Friday, December 19, 2014

BES Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy

The posts here often discuss conceptual issues, ideas and empirical insights, and opportunities for learning and communication that can promote the science, education, and community engagement of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study.  This post is a little different, but it points to an equally important ingredient for success of a collaborative, productive, and engaged project: the avoidance of sexual harassment and discrimination.  Given that diversity of various sorts, including the kinds mentioned in the policy, is important for the success of science, education, and application, a policy that is aimed at protecting the participants in BES from sexual harassment is also important.

Why are we promulgating a policy now?  A growing body of research has documented that sexual harassment, assault, and rape are unfortunately a part of the field research experience.  Action is necessary on the part of individuals and institutions to change the culture and the reality behind this sad situation.  Here's a news article that gives some background:

The Project Management Committee was stimulated to go on record with an anti-harassment policy for BES.  All participants in BES, from young students to senior leaders deserve a comfortable, open, and non-discriminatory work environment -- whether it's in the classroom, the lab, the field, or the office.  This means that everybody involved BES --whether officially paid by BES funds or not --must understand what sexual harassment is in order to avoid engaging in harassing behaviors, and to be able to seek recourse if it does occur.

It is important for all to understand that intent is not the definition of harassing behavior -- effect is.  Unintentional harassment is still harassment.  The policy gives examples of things that can be perceived as harassment, and which must therefore be avoided.

Here is the entire text of the policy:


The Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) LTER is committed to providing a constructive research environment that is free of harassment and that supports individual dignity and respect.

Accordingly, BES advocates a strict policy prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination because of race, color, creed, gender, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, military service, or any other classification protected by Federal, State or local law. Such conduct will not be tolerated and is prohibited.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, the following:

1.   Unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; and all other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature based on gender, especially where:
a.   submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of involvement in BES;
b.   submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for decisions affecting an individual’s involvement in BES; or
c.    such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive research environment.

2.   Offensive comments, jokes, drawings, pictures or cartoons, innuendoes, and other sexually oriented statements, whether verbal or written.

Similarly, any of the following conduct may involve unlawful harassment or discrimination because of race, color, creed, gender, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, military service or any other classification protected by Federal, State or local law:

1.   Verbal conduct such as epithets, derogatory comments, slurs, jokes or comments;
2.   Visual conduct such as derogatory poster, photography , cartoons, drawing or gestures,
3.   Physical conduct such as unwanted touching, blocking normal movement, or inappropriate physical gestures;
4.   Retaliation for having objected to reported or threatened to report harassing conduct.

If a person believes that he or she is being harassed or discriminated against because of his or her sex, race, disability, ancestry or other protected classification, such person should follow the policy of their home institution for reporting such conduct. 

--------End of Policy--------------------

This policy will be posted in the BES office and lab, and on the website.  Participants in BES should also consult the anti-harassment policies of each of their employers, and further details may appear there.  In addition, specific institutions provide channels for grievance and recourse.

Please take the need to understand and avoid sexual harassment seriously.  Also take seriously the desire of the leadership of BES to be helpful in facilitating appropriate recourse by the legally responsible institutions if any harassment does occur as a part of BES activities and work. 

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