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Stanford adopts new policy on workplace violence

STANFORD -- Stanford University has adopted a new policy concerning violence and threats of violence in the workplace.

The policy bans weapons from campus, and makes employees who commit acts of violence, make threats of violence or level false charges subject to disciplinary actions, up to and including termination.

According to Keith Smith, manager of Employee Relations, "There has been growing concern about general safety and security, given the openness of the campus" and increasingly violent trends in society in general. However, there has been no reported increase in such incidents on campus.

Stanford has an average daytime population approaching 30,000. In 1994, there were 33 cases of assault (four of those aggravated assault), seven robberies, one rape and one sexual assault reported. Fifteen cases of weapons offenses were reported, seven involving firearms. All those figures are far below average for communities of similar size.

However, according to Stanford Police Chief Marvin Herrington, officials remain concerned. Violence is often "the last and worst outcome" of interpersonal disputes that come up between co- workers, or stems from personal problems that employees or family members might bring with them to the workplace.

People who want to injure or kill another person often choose to do so at the victim's place of work, Herrington said, "because they know they'll find them there." Stanford, unlike many large employers, is very accessible. In 1992, an employee at Stanford was murdered by his wife, who drove onto campus and shot him as he sat at the wheel of his university vehicle.

Most large employers have, in recent years, enacted some sort of policy similar in intent to Stanford's, Herrington said.

In practice, he said, Stanford's new policy probably would be most useful to prevent violence, not prosecute violators. Examples might be cases of workplace "bullying," or when employees make repeated threats against their supervisor(s) or others, either face-to-face or to third parties, who might not report the threats for fear of becoming the next victim.

"What we want to do is put options and resources into the hands of the employees," Herrington said. "What we're saying is, if you've got what you perceive to be a problem, take it to your supervisor."

The new policy was drafted by a task force convened in November 1994 by David Rasch, director of the Stanford Help Center, to address issues related to workplace safety.

Other members included representatives from Public Safety, Medical Center Security, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Training and Organizational Development, and personnel managers from the main campus, SLAC, the Medical School and Stanford Hospital.

The policy will go into effect Sept. 1, concurrent with its publication in the university's Administrative Guide. It was presented to the University Cabinet in May by Barbara Butterfield, vice president for faculty and staff services. The policy is subject to minor changes in wording between now and September, but the principles will not change, Butterfield said.

It applies to all Stanford University employees and to non-employees who "perform work at Stanford for its benefit."

The policy reads: "Stanford University strives to provide a safe environment in which to work; therefore, the University will not tolerate violence or threats of violence in the workplace. All weapons, as defined by the California Penal Code, are banned from University premises unless written permission is given by University Police. Employees who violate this policy will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Employees who intentionally bring false charges will also be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Non-employee violations of this policy will be handled in accordance with applicable laws."

One appendix defines "the workplace" as including "all University facilities and off-campus locations where faculty, staff or student employees are engaged in University business." Another outlines procedures for employees, supervisors, Staff Affairs Officers, Employee Relations, the Help Center and security personnel in responding to and controlling incidents of violence and threats of violence.

Discipline of students who commit acts of violence is handled by the Judicial Affairs Office in Student Affairs. Students who commit acts of violence can face charges under the university's Fundamental Standard, in addition to civil and/or criminal charges.

To request a copy of the policy, definitions and procedures before they are made available as part of the Administrative Guide, call Employee Relations at 723-4433.



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