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Commission on Women and Gender Equity in Academia

Commission on Women and Gender Equity Announcement

September 14, 2018


Although the Commission on Women and Gender Equity (CWGEA) released our preliminary report during the final days of the spring semester, we have been continuing to work throughout the summer with UR community stakeholders and the administration to carefully consider and begin implementing our recommendations.  We are grateful for the feedback that we have received from the President’s office, the Deans of Arts, Sciences and Engineering and from many of you. If you haven’t had a chance to read the report, we invite you to do so here, and welcome further feedback.

Over the summer, we were reminded that the University of Rochester is not alone in the challenges for women in academia.  In June, the National Academies of Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued an extraordinary report that details and documents the broad extent of the impact of sexual harassment in Academia.  Their findings and recommendations were similar to our own, suggesting that many careers have been diminished and that we still have much work to do.  We expect that this dialogue will continue in the coming years. We also know that the pain from sexual assault and misconduct can be intense and long-lasting.  We were saddened by some of the reporting in this summer’s Campus Times, reflecting on unfortunate experiences and detailing frustrations with bad behaviors and the systems in place to support victims.

We are excited to announce that CWGEA has joined forces with the Student Association Task Force on Sexual Misconduct. The Task Force, an undergraduate led initiative reviewed all sexual misconduct policies and issued recommendations to the university last semester.  Over the summer, the remaining Task Force members merged with CWGEA to continue efforts during the coming year as we look to monitor the consideration and implementation of our recommendations.

Call for New Members:

In order to continue this work, and to refresh and diversify our team, we are seeking new members from the campus community, including students, faculty and staff members.  For more information on opportunities for participation and to complete a short application, click here.

Updated Commission Report:

Our work is challenging, but we are able to report on the following activities that are underway or represent progress over the past several months:

Salary Equity Studies:  Under the direction of the Provost’s Office and the office of the Dean of the School of Medicine, two faculty salary equity studies will be undertaken – including one to address clinical faculty.  We have worked with the Faculty Senate to identify committees of faculty to establish the study framework and work with the administration to consider the complex sources for potential inequities.

New Resources in the Title IX office:  The Title IX office has added two new staff members to assist with procedural and educational activities.  One, Brandon Bennett, will be a Student Conduct Coordinator working with both the Title IX office and the Center for Student Conflict Management to facilitate hearings and communications between parties.  The second, Tiffany Street will be the Assistant Director for Educational Outreach, working to expand and coordinate educational initiatives related to prevention methods and awareness.

Sexual Misconduct Prevention Training:  The Dean of the College and the Dean of Students have agreed to form a committee to further consider recommendations from the Student Association Task Force to Review Sexual Misconduct Policy related to mandatory training or courses throughout the academic year.

Campus Climate Survey:  A committee has been created to refine and implement our participation in a national campus climate survey on the topic of sexual misconduct.  Members of the commission will participate to assist in refinement of the instrument, marketing and sharing of results.

Intimate Relationships Policy:  A new version of the intimate relationships policy has been drafted to govern graduate students and has been released for public comments this week.  Work is still needed to consider policies for undergraduates involved in teaching, and draft management plan templates are being gathered for implementation at all levels.

Sexual Harassment Policy:  A committee has been formed to consider changes to Policy 106, which governs Discrimination and Harassment.  This committee has also drafted guidelines for Professional and Respectful Learning and Working Environments.  These have been released at URMC and are in preparation for other parts of the campus.  We believe these are steps in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.

Central Policies Website:  To provide greater access to policies and procedures that affect faculty, staff and students, the Provost’s office has created a policies web page that links to a variety of handbooks, academic and human resources policies.  This central source may assist in raising awareness and encourage all academic units to continue to improve access to policies and handbooks.

Work-Life Balance:  The Benefits office has reviewed our recommendations for additions to family-friendly and work-life balance policies and has informed us that they will consider them after they complete a benefits survey and comprehensive review of benefits at our peer institutions.

Restorative Practices:  Commission members have participated in some of the Restorative Practices training sessions held over the summer and remain optimistic that this approach could facilitate a wide range of efforts to improve climate and professionalism.  We support the proposals to expand this training and find other ways to implement these practices more broadly.

Post-doctoral Affairs Task Force:  Based on observations that policies and procedures for post-doctoral fellows were less clearly defined and articulated across campus, we recommended to the Provost’s office that a Post-Doctoral Affairs Task Force be created to examine an array of issues related to postdoctoral affairs.  We have agreed to oversee the call for membership in the group, even though the charge includes issues that are broader than the concerns for women and gender equity.  If you are interested in participating, please submit your name and information here.

Staff Involvement and Representation:  We have heard loud and clear that there is interest in including staff members in our conversations about gender equity.  As a result, our new call for membership will strive to include a sampling of staff from across campus.  In addition, we have been pleased to support the investigation of a possible “staff council” and are hopeful that such a group would enhance communication of staff concerns to the administration.

Student Involvement, Representation, and Application: Over the summer, the Student Association Task Force to Review Sexual Misconduct Policies merged with CWGEA to combine implementation efforts. Because most of the Task Force from last year graduated, we are accepting applications for new student members. Student applicants can be from any year and campus. If you are interested in applying, please apply [here]. If you have any questions, please contact Amber Williams at awilli77@u.rochester.edu.

Enhanced Training:  A new diversity training series has been announced, which will include online training in implicit bias as well as discrimination and harassment.  Based in part on our recommendations and concerns raised by others, this mandatory online training will be supplemented in some academic units with in-person discussion sessions and a variety of readings made available.  In addition, we have asked Human Resources to start collecting a set of “Frequently Asked Questions” so that additional resources may be made available and our training may be improved each year.

Vision and Values:  Finally, we are pleased to see the roll out of the new University Vision and Values statements.  It has been encouraging to see them introduced in new faculty orientation and chairs’ training.  We believe it will only be effective if implemented broadly and fully integrated in other areas such as faculty searches, annual reviews and communications.

We are pleased with progress in some areas and concerned about delays in others.  We have a long list of action items yet to be considered.  It is clear that many within our community have taken this opportunity very seriously and are taking steps to start our improvement process.  We believe there is much work still to do, and welcome your feedback or active participation in the days to come.