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Mandatory harassment training

10/8/2013: There’s an ongoing debate about the constitutionality of sexual harassment rules and procedures. From the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

WASHINGTON, October 1, 2013—The University of Montana’s (UM’s) new sexual harassment policythreatens the First Amendment rights of students and faculty. Drafted in consultation with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the policy was approved by the agencies last week. Faculty members are also alarmed that a list of faculty who refuse to attend the university’s trainings on the new policy will be reported to the federal government. 

“Not only has the federal government approved an unconstitutional speech code, it has demanded a list of the names of faculty members who don’t attend a training session about it,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Worse still, students and faculty may face discipline even if they are cleared of harassment and discrimination charges. Couple these flaws with broad, vague definitions, and the result is that UM has vast discretion to silence students and faculty members, to the detriment of fairness, clarity, and free speech.”

It will be interesting to see how UO’s new training addresses these issues. The announcement went out today:

Dear Colleagues,  

Next month the University of Oregon will introduce a new online Preventing Workplace Harassment training that will be required for faculty and staff, including GTFs, and strongly encouraged for student and temporary employees.  

The program will be available online beginning mid-October to better inform our faculty and staff about behaviors that constitute prohibited discrimination and sexual harassment. The goal is to clarify employees’ understanding of reporting responsibilities as it relates to harassment and to raise awareness about our obligation to report credible information regarding incidents of prohibited discrimination, including sexual violence, which encompasses sexual assault, partner or dating violence, and gender-based stalking.  

This training is important for all of us who work in the UO community. Increased awareness can stop inappropriate behavior, prevent its recurrence and foster a more supportive community. Under federal law, educational institutions receiving federal financial assistance are required to train their employees to know how to identify and report sexual harassment and sexual violence. This new online training will help to ensure that we are appropriately educating faculty and staff about these issues.  

Members of the university leadership team have been working on this program for the last year, and have collaborated extensively with the Faculty Advisory Council and Executive Leadership Team on its development.  

The training is approximately 90 minutes long and all employees are expected to complete the training by March 30, 2014. Going forward, it will be required every three years.  

More information about the program will be available in the coming weeks. Please look for that information and make this training a priority.  

Thank you for your attention to this important responsibility.  

Scott Coltrane, Interim Senior Vice President and Provost


  1. Anonymous 10/08/2013

    I sure do appreciate FIRE’s rigorous defense of my ability to harass students and coworkers.

    – Bear

    • Anonymous 10/09/2013

      That is such an idiotic understanding of what FIRE is doing. By the way, they’ve challenged the constitutionality or legality of other actions at UO in the past, and won.

  2. Anonymous 10/08/2013

    On a more serious note, though, the “post-Penn State” world is correct. Where I worked prior to the UO, in Illinois, we were required to take a similar “online training” regarding gifts and bribery and the like, many thanks to Blagojevich. In Iowa, thanks to Steve Alford, every employee with an institution-provided phone is required to log every single phone call they receive.

    – Bear

  3. Anonymous 10/08/2013

    What specifically are the constitutional concerns here? Am I missing a/the point?

  4. Anonymous 10/08/2013

    A “post Penn State world”? This sort of thing started in tiny steps long ago.
    The govt harasses (blackmails) institutions to perform, in this instance, harassment training and report anyone who will not behave in the manner they prescribe–meaning (this time) taking the training. What will they do to the offenders?

    And what will the next “required training” be–food and drink choices? cycling vs. driving? urban housing vs. rural? All these things are already on the field of play but they are not as highly charged in the politically correct arena as the issue of sexual discrimination, which causes administrators to go a little word wonky in hopes of pleasing the feds.

    Nowadays, it only takes a policy statement to turn any issue into a dictatorial new requirement for living … or else.

  5. Anonymous 10/08/2013

    I’m guessing none of those commenting above, including UOM have been on the receiving end of sexual harassment at work.

    • Anonymous 10/08/2013

      Sexual harassment is not the issue.

    • Anonymous 10/08/2013

      I’m guessing sexual harassment is not the issue if you’ve never been on the receiving end of sexual harassment at work.

    • Anonymous 10/08/2013

      Really, stop guessing and embarrassing yourself. Instead, try this: in case you haven’t read the articles linked above, especially from the Missoulian, then start there.

      Next, check out UM’s policies linked above, download and read. Notice that you only have to “believe” you’ve been discriminated against to file a complaint and you have a long listed of victim grievances to ponder in order to plug your belief (and revenge, hopeful monetary awards etc) into. Also notice that it not only covers campus discrimination between all groups but also non-campus activities. It’s a policy statement on how to spy on and report your neighbor, family, co-worker for all sorts of behavior you ‘believe’ is inappropriate.

      Does it occur to you why some people would reject training in this?
      Big bonus question: WHY is the federal govt –DOJ specifically– SO interested in who does not take the training?

    • Anonymous 10/08/2013

      I guess if your fear is that someone is going to bring a false sexual harassment suit against you, you must have a pretty awesome life. Other folks are afraid of being sexually harassed at work, and do choose to minimize the issues you raised as being trivial in comparison.

    • Anonymous 10/08/2013

      Wow … twisted.
      Indeed, I have an awesome life!

    • Anonymous 10/09/2013

      I apologize; to make it clear, I have a generally low opinion of FIRE considering the causes they take up, and think that more sexual harassment training and preventive measures is a good thing.

      – Bear

    • Anonymous 10/10/2013

      I appreciate that, thanks. I don’t have any opinion of FIRE and so was not commenting in relation to it; nor do I think it’s not worthwhile to learn about sexual harassment. However, what’s happening at UM is far beyond that and quite worrisome if you take a view to where it could lead.

      But you bring up a good point: fear. What one worries about tends to follow. Within my experience, I’ve endured and needed to find a way AWAY from fear as a viewpoint in order to survive, not just succeed, and that’s one reason I can say with all certainty I have an awesome life. That success could never lie within a training program or in the thinking that someone else’s behavior could be legislated from such an event. However, this doesn’t diminish the experience of others who are unfortunate enough to find themselves stuck in fear and not moving forward for years. So these trainings are good and may provide hope and skills for some who need it, but if anyone thinks participation will effectively dispel the potential for negative experience later, they will be sadly mistaken.

      It’s good to learn better skills, and the real ‘learning’ is an internal heart matter, but it’s better yet to learn how to control your own life and to step away from anything related to ‘victim-victimizer’ thinking into something much more powerful that only an individual can achieve for him/herself. No training, institution or court can grant that kind of power. Just my .02.

  6. Cheyney Ryan 10/08/2013

    Training of this sort is a federal requirement, and has been so for some time. In addition, it is being required by United Educators, the insurance company that covers the U of O for harassment/discrimination cases. The U of California system has been conducting similar training for years, with great success, as have most other state systems. Any policy can be abused; the best defense against such abuse is for people to be properly informed.

    • Anonymous 10/09/2013

      “Any policy can be abused; the best defense against such abuse is for people to be properly informed.”

      Because people do what they’re trained to do?
      Because they’ll be reported if they don’t get trained?
      Because you assume too many people at the university level don’t know or care enough to practice higher, beneficial existential behavior without authoritarian requirements laid down by the state?

      Once trained, why should this training need to be repeated in three years per the tranegram?

    • Cheyney Ryan 10/09/2013

      Federal policies, like those dealing with sexual harassment and discrimination, are periodically reinterpreted, by the courts among others, to deal with changing circumstances. This is why the office of civil rights publishes periodic ‘dear colleague’ letters, to update people on such matters. Periodic training is needed to keep everyone up to date on what the policies are. This is done in other areas (environment, etc.). Policies dealing with sexual harassment and discrimination are no different.

    • Anonymous 10/09/2013

      So, it’s what many suspect — “sexual harassment and discrimination” doesn’t actually have a firm definition and is a floating set of values covering a broad range of hypotheticals created by whichever pols are in power. As in “changing circumstances”.

      Periodic training is needed when the authorities say jump. Got it, and thanks for the explanation.

    • Cheyney Ryan 10/09/2013

      All laws need periodic reinterpretation due to changing circumstances; that’s why we have a court system. Your constitutional rights are periodically clarified by the courts; this does not show that they lack all meaning, or float in thin air. Sexual harassment/discrimination policies have not in fact changed much over the decades, but it’s worth 90 minutes every few years finding out how they are currently understood.

    • Anonymous 10/09/2013

      Yeah. I find your argument weak.
      If sexual harassment and discrimination policies haven’t changed much in decades, why the governmental focus now? Why report those who don’t train? Isn’t this actually a response to cultural hardening that has expressed itself in the form of things like increased porn and bullying in schools mixed with agendas like same-sex marriage?

      Is it worth 90 minutes? Well … depends upon what you’re giving credence to within those minutes.

    • Cheyney Ryan 10/09/2013

      Nothing has changed in the government focus, and it has nothing to do with “agendas” like same sex marriage. Federal policy has required training in these matters for years. What has changed is that the U of O is now abiding by those policies.

    • Anonymous 10/09/2013

      Right – o. Thanks.

  7. Anonymous 10/09/2013

    I am European. I was warned by my PhD advisor that it is considered sexual harassment in the USofA to open a lady the door… this stuff just scares the shit out of me. So – I gather I get reported if I don’t take the training/test. At least – will I not get reported for failing it?

    • Cheyney Ryan 10/09/2013

      Your advisor is an idiot. I work half the year in the United Kingdom, and policies there are not that different than here in the USA; they are designed to promote a respectful and safe workplace, which none of us have reason to fear. Federal law requires that you be informed about policies on these matters, if you are a faculty member or in a supervisory position. The U of O is simply abiding by its obligations.

    • Anas clypeata 10/09/2013

      If your story is true and you are not just trolling us, both you and your advisor would benefit from taking and paying attention to this training.

      In the USofA, it is considered kind and gallant to open a lady the door and also to open a man the door. Both are nice things to do. We also say please and thank you more than most Europeans; you’ll get used to it.

    • Anonymous 10/09/2013

      I’m not trolling you – she really said that! Albeit tongue-in-cheek. Yes, I will be paying very close attention. I am particularly curious whether the training will address the root of the problem – assumptions of superiority, chauvinism, and prejudice. ;-)

    • UO Matters 10/09/2013

      We had to do this at Wisconsin. 4 hours, in person, of racial sensitivity training, 4 more hours on sexual harassment. A bizarre mix of university bureaucrats reading the statutes and refusing to give direct answers to questions, combined with role playing games, and a few brave souls telling some very effective stories about their own experiences. The consultants who ran it were quite well paid. In retrospect it wasn’t a bad idea, but they could have done it all in about an hour.

  8. Anonymous 10/09/2013

    And for my 90 minutes, should I send the bill to Coltrane?

    • Anonymous 10/09/2013

      I’ll be asking our union about this before I do anything. Surely this is something we can fight or be compensated for.

  9. Anonymous 10/09/2013

    The new UM/DOE policies are truly taking us into a nightmare world. This is reminiscent of the “diversity” wars at UO a half dozen or so years back. The administrators involved were truly Orwellian. Dave was asleep at the wheel but was finally awakened to the monster they were creating.

  10. Anonymous 10/09/2013

    I would attend for the price of a goat.

    • Anonymous 10/11/2013

      My hourly rate in goats is 1.5, and they must be alive.

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