Dean’s Update: November 2017
To: L&S Administration, Chairs, Directors, Associate Chairs and Department Administrators
I want to devote my November message to addressing yesterday’s article (11/19/2017) by Nico Savidge in the Wisconsin State Journal, “Legacy of sexism and allegations of sexual harassment mar UW-Madison department.” For those who have not seen it, the story chronicles a history of alleged sexual harassment and climate issues in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture. As described in the article, the department and College have responded promptly and substantively to concerns, as we received information. We have nevertheless fallen short of our goal of creating an environment where every member of our community feels they are able to reach their full potential, in a respectful, professional environment.
No one at this university should feel constrained to come forward, as it seems some did over the years. We have failed if colleagues or students must rely on a “whisper network” to warn about harassment. We must create an environment where those who have complaints do not fear reprisal.
An important national conversation is occurring about sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Universities should be at the center of these conversations. Not only do we interpret and study social dynamics, politics, power and privilege, but our complex, hierarchical organizational structure is potentially fertile ground for power differentials to emerge and for harassing behaviors to develop.
Because we know hierarchy and power differentials exist, we must facilitate and be willing to act on reports of misbehavior. At the same time, we need to follow due process for all involved. There will inevitably be tension between those two observations, which makes these among the hardest issues I see as Dean. The path forward must include ongoing training and conversations about acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and intensified efforts to create environments where those observing or experiencing unacceptable behavior are confident in acting to confront and eliminate these behaviors, whenever possible.
I believe the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture has taken many positive steps to improve culture and climate. The recent merger of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning with Landscape Architecture brings welcome gender diversity to the new unit and adds important new voices and new role models for students. During the merger, climate issues were aired, discussed and addressed. I encourage everyone in the College to engage in introspection on how we individually and collectively can help create a better, more inclusive, respectful, welcoming and professional climate in our programs, departments or schools.
We in Letters & Science aspire to create an environment where every student, staff and faculty member can learn and achieve to their full potential, where the workplace and classroom is fair, cooperative and professional. In 2013 we formally adopted Principles of Community for L&S. We waste an opportunity to collectively get better if we do not use this historical moment and our collective conversations honestly and wisely.
I also want to share specific steps taken by campus to more effectively prevent and respond to harassment. They include:
- Creating a full-time Title IX Coordinator position in 2015 and placing that position in a newly created Office of Compliance in 2016.
- Requiring sexual harassment/sexual assault prevention training for graduate and undergraduate students.
- Requiring sexual harassment/sexual assault prevention training for all employees, beginning in July 2017.
- Updating policies on sexual harassment, including better defining which university employees are “Title IX responsible employees” and have an obligation to report complaints to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Adopting a policy and grievance processes to address hostile and intimidating behavior.
- Hiring of two additional victim advocates in fall 2016 (for a total of three) in Survivor Services.
In closing, I want to provide you with some resources you may count on for help. The UW-Madison Office of Compliance provides information and resources related to sexual harassment involving either staff or students. If members of the L&S community have questions, concerns, or would like to report an issue related to sex discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace, I encourage you to reach out to Cheryl Adams-Kadera in L&S Human Resources, your divisional associate dean (Eric Wilcots for the Sciences, Susan Zaeske for the Humanities, or Greg Downey for the Social Sciences), your Associate Dean if you are in a L&S Administrative unit, or to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thank you for all you do for Letters & Science. We remain a great College, the heart of our world class university. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and have some down-time as we look forward to completing a successful Fall semester, 2017.
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