Respect on campus:
Fighting harassment and bullying
Last April’s “spoof” edition of the student Gazette newspaper has sharply focused our attention on the broader issues of respect in the workplace. In response, working with faculty and staff leaders to ensure a positive and supportive working environment for all Western employees, and helping leaders deal effectively with behavior that threatens such an environment, will be among the priorities I pursue in the coming academic year.
In addition to participating in the public forum hosted by the Caucus on Women’s Issues April 13, I have met with several other groups also committed to grappling with the issue of respect. Both the Senate and the Board of Governors discussed the Gazette matter in May. At its meeting, the Board approved a resolution expressing profound regret at the Gazette publication, and setting out a framework for its annual decision regarding the collection of student fees for the Gazette. The University Students’ Council has instituted a number of new policies to ensure this kind of journalism is never again published or distributed on our campus.
I also met in late May with the President’s Standing Committee on Employment Equity to get their views on next steps we need to take. And I note that Western’s Equity and Human Rights Services has recently published its 2007 Annual Report, which speaks to some of the issues raised by the Gazette controversy and includes recommendations for addressing concerns specifically related to harassment and discrimination.
Among the questions the EHRS report highlights is whether or not the Gazette edition is symptomatic of a climate at Western of sexism, misogyny and homophobia; whether or not the graduate student experience is “family friendly” for both males and females; and whether or not Western is dealing effectively with incidents of bullying. Further, the EHRS report recommends the ability to address harassment and discriminations issues be directly linked to leaders’ and managers’ performance reviews and promotions, and also that a review of policies and practices related to family status and parental leave be conducted.
As noted elsewhere in this issue of Western Matters, a cross-functional team has already taken steps to develop new “family friendly” policies and supports aimed at enhancing the graduate student experience, and I look forward to giving further consideration to the observations and recommendations made in the EHRS report in the months ahead.
Creating a respectful culture is a shared concern for all members of our campus community, and this subject will be the focus of a Leaders Forum November 15 to further explore what actions can be taken to eliminate harassment and bullying behaviours from our community. My thanks go to all who have contacted Western’s administration to share their views and suggestions on these matters.