

No culture change or education initiative can be implemented (successfully, anyway) in a silo. These efforts require partnerships and collaboration. At University of Utah, HR and the office of equal opportunity and affirmative action recently participated in a National Employment Law Institute webinar on how to proactively manage workplace harassment. According to Jeff Herring, the university’s chief HR officer, the two offices are also discussing how they might partner on an awareness/learning campaign for employees. And the dean of students office recently partnered with Utah’s district attorney’s office to hold a campus-wide forum on hate crimes.

At Clemson University, the HR, legal, access and equity, and risk and compliance offices partnered to produce a video that was sent to the entire campus community acknowledging the national conversation around sexual harassment and sexual assault, reaffirming the university’s commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment, and providing information on how to report an incident or file a complaint. In order to streamline the reporting process and make it as easy as possible for the person filing a complaint, all of these offices have the same complaint forms and procedures, and regardless of where the complaint is filed, they’re all routed through risk and compliance, which then triages the investigation.

Princeton University’s chief HR officer partnered with the dean of faculty and the head of campus life to pen an email communication to the campus community outlining the steps the institution is taking to address sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus and soliciting input and feedback from staff, faculty and students. Princeton’s president and provost appointed a faculty-student committee on sexual misconduct, whose charge is to review policies, procedures and practices and make recommendations for areas of improvement. And the university’s Title IX representatives, along with the sexual misconduct committee, have hosted open meetings so that everyone on campus has the opportunity to provide input and voice concerns.

Education is the first step to creating awareness. It’s in that vein that Clemson has implemented annual mandatory sexual harassment and Title IX training.

The HR team at the J. Willard Marriott Library at University of Utah created a document for employees who are traveling on university business outlining inappropriate behaviors and providing tips on how to respond to such behavior. And the university’s office of general counsel focused its most recent meeting with campus leaders on sexual misconduct and harassment.

Princeton has created an impressive Sexual Misconduct and Title IX website with FAQs; information on reporting requirements and procedures; campus and community support resources; a listing of prevention-focused trainings, programs and resources offered on campus; and data and reports from the university’s sexual harassment and assault prevention efforts and studies and surveys.

And the University of Michigan’s president recently sent out a communication to the campus community sharing a link to the institution’s annual report on student sexual misconduct as well as several resources for reporting instances of or seeking assistance in response to sexual misconduct. Under newly implemented policy at UMich, intimate partner violence, gender-based harassment, stalking and violation of interim measures (for example, no-contact directives) are now considered prohibited conduct that is investigated by the university’s office for institutional equity. In addition, UMich offers extensive training and prevention programs for students, faculty and staff, much of which is mandatory.

What is your campus community doing to address sexual harassment? What specifically is HR doing that extends beyond check-the-box harassment training? Share your best practices (and your challenges) in CUPA-HR’s General Discussion and Title IX online forums.

Visit our Sexual Harassment Resources web page for links to webinars, articles, blog posts and other resources related to Title IX and sexual harassment on campus.