Faculty members at the University of Montana are expected to complete a new discrimination prevention tutorial by the middle of next month, though some have said they’re reluctant to do so and wonder why the U.S. Department of Justice needs to know who they are.
Required by the university’s resolution agreement with the DOJ and the Office for Civil Rights, the new tutorial looks to help faculty members understand the university’s newly written regulations and better serve students reporting incidents of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.
But at a Sept. 12 Faculty Senate meeting, faculty members voiced concern over the tutorial and a little-known segment of the school’s agreement with the DOJ requiring it to provide the agency with names and titles of employees who fail to participate in the training.
That was followed by a Sept. 19 letter from six other faculty members to UM President Royce Engstrom reaffirming the concerns.
“What information do you regard yourself as obliged to report to the DOJ about those employees who undergo the tutorial and those who fail to?” their letter reads. “How do you understand that the DOJ intends to use this information?”
Faculty members also asked Engstrom what additional employee information the school would provide the DOJ if the agency made any follow-up requests.
Faculty Senate Chairwoman Liz Putnam believes the concerns are valid and are shared by other faculty members who didn’t sign the Sept. 19 letter to school administrators.
“I support the faculty being concerned — they’re important facts to raise,” Putnam said. “We have to deal with it (the DOJ agreement). We can voice objections and concerns, but I don’t know there’s anything that can be changed.”
Lucy France, UM legal counsel, said she was aware of concerns expressed by some over the DOJ’s requirement that UM provide the names of those who fail to participate in the training.
While the mandate isn’t unique to the DOJ and is required in many resolution agreements, France said, the university was working to address the concerns.
“I’m optimistic that the university can work with its employees to ensure that they understand their obligations under Title IX to address allegations of sex-based harassment, as well as show that they are familiar with the university’s policies and procedures regarding discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, stalking and retaliation,” she said.
“I’m also optimistic that we can work with the DOJ to provide verification that our employees have this knowledge without providing the names of particular employees,” she added.
According to Section 9 of the resolution agreement, under “Training and Professional Development,” UM must provide the DOJ with the sign-in sheets of each employee by name and job title for each training required under other sections of the agreement.
The university also must provide “a list of any university employee who failed to participate in such training by name and title,” the agreement says.
The university must provide the sign-in sheets by Dec. 31, and again for subsequent training by May 31, 2014, May 31, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2015.
“They need to learn what the university’s policies and responsibilities are,” France said of UM faculty members. “We’re working with them to achieve that. We have to abide by the DOJ agreement.”
Putnam said the requirement concerns some faculty.
“It’s the fact that the DOJ would even have a list of names, one way or another,” she said. “I don’t think the point is there’s a list of people who have or haven’t completed it, but rather, there’s a list of names being turned over to DOJ.”