When harassment and discrimination policies were first introduced in universities, they were generally very specific to sexual harassment in response to highly publicized court cases. Once a policy was in place, the institution breathed a sigh of relief and hoped they could just forget about the whole thing and never actually need to handle a case. A lack of awareness on campus, the lack of trained harassment workers, and procedures that offered only formal methods of resolution usually meant that the university got its wish. That is, until awareness in society caught up with the institutions and administrators had to roll up their sleeves and work with victims, activists and professionals in the area to devise better procedures and strategies to address the very real issues of harassment and discrimination that exist even in academia.
In the early 1990’s, research indicated that in order to effectively address harassment and discrimination, the institution needed to focus on three elements: policies, procedures and prevention programs. Most institutions had very readily and quickly adopted the first two. In the area of prevention, however, administrators had to actively work at educating themselves and the members of the campus community regarding appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Because both the student and administrative staff members of the community are constantly changing populations, this process of education needed to remain on the institution’s active agenda to keep the environment free of discrimination and harassment. At the beginning of this present decade, the need for education remains just as strong. In fact, it has become even more critical because the academy is also making efforts to reflect the country’s changing demographics. Policies, procedures and prevention strategies now must ensure respect and equality for an ever more diverse professional and student population.
There are two other important facts that support this need for awareness and education. First, it appears that what constitutes harassment and discrimination has changed little in recent years. Second, the prevalence of sexual harassment has remained fairly stable over the past two decades (Michelle L. Kelley, Beth Parsons, Sexual Harassment in the 1990s, in Sexual Harassment on Campus, Sandler and Shoop ed., Allyn and Bacon, MA.) Our own statistics confirm that this is the case for all forms of harassment and discrimination. This clearly indicates that policies and procedures are not enough. Greater awareness and responsiveness to human rights issues are needed to effect change.
Our statistics also confirm the studies that indicate individuals continue to prefer informal ways of handling human rights issues. The Human Rights Office is proud of the work that we do with the community in that area: all of the complaints that the Office received during the period of this report were resolved informally, and with very few exceptions, to the satisfaction of complainants. We recognize that this work is enhanced by all the volunteers who sit on committees and those who act as advisors, as well as all those services, student organizations, academic departments and individuals who take the time to integrate human rights into their work. Our statistics show that we can only continue to make progress in prevention however, if the community increases its commitment to education and training for Human Rights.
Human Rights Office Main Page
General Information | Policy & Procedure | Anti-Racism | Sexual Harassment
Sexual & Gender Diversity | Stop It Program | Positive Space Program
Transgender/Transsexual Policy Group | The End to Hate Project
Important Faith Dates | Dear Jen | Human Rights Initiative Award