Barchi issues response to concerns brought by 'End Assault at Rutgers'
University President Robert L. Barchi released a message on Friday in response to the concerns raised by a student on behalf of the coalition “End Assault at Rutgers” at Tuesday’s Board of Governors meeting.
Barchi’s message was sent to Rutgers' Board of Governors Chair Sandy Stewart and Vice Chair Mark Angelson. It outlines the areas of concern the University-wide Sexual Harassment Prevention Committee is evaluating, which it will soon make recommendations toward.
“This committee is charged with making recommendations that will ensure that the University is proactive in preventing sexual harassment, bringing greater transparency to our reporting, providing world-class training for faculty and staff and engaging in thoughtful assessment on the effectiveness of our approaches,” Barchi said.
The Daily Targum reported on Wednesday that 1 of the 8 demands brought by the student who spoke, Olivia Wischmeyer, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, was to de-tenure Dr. Nabil Adam. He was a former vice chancellor of Research and Collaborations at Rutgers—Newark who had been accused by one of his former graduate students of sexual assault and harassment.
Adam has been largely cleared of sexual misconduct allegations and is now being investigated for allegedly retaliating against his accuser, a graduate student, according to an article by NJ Advanced Media.
Peter Englot, senior vice chancellor for Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at Rutgers University—Newark, said to NJ Advanced Media, "Dr. Adam is returning as a professor emphasizing research."
Violations of the University’s sexual harassment policy can be resolved in a number of different ways, according to Barchi's message, including restorative justice (if both parties agree) up to and including the de-tenuring and dismissal of faculty.
“I am supportive of the concept of making the initiation of the de-tenuring process mandatory upon a finding of sexual assault, and will consult with academic, legal and shared governance leadership on the process for making this so,” Barchi said.
Another demand laid out by Wischmeyer was to ensure the accused be placed on unpaid administrative leave until the Office of Employment Equity (OEE) investigation is resolved, according to the Targum.
Rutgers personnel are placed on leave on a case-by-case basis, according to the message, and the University does not prejudge or place faculty on unpaid administrative leave before ascertaining the validity of claims. Due process and collectively negotiated agreements are followed closely.
Wischmeyer also demanded the avoidance of conflicts of interest in OEE investigations. On that point, OEE refers conflicts of interest, whether actual or perceived, to other internal units or retains external experts who specialize in investigating sexual harassment claims, according to Barchi's message.
Additionally, Wischmeyer demanded the office provide an update to the person who filed the complaint within 60 days.
“It is the goal of OEE to complete all investigations within 60 days, but if new information comes to OEE’s attention, or sources are difficult to locate or refuse to cooperate, or any number of other complicating factors occur, some cases may take longer than 60 days to resolve. That said, I have brought this question to OEE’s attention, and the office has committed to providing 60-day updates to investigations, regardless of their status,” Barchi said.
The University has a clear policy against retaliation for bringing forward a complaint, according to the message.
"We steadfastly uphold our policy of protecting those who bring allegations, whether as a witness or a victim," Barchi said.
Addressing Wischmeyer’s demand for a mandatory yearly climate survey on each academic department on its three main campuses as well as any satellite campuses, the University is currently in a climate survey cycle, using the online campus climate assessment tool #iSPEAK, according to the message.
“(This) is designed to help us assess the prevalence and incidence of campus sexual assault and harassment and better understand the circumstances under which it occurs. The results of the survey are being used to inform services and programs funded by the $2 million Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant that Rutgers received from state and federal sources to expand services, training and education in Newark, Camden and New Brunswick,” Barchi said.
Barchi said he supports establishing a program to provide accommodation to students who need to find new advisors or labs based on the results of OEE investigations and any other adverse events related to a student’s relationship with their advisor.
Barchi’s message does not directly address two demands brought by Wischmeyer: that the University provides a semester of funding to graduate students who need to find a new advisor due to an OEE or independent investigation, and to allow five delegates from “End Assault at Rutgers” to sit on the Sexual Harassment Prevention Committee.
The committee began its work last fall, when concerns were raised regarding the University’s two-year limit on conducting investigations. What the message stated was immediately taken out of the language of the University’s policies, ensuring that all credible complaints would be investigated no matter when the alleged incident(s) occurred.
“The Sexual Harassment Prevention Committee led by Barbara Lee is close to finalizing its recommendations, and I have asked Senior Vice President Lee to meet with the student who addressed the board to answer any questions about the work of the committee. While there are undergraduate and graduate student members of the committee already, I strongly endorse greater student involvement as the committee considers the implementation of its recommendation,” Barchi said.