Rebecca Futo Kennedy
At many colleges around the US, policies relating to harassment, bullying, and discrimination are designed by professional administrators and university lawyers to conform the federal guidelines. Faculty do not necessarily have the ability to participate in the process of creating or enforcing these policies, even when they have expertise in such issues. At some colleges, however, faculty are still play an important role in the governance structure and there are opportunities for faculty to participate in discussion about and even help create the college's harassment and discrimination protocols and procedures. In this short presentation, I will discuss briefly my own experience as part of, first, a task force and, later, as the chair of our university's Personnel Committee helping write, revise, and, finally, pass through the faculty assembly our university's policies and procedures related to harassment, bullying and discrimination.
Work on these policies can be very rewarding and show real benefit to our campus communities. There are, however, many tensions that need to be resolved while working through such processes. Tensions in our process centered primarily on issues of free speech, administrative vs. faculty participation in hearings, making certain faculty needs for participation and protections align with legal recommendations for protecting the college from lawsuits, ensuring support and safeguards for non-faculty/non-tenured parties, and defining the triggers for a formal vs. informal procedure. My experience suggests this last one is most difficult and comes into direct conflict with the university's desire to protect its reputation. As a result, I will also suggest ways to stay involved in the harassment procedures beyond helping craft policy by working to ensure its enforcement.