It is surprising that GW is still struggling to devise a formal policy on sexual harassment since it has been an issue in the news for years. This week, as the Faculty Senate tried to solidify its proposal to the administration, it lost its quorum and will have to wait for the next Faculty Senate to revisit the issue.
Sexual harassment is too important of an issue to get lost in GW bureaucracy. Without a formal policy, the University is susceptible to letting charged professors and staff members slip through the cracks, threatening the safety and comfort of everyone in the University community.
While GW drags its feet on the matter, it is sad to see the Faculty Senate not taking advantage of an opportunity to provide valuable input. Members of the faculty are concerned that a formal policy will infringe on their right to discuss sexual matters in their classroom, which has some legitimate basis. But that is the exception to the rule, and it would be a disservice not to create a formal policy to tackle the many other instances of blatant sexual harassment. They also want to see a weighted jury – one that is mostly made up of their peers. That is not in the best interest of protecting the rights of everyone at GW.
If the Faculty Senate is spinning its wheels because it cannot agree on what is in professors’ best interests, then it should not recommend anything. But, if the Senate is stalling in an attempt to shield the faculty from any punishment, then its place at the table should be revoked. This issue is too important to allow self-interest to rule the day.
Any student that accuses a professor of sexual harassment must be heard and taken seriously. Without a formal policy, that cannot be done. There has been an interim policy for more than a year, and the Faculty Senate has in essence waived its right to a stake in the process. It is time for a formal policy to be established – one that treats everyone fair and outlines a concrete, feasible way for the facts to come to light.