University email outlines sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination policies

An email from the office of University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst on Wednesday outlined the university’s sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination policies in light of the recent onslaught of allegations of sexual misconduct by prominent celebrities and politicians. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

An email from the office of University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst on Wednesday outlined the university’s sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination policies in light of the recent onslaught of allegations of sexual misconduct by prominent celebrities and politicians. 

“Many of us have been following and taking part in the ongoing national dialogue about sexual harassment and sex discrimination in workplaces and learning environments,” the email said. “We want to take this moment to reiterate our shared responsibility at UConn to maintain inclusive and safe work and learning environments free from such acts.”

The email was signed by President Herbst and Associate Vice President of the Office of Institutional Equity, Title IX Coordinator and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator Elizabeth Conklin.

“I think that issues about sexual harassment and sex-based (and gender) discrimination are receiving incredible amounts of attention right now and we wanted to make sure our community really was clear on what the policies and procedures around these issues are for us on campus,” Conklin said.

The email stated that the ongoing national conversation provides the university with an opportunity to review its policies.

“Each of us has an opportunity during this time of national reflection to closely review UConn’s policy and assess our own actions as peers and colleagues,” the email said. “This simple step will help to ensure that we are all doing our part to create an environment where people are free to learn and work without fear of discrimination, discriminatory harassment or interpersonal violence.”

Conklin said that while the university wants to constantly evaluate and seek feedback on its policies, she feels confident in the protections and protocols of the current policies.

“We are consistently and constantly seeking feedback and evaluating our policies,” Conklin said.

The email also directed members of the UConn community to the resources for those who have been, or know, someone who has been sexually harassed or discriminated against.

“Right now, we felt that providing information about the policy expectations as well as how to report concerns was an important way to capitalize on that moment (when) I think so many of us are asking ourselves ‘what did I do in the past that I would do differently now, and how can I make sure I’m part of the solution moving forward?’” Conklin said.

Conklin said the university’s policies were updated in January 2016 in order to bring them in line with the guidelines put forth by the Obama Administration. Her office also worked to clarify and consolidate their policies to make them easier to understand.

After the Trump Administration announced it would be rolling back these requirements, the university issued a statement saying its policies would not change.

The “Me Too” campaign, in which survivors of sexual harassment and assault have shared their experiences on social media took the internet by storm following the New York Times article exposing decades-worth of allegations against Hollywood movie producer, Harvey Weinstein for sexually harassing women.

“For me, the power of the ‘Me Too’ campaign is so many people around the nation speaking up and saying: ‘I’ve experienced this too’,” Conklin said. “I think a lot of people, men and women, are asking themselves: ‘What more could I have done…to pay attention to this or help someone?’”  

The email said every member of the UConn community has an obligation to treat one another with respect.

“We know that academic and professional excellence can exist only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of safety and mutual respect,” the email said. “Each of us is responsible for maintaining that environment. Let’s keep that commitment to one another.”

Conklin said she wants to make sure the UConn community continues to talk about these important issues.

“In my role, my view is, the more people are talking about these issues that so often are not talked about, the better,” Conklin said.  “(Knowing more about) what the conduct expectations are and how to support each other…is a really good way for people to be part of the solution.”


Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anna.aldrich@uconn.edu. She tweets @ZarraAnna.