The Faculty Senate will review an amended sexual harassment policy after postponing its vote on a resolution to reject the previous policy Friday.
Faculty members said they decided to delay their final comments on a policy that will cover all sexual harassment charges between professors, staff members and students because University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg presented another version of policy at Friday’s meeting. The Faculty Senate will review the new policy at a special meeting April 27.
“We need to focus on the question, `can we get a better policy than we have now?'” said professor Bill Griffith (CSAS). “I don’t think we can do that until we’ve had a chance to review this new document.”
Outside legal counsel hired by GW drafted the new policy to address concerns with the informal complaint process of the old policy.
Trachtenberg asked the Senate to approve the sexual harassment policy, which would replace GW’s current interim policy, by April 30.
“We’ve been working on this policy since Oct. 27, 1997,” Trachtenberg said at the meeting. “We can go another two weeks without the end of the world happening.”
Independent lawyers, two University representatives and three faculty members made changes to the policy this year, limiting the role of a coordinator who would act as a mediator between parties in a complaint.
The revised policy instructs the coordinator to report his findings to a GW official, rather than providing an official report.
A paragraph was also added to the description of the coordinator’s role, stating he may informally resolve complaints of sexual harassment with involved parties. If the coordinator is unable to come to an informal resolution, a GW official will determine whether there are any possible punishments.
The revised policy also allows both parties to access written statements and rebut “unfavorable” inferences in the document before a formal hearing. In the previous policy only the defendant was allowed access to the written statement.
Much of the recent debate over the University’s interim policy, which GW implemented in 1999 without faculty approval, has centered on its informal complaint process. The policy now under consideration allows a person to file an informal complaint while keeping his identity confidential. A “coordinator” would investigate the complaint. After going through the informal complaint process, the individual can file a formal complaint by submitting a written explanation of the incident.
“(The revised policy) was thoughtfully arrived at and I am basically optimistic about it,” Trachtenberg said.