President Price Initiates Campus Self-Assessment of Harassment

Goal is to understand current climate, ID best practices and positive steps and create dialogue

Dear Colleagues:

Over the past few months, we have experienced a profound moment of reckoning about sexual harassment in the academic world. We have seen situations around the country, and here at Duke, in which faculty and students have been subjected to behavior that creates a hostile environment or leads to damaging consequences for work, careers and personal welfare.

Duke has in place formal protocols for addressing individual reports of harassment, and this reporting system will remain an important tool for combating misconduct on our campus. At the same time, we recognize that in isolation, a retroactive approach places too great a burden on those who are subjected to harassment and fails to address the underlying cultural and professional forces that perpetuate this damaging behavior.

We must do more. We all have a responsibility to work together to build a campus free of sexual harassment, an academic community that allows all of its members to reach their potential and contribute fully to our missions of learning, discovery, and service.

To begin that process, I have asked our academic leadership to initiate a self-assessment of the current climate around sexual harassment in our schools and departments. This effort will involve all academic units at Duke and will be coordinated jointly by the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and the Vice Dean for Faculty in the School of Medicine.

The purpose of this self-assessment is three-fold: first, to understand the extent of this problem at Duke; second, to identify best practices and positive steps that have been taken in some units, here or elsewhere; and third, to advance a university-wide dialogue about culture, behavior, conduct and process that will lead to accountability and meaningful change. Through these assessments, we will be able, with the help of our community, to create clear plans of action that address issues of concern. I have asked the Provost, the Chancellor for Health Affairs, and their teams to develop and undertake an assessment plan by May 15 and to work directly with unit leaders to develop action plans responsive to the findings by September 1, 2018.

There is, of course, no easy or simple solution to what is a long-standing problem in the academy and society. However, it is my hope that, by looking critically at our own environment and taking the appropriate actions, we can make real progress toward a workplace in which every member of our community can thrive.

Vincent E. Price
President