Vowing that UGA “will not tolerate sexual harassment,” President Michael F. Adams announced a series of steps to toughen enforcement of the university’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy, including moving responsibility for enforcement to a different office and appointing three people to help handle harassment complaints.
Adams said all administrators from senior vice presidents to department heads will undergo mandatory training on harassment policy, and education and communication about the policy will be strengthened.
“We will not condone illegal or inappropriate behavior which violates (the university’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment) policy and which damages the spirit of trust and collegiality which we all value,” Adams said in a memo distributed initially at a meeting of the University Cabinet on March 21 and later e-mailed to faculty, staff and students. The memo is also posted online (www.uga.edu/resources_for_women/memo3.21.08.html).
In a meeting with reporters after the Cabinet session, Adams used terms such as “detest” and “heinous” to describe his aversion to sexual harassment. He pledged to work with the University Council to revise and update the NDAH policy, which the council put in place in 1998. He also promised to “apply the full weight of the university to change the culture” that allows harassment to occur.
Adams also said he will comply with a resolution passed by University Council on March 20 requesting that he appoint a task force to plan for a women’s center. But he cautioned that the cost of starting and operating a center must be weighed against a list of other pressing needs.
Sexual harassment has been in the spotlight due to recent press accounts of reported incidents of harassment at the university. In February, the University Council asked Adams to take action to help prevent harassment and deal forcefully with reports of harassment.
In his March 21 memo, Adams announced the following steps:
NDAH policy enforcement
• Responsibility for investigating and enforcing the NDAH policy will be moved from the Office of Legal Affairs to the Equal Opportunity Office starting Oct. 1. An EOO staff member who is a member of the State Bar of Georgia and is “appropriately trained” will be assigned to oversee administration of the policy.
Appointment of ombudspersons
• Three “ombudspersons” will be appointed and trained as contacts for students, faculty and staff who want to report harassment or have questions about the policy.
The ombudsperson for students will be a staff member in the Division of Student Affairs. The ombudsperson for faculty will be in the academic affairs office and the staff ombudsperson will be in Human Resources. The three people will be trained in university, University System, state and federal policies and procedures and will assist anyone who wants to file a complaint. Their names and contact information will be posted online and announced at information sessions for students, faculty and staff.
Mandatory NDAH training
• All vice presidents, deans, associate deans and department heads will undergo mandatory NDAH training by the end of the year. Appropriate vice presidents will “bring the full weight of the administration to bear” on investigation of NDAH cases in their areas.
NDAH policy accessibility
• The NDAH policy will be more accessible on the UGA Web site, and the EOO office and ombudspersons will be charged with better educating students and personnel about the policy.
• The administration will work with University Council to incorporate these changes into the policy and to make other revisions the council may recommend.
Women’s services and resources
Also, a compendium of women’s services and resources the university offers in health, counseling, harassment and other support is now online (www.uga.edu/resources_for_women/). Adams said the listing meets “a number of the current needs for information sharing that have been brought to my attention.” (See Cybersights, page 7).
Women’s center task force
Adams said he does not oppose a women’s center and will appoint a task force to devise a plan for a center as the University Council requested. But he noted in his memo that “additional financial resources for such a center will need to be considered in light of equally pressing needs in the areas of child care, psychological services, public safety, energy management and water conservation, and the primary and urgent need to maintain and improve competitive faculty salaries.”
The University Council resolution calling for the task force was presented by Michael Bamber, chair of the council’s Student Affairs Committee. In its report, the committee noted that 57 percent of UGA students are female and that more than 400 other universities have women’s centers, including six in Georgia.
The report said a center would deal with “five issues of central concern” to the university: education and awareness, support and advocacy, safety, equity and community.
A center would encourage diversity, increase opportunities for service-learning and volunteering, expand informal educational opportunities and help create a more inclusive and equitable campus, the report says. The report does not address such issues as a physical facility, finances, staffing and programming-topics Bamber said will be left to the task force.