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New sexual harassment policy for Memorial

After a process of collaboration and extensive consultation involving faculty, students, and staff, the Board of Regents of the university adopted a new Sexual Harassment Policy in December.

The new policy is the companion document to the University-Wide Procedures for Sexual Harassment Concerns and Complaints which were approved by the University's Sexual Harassment Board.

The purpose of the policy is to prevent sexual harassment through education, to mitigate the effects of sexual harassment, and to identify methods for the resolution of complaints of sexual harassment which may arise at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"The new policy better reflects the needs of our community," said Cathy Morris, sexual harassment advisor. "It has the support of a wide range of campus stakeholders such as the student unions, faculty associations, administration, and employee unions."

The policy has a number of notable features. For example, the definition of sexual harassment has been expanded to include not only "unwanted comments or conduct of a sexual nature" but also "abusive conduct based on gender, gender identity, sex (including pregnancy and breast feeding) or sexual orientation."

"The policy shows clearly that the university does not tolerate any form of sexual harassment. It is important for everyone to realize that all students, faculty, and staff have the right to work and study in an environment that is free from sexual harassment," said Ms. Morris.

The scope of new policy applies to all members of the university community. The policy notes that it is the responsibility of all members of the university community, particularly those in academic or administrative authority, to familiarize themselves with the policy and its related University-Wide Procedures for Sexual Harassment Complaints and Concerns, to know what constitutes sexual harassment, and to encourage an environment which is free of sexual harassment.

In addition, all members of the university community with administrative or academic authority have a duty to consult with the sexual harassment adviser to obtain advice and guidance regarding possible concerns of sexual harassment complaints.

"Sexual Harassment is a prohibited form of discrimination under the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act, 2010. Memorial has a legal and ethical responsibility to provide a learning environment and workplace free of sexual harassment," said Karen Hollett, the university's general counsel.
"Students, faculty, and staff at Memorial have the right to work and study in an environment free from sexual harassment.

"The Sexual Harassment Board played a very important role in the development and approval of the Procedures," said Ms. Hollett. "The Board, in collaboration with the sexual harassment advisor, oversees the implementation and review of the Procedures. "The Board is widely representative of the many different constituency groups on campus and is to be commended for its important work in this area."

In February, University President and Vice-chancellor Dr. Gary Kachanoski sent a letter to the campus community highlighting the importance of the policy and procedures and emphasizing the duties we all have in creating an environment free of sexual harassment. "It is important for faculty, staff, students, and others to recognize sexual harassment when it occurs and to respond effectively and promptly," said Dr. Kachanoski.

The Sexual Harassment Office and the Office of General Counsel are working to offer education sessions on the new policy and procedures St John's Campus, Grenfell Campus, and the Marine Institute. Units and departments who wish to request education sessions should contact the Sexual Harassment Office at 864-8199.The Policy and Procedures have been posted to the university's policy website and can be viewed at www.mun.ca/policy/site/az.php.

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