IIn January of 2018, a faculty member in our department resigned his position in the midst of the university investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. Following James Peterson’s resignation and the innumerable stories of sexual harassment brought to light by the #metoo movement, our department has taken the last six months to reflect on histories of harassment in our community. Recognizing that a commitment to literature and social justice depends on practices rooted in our intellectual values, our aim has been to assess any roles departmental structures may have played in these histories and to build a department culture that is hostile to harassment of any kind.
We begin by affirming the students, staff, and faculty who have experienced harassment as members of our community, to recognize those who were able to come forward as well as those who have chosen to remain silent. We realize that, even as it is important for us to state this support, it is more important for us to take actions designed to prevent future harm. To begin this ongoing process and in line with the consensus that emerged out of department-wide meetings, we formed an ad hoc Anti-Harassment Committee composed of faculty, graduate students, and staff in February 2018. This committee shared its preliminary recommendations with the department community in April 2018—including new departmental guidelines for committee structures, resources for those confronting abuses of power, and a climate survey that will help us to assess the nature and scope of the issues in our community.
These recommendations will have the greatest impact on current and future members of our community, even as some who need support will have graduated and moved on to new endeavors. For our current students, faculty, and staff as well as our graduates and former colleagues, we cannot change what has happened, but we can be more explicit about our desire to support you. To that end, we invite you to share your insights about what we as a department might do better through a link on the department website. If you would like to report an incident of bias, harassment, or assault that has happened to you or to someone else, you can do so here. In addition, there are University resources available to you, including the Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator, Karen Salvemini (at 8-3535 or kas515), where you can make an informal or formal complaint--or just talk about a situation and get advice. You can also get guidance from Brooke DeSipio in the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support in Student Affairs. If you have questions about your options, we invite you to contact Suzanne Edwards (sme6), Chair of the Anti-Harassment Committee; Dawn Keetley, Chair of the English Department (dek7); or any member of the English department faculty.