Faculty reviews sexual misconduct policy

By Benedicte Yenyi Mulumba, Staff Writer

After several accounts of sexual misconduct and sexual assault allegations at the University, several faculty members joined together to create a panel to review sexual misconduct policies.

The panel of professors and University board members consists of seven women and five men. Robin Kar, professor in law who is also fulfilling the role of chair committee and spokesman, said that it was important that the majority of the panel is women.

“When it comes to understanding the dynamics of sexual harassment and the experience as victims, many are women, henceforth, it’s very important to have people who studied that and I believe many of them should be women,” Kar said.

There is no requirement for other faculties to join the panel; however, being on the panel is a volunteer job and looking at the seriousness of the issue, it requires people who are fully involved and want to get it right, he said.

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“Everyone on this committee cares a lot and I can imagine people saying they’re too busy and just don’t have time for it,” Kar said. “You can’t make people be on the committee, but if the provost asks you to do something and if you have an expertise, it’s kind of like the president asks you.”

The creation of this panel was inspired following the story of the sexual harassment investigation of another law professor, Jay Kesan, last fall.

“Very few people knew (the investigation) was happening, and at the end, it was found that he hadn’t technically abridged the rules but he had abridged code of conducts rules,” Kar said.

The creation of this panel implies a failure in the actual policy and the committee strongly believes this new panel will influence the recent policy on sexual harassment.

“When I think about a problem like this, I feel like there was a breakdown in the complex human system and I want to think how we can make it better,” Kar said. “We will be coming up with recommendations that will change a range of things and I don’t want to decide in advance. I still have an open mind about all of this.

Even though the panel is focusing its work only on campus, the faculty members are aware that other universities are also dealing with sexual harassment and they would like to come up with a model that other people can also look at.

Besides all the experts and women working on this committee, the absence of a student figure is obvious.

“I have no problem whatsoever having a student on it, but it’s not exactly my choice, but if they end up having a student on the panel, that will be perfect for me. If they don’t, I’ve already made a commitment to try to involve and bring students’ voices in, in a strong and robust way,” Kar said. “I will personally do quite a few things to make sure they feel heard, they have ownership and they are happy with the process and it’s transparent to them.”

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