The University of Wisconsin-Madison will establish a central reporting system and database of sexual harassment and sexual assault reports as part of efforts to bolster prevention and response practices, officials said.
“We have identified centralized record-keeping as an area of improvement,” spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said Tuesday. The campus also is in the early stages of developing a computerized system for recording complaints, McGlone said.
Lauren Hasselbacher, UW-Madison Title IX Coordinator, spoke about the importance of making certain that all units on campus, which is decentralized for many functions, focus adequately on sexual harassment and violence.
“It is essential that individual departments, schools/colleges and the entire university not only respond appropriately to all complaints and concerns of sexual harassment and violence, but also work proactively to create positive and inclusive environments for students and employees,” Hasselbacher said in a news release posted Sunday on the campus website.
Campus officials posted an update on programs to prevent and respond to sexual harassment on the same day the Wisconsin State Journal published an article detailing allegations of sexual harassment in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.
Both reports came amid a tide of charges of sexual harassment against powerful men in entertainment, news and politics — and consequences so swift — that some analysts say a cultural shift in attitudes is underway.
At UW-Madison, reports of sexual harassment or violence can be made by students and employees to a number of different offices, McGlone said. Some are not brought to campus-wide offices.
“Some individuals may prefer to first attempt to resolve the issue within their academic department or university unit,” McGlone said.
Employees can also report to the central Office of Human Resources, or the human resources department in their school, college or other unit. Students can report to the Dean of Students Office. Anyone can make a report to the Title IX coordinator, McGlone said.
Title IX is a 1972 federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs and activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance, including UW-Madison. The Title IX coordinator is responsible for coordinating the university’s efforts to prevent and respond to sex discrimination.
UW-Madison made the Title IX coordinator a full-time dedicated staff position after a 2015 survey found that 53 percent of female graduate and professional students on campus reported that they have been sexually harassed. And while the majority — 84 percent — of those students said they were harassed by another student, significant proportions also said they were harassed by a coworker, boss or supervisor (27 percent), a faculty member (22 percent), or teacher/advisor (12 percent).
The Title IX coordinator works in the Office of Compliance, which was created last year.
Since the 2015 survey, UW-Madison also has begun requiring sexual harassment/sexual assault prevention train for graduate students. Undergraduate students have been required to take the training since 2013. All employees have been required to take such training as of July, 2017. As of early November, about 90 percent of employees had completed training. Those who do not will not be eligible for general wage increases.
When employees or students at UW-Madison begin the reporting process with the Title IX coordinator, taking into account the reporter’s wishes, the university responds with either an informal resolution or a formal investigation, McGlone said.
An informal resolution allows the names of reporting parties to remain private. It typically involves a conversation with the accused person about their conduct and review of campus policy, according to McGlone. There is no investigation or fact-finding, so the accused person cannot face disciplinary action. However, the accused person’s supervisor or department can take non-disciplinary steps like requiring an educational meeting, issuing a letter of expectations, or making changes to work duties or environment. The person bringing a complaint can receive support services such as protective measures and academic accommodations.
The person making an accusation must be identified in a formal investigation to provide due process to the accused to respond. Disciplinary action can be taken if a finding of responsibility is made.
Investigations in response to formal complaints to the Title IX Coordinator have been rare in recent years, numbering two in 2017, three in 2016 and none in 2015, McGlone said.
Records of sexual harassment complaints are kept at various levels – at the department, at the school or college level and in certain central administrative offices, McGlone said. The Office of Compliance has data on the frequency of harassment complaints that are raised with the Title IX Coordinator or the Equal Opportunity Complaint Investigator. The Dean of Students and the Office for Equity and Diversity have records of complaints that came in to their offices.
Establishing a centralized reporting system was among four steps campus officials said they will take to further efforts to ensure a work and learning environment free from harassment and intimidation.
They also pledged collaboration between the UW-Madison Office of Compliance and the Office of Human resources to improve recordkeeping, training and referral processes.
In addition, an ongoing education and awareness campaign on sexual harassment and sexual violence will be developed.