As more individuals, particularly women, are reporting their stories of experiencing sexual harassment or sexual violence in the workplace, many institutions are examining their policies and considering how they can foster safer environments for all members in their community. During the summer of 2018, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst announced a new series of policies aimed at preventing and handling instances of sexual misconduct on campus. Inspired by a group of graduate students, UMass administrators agreed that revised guidelines for identifying, reporting, and dealing with instances of sexual harassment or sexual violence were needed to afford students and faculty more protections.
Greater Protections Needed for Women in STEM Fields
The Amherst Bulletin reports that officials at UMass have investigated 21 allegations of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct filed by graduate students against faculty and staff members in the last five years. Members of Graduate Women in Stem (GWIS) approached administrators with their concerns, and a task force was soon formed to find ways of addressing these issues.
One member of the task force, Tricia Serio, who also serves as the dean of the College of Natural Sciences, cited a 2015 report finding that 5.9 percent of female undergraduates and 22.4 percent of female graduate students from 27 elite research universities experienced sexual harassment from a faculty member. Many other students may have experienced similar instances of sexual harassment or sexual violence, but chose not to report it.
Adopting Proactive Policies
In response to the concerns of GWIS and the university’s task force, UMass administrators adopted a few new policies, which were implemented this fall. First, consensual sexual relationships between graduate students and faculty are no longer allowed. This policy aims to prevent abuses of power, as faculty members who may try to claim the encounter was consensual are no longer immune from consequences. New faculty members will receive supervisory and mentorship guidelines that more clearly articulate the boundaries between educators and students.
Additionally, the university updated its Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence to make the reporting process more accessible for those who have experienced inappropriate behavior from faculty or staff members. Making more information available to students about the rates of sexual assault on campus and how they can report an incident are key to making the community safer, the university hopes.
Aggressive Criminal Defense When You Need It
Thomas Whitney Attorney at Law provides Amherst clients with reliable criminal defense when they need it most. If you have been accused of sexual misconduct, you need to know your rights. Call us today at (413) 256-6234 to get started.