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URBANA — Two resolutions calling for more transparency and other reforms in how the University of Illinois handles sexual-harassment cases won overwhelming endorsements from the campus Academic Senate.

One measure calls on the campus to release five years of aggregate data on complaints about sexual assault, misconduct or harassment, as well as their outcomes, before the April 27 senate meeting.

The other calls for the “expeditious” implementation of sweeping recommendations from the recent Report on Faculty Sexual Misconduct. It passed 113-1, with five abstentions and little discussion.

The 65 recommendations include a broader definition of what constitutes sexual harassment, a wider array of sanctions for faculty members, new confidentiality rules, and other tools designed to make it easier to respond to complaints. It also recommends expanding staff and resources to help those targeted by sexual harassment and removing barriers that discourage people from reporting it.

The measure approved Monday seeking numbers on sexual-misconduct cases was initially introduced in September by UI graduate student and lecturer John Bambenek, who said he wanted to get an idea about the scope of the problem highlighted in media reports over the last year. He later filed a lawsuit against the UI Board of Trustees alleging it violated public-records laws by withholding reports dating back to 2014.

'Not looking backwards'

Chancellor Robert Jones said he would provide information requested as long as it protected individuals’ privacy, but senators agreed to forward Bambenek’s resolution to the faculty misconduct committee and the Senate Executive Committee for coordination.

The Senate Executive Committee then opted to hold it for more review to ensure it was consistent with the faculty misconduct committee’s report, which was released Oct. 15. One of its recommendations calls on the UI to start producing regular statistical reports on how sexual-misconduct cases are handled.

Bambenek’s updated resolution was presented Monday, asking for annual information from July 1, 2014, onward in time for the Dec. 9 senate meeting, “to help the Senate understand the nature and extent of any historical problems.”

Professor John Dallesasse said he supports transparency, but he’d rather see efforts go into implementing the recommendations from the Committee on Faculty Sexual Misconduct.

“The place we want to dedicate resources is solving the problem, not looking backwards,” he said.

Others disagreed.

“As a historian, it seems to me that we don’t know where we’re going unless we know where we’ve been. We need the data,” said Professor Erik McDuffie.

'You have to have results'

Without results, said computer science Professor Emeritus Roy Campbell, “promises or policies are useless. You have to have results to measure how effective your policies are.”

Other senators objected that the Dec. 9 deadline might not be feasible, as the statistics weren’t maintained in a centralized location or even in the same databases over the years. Given understaffing in the Office of Access and Equity, Professor Bruce Rosenstock argued, its time should be focused more on the other recommendations in the faculty misconduct report.

After a series of votes, senators agreed to change the timeline, asking for the report “in a timely manner, but no later than the senate meeting on April 27, 2020.”

Reporter/Columnist

Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).