URBANA — A broad set of recommendations covering everything from student sexual assault to faculty-student relationships at the University of Illinois is nearly complete and will be voted on next month by UI trustees.
UI Executive Vice President Barbara Wilson said a resolution will be presented to trustees in November from the systemwide task force she chairs, which was asked to evaluate education, prevention and responses to sexual misconduct at all three UI campuses.
The recommendations, which are still being vetted, will be released “soon,” she said Tuesday. Trustees last month had urged administrators to expedite their review.
The news follows a sweeping report two weeks ago from the Committee on Faculty Sexual Misconduct at the Urbana campus.
Both panels were appointed during the last school year amid complaints about how the UI handled misconduct cases.
Wilson said the two reports are complementary. The campus committee focused primarily on faculty misconduct and consequences, she said.
“They went really deep in a particular area. Our task force went much broader. So we’re looking at education and training for faculty, students and other employees,” she said.
The panel examined how investigations are done, how the university responds to them and related policies, she said.
“We’ve been looking a lot at what are we doing for students, what do our training opportunities look like, what does the research say about how we should educate and train students,” she said.
The report will address consensual relationships between faculty members and students, though Wilson wouldn’t say what restrictions might be recommended. A campus committee has also been exploring that issue.
The UI is taking heat from watchdog groups for requiring public-radio employees at the Springfield campus to disclose information on sexual harassment gathered through a confidential online questionnaire.
During a discussion at Tuesday’s University Senates Conference meeting, Professor Nicholas Burbules said it’s important to make a distinction between sexual harassment and consensual relationships.
“These two broad areas really do raise very different kinds of issues,” Burbules said. “We might have a zero-tolerance mentality in one domain that wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate in the other domain. There are people who want to conflate them.”
Wilson said the task force, which will continue its work after the report is made public, is trying to develop consistent definitions across all three campuses for harassment, domestic abuse and other behaviors.
The task force also hired a graduate student to review all literature on education and training programs, including “what works and what doesn’t.”
Too often, she said, “people don’t pay much attention to that.”
“It doesn’t matter how many policies you have, if you don’t educate and change the culture you’re just going to be in a reactive mode all the time,” Wilson said. “We want to help people, including students, think about consent, relationships, communication, and have policies and practices that are way more transparent, and nip things early before they get out of hand, and help all of our stakeholders be more proactive and thoughtful.”
UI law Professor Rob Kar, who chaired the campus Committee on Faculty Sexual Misconduct, said the systemwide task force can “make sure this is something leadership all the way down is thinking about. That is a big part of the cultural change.”
The goal is for Illinois to be a leader in this area, Wilson and UI President Tim Killeen told faculty.
“We want to be doing things that other people say, ‘Hey, let’s look at the Illinois model,’” Burbules agreed.