The panel was asked to review the UI's sexual harassment procedures following complaints that it mishandled investigations of law Professor Jay Kesan and others accused of misconduct
Staff writer JULIE WURTH asked members of the University of Illinois Committee on Faculty Sexual Misconduct to weigh in on specific recommendations from their report, which was released Tuesday.
Five responded, and most agreed the report's comprehensive nature and focus on changing the climate around sexual harassment were more important than any one recommendation.
Here’s what they had to say:
Professor and director of undergraduate programs, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and national expert on intimate partner violence
What do you think was the most important recommendation in the report and why?
“From my perspective, no single recommendation is the most important. Instead, collectively, our set of proposed changes address the critical need to change campus climate and culture. We know that the policy changes can go only so far in a climate that tolerates sexual misconduct.”
One of the recommendations was a new policy governing domestic and dating abuse that would include “coercive control” without physical violence. Why was that important?
“Limiting definitions of domestic abuse to acts of violence ignores the vast scientific literature on the dynamics of abusive relationships and the effects of coercive control on victims-survivors. We believe including coercive control in our definitions is consistent with the broader changes we hope to make to campus climate and culture — one that is intolerant of abuse and harassment of all forms.”
Psychology professor and lead researcher for an ongoing campus survey on sexual misconduct
Given your expertise in this field, do you think the report does enough to encourage targets of sexual harassment to come forward?
I think that formal reporting is a very complex process for anyone who has experienced harassment or sexual misconduct, broadly speaking. I think that the recommendations in the report would go a long way in making reporting possible for those who have experienced harassment who choose to report.
The recommendation to increase access to confidential advisers is critically important in this regard. Anyone considering a report should do so with full knowledge of what is likely to occur following a report. Confidential advisers are in an excellent position to provide that support. If implemented, I think greater access to confidential advisers would go a long way in encouraging the safety and well-being of those who have experienced harassment and may also encourage formal reporting when it is something a person wants to pursue.
Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Associate Dean for Life and Physical Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
You’ve had to deal with this issue as a administrator. Do you think the changes will give supervisors the proper tools to better address cases of sexual harassment, during and after investigations?
“The report makes a family of serious proposals to improve the university’s ability to respond to cases of sexual harassment. There is much to be done to implement those proposals. ...
“I believe that the recommendations, once implemented, will provide much better tools than we presently have. We must also address culture and climate. ...
“I also draw your attention to the report’s final recommendation — for an ongoing review of the report’s implementation. With time and experience, we will learn more about what needs to be done, and we must be prepared to do more. Sexual misconduct has been a serious problem for a very long time. Addressing it is a serious long-term commitment.”
Professor and associate chairman in the Department of History and 2018-19 chairman of the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure
Given your background with academic freedom and tenure issues, are you satisfied with the proposals for faculty sanctions and protections for academic freedom and due process? Do you think it will be feasible to change the UI statutes?
“I support the recommendations in the report, including recommendations for progressive sanctions. I think the report has been very attentive to academic freedom concerns.
“I also believe the recommendations for revising the statutes are reasonable and necessary. However, from recent experience with proposed statute changes, I expect this to be very difficult and protracted.”
Professor of religion and member of the Policy Committee for the UI chapter of the American Association of University Professors
Are you satisfied with the proposals for faculty sanctions and protections for academic freedom and due process? Do you think trustees will agree to the required changes to UI statutes?
We remove the ad hoc nature of sanctions, and we allow people who are repeat offenders to go quickly to a severe sanction short of dismissal, even without the full hearing presently required. This sends a message that repeated “minor” violations will lead, quite quickly, to a very severe sanction. It educates folks with a less that severe sanction that will contain expectations for future compliance.
I am fully aboard with these sanctions being within the boundaries of academic freedom and due process... =
The Board of Trustees seems to be very interested in creating a climate free of sexual harassment. Since we are not asking for changes that create higher hurdles for punishing faculty members, and since there isn’t an option before them, I am confident that the board will be willing to approve these recommended changes.