Pres. sent policy for final approval

By Paul Wagner

A new sexual harassment policy, which includes harassment examples and a provision for due process, needs final approval from NIU President John LaTourette before being implemented.

Affirmative Action Director Marilyn Monteiro said the new policy was approved by the affirmative action advisory committee and sent to LaTourette Friday.

If signed, the guidelines will include examples of sexual harassment, provisions for due process of those accused, names and phone numbers of people the claimant can contact for help and a list of suggestions on how to deal with the incident, Monteiro said.

The new policy will define sexual harassment in employment and education, Monteiro said. Educational harassment pertains to student and faculty or student and staff relationships, she said.

Changes in the procedures for those who have been harassed will go before the committee at a later time, Monteiro said, but she could not give a specific date.

“The old procedures seem quite cumbersome,” Monteiro said. Procedural changes would make the process clearer. There would be “less of a maze for the claimant to have to go through.” The old procedures might discourage individuals from filing a complaint, she said.

The number of sexual harassment complaints is difficult to determine, Monteiro said. “Individuals are encouraged to seek help wherever they can get it. We (Affimitive Action Office) wouldn’t know if they went to, (for example), the financial aid director and solved it at that level,” she said.

Monteiro said, “It is my understanding that there haven’t been formal complaints in a number of years.” She said since she became director Aug. 12, she has not completed an investigation of a formal complaint. She would not say whether she is investigating a complaint now.

NIU Ombudsman Bertrand Simpson Jr. said his office has handled 23 informal complaints in the last three years. This number probably does not reflect the number of persons harassed, he said.

Simpson said when a person makes a complaint, the first step is to “ascertain the nature of the complaint.” There are a wide variety of complaints, he said. “Some go as far as to allege sexual assault,” he said.

Student Judicial Office Director Larry Bolles said his office has handled informal complaints, but he did not say how many there have been.

Most cases “get handled by me talking to the people (accused),” Bolles said. The behavior usually will stop when a “third party with authority gets involved,” he said, adding he checks back with the accuser to see if the harassment has stopped.

If the behavior does not stop, “we ask the student to fill out a report and charge the (accused) with sexual harassment,” Bolles said.