Postdoctoral union hosts teach-ins on sexual harassment

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Nearly 30 UC Berkeley students and staff members attended two teach-ins on campus Tuesday, criticizing the administration’s response to recent sexual misconduct cases.

The teach-ins — hosted by UAW 5810, a union representing postdoctoral students at all 10 UC campuseswere part of the union’s Week of Action, which seeks to spread awareness about and prevent sexual harassment.

The administration is inactive,” said UAW 5810 President Anke Schennink. “We don’t think establishing committee after committee after committee is an effective way to deal with this.”

Led by a team of lawyers from Equal Rights Advocates, the teach-ins described the nuances of sexual harassment and led attendees through a series of hypothetical situations designed to inform them about the legal intricacies of sexual harassment claims. The lawyers also provided guidance and information about resources for filing claims and dealing with instances of sexual harassment.

The teach-ins aimed to better equip students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral students with the tools to fight sexual harassment, according to Schennink, who added that the events were held in response to the university’s failure to address the sexual harassment “crisis” on its campuses.

The teach-ins also described how individuals can support and advocate for themselves and others by navigating university policy, among other options.

“(Sexual harassment) is a civil rights issue,” said Jennifer Reisch, legal director of Equal Rights Advocates. It has to do with your access and opportunity at work and in school.”

After a number of faculty, staff and administrators were found to have violated campus sexual harassment policies earlier this year, UC President Janet Napolitano released several changes to the university’s process for handling cases of sexual misconduct. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks also announced a new Chancellor’s Committee on Sexual Violence, Harassment and Assault.

The committee, which consists of campus faculty and staff, will recommend improvements to campus services and policies related to sexual assault and violence, and it will review campus adjudication and sanctioning practices concerning sexual misconduct against campus students, staff and faculty.

“We are losing valuable talent and resources to this,” Schennink said. “We think the university should solicit input and feedback from the wider campus community, not just hand-picked professors.

Schennink said she hopes teach-ins will press campus administrators to take more meaningful actio— “to walk the talk” — on the issue of sexual misconduct.

We fully support efforts to provide the campus community with more information about reporting,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email, reminding individuals to visit UC Berkeley’s survivor support website for more information.

UAW 5810 plans to host two additional teach-ins Wednesday. The teach-ins will be held at noon in Hildebrand Library and at 5 p.m. in Doe Library.

Contact Adam Iscoe at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @iscoe_dc.