Thursday, August 14, 2014

Title IX Training Suggests Big Changes On Campus: Being A Jerk No Longer Acceptable At UAA

I used to have to tell faculty, when I was a faculty union grievance rep, that simply being a jerk was not a grievable offense.  A supervisor had to violate a specific provision of the contract, the university policies and procedures, or the law before an action could be grieved.  The rules against harassment were very vague.

But if yesteday's Title IX training at UAA is serious (and I have no reason to question it), then being a jerk, if it manifests itself as bullying or other harassing behaviors, is now grievable.  This is big.  (Other jerk behaviors that are irritating, but not mean or intimidating are probably still ok.) And, of course, unwanted sexual advances have been taboo for a while now, but victims have a lot more with which to fight back.

This was mandatory training for faculty.  As people walked in, they had to sign the list of names that they were there.  If your name wasn't on the list - mine wasn't since I'm retired and not teaching this semester - you signed another elsewhere.  I don't know what happens to faculty that didn't get the training yesterday or earlier in the summer.  But the auditorium was pretty much full.

What I Thought Was Significant

    1.  This is serious.  
    • It was mandatory.
    • Chancellor Tom Case opened it and supported the idea of treating everyone with respect, but also said there were significant consequences for universities that are not in compliance.
    • The United Academics (the faculty union) president Abel Bult-Ito was down from Fairbanks to say the union was co-sponsoring the event, emphasizing protections are in place not only for students, but for faculty and staff as well.
    • Faculty Senate President Diane Hirschberg then briefly discussed national and local cases.  She said that Jerry Sandusky had cost Penn State, just in fees and fines, $69 million.  Hirschberg's own alma mater Berkeley had its own recent case, and UAA's women's volley ball coach was our own recent incident.  She also talked about a New York Times story about how badly a new student's rape by football team members was handled by campus authorities
      • This training was happening because UAA is on a list of school being investigated on their Title IX implementation.
      • And she told the faculty that new legislation has been introduced that includes fines up to 1% of a school's budget and $150,000 per incident.

    "Originally known as the Campus Security Act, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) is the landmark federal law that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution's participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Clery Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education."

    2.  There are people to back this up and these folks appear to be good
    Whaley, Micek, and Trew

    The three main presenters - Stephanie Whaley, Jerry Trew, and Mandee Micek - are key people in the team of investigators and support staff for faculty and students.  Jerry and Mandee are both former police officers and are attorneys.  The presentation was straightforward, the content was to the point, and I got the sense that these people knew what they were doing and did it well.

    And there are others on campus.  There is a web of different offices and as I look at my notes and pictures and what's on the web, I'm a little confused.  This needs to be more straightforward.  I know they talked about a Care Team yesterday and there's a Title IX team, and there are others doing overlapping work in different parts of the campus.  Stephanie Whaley came to the Title IX team form Residence Life which handles things in the dorms.

    The sense I got was that there now are people on campus whose job it is to:
    1.  investigate complaints
    2.  advocate for victims
    3.  help faculty and staff and students report problems
    4.  help potential offenders get help to modify their behavior

    And there are requirements to report violations.  It doesn't have to include a name, but if someone finds out about a sexual assault or about harassment, they have a mandatory duty to report.

    I had a chance to talk to Jerry and Stephanie afterward.  I came in with some skepticism based on over 30 years at UAA.  But I'm impressed with these folks.  They could disappoint me down the line, but I suspect that will only happen if they don't get the support they need from the administration. It's encouraging to learn that two colleges rescheduled major functions so faculty could attend this training yesterday. 

    3.  It includes various forms of harassment including bullying.  

    Faculty and supervisors and students who bully, who intimidate, who create a hostile environment are no longer just jerks, they are in violation of university policy and (if I understood this right) federal law.  They can be complained against and there are people who are there to advocate for the victims.

    This is big.  I can tell lots of stories I've experienced, witnessed, and heard over the years at UAA.  Bullying had plenty of practitioners. There is now an avenue for correcting these folks who make working and student life miserable for others.  Administration is no longer looking the other way, no longer saying "he's just that way, don't let it bother you."  This is big.

    4. If You Can't Remember What All Was Covered (highly likely) Call  The Office of Campus Diversity And Compliance 786 4680

    There was too much information, much of it was general and putting it into practice is a lot easier said then done.  People need to do role-playing to develop scripts for responding to students who are in trouble or to confront harassers.  You can't just tell people to not be emotional.  If it were that easy, we'd all get along fine.  But I talked to Jerry and Stephanie afterward and they understand this.

    There's still a lot of conversation to be had.  During the break, three different people touched me when the talked to me.  This was right after a discussion about touching others.  There was nothing wrong with the pats on the arm, but I suspect discussions on welcome and unwelcome touching would be useful, because there's a big gray area here where people could conceivably get into trouble for what they thought were innocent touches.  (And I want people to be able to continue touching.)

    The reporting requirements need more explanation - like what to report, when to report, how to report, and to whom to report.  All that was discussed, but people need to walk through this.  It's all new territory for many.

    But that's why I say, a key point I took out of the meeting was just to call.  And there will be other options to get more specific behavioral training on all this.

    All in all, this was an auspicious start.

    My Conclusion 

    This is BIG!  This is bigger than the end to smoking in classrooms and then in buildings completely.  And that was huge.  This sets in place people who are trained to deal with sexual assault victims.  This makes campuses accountable to the federal government with large potential fines for violations.  It sets in place more training and education for potential victims and potential perpetrators.

    But within the package here, yelling and bullying are no longer acceptable behaviors.  I'd suggest buying stock in anger management training, because people in authority who have been used to bullying their staff will now be sent to anger management classes and if they don't learn, they'll be out.

    Of course, this all requires enough resources and follow through.  And some of the worst offenders are those in positions of authority.  There will be resistance.  And smoking was a much more tangible behavior - it was clearly visible and the odor lingered long after.

    But with everyone carrying around a audio and video recorder in their phone these days, and with text messages recorded as well, I don't think there will be any lack of evidence.

    When I think of the oppressive environment I moved into here in 1977, this is huge. I can think of a number of women faculty who suffered from the arrogance and power of male colleagues and supervisors.   Power is still power though, even if it is more polite.  But life should become a lot more pleasant on campus.  And as people learn to see their own behavior as unacceptable, they may even grow as human beings.

    One final note.  It will take time for folks to work out the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.  When is something legitimate disagreement and when does it become intimidation?  When is touching a means of communication and when is it just creepy or menacing?  Those who see things in black and white will want clear-cut descriptions of what is and isn't ok.  And that won't be possible.  These folks who have trouble reading non-verbal communication will need to err on the side of very conservative interpretation.  If they aren't sure, they shouldn't do it. 

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