Policies governing sexual harassment have been at the center of many heated campus debates in recent years. Anita Hill’s testimony during the Clarence Thomas hearings raised the nation’s consciousness and it remains a contentious issue, particularly on college and university campuses.
Long before most of the country turned its attention to the issue of sexual harassment, AAUP developed policies and procedures for dealing with this issue on campus. AAUP standards for assistance for complainants, due process for the accused, and redress for victims are important components of an effective process.
The two major AAUP policy documents addressing the issue are Sexual Harassment: Suggested Policy and Procedures for Handling Complaints and “Due Process in Sexual Harassment Complaints.” Colleges and universities should have policies in place so that procedures can be debated free from pressures arising from a specific incident.
AAUP has long held that “intimidation and harassment” are inconsistent with the maintenance of academic freedom on campus. Further, in its Statement on Professional Ethics, the Association affirms the ethical responsibility of faculty members to avoid “any exploitation of students for…private advantage.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidelines aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. More recently, the U. S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued policy guidance addressing the sexual harassment of students. AAUP’s guidelines reflect the legal principles set forth in these documents while providing procedures specific to the academic workplace, an area where academic freedom and the free expression of ideas are vital to the academy.