College News

Changes to sexual harassment policies gain momentum as Board of Regents continue review

UW System President Ray Cross, Regents President John Behling and Vice President Drew Petersen crafted the proposal after asking for the policy review last week. 

Image By: Jon Yoon

Board of Regents voted to further review current human resources policies pertaining to sexual harassment in a resolution Thursday.

The resolution, introduced by Board President John Behling, detailed a “more robust hiring and reference check process, particularly related to sexual harassment.” The board hopes to have changes in place by the end of August.

The policy changes follow reports of sexual harassment filed by a local street vendor employee against previous UW-Stevens Point Assistant Dean Shawn Wilson. He now holds the same title at UW-Eau Claire.

“When these policies and procedures are in place, the end result must ensure that employee misconduct at one UW institution cannot be hidden as they seek to work somewhere else within our system,” Behling said.

The resolution stated all universities will share personnel files of all current and former employees with one another when an individual is considered for employment. This also requires all UW System institutions to document allegations of sexual harassment involving an employee. Lastly, it requires all institutions to conduct “appropriate reference check procedures” for individuals being hired or transferring from a previous employer.

“If someone is considering hiring a candidate and they do a reference and they find that there’s an allegation, even if it’s unsubstantiated, the mere existence of an allegation is likely to be sufficient to prevent the person from being hired,” Regent Robert Atwell said.

The proposal will also consider current sexual harassment policies of universities on a nationwide scale, especially focused around schools in the Big Ten, to shape the new policy.

In December 2016, a recommendation implored all UW System employees and students complete proper sexual violence and harassment training. The training compliance rates among full-time employees was around 99.6 percent across all institutions within the UW System. The final student rates will be released in October.

The sexual harassment policy work group was created to provide a state assessment of Title IX environment, along with a policy review and advanced training.

The state assessment will analyze the reporting structure, chancellor involvement and compliance to policy changes and trainings. The policy review will focus on consistency, meaning all the policies can be reviewed and understood the same across all UW System institutions.

The work group’s final report including the analysis, the future state recommendation and the advanced training schedule will be released after October 31.

“The UW System has zero tolerance for sexual harassment. There’s no room for compromise on that whatsoever,” said UW President Ray Cross.

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