Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sexual Harassment Training at the University of California

From a UC Irvine professor regarding mandatory sexual harassment training:

I proposed the following: I would take the training if the university would provide me with a brief, written statement absolving me of any suspicion, guilt or complicity regarding sexual harassment. I wanted any possible stigma removed. "Fulfilling this requirement," said the statement I asked them to approve, "in no way implies, suggests or indicates that the university currently has any reason to believe that Professor McPherson has ever sexually harassed any student or any person under his supervision during his 30-year career with the University of California."

The university, however, declined to provide me with any such statement, which poses the question: Why not? It is a completely innocuous, unobjectionable statement that they should have been willing to write for any faculty member whose record is as free of stain as is my own. The immediate reply of the administration was that if I didn't comply with the law, I would be placed on unpaid leave.

The professor is both right and wrong. He's wrong to attempt to circumvent the law that was passed by the government that pays his salary. He's also wrong to expect the university to accede to his request for some declaratory letter prior to his following the law.

But he's absolutely right when he says:

I believe the training is a disgraceful sham. As far as I can tell from my colleagues, it is worthless, a childish piece of theater, an insult to anyone with a respectable IQ, primarily designed to relieve the university of liability in the case of lawsuits. I have not been shown any evidence that this training will discourage a harasser or aid in alerting the faculty to the presence of harassment.

What's more, the state, acting through the university, is trying to coerce and bully me into doing something I find repugnant and offensive. I find it offensive not only because of the insinuations it carries and the potential stigma it implies, but also because I am being required to do it for political reasons.

Absolutely correct.

Were I required to attend such training, I'd insist it be done while I'm on the clock and would either not pay much attention or would have entirely too much fun with it.

1 comment:

Anna said...


I have taken VIRTUS, the equivalent for Catholics who want to have contact with children in church related programs. My opinion of that program is the same as the Professor's.

As part of VIRTUS, there are monthly updates that have to be read and answer 1 question to receive credit for the update. Most of the time, I can get the right answer with only skimming the document.