Summary of Work by Action Collaborative Member and Partner Network Organizations in Year 3
To facilitate sharing and collaboration, Action Collaborative member and partner network organizations are responsible for sharing at least one and up to five descriptions of their most significant, innovative efforts each year. These efforts could be either in the planning stages or actively under way, but must be consistent with an area of the Action Collaborative’s Year Three Rubric and new for either the organization or higher education overall. A summary of this shared work is provided below and the full descriptions of work can be found in the Action Collaborative’s repository of shared work at www.nationalacademies.org/sexual-harassment-collaborative-repository.
It should be noted that some institutions have made plans or taken action in more areas than what they summarized in their descriptions of work. Given the continued challenges society and higher education experienced in 2021 and 2022, we are pleased that 37 of 55 member organizations and 12 of 14 partner network organizations were able to submit on-time at least one description of work for the publication of this year’s annual report. Those organizations who were not able to submit work on-time, or who are revising their descriptions to add additional details, will be sharing their work by the end of 2022.
In the third year of the Action Collaborative, member and partner network organizations shared more than 43 descriptions of work across five areas: prevention, response, remediation, evaluation and organizational change. About a fifth of descriptions of work cover efforts that aim to address more than one of the five areas at the same time, which emphasizes the overlapping nature of the work and the way that efforts can be designed to achieve multiple goals. The majority of the work covered prevention efforts or response efforts, followed by evaluation efforts, with remediation efforts being the smallest number of work shared. The Action Collaborative’s newest rubric area, on organizational change, showed a promising number of submissions from institutions.
The following sections provide a brief summary of the kind of work the organizations shared and highlight some particularly novel work being done under the five topical priorities for the Action Collaborative: prevention, response, remediation, evaluation, and organizational change.
As detailed in the Rubric, the 2018 Sexual Harassment of Women report, and the 2020 National Academies report on Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine, prevention work includes efforts around the following:
- Embedding the values of diversity, inclusion, and respect into recruitment, hiring, admissions, retention, promotion, and advancement
- Civility or respect promotion programs
- Leadership education and skill development
- Bystander intervention programs (specific to higher education or field, and/or audience)
- Audience-specific anti-sexual harassment education
- Ally or ambassador programs
- Prevention program or toolkits
- Identifying and reinforcing community values
- Other efforts to address or prevent sexual harassment
Several Action Collaborative member and partner network organizations made strides in embedding the values of diversity, inclusion, and respect into recruitment, hiring, admissions, retention, promotion, and advancement, through:
- Engaging in a multi-year review of faculty retention with an equity lens (University of Arizona-1)
- Expanding and revising their parental leave policy to expand leave options for paid and unpaid leave, use gender neutral language, and expand eligibility to include other situations that qualify for parental leave. (University of Arizona-2)
- Expanding a Distinguished Scholar Award to increase funding for junior faculty caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The institution conducted a needs assessment to determine funding needs and are creating a mentoring network for funded scholars. (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai-1)
- Implementing a policy that external job applicants must undergo a Misconduct Screening for misconduct in previous jobs in an effort to avoid “passing the harasser.” (Purdue University)
Action Collaborative participants shared efforts to develop audience-specific anti-sexual harassment education by:
- Creating policy briefs and handouts to communicate the prevalence of gender and sexual harassment, as well as to educate community members about what to do in the event of harassment. (Utah State University-1)
- Expanding an anti-sexual harassment training to include bystander intervention training for specific student, faculty, and staff groups. (Wellesley College)
- Creating a training which incorporates reduction of sexual and gender harassment, as well as taking a trauma-informed approach to response. (University of Washington-1)
In the realm of leadership education and skill development, a partner network organization shared a leadership education and skill development program that involved the creation, implementation, and evaluation of a power dynamics training for faculty, staff, and graduate students (Utah State University-2). The National Association of Graduate-Professional Students created and delivered leadership training to empower graduate and professional students to act as leaders in sexual harassment prevention on their home campuses (National Association of Graduate-Professional Students). Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai held facilitated focus groups, using leaders that were trained to be facilitators, to bring together multiple stakeholders to crowd source solutions to increase gender equity (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai-2). Harvard University formed a network of Culture Ambassadors from across campus that serve as leaders in sharing resources and facilitating conversations about inclusivity (Harvard University). One Action Collaborative participant’s prevention programs/toolkit involved an ongoing adaptation of a sexual harassment prevention toolkit from use with leaders in academic departments to use with leaders of undergraduate student organizations (University of California, Berkeley-1).
One interesting approach to ally or ambassador programs (while also utilizing a prevention program/toolkit) was the development of an undergraduate course by a partner network organization in which students gained project management skills and utilized creative methods (e.g. zines) to engage in campus sexual harassment prevention (Utah State University-3).
One Action Collaborative partner network organization took an approach that combined efforts on audience-specific anti-sexual harassment education, bystander intervention programs, and prevention programs, by creating and implementing a six-hour sexual harassment workshop specifically for science graduate students doing field work (University of California, Irvine).
Another Action Collaborative member organization, in an effort to create a bystander integration program with an emphasis on civility/respect promotion and leadership education/skill development, expanded a training to include guidance on encouraging respectful treatment, the influence of cultural and social norms on behavior, the impact of power disparities, and to develop a version of the training specifically for campus leadership teams (University of California, Santa Barbara).
In their efforts related to bystander intervention programs and civility/respect promotion programs, one organization developed curriculum for learning about norms and policies, increasing understanding of how different identities shape workplace culture, and building bystander and communication skills (Soteria Solutions-1). This same organization also took the added step to build these curricula or trainings to connect to organizational mission/values (Soteria Solutions-2). Another organization, in an effort to promote civility/respect and reinforce community values, created a draft strategic plan for improving graduate student-advisor relationships, including civility promotion and properly addressing negative advising behaviors (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). While another organization shared about the preparation and facilitation that goes into their bystander intervention workshops, which explore the link between microaggressions and other forms of harassment and harm as well as provide trauma-informed bystander intervention strategies to interrupt and prevent these everyday manifestations of sexism, gender bias and racism (Rutgers University-1).
In an example of work that combines both prevention and evaluation work, one Action Collaborative member organization developed a bystander intervention campaign that uses community data to reinforce social norms of intervening in sexual harassment and uses storytelling to increase buy-in specifically among undergraduate men (University of California, Berkeley-2).
A couple of Action Collaborative organizations focused on identifying and reinforcing community values. One developed a multifaceted action plan for eliminating abrasive and abusive behavior in student–advisor relationships (University of Minnesota-1). Another organization gathered community feedback to create and implement a code of conduct that addresses gender- and sexual-harassment (Argonne National Laboratory-2).
The Action Collaborative’s focus on response efforts is centered on responding in ways that can help prevent future harassing behavior and can contribute to creating a climate where the community believes that (1) reports of sexual harassment are taken seriously, (2) reporting sexual harassment is not risky, and (3) offenders face sanctions.2 As identified by the Rubric and the 2018 Sexual Harassment of Women report, this work includes efforts around the following:
- Improve policies
- Create trauma-informed response and education programs
- Provide anonymous and non-mandatory reporting resources and tools
- Implement restorative or transformative justice and alternative means of resolution
- Improve communication and increase transparency
- Address gender harassment and other harmful behaviors
- Treat sexual harassment as a violation of research integrity
Michigan State University used a diverse task force to improve policies by amending its disciplinary and sanctions process, and developed a plan for training those serving on the new standing hearing panel (Michigan State University).
Two organizations shared about efforts and changes to provide anonymous and non-mandatory reporting resources and tools. With regard to providing anonymous and non-mandatory reporting resources and tools; improving policies; and implementing trauma-informed response and education programs, Utah State University implemented a non-mandatory reporting policy and collected data on employee adjustment to this policy
2 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). 2018. Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/24994. (p.121).
change (Utah State University-4). Santa Barbara City College made a change to improve how their Behavioral Interventions Team responds to gender harassment shared through their anonymous reporting form (Santa Barbara City College).
Two organizations worked to implement restorative or transformative justice and alternative means of resolutions. Duke University’s Office of Institutional Equity is implementing informal resolution methods for sexual harassment complaints, which may take the form of restorative justice, structural changes, or coaching (Duke University). The Ohio State University outlined a process for informal conflict resolution in cases of protected class discrimination to provide agency to the parties, increase options for remedying behavior of concern, and better inform parties about the option (The Ohio State University).
Three organizations shared work on improving communication and increasing transparency. The University of California, Davis increased the detail of its sexual harassment annual reports to improve transparency about how reports are handled (University of California, Davis). University of Washington—at students’ request—compiled a report on outcomes of Title IX investigations and engaged with the campus community in presenting these results (University of Washington-2). Finally, in an effort to improve communication and increase transparency, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s community-based network for addressing harassment sought to raise visibility about sexual harassment-related resources (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory).
Two organizations shared efforts focused on addressing and increasing awareness of the harm caused by gender harassment. In an effort to address gender harassment and disrespect, improve policies, and implement restorative or transformative justice and alternative means of resolutions, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has implemented a reporting and response system in which minor offenses result in a confidential “first warning” conversation with a trained messenger (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai-3). While Utah State University, through its Utah Women & Leadership Project, created policy briefs and handouts to communicate the prevalence of gender and sexual harassment, as well as to educate community members about what to do in the event of harassment (Utah State University-1).
Argonne National Laboratory continued their efforts to treat sexual harassment as a violation of research integrity. Over the last year, their Steering Committee gathered community feedback on a draft code of conduct and implement the feedback to create a code of conduct that addresses gender- and sexual-harassment and incorporates Argonne’s research code of conduct, which directly identifies harassment as a violation of research integrity (Argonne National Laboratory-2).
While sustained and further work is still needed on remediating the harm from sexual harassment, there were a couple of organizations that shared work in this area. As described in the Rubric and the 2018 Sexual Harassment of Women report, remediation work includes efforts around the following:
- Provide confidential resources and support services
- Honor survivors, victims, and those targeted with sexual harassment
- Prevent retaliation against those who have experienced sexual harassment
- Develop reintegration strategies and programs
- Reduce power differentials between members of a campus community
- Other efforts to remediate the harm of sexual harassment and/or support those that experience sexual harassment
Two organizations shared about efforts to increase or enhance confidential resources and support services. University of Miami examined options for enhancing student access and experiences with seeking treatment from a local rape treatment center, and modified their campus climate survey to collect data on the use of this confidential support service (University of Miami). While the International Ombuds Association ran two focus groups to identify the ways in which ombuds (a confidential resource) address symptoms or predictors of harm. Responses were categorized according to services provided to those who have experienced harm; services provided to those who have caused harm; and services were provided for the community as a whole (International Ombuds Association).
In an effort to reduce harm from power differentials by making individuals more mindful of power dynamics and their effect they have in the workplace, Utah State University created, implemented, and evaluated a power dynamics training for faculty, staff, and graduate students (Utah State University-2). As detailed in their description of work, “the training provides practical skills, focusing on the concept that how people choose to use their power matters.”
On the topic of remediating harm and promoting healing, one organization shared about a series of conversations designed to discuss racial stress, resilience, and healing (Columbia University).
Unfortunately, no work was shared this year on efforts to honor targets, survivors, and victims; to prevent retaliation; or to implement reintegration strategies and programs. We hope to see future work shared next year.
While evaluation efforts related to sexual harassment have historically focused on using climate surveys to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment experiences among students, there are several additional areas of evaluation work that will assist higher education in advancing efforts to prevent and respond to sexual harassment. Importantly, all evaluation efforts need to take into account and examine the experiences of individuals in underrepresented and/or vulnerable groups, including Black, Asian, Hispanic, Latinx, Native
American, and multi-race individuals; sexual and gender diverse populations; people with disabilities; immigrants; graduate students; and postdoctoral trainees, who often experience multiple forms of harassment or discrimination combined with sexual harassment. As described in the Rubric and the 2018 Sexual Harassment of Women report, evaluation work includes efforts around the following:
- Measure the prevalence of sexual harassment
- Conduct qualitative research on the experiences of sexual harassment
- Evaluate prevention programs
- Evaluate policies and procedures
- Monitor climate on an ongoing basis
- Share publicly the results/data from evaluation work
- Use climate assessments to inform action
When it comes to measuring prevalence of sexual harassment, this year Rutgers University shared how they used an iterative process, in collaboration with several campus groups, to design a climate survey for faculty and staff across Rutgers campuses (Rutgers University-2). The development of surveys to assess prevalence of harassment among faculty and staff is an area that is starting to expand and thus will help fill a gap in knowledge about the climate for communities beyond student populations.
This year, several organizations shared work to assess and evaluate how their policies and procedures are being used and then to use this to inform action – which is important work if we are to learn what is effective and what unintended side effects exist.
- Argonne National Laboratory conducted a seven phase DEI assessment of organizational policies and procedures, and then used the DEI Climate Survey to create a comprehensive index of Gender and Sexual Harassment to help focus prevention efforts (Argonne National Laboratory-1).
- University of Miami examined options for enhancing student access and experiences with seeking treatment from a local rape treatment center, and modified their campus climate survey to collect data on the use of this confidential support service (University of Miami).
- Utah State University implemented a non-mandatory reporting policy and collected data on employee adjustment to this policy change (Utah State University-4).
- The 1752 Group evaluated faculty/staff sexual harassment reporting policies from multiple institutions in the United Kingdom and the United States. They found that the majority of the sexual harassment response burden falls on administrative, non-specialist actors rather than practitioners with specialized training related to sexual harassment (The 1752 Group).
Two organizations made advances to develop mechanisms for monitoring organizational climate on an ongoing basis and then to use the data to inform action. University of Minnesota shared lessons learned from the completion of their pilot of a Climate Assessment Tool to better understand climate at the department level (University of Minnesota-2). University of Arizona conducted a multi-year review of faculty retention with an equity lens and is using data from this review to inform their monitoring of climate on an ongoing basis (University of Arizona-1).
This section describes examples of Action Collaborative participants’ approaches for pursuing organizational change that is research-informed. Identifying effective ways to approach making complex systemwide changes to policies and practices is a key to meeting the goals of the Action Collaborative. This section is the most notable change to this year’s rubric. This section was created in response to Action Collaborative representatives’ expressed interest in learning not only about what institutions are doing to prevent sexual harassment, but how they are pursuing the organizational change needed to implement and build support for such prevention work. Over the first three years of the Action Collaborative, the Member Organizations have heard from research experts and practitioners about several methods for effective organizational change, these include:
- Campus climate committees that incorporate the principles of Coordinated Community Response (CCR)3,4
- Using Community Readiness for Change to guide efforts5
- Leveraging the strengths of distinct stakeholder groups and creating partnerships between them
- Using the Theory of Procedural Justice in sexual harassment policies, processes, and practices6
We are pleased that several organizations took the time to share how they are going about the work of making lasting, systemic changes. Most organizations that shared about their organizational change efforts, shared how they are involving a broad set of groups in making plans and creating partnerships across their organization to implement changes.
3 For more information, see: Kristy Holtfreter & Jennifer Boyd (2006). A Coordinated Community Response to Intimate Partner Violence on the College Campus, Victims and Offenders, 1:2, 141-157, DOI:10.1080/15564880600626031.
4 For more information, see: Building Coordinated Community Response Teams to Address Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking on Campus: A Toolkit for Institutions of Higher Education: http://changingourcampus.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/OVW-CCRT-Toolkit-Final-ENGLISH.pdf.
5 Edwards, Ruth W., et al. 2000. “Community readiness: Research to practice.” Journal of Community Psychology 28(3): 291-307.
6 For more information, see: Thibaut, J. W., and L. Walker. 1975. Procedural Justice: A Psychological Analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) detailed how they are creating and using a community-wide task force to develop mechanisms for raising visibility about sexual harassment-related resources, to identify gaps in current policies and procedures, and to create a civility code (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory).
“The HP&R group (Harassment Prevention and Response working group) is co-chaired by a CSHL faculty member and a senior research administrator, and is initially open to anyone at CSHL interested in joining. We have reached out to individual affinity groups representing postdoctoral fellows, women in science, and other trainee-led groups on campus. Additional efforts are underway to invite other scientific staff, including research technicians, core facility staff, and research operations/support, as well as representatives from the administrative departments.”
University of Minnesota created a Provost’s Task Force on Faculty Behavior in Graduate Education (University of Minnesota-1) that included faculty, graduate students, a postdoctoral associate, and administrators from a range of relevant offices across the University. The University of Washington—at students’ request—compiled a report on outcomes of Title IX investigations and engaged with the campus community in presenting these results (University of Washington-2).
Utah State University developed an undergraduate course in which students gained project management skills and utilized creative methods (e.g., zines) to engage in campus sexual harassment prevention work (Utah State University-3).
“The purpose of the academic course/prevention professionals collaboration was to provide a space for students to contribute to USU’s sexual harassment prevention and education work outside of ‘traditional’ methods of involvement (i.e., peer education, internships, volunteering), which typically attract ‘traditional’ students to participate (i.e., white, heterosexual, able-bodied, social justice degrees/backgrounds).”
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai held facilitated focus groups, using leaders that were trained to be facilitators, to bring together multiple stakeholders to crowd source solutions to increase gender equity (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai-2).
Columbia University created a forum across its 16 campuses to highlight and learn from the varied interventions that campus leaders have implemented (Columbia University).
Argonne National Laboratory formed implementation teams focused on addressing sexual harassment from various angles: lab structure and process, lab culture metrics, training, communication and messaging, and code of conduct. The implementation teams are overseen by the Argonne Action Collaborative Community (Argonne National Laboratory-3).
“More than 100 people volunteered to participate, representing all directorates. Volunteers included operations and research staff at various career levels from early career staff and postdocs to senior scientists and Argonne fellows.”
Through a partnership between Ecology and Evolutionary Biology faculty, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, and CARE (Campus Assault Resources and Education), the University of California, Irvine (UCI) created and implemented a six-hour sexual harassment workshop specifically for science graduate students doing field work (University of California, Irvine).
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s development of a strategic plan to improve graduate student-advisor relationships, was created by an Ad Hoc Committee on Graduate Advising and Mentoring that was composed of 10 graduate students and 11 faculty and staff with representation from the MIT Graduate Student Council (GSC) and each of the Schools and the College (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
In an effort to create partnerships with student leaders, the University of California, Berkeley adapted a sexual harassment prevention toolkit that was designed for departmental leaders to be use with leaders of undergraduate student organizations, so that they could bring about structural change within their registered student organizations to prevent sexual violence and harassment (University of California, Berkeley-1).
Reflecting the theory on community readiness for change, which shows it is important to understand what stage a community is at in the change process, the University of California, Berkeley developed a bystander intervention campaign that uses community data to inform an effort to reinforce social norms of intervening in SH, and uses storytelling to increase buy-in specifically among undergraduate men (University of California, Berkeley-2).
“Focus group evaluations of the first two campaign phases found that men, particularly undergraduate men, did not respond to the campaign messaging as positively as people of other genders. Male focus group participants reported that they did not believe the data, and thought men were less likely to actually intervene in a potentially harmful situation than they reported in the survey. They also reported their own barriers to intervening, including thinking a victim would find a man intervening on their behalf disempowering, and being concerned that confronting a situation directly would be perceived by other people as a disproportionate response. In response to those findings, Phase 3 decentered the data and instead, emphasized not only stories of when men intervened, but on how the intervention was received positively.”
Plans and Goals for the Future
As the Action Collaborative continues its work, it seeks to develop ideas and strategies to address important gaps where more effort is critically needed and to identify approaches that are particularly effective and evidence based. The 2018 Sexual Harassment of Women report makes clear that addressing and preventing sexual harassment requires a multipronged approach to make the systemwide changes that go beyond compliance and toward tackling the systems, cultures, and climates that enable sexual harassment to thrive.7
7 NASEM. (2018). Pp. 123–124, 169.
Thus the Collaborative’s goal is to facilitate this work across higher education such that universities and organizations can learn from each other, apply and adapt practices that have been successful elsewhere, and pursue research and information gathering together for the benefit of the broader higher education ecosystem. Specific areas that the Action Collaborative is focusing on in the coming year include:
- Publishing articles and giving presentations to share the research and practices gathered through the Action Collaborative
- Engaging senior leaders at institutions in understanding the research and what they can do to assist in changing organizational climate
- Developing, sharing, compiling, exchanging, and identifying practices that are innovative, promising, and evidence-based
- Sharing strategies and methods for evaluating policies and practices
- Examining bystander intervention approaches designed for faculty, staff, post-doctoral trainees, and graduate students, and specifically addressing gender harassment and other bias and discriminating behaviors
- Exploring how to respond to predictors and symptoms of harm
- Gathering information on and approaches for preventing and reducing retaliation
- Providing information and resources for understanding power differentials in higher education and exploring approaches for mitigating the negative impacts of power differentials
- Examining systems for and the challenges with taking disciplinary action, sanctioning, and holding faculty members accountable for sexually harassing behavior
- Compiling practices and outlining key considerations related to using data from climate assessments to inform action
As the Action Collaborative continues its work, we hope more organizations within higher education will learn from this work and share their own work through the Collaborative. We also encourage organizations such as research entities, higher education associations, grassroots and non-profit organizations, federal agencies, national laboratories, industry, and other stakeholder organizations to join us in pursuing this work and sharing it so that all of higher education can improve.