Campus Conversation: #AUCSpeakUp

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Last Thursday’s Campus Conversation centered on AUC’s Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy. Senior administration talked about the University’s role in preventing and combating sexual harassment and discrimination.

AUC’s New Measures 

President Francis Ricciardone 

“We do not, we will not tolerate continued abuse by someone who has been a harasser or an abuser. Absolutely, if students, faculty, or staff have either been victims of abuse in the past or have witnessed it, please step forward now through the channels we will be discussing in this program. ... Casually mentioning a rumor or even a fact to a faculty member or an administrator is not the same as registering a complaint. We need to have as much detail as possible so we can follow up.

  • The University will investigate past cases, but a report must be filed, for the University cannot just investigate based on verbal or written accusations online. 

Must-Haves

  • Good, clear, strong policy that everyone understands
  • Good system for capturing those complaints and registering them, and to hold ourselves accountable for responding to them

The Next Steps: 

  • Encouraging people to report, even past cases and even if you are an alum
  • Reassuring everybody about their confidentiality and privacy in order to encourage that reporting
  • Strengthening and educating about AUC's reporting channels
  • Changing the Title IX office to the Office of Institutional Equity that reports directly to the president, protecting all students, faculty and staff
  • Mandatory and Universal training that every member of the community will need to take, including the president and senior leadership, incoming and returning students, faculty and staff, and across the board

 

Title IX and the Recent Case

Sunanda Holmes, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer

Title IX is U.S. federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in all activities. It actually started with athletic activities, but now it covers sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, sex discrimination across the board in all aspects of academics. Our policy is based on that law here.”

  • The policy applies to everyone who comes to this campus, who accesses this campus: so students, faculty, staff, visitors, alumni - anyone who comes to our campus is subject to this policy. 
  • The policy also applies to off-campus activities, like a University-sponsored event where community members are gathered or when the off-campus activity has an impact on the on-campus learning environment. 

Commenting on the Recent Case

  • There is a difference between privacy and confidentiality. Privacy is one's own right to protect his or her own information. Confidentiality is a legal duty on others who have access to that information to keep it confidential and only disclose it when there is a need to know. The University is the holder of the private information of an individual. So AUC has a legal duty to protect it, and in the policy, it says that complaints that are filed are confidential as the investigation proceeds. Then depending on the sanctions, disclosures can be made.
  • We have a duty to keep all parties involved in a reported case confidential in order to protect people and to encourage people to report. 
  • We may disclose information to the public when the case is filed as a criminal offense, because in that case it becomes part of the public record, and disclosing the information could be essential to preserving the safety of our community.

Staff

  • Staff complaints will be handled through the Office of Institutional Equity as well as the Office of Human Relations 

 

Title IX Coordinator 

Reem Mograby '09, Title IX Coordinator

“Confidentiality is vital under the law and our University policies. As such, we only disclose information to individuals who are going to be responsible for handling the University’s response to the complaint or a resolution to the complainant.”

  • Role of the certified Title IX coordinator: 
  • To be the principal point of contact for receiving complaints on our campus regarding harassment and discrimination from diffierent community members: staff, faculty or students. 
  • To coordinate the University’s prompt and equitable response to these complaints 
  • Neutral party - not advocating for anyone, either the complainant or the respondent 
  • Does not have the role of defending one party over the other 
  • Role extends to other aspects, such as:
    • Reaching out to the community to make sure that everyone is aware of our policy
    • Supporting the training of our community members 
    • Ensuring that our community is aware of our different campus resources, such as medical and counseling services, academic support and legal assistance
    • Assurance of compliance with the law’s requirements to stop the harassment, prevent the recurrence of the harassment or discrimination, and remedy the effects 
    • Overseeing prompt and equitable grievance procedures for students, faculty and staff and the reports
    • We do sometimes apply interim measures to complainants and respondents, including academic accommodations, rearrangement of housing for student residents, or academic assignments 
    • Ensuring that our community is compliant with our final sanctions and remedial actions that we take

Confidentiality

  • Information about an individual case is disclosed on a need-to-know basis with as much detail left confidential as possible. For example, senior leadership may not necessarily know the identities of the parties or the case details unless this information is needed to coordinate the University’s response.
     
  • Individuals can submit anonymous reports through our different channels, whether the online reporting form that is shared a lot on our different platforms, Mograby’s email or even one-on-one meetings virtually or in person. 
  • Anonymous reporting may limit the ability to respond and to investigate individuals are encouraged to submit as much detail as possible in the reports. It’s important to note that the University will not impose sanctions based solely on anonymous or third-party reports/complaints that are not supported by evidence.

 

The University’s Educational Mission

Provost Ehab Abdel-Rahman

As educators, we are looking holistically at our students, from all aspects. We know that students cannot fully engage as active learners if they do not feel safe - and that's a fact. … In order to ensure a good educational mission for AUC, we need to ensure that we have a safe learning environment for our students and a safe working environment for our faculty and staff.”
 

  • The issue of sexual harassment is a human problem. We all have an individual and collective obligation to make sure that type of misconduct is not tolerated. 
  • All faculty will be taking the mandatory online training 

Accused Faculty Members 

  • Report cases, even if they happened in the past. The University cannot report cases from social media but will investigate each and every case that is properly reported through University channels.
  • While I will not comment on specific cases, I am prepared to say that we take allegations seriously, we investigate and we have in the past taken action — and are fully prepared — to do so again in the future, if we find misconduct.

 

Working with Students 

Deena Boraie ‘78, ‘82, ‘88, Vice President for Student Life

“The health counselors at the Center for Student Well-Being are mental health specialists. We have two modes of dealing with sexual harassment. We have immediate crisis counseling, which is if a student who exerepnces sexal harassment is feeling distraught and afraid, we encourage him or her to reach out to a counselor in the center who will talk to them and will listen to them and will walk them through their different issues. In some cases, there may be mandated counseling for the defendant, where the counselors will work to change the behavior and talk through issues, and counselors sometimes identify deeper and more serious issues.“

  • The Office of Student Life met with students who want to play an active role in designing effective campaigns
  • There will be a mandatory training for students 
  • We need to talk about all types of harassment and all the places it is coming from
  • We want to organize a student conference with students from all over Egypt 
  • We must raise awareness and work hard to prevent sexual harassment in the first place
  • Students should feel safe and encouraged to reach out to a counselor in the center.

 

The Scene in Egypt

Counselor Ashraf Hatem

  • The National Council for Women has been working directly with the government since 2014 to strengthen anti-harassment laws
  • The prime Minister just passed an amendment to protect victims of harassment
  • National universities making councils in universities specifically for sexual harassment 

Counselor’s Role

  • I am just a representative of the university for the government; my office is a liaison between AUC and the government 

Coronavirus

The number of cases have decreased dramatically