University leaders highlight campus resources addressing discrimination, harassment

Interim Chancellor Javier Reyes hosted “A Conversation: Addressing Discrimination and Harassment” April 27 to share campus resources that aim to address and resolve concerns related to discrimination and harassment.

“Our goal in this conversation is really to exhibit our ongoing commitment to building a campus of care while offering transparency,” Reyes said.

“We have been practicing deep listening to hear your voices, concerns and feedback. And we’ll continue to do that so that we can build partnerships, structures and platforms to ensure UIC has a culture of inclusivity, respect, accountability, and one that evolves as our campus and the national and global landscapes change.”

In addition to Reyes, panelists included Caryn Bills, associate chancellor for access and equity; Fred McCall, associate vice chancellor for student engagement and interim dean of students; Mike Stieff, vice provost for faculty affairs; Cheri Canfield, interim associate vice chancellor for human resources; and Amalia Pallares, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and engagement. Charu Thakral, executive associate vice chancellor for diversity, equity and engagement, moderated the event.

Panelists shared how campus units can offer support and resources related to discrimination and harassment and answered questions from students, faculty and staff.

The Office for Access and Equity, which recently was restructured and expanded, investigates harassment and discrimination reports and evaluates whether they violate the University of Illinois System’s Non-Discrimination Statement, Bills said. A new non-discrimination policy statement complaint procedure is forthcoming, Bills said.

“Discrimination is defined as really treating someone differently because of their membership in a protected category as defined in the non-discrimination statement,” Bills said. “Harassment is verbal or physical conduct directed toward an individual because of their membership in a protected category that has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with the individual’s educational work or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or academic environment.”

For claims that do not violate the non-discrimination statement, Bills said, there’s still an opportunity to informally work to resolve the issue.

“That might look like a form of an educational conversation where we can try to address these things and resolve them at early stages,” she said.

Student Affairs provides support by ensuring that students meet academic and behavioral expectations, which are outlined in the Student Disciplinary Policy, McCall said. The Office of the Dean of Students reviews Academic Integrity Incident Reports and Behavioral Misconduct Incident Reports related to violations to the Student Disciplinary Policy.

The Office of the Dean of Students also provides support to students to help identify solutions to situations that negatively impact their lives or student status at UIC through the Student Assistance and Support Referral Report.

The Office of the Dean of Students works collaboratively with the Office for Access and Equity and Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement in responding to incidents of bias, discrimination and harassment reported through the Bias Reporting Tool, McCall said.

“It is mainly for things that may not reach the level of discrimination policy but are still potentially microaggressions that students or faculty and staff are experiencing,” McCall said. “It’s an educational process — how do we have those conversations with colleges, with students, with staff to talk about the harm that was created, and how we repair that harm?”

The Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs works with the Office for Access and Equity, UIC Senate and collective bargaining units as needed on claims of harassment and discrimination related to faculty, Stieff said. The office also provides conflict management and training resources.

Faculty Affairs collaborates with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence to build inclusive classrooms “to make students feel that they are in a welcoming space and to promote a sense of belonging for students,” Stieff said. The office also is expanding its staff to create a mentoring program for faculty that “helps them consider directly the diversity of representation that we have among our students and our staff and to consider very carefully how they conduct themselves in all aspects of their work,” he said.

UIC Human Resources works in consultation with the Office for Access and Equity to support its investigations into claims of discrimination and harassment, Canfield said. For example, they might provide employee information or coordinate interim measures, such as temporarily moving an employee to another location. They also provide resources through the Employee Assistance Program as well as employee trainings.

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement provides strategic planning, guidance, workshops and training related to issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, Pallares said. The office also spearheads UIC’s Advancing Racial Equity initiative and oversees the Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change, among other initiatives.

“We’re not an investigating unit. What we do is we say: How can we support you in terms of are there any trainings and workshops, is there anything we can do in terms of changing the culture?” Pallares said.

“Because of the work we do in culture building and climate building, it is our hope that incidents of discrimination and harassment that get reported go down through time as we do the longer-term, more preventative work.”

Reyes called for campus units to work together strategically to continue to support a culture of care on campus.

“We hear you loud and clear,” he said. “You would like to have more clarity on how these units work together to address issues, but also to help shape our culture as an inclusive and diverse institution. We need to provide more clarity regarding our policies, procedures and best practices around issues discussed today.

“Being diverse is not enough. We must practice inclusivity for all communities. We recognize the need for continuous training and education for faculty, staff and students to better understand, identify and prevent discrimination and harassment on campus. It is a continuing conversation.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email