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Sexual harassment report delivered to senate

The university's emphasis on prevention of sexual harassment, consultation and early intervention has been working well, coordinating adviser Laraine Zappert said in her annual report to the Faculty Senate on Feb. 6.

The new advising system, for example, has worked well because it provides several avenues for bringing forth complaints of sexual harassment, Zappert told senators.

Advisers act as liaisons to their schools and work closely with people who need consultation or want to file a complaint. They also consult with administrators charged with adjudicating complaints of sexual harassment, Zappert's office and the university's legal office on the sexual harassment cases they are handling. Currently, there are 35 faculty, staff and student advisers, affiliated with every school and large administrative unit within the university, she said.

"Providing multiple points of access appears to be working well as a means of obtaining information and assistance on dealing with sexual harassment concerns and complaints," Zappert said. "As awareness of the sexual harassment policy and procedures has grown over the past few years, increasing numbers of such concerns and complaints have been brought forward through this system."

Of the 56 complaints of sexual harassment brought forward in the calendar year 1995, Zappert reported, 51 were handled informally, three involved student vs. student complaints that went through the university's judicial affairs office and two were handled by formal mediation. None involved faculty-student complaints and no litigation was involved in any of the cases.

Men most often were identified as the alleged harasser and women as the target, Zappert said. In some cases, however, the sex of the harasser and the target were unknown because e-mail messages were sent to several targets by unknown harassers. "While e-mails are a continuing source of harassment, we do have a fairly effective protocol for identifying and tracking these messages," she said.

Most harassment took place "within status," meaning undergraduate to undergraduate, graduate student to graduate student and staff to staff, Zappert said. Complaints concerning faculty, she added, came mainly from staff.

Of the complaints that were reported to Zappert's office, most concerned unwanted verbal comments. Less frequently, they involved unwanted sexual attention such as staring or pressure for dates, and unwanted physical behavior, such as hugs, kisses, neck rubs and sexual touching, she said.

The most frequent responses to complaints of sexual harassment, Zappert reported, were oral and/or written warnings, direct action by the complainant, termination, suspension or resignation. Many of the terminations, she pointed out, were of individuals not formally affiliated with the university, such as students here for other programs or employees here on a contract basis.

One final statistic to note, Zappert said, is that there were no reported instances of sexually harassing behavior recurring after a warning had been issued.

Senate votes to revise policy on university distinction

In other business, the senate unanimously approved a revised policy on university distinction. The old policy, adopted in 1988-89, said that university distinction could only be awarded to students who rank among the top 20 percent of their majors and among the top 20 percent within the university as a whole.

The Committee on Academic Appraisal and Achievement (C-AAA) reviewed the policy and came up with a revised proposal after small departments complained that the policy prevented them from recognizing all of their exceptional students worthy of distinction.

According to the new policy, which becomes effective with the graduating class of 1997-98, university distinction will be awarded to those students whose overall grade point average places them among the top 15 percent within the university and who are also endorsed by their major departments or programs.

Departments and programs also will be able to nominate students who do not fall within the top 15 percent university-wide, as long as the total number of such exceptions does not exceed 2 percent of the graduating class. According to Mason Yearian, chair of C-AAA, the new policy will yield roughly the same number of students graduating with distinction.

Report from senate Committee on Research

The last item on the senate's agenda was a report from the Committee on Research concerning university policy issues on senior administrator conflict of interest, management of faculty-solicited gift funds, and development of intellectual property.

The report was issued in response to an official request, signed by 69 members of the Academic Council, asking the senate to review the university's policies on these matters. The request, which was submitted to the senate on March 21, began as a petition circulated among faculty by Bruce Lusignan, professor of electrical engineering.

In the petition, Lusignan charged that the rights of tenured faculty "are being regularly abused" by administrators who derive a large percentage of their personal wealth from outside income. "These practices," Lusignan stated, "include misuse of intellectual properties created by faculty and students, interference with sponsored projects in competition with [an] administrator's outside business interests, and redirection of gift funds inconsistent with the intent of the donors."

The request asked the senate to consider passing more stringent policies regarding senior administrators. But Bob Byer, professor of applied physics who chairs the Committee on Research that considered the request, said his group concluded that the issues raised in Lusignan's petition were adequately covered by existing university policy.

Charles Kruger, vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy, concurred. "In my tenure as dean of research, I have seen no problems that have not been resolvable within the context of these guiding rules," he said.

Lusignan reiterated his concerns to the senate in a five-minute statement following Byer's report. When the floor was open for general discussion, however, there were no questions or comments from the senate.


By Marisa Cigarroa