Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook

23rd Edition, 2013 Version


Chapter VII: UWS and UWRF Policies

7.6 Process for Resolution of Complaints of Sexual Harassment or Discrimination

Following the alleged occurrence of a racist or discriminatory act, the victim of said act(s) has the choice of addressing the situation through a formal or informal complaint process. The degree of formality will be determined on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the expressed wishes of the victim(s), the Chancellor, the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action, and the appropriate hearing body. (See Wisconsin Administrative Code and Collective Bargaining Agreement for Classified Staff.) It is emphasized that an informal process, based on interpersonal conflict resolution and education, is preferred to a formal process with predetermined criteria and formal penalties. However, it is also noted that the formal process will be utilized in those situations warranting this approach.

7.6.1 The Investigative Process

The investigative process in sexual harassment or discrimination allegations is considered the first phase in complaint resolution. It is important that both the victim and the accused be protected throughout this process. Thus, it is imperative that anyone conducting the investigation be trained to understand all aspects of sexual harassment or discrimination, and that the investigation be conducted in an appropriate manner.

  1. The person alleging sexual harassment or other discrimination discloses information about the incident to someone on campus (Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action, faculty, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dean of College, etc.).
  2. The Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action is informed about the incident, and the victim is encouraged to discuss it with him or her. If the person who is initially informed about the incident is someone other than the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action, that individual may accompany the victim to the Office of Equity and Affirmative Action.
  3. Once a sexual harassment or discrimination complaint is received, the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action will begin a preliminary fact-finding investigation to determine the validity of the complaint.

This preliminary phase includes informing the accused that a complaint has been made and an investigation is occurring. The Dean, Unit Head, department chair or immediate supervisor of the accused may also be informed if necessary. In some cases, the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action may act in the role of consultant and provide support and direction to a department chair, Dean, unit head, or administrator who elects to confront the accused person directly. In the case of students, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs writes a letter to the accused student and schedules an appointment with him or her in order to discuss the complaint. The Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action is included in the meeting. The Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action is informed from the beginning and monitors the outcome of all cases handled without his or her direct involvement. Such cases are the exception rather than the rule, however, and most sexual harassment or discrimination incidents handled at the informal level involve the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action in the resolution process. Following the investigation, the alleged victim of the alleged sexual harassment will decide whether to proceed at a formal or informal level.

7.6.2 Informal Resolution

An informal approach to resolving the complaint is used under the following
circumstances:

  1. The person making the complaint agrees to an informal approach.
  2. The conduct in question is not of such a serious nature that it requires legal proceedings.
  3. All other involved parties agree to utilize an informal mechanism to address the complaint.

The informal resolution of sexual harassment or discrimination involves several approaches. Every effort is made to enlighten the accused individual regarding the effect his or her conduct has had on the alleged victim. If the attitude on the part of the accused seems particularly resistant, then counseling is strongly recommended. The person filing the complaint may elect to be present during a meeting with the accused, but that is not required. If the accused denies the conduct and refuses to comply with recommendations, the alleged victim may choose to file a formal complaint. If the accused party does not dispute the accusation and agrees to cease the conduct and to comply with recommendations, he or she is informed that any future incidents will be handled at the formal level. In those cases where a complainant decides not to reveal his or her name and chooses not to pursue the incident at either the formal or informal level, the accused individual is warned about the allegations without being told the identity of the accusing party. This is done to protect the rights of confidentiality of the accusing person while taking responsible institutional action and addressing the existence of the allegation. The accused person is informed that such an allegation has been made and that if true, all such conduct must stop immediately.

Informal resolution may involve a combination of educational strategies. The goal is to increase understanding and expand awareness of the effects of harassing or discriminatory conduct at a personal and social level. The goal is also to provide a "fair warning" regarding the seriousness of such acts and to inform the harassing individual that any future acts of this nature will be subject to formal sanctions. Basic to this approach is (1) the determination of the seriousness of the complaint; (2) the alleged victim's satisfaction with the resolution; and (3) emphasis on the education of the alleged harasser.

7.6.3 Learning

Objectives:

Learning objectives for participants in educational programs (used to address informal complaints of harassing conduct) may include the following:

  1. Informing participants that UWRF prohibits sexual harassment or discrimination and that such conduct will not be tolerated.
  2. Informing participants that once they have participated in an educational program as the result of committing an act of discrimination or sexual harassment, further acts of this nature will be considered "intentional" and subject to formal sanctions.
  3. Assisting participants in identifying harassing or discriminatory conduct in themselves and others.
  4. Expanding awareness of, sensitivity to, and understanding about the effects of harassing or discriminatory conduct on those who are the victims of such acts.
  5. Increasing knowledge and understanding of the historical and societal context of sexual harassment and racist or discriminatory conduct.

7.6.4 Educational Programs

Educational Programs may involve participation in one or more of the following:

  1. a face-to-face meeting with the victim(s)
  2. seminars
  3. video presentations
  4. reading assignments
  5. discussion groups

7.6.5 Formal Complaint

Process: Faculty, Academic Staff, Students, Classified Staff, Officials and Guests:

A formal approach to the resolution of complaints involves the following processes:

  1. The complaint of the sexual harassment or discriminatory conduct is received by the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action, the Chancellor, the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, or other campus official. If anyone other than the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action receives the complaint, the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action is immediately informed.
  2. The Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action, after a fact-finding inquiry and in consultation with those involved, will make a recommendation to the Chancellor regarding the most appropriate means of addressing the complaint.
  3. Due Process: Adequate due process is afforded to the faculty member, academic staff member, student, classified staff, official, or guest alleged to have committed the sexual harassment or discriminatory act. Adequate due process is determined by the policies and guidelines of the institutional hearing and complaint processes accorded to the accused employee. These include:

A. Faculty: See Handbook Chapter IV: Faculty Personnel Rules: 4.9 and 4.10.
B. Academic Staff. See Handbook Chapter VI: Academic Staff Personnel Rules: 6.11 and 6.12.
C. Students: See the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs or the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action.
D. Classified Staff. See Classified Handbook: Employment Policies and Procedures.

  1. Upon completion of the fact-finding investigation, the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action will report the findings to the Chancellor and will make recommendations concerning disciplinary action or other appropriate recommendations.
  2. In the case of a faculty or staff member accused of sexual harassment or discrimination and depending on the seriousness of the allegation, a combination of any of the following may be used: (a) placing a letter in the personnel file of the accused individual describing the allegations and nature of response, (b) enforced leave without pay, (c) dismissal from the University. Actions (a) and (b) may also include a requirement that the accused individual obtain counseling and verify same to the institution. All cases involving outside legal action wherein the accused is found guilty of harassment and/or discrimination are handled at the formal level.

In the case of a student accused of sexual harassment or discrimination, and depending on the seriousness of the allegation, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs works closely with the Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity, Compliance, and Affirmative Action to document the nature of the alleged conduct and recommends action to the Chancellor which may include (a) required counseling and/or (b) temporary or permanent expulsion from the University. All cases involving outside legal action wherein the accused is found guilty of harassment and/or discrimination are handled at the formal level.

All persons who register a complaint of sexual harassment and/or discrimination are informed of the option to pursue legal action outside the University community. The victim of alleged sexual harassment or discrimination acts may file a formal complaint under the following circumstances:

  1. The alleged victim of said acts concludes that the informal process is inadequate to address the serious nature of the sexual harassment or discrimination conduct alleged to have occurred; and/or
  2. The person accused of sexual harassment or discrimination acts has been previously warned demanding that such conduct must cease; and/or
  3. The accused individual desires adjudication at a formal level; and/or
  4. The sexual harassment or discrimination conduct falls within criminal codes covered under local, state or federal laws.