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Commission votes no on harassment policy

By Clara B. Cox

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 5 - September 22, 1994

The Commission on Classified Staff Affairs (CCSA) expressed concerns with the university's proposed sexual-harassment policy and asked commission chair Wyatt Sasser not to support it when it goes before University Council. The action came at CCSA's September 14 meeting.

Sasser, who was attending his last commission meeting as chair before assuming the presidency of the Staff Senate, said he would represent the views of the commission, which voted against supporting the policy as currently written. Sasser said he, too, had concerns about the policy but would reflect the majority view of the CCSA even if it differed from his own. "I think the intention of the policy is good, but there are too many loopholes in it," he said.

Commission members pointed to several specific problems. "The only thing I have against the policy is that it says if someone comes to me (because they are being sexually harassed) and I give them information, the policy says I have an obligation to go forward. Elyzabeth (Holford, director of the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Office) says it is an individual decision, but if it is an individual decision, why is it in the policy?" Sasser asked.

Larry Hincker said he had reservations about the section that requires people to remove themselves from a power position in relationships where one person supervises or teaches the other. "The policy is saying that regardless of whether there is an impingement on someone's rights, they have to stop. I object to taking action when there is no wrongdoing involved," he said.

"It starts to dictate social relationships in the university," Sasser said.

The commission's vote against the policy was registered as an advisory vote.

The group also heard a report from Wayne M. Worner, interim dean of the College of Education, on the college's restructuring plans. Worner said the college "looked across the board to the faculty and staff" to plan its 20-percent reductions.

He said that having the classified staff involved in the planning "is essential. The first thing I did was add staff members to the steering committee. All committees now have staff members involved."

He said the college is "trying to put in place its planning for the next six months." The college's four divisions will be reduced to two by July 1995, and no subdivisions will remain by July 1997, which, he said, will eliminate one level of administrators.

When asked by John Ashby if staff training will be an option, Worner said, "We will make, I would guess, a fairly substantial investment in training. The price of not laying people off is retraining them for new positions."

The commission also briefly discussed the university's smoking policy.

When asked by Ashby if the policy contains "anything to prevent deans from declaring their colleges smoke-free," Ann Spencer, associate vice president for personnel and administrative services, said she did not believe anything in the policy would prohibit such decisions. Spencer said the university now has three smoke-free colleges.

The Staff Senate has recommended several changes in the smoking policy, which was put into place about five years ago.

The commission also learned that the university has not yet received a response from the Department of Personnel and Training on its decentralization proposal.

The commission will hold its next meeting on October 12.