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Staff commission addresses electronic harassment

By Clara B. Cox

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 09 - October 19, 1995

Following a discussion of whether the university's sexual-harassment policy should specify methods of transmitting sexually harassing notes, the Classified Staff Affairs Committee voted at its October 11 meeting to ask the EOAA Committee to address the issue of sexual harassment via electronic mail.

Tony Sutphin, who sits on the EOAA Committee, said the issue came up when he received a copy of a sexually harassing e-mail message from a concerned employee and he called EOAA Director Elyzabeth Holford. Holford told him, he said, that using e-mail to transmit such messages is implied, but not stated, in the university's sexual-harassment policy.

"There is no case litigation for e-mail as a method of sexual harassment. It should be written explicitly. The more aware we make employees, the better off we'll be," William Dougherty told the governing body.

John Ashby disagreed, noting that the policy should not need to include each way someone can be sexually harassed. "What if someone wrote it on your windshield? It's still sexual harassment. We're getting more into the method of transmission. No matter what form it takes, if the message goes to someone, it is harassment. It's clear that if it comes in written on a windshield, or on e-mail, it's the message that counts," he said.

But the commission wanted to cover e-mail transmissions. "We have to explicitly address e-mail or it is not covered," Dougherty said.

The group also heard a report from Ann Spencer, associate vice president for personnel and administrative services, on decentralization. Spencer said she has established a Decentralization Steering Committee, which has held its first meeting. The committee "will start talking about the issues next month," she said.

Members of the committee include Sutphin, Vera Kidd, Linda Woodard, H.B. Whitt, and Lisa Johnson. Sutphin represents the Commission on Classified Staff Affairs.

The commission also heard a discussion by Minnis Ridenour, executive vice president, on some of the university's ideas for restructuring, which will be carried in a later issue of Spectrum.

Ridenour also explained the reasoning behind the gym fees that raised an outcry on campus from faculty and staff members before the fees were rescinded. "Recreation facilities have to be self-supporting. That hasn't been a problem to this point, but people are wanting the facilities upgraded," he said.

He told the group that the new recreation facility "has to be paid for 100 percent with user fees." The new building will cost $4.1 million, he said, and "for the first time we have instituted student user fees." The university, he added, is concerned about those student fees.

He said that some private funds allowed the university to rescind the faculty and staff user fees at this time.

Ridenour acknowledged that the reasons for initiating the fees were not communicated well to faculty and staff.

In other business, Ashby asked that the smoking policy be placed on the agenda for the commission's next meeting on November 8.

At the end of the meeting, Wyatt Sasser announced that he will no longer chair the commission. For the second time in two years, Sasser has moved into the presidency of Staff Senate following the resignation of the president. The commission is chaired by the Senate's vice president.