Frequently Asked Questions addressing concerns and complaints.
1. I just had very uncomfortable experience – how do I know if it was intimidation or harassment?
Many of us experience uncomfortable experiences. You could refer to the policy (Appendix II) or Associate Dean Equity and Professionalism website where definitions of intimidation and harassment are provided. (You can also review the Standards of Professionalism document on the same web site.) A helpful question is to ask yourself what was the impact of the experience. Did it impact your ability to learn or work optimally currently or in the future? Has it made you afraid of further interactions with the person concerned? Is it behavior that has occurred before and impacts the working or learning environment for others? Surprisingly, it is unlikely that the person responsible for the behavior that made you uncomfortable is aware of the impact of their behavior.
2. I believe that I have been treated unfairly. How can I confirm this?
Firstly it is a good idea to check for policies and procedures that may exist to address your concern. (Often there are appeal procedures in place.) Depending on whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate, graduate or faculty member, most relevant policies will be on your specific websites. Many are listed as links in this policy. If you cannot find the information you need or think that there is a problem, or are uncertain, you can call the relevant program administrator, Department/Division Head, School Director or Associate Dean depending on the level of sensitivity of your concern. You may call the Associate Dean, Equity and Professionalism at any time.
3. Who can I talk to about my experience?
You will likely prefer to speak to someone with whom you feel comfortable. There are many resources available for advice and counseling. These are listed in the policy. If there are confidentiality concerns or a serious problem that is interfering with your ability to study or work, such as sexual harassment, bullying, you can call the Associate Dean, Equity. It is important that you feel your concern has been satisfactorily addressed by the person you choose and that you otherwise call a senior faculty administrator (Department Head, Associate Dean, School Director) or the Associate Dean, Equity and Professionalism.
4. What will happen if I come forward with a concern or complaint?
Your concern or complaint will be taken seriously and you will determine what course of action is to be taken, unless there are safety or legal issues involved. If you feel that you have been treated unfairly, including lack of due process, your options will be discussed and you will decide which option best meets your needs. The information you disclose will be treated confidentially, and only agreed upon information will be shared with the respondent. You may wish to receive only advice or counseling at the first contact. You have the option to return and choose a different approach after thinking about what was discussed. It is important to consider what outcome you really want in having your concern addressed as it will inform the resolution process.
Since most people are unaware of the impact of their behavior and do not intend to create sub-optimal learning or working environments, it is helpful for someone with the appropriate skills to bring this sensitively to their attention and to hear their perspective on what happened, with the goal of bringing a better understanding of each party’s perspective to the other. This would usually involve a meeting without you (the complainant), also confidential and only agreed upon information from the respondent will be shared with you. In most cases this will bring about a mutually agreeable resolution of the concern. This remedial, confidential approach is the preferred option for addressing most concerns and complaints.
5. How do I know that confidentiality will be protected if I bring a complaint forward?
All those involved in addressing concerns and complaints are aware of the need for confidentiality and take it very seriously. If you wish to have the concern addressed with the individual(s) concerned, it may be necessary to involve administrative heads (Department/Division Heads, Associate Deans, School Directors etc) during an informal confidential investigation, particularly if the issue is one of due process. You have a role to play as well, in that it is difficult to maintain confidentiality and achieve successful resolution if you have discussed the problem with several peers. Breaches in confidentiality in a mediated resolution of a complaint may be subject to disciplinary action.
6. What should I do if someone brings a concern/complaint to me?
Congratulations. You have been identified as someone with whom the person feels comfortable sharing their concern. It is helpful to acknowledge their willingness to share this information with you. It is also important to listen carefully to their concern and to use reflective skills to ensure you have understood the issue correctly. Empathy is important and the concern should not be trivialized as it was important enough that this person sought your counsel. (It is the impact of a given incident, not the intent, which is important.) Assure the person of confidentiality (you will not disclose information without their permission) regarding their concern unless there are legal or safety issues involved. Determine what recourse the person is seeking, and whether or not it is within your scope to provide it. If you feel comfortable and have the skills and information to resolve the concern you may wish to assist the complainant personally.
Issues such as a perceived unfair evaluation during one PBL block will not require the same approach as a situation where the learner or faculty member has been impacted by negative feedback provided in a loud voice in a public place. The options available for resolution are complainant driven and may include only advice or counseling. An informal mediated resolution is remedial in its intent and involves a confidential interview with the other party(ies) [respondent] to obtain their perspective and to provide feedback about the impact on the complainant. The role of the person addressing the complaint is to remain neutral. If you need advice or information as to options for proceeding, the Associate Dean, Equity should be contacted. In any event, the Associate Dean, Equity should be contacted if there are serious concerns such as sexual harassment, safety or health of the complainant, intimidation or bullying, or harassment on protected grounds (see policy). If the complainant wishes to make a formal complaint and requests an investigation, the Associate Dean Equity should be contacted for direction.