Harassment policy explained

Harassment+policy+explained

Winter Keefer

Editor’s note: Last week The North Wind ran a story about a former professor who retired and signed a separation agreement after being suspended with pay due to allegations that he violated the NMU Sexual Misconduct Policy. Here is what happens when an allegation of sexual harassment between a student and faculty member are brought forward:

Sexual harassment is defined in the NMU Sexual Misconduct Policy as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or visual communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature” in the case of three different scenarios.

The first scenario of harassment is if “submission to such conduct or communication is made a term or condition, either explicitly or implicitly, of obtaining employment, public accommodations or public services, education or
housing.”

The second scenario of harassment is if “submission to or rejection of such conduct or communication by an individual is used as a factor in decisions affecting such individual’s employment, public accommodations or public services, education or housing.”

The third scenario of harassment is if “such conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment, public accommodations or public services, education or housing; or creating an intimidating or hostile environment in employment, public accommodations, public services, education or housing.”

The NMU Sexual Misconduct Policy states that the policy applies to all university students, faculty, staff and visitors.

President Fritz Erickson said university officials are “greatly prohibited” from talking about specific cases of sexual misconduct on campus for many reasons, the main reason being to keep the identity of the original complainant anonymous.

“It’s very important that people have control over their own identity,” Erickson said.

The main goal of the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy is to encourage students to come forward about sexual misconduct, he explained.

“When a student files a complaint against a professor, that complaint is taken very, very seriously, I mean very seriously,” Erickson said.

When a student files a complaint against a professor, the university launches an investigation, he said.

“At some point in that investigation, you may very well gather enough information that leads you to believe that that event very likely occurred,” Erickson said.

Once this determination is made, the professor is removed from their classroom and a no trespass order is issued by Public Safety that bans the professor from university property while further investigation takes place. This investigative process includes an appeal, Erickson said. The next step of the process is to determine a recommended action after all of the information is gathered about an incident.

“That recommendation can be a recommendation to fire, to terminate employment,” Erickson said. “But that recommendation doesn’t end it because we have the AAUP contract, then there are the rights of appeal and reconsideration.”

Many times professors opt to retire during this time, but the no trespass order remains in place, Erickson said.

The ability to file a sexual assault allegation does not end for students after they graduate because the NMU Sexual Misconduct Policy does not contain a statute of limitations, Equal Opportunity Officer and Title IX Coordinator Janet Koski said.