Summary from LPSC WIPS Event 2014 – Anti-harassment Policies
Harassment and Anti-harassment Policies
As I am about to announce the upcoming DPS WIPS event, I thought I should really get around to posting a summary from the amazing Susan Niebur Women in Planetary Science Networking event held in March 2014 at LPSC. Zibi Turtle was the event lead this year.
The overarching topic was harassment and anti-harassment policies. Christina Richey gave an excellent presentation that was followed by an outstanding attendee discussion. Even though the topic is not a fun one, it was satisfying to get the conversation going openly about these issues.
A sampling of the many points and questions that were brought up:
- Do you know the anti-harassment policies of your institution? Or at least where to find them? It is better to know this info in advance of any situations you or someone you know might encounter.
- If you feel you might be the victim of harassment (which comes in many forms, this post is not just about sexual harassment – see Christina’s presentation), document as much as possible, and approach someone you trust (an institutional leader and/or a peer).
- Don’t wait for things to become too bad, or for too much time to pass. If you can talk to someone higher in administration, the sooner the better, as they may be able to deal with the situation the best. Often official policies have a time limit for when you can report an incident (e.g., +/- 60 days).
- There may be more ways than you think to deal with the situation. Don’t feel like you are caught in a situation you can’t get out of, seek help. You should be comfortable in your workplace, and outside of it too.
- LPSC has a no tolerance policy (not technically official, but this is the sentiment that will be acted on if cases are brought forward).
Common-sense practices to counteract harassment (or potentially prevent harassment):
- Look out for your colleagues and friends – watch for signs of issues (lack of productivity, lack of socialization) – use a buddy system in potentially uncomfortable situations.
- Be aware that harassment has many forms and can happen in many situations, don’t assume it doesn’t.
- If you see a seriously unsafe situation – tell an authority figure.
- Alcohol is not a good addition to situations where harassment might occur – steer clear of this combo.
- Every situation is different, and that fact makes harassment difficult to counteract. There are situations where no clear rules apply, or are potentially adverse to ones career – such as inter-institutional harassment, a small company may not have the resources dedicated to dealing with these issues, a situation with a superior, etc.
- Often it is difficult to come forward with harassment cases – emotional support is needed as well as legal support. There are also anonymous support hotlines.
- Someone could be wrongly accused of harassment – how does someone clear their name with both the accuser and the institution in such a situation?
- Where is the line between a sincere joke, a cultural misunderstanding, and harassment?
Thank you to everyone who attended the event! We had a record number of male supporters this year, thanks for your contributions to the discussion!
- If you remember other great points that were brought up, please post them below!
Bonus: This summer the Women in Astronomy blog featured a great series of posts about sexual harassment specifically, check them out here.