Complaint barriers must be eliminated

There are some topics which evoke concern by their very mention. Sexual harassment is one such problem difficult to combat because people have trouble even discussing it. Fortunately, at NIU steps are being taken to correct this.

A new policy concerning sexual harassment is being sent to NIU President John LaTourette for approval. The proposal, already approved by the affirmative action advisory committee, defines what constitutes sexual harassment, allows for fair treatment of those accused of it and provides victims with information as to where they can get help.

NIU officials have admitted that the present policy concerning sexual harassment is too complex to efficiently address the many facets of the problem. The new system clears up the many categories of sexual harassment such as student vs. student, faculty member vs. student, etc., and makes the process easier. Apparently, the complexity of the old system actually deters victims from filing a complaint.

NIU Ombudsman Bertrand Simpson said his office has records for 23 cases during the last three years. However, these cases are all informal complaints and, as Simpson admits, do not reflect the number of persons being harassed.

In any event, some changes are in order. Sexual harassment is the sad result of sexual stereotypes permeating the workplace and, unfortunately, many institutions of higher education. Under no circumstances should it be ignored or tolerated. Victims of such injustice have to report it in order to reprimand the guilty and to deter any further instances.

NIU has to ensure that fighting sexual harassment is not made difficult or cumbersome due to a complicated complaint process. Victims that have gone through the indignity of such an attack deserve to be encouraged to report the incident and receive counseling. The adoption of a newer, “less cumbersome” system to deal with the problem of sexual harassment is a step in the right direction toward solving an unacceptable problem.