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2017 Eastern Division Meeting

Discrimination & Sexual Harassment FAQ
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What is the APA’s nondiscrimination statement?

The American Philosophical Association rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age, whether in graduate admissions, appointments, retention, promotion and tenure, manuscript evaluation, salary determination, or other professional activities in which APA members characteristically participate. This includes both discrimination on the basis of status and discrimination on the basis of conduct integrally connected to that status, where "integrally connected” means (a) the conduct is a normal and predictable expression of the status (e.g., sexual conduct expressive of a sexual orientation), or (b) the conduct is something that only a person with that status could engage in (e.g., pregnancy), or (c) the proscription of that conduct is historically and routinely connected with invidious discrimination against the status (e.g., interracial marriage). At the same time, the APA recognizes the special commitments and roles of institutions with a religious affiliation; and it is not inconsistent with the APA's position against discrimination to adopt religious affiliation as a criterion in graduate admissions or employment policies when this is directly related to the school's religious affiliation or purpose, so long as these policies are made known to members of the philosophical community and so long as the criteria for such religious affiliation do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement. Advertisers in PhilJobs: Jobs for Philosophers are expected to comply with this fundamental commitment of the APA, which is not to be taken to preclude explicitly stated affirmative action initiatives.

What is the APA’s statement on sexual harassment?

Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or sexually directed remarks constitute sexual harassment when submission to such conduct is made a condition of academic or employment decisions, or when such conduct persists despite its rejection.

Sexual harassment is a serious violation of professional ethics, and should be regarded and treated as such by members of the profession. Sexual harassment is a form of prohibited discrimination when an institution or individual employee is aware of a sexually hostile environment and condones, tolerates or allows that environment to exist. Colleges and universities should supply clear, fair institutional procedures under which charges of sexual harassment on campus can be brought, assessed, and acted on.

Complaints of sexual harassment should be brought to the APA’s ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment. Complaints of sexual harassment made during an APA meeting may also be brought to the executive director, who is on-site at all divisional meetings and, depending on the nature of the complaint, may be able to act upon it immediately.

Members of the association who conduct employment interviews in conjunction with divisional meetings should make sure that the conditions in which those interviews take place, and the manner in which they are conducted, are appropriately professional and nonthreatening.

Members of the association, particularly members exercising authority of any kind, are urged to be aware of this policy, and to prevent violations where possible and to take alleged violations seriously.

Is sexual harassment a form of discrimination?

Yes. Sexual harassment is one form of sex-based discrimination.

Does the APA offer support to people who experience sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination?

Yes. The APA has an ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment, who can advise those who experience or witness discrimination, including sexual harassment. The current ombudsperson is Ruth Chang. She can be reached at [email protected].

The APA also has a committee on the defense of professional rights of philosophers (CDPRP), which handles complaints against institutions, including complaints of discrimination. The current chair of the CDPRP is Judith Lichtenberg. She can be reached at [email protected].

What should I do if I experience or witness sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination?

The APA strongly encourages anyone who has been the victim of discrimination, including sexual harassment, or who has witnessed such discrimination to approach the relevant institutional authority (such as a Title IX officer) and report the behavior.

Procedures for handling such complaints will vary from institution to institution, so complainants should make themselves aware of their institution’s procedures and policies, particularly those related to mandated reporting and confidentiality.

What should institutions do to address sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination?

Colleges and universities should supply clear and fair institutional procedures under which charges of sexual harassment or discrimination on campus can be brought, assessed, and acted upon, with guarantees of confidentiality where possible.

Can I make a sexual harassment or discrimination complaint to the APA?

Yes, in certain cases. The APA accepts formal complaints of discrimination in three types of cases:

  1. Discrimination by an institution (college or university)
  2. Discrimination at an APA divisional meeting or other APA-sponsored event, including discrimination in the context of placement activities at APA divisional meetings
  3. Discrimination by or against members of the APA staff, board of officers, and divisional executive committees acting in their APA capacities

In all such cases, complaints should be directed to the ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment. The ombudsperson can be reached at [email protected].

Depending on the details of the complaint, the ombudsperson may address the complaint directly; refer it to other authorities within the APA, such as the committee on the defense of professional rights of philosophers or the executive director; or determine that the complaint would be more appropriately addressed to another institution.

If you wish to make a complaint during an APA divisional meeting about discrimination at that meeting, you should contact both the ombudsperson and the executive director, Amy Ferrer, as the executive director is on-site at all meetings and, depending on the nature of the complaint, may be able to act upon it immediately. The executive director can be reached at [email protected] or through the APA staff at the registration desk.

For complaints in cases other than those listed above, the ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment may provide informal advice to the complainant, but any formal complaints must be addressed to other institutional authorities.

Please note that only cases brought by current APA members may be considered for formal sanctions, such as censures or letters of concern.

To whom should I direct my complaint?

Complaints should be directed to the ombudsperson concerning nondiscrimination and sexual harassment. The ombudsperson can be reached at [email protected].

Depending on the details of the complaint, the ombudsperson may address the complaint directly; refer it to other authorities within the APA, such as the committee on the defense of professional rights of philosophers or the executive director; or determine that the complaint would be more appropriately referred to another institution.

If you wish to make a complaint during an APA divisional meeting about discrimination at that meeting, you are advised to contact either the ombudsperson or the executive director, Amy Ferrer, as the executive director is on-site at all meetings and, depending on the nature of the complaint, may be able to act upon it immediately. The executive director can be reached at [email protected] or through the APA staff at the registration desk.

Are discrimination complaints brought to the APA confidential?

Yes. Discrimination complaints brought to the APA are confidential to the extent feasible and allowable by law.

In some cases, particularly when relevant details of a case are unique, it may be impossible for the ombudsperson or other APA authority to pursue the matter while preserving the complainant’s anonymity. If the ombudsperson or other APA authority handling the matter determines that this is the case, the complainant will be informed of the problem and empowered to make a decision about the acceptability of the risk.

Does the APA handle complaints against individuals?

Only if the complaint concerns an APA officer or an individual’s conduct at an APA divisional meeting. Because the APA has no investigative resources or enforcement authority beyond APA events, the ombudsperson is unable to adjudicate member-to-member complaints concerning behavior beyond APA meetings. The role of the ombudsperson in such cases is to offer information and advice about steps members can take to adjudicate such disputes in alternative fora.

Further, the APA does not sanction individual members. However, in certain cases related to conduct at APA meetings, the APA may, with the consent of the complainant, notify an individual that a complaint has been made against him/her, explain to the individual that discriminatory and harassing behavior is not permitted at APA meetings, and instruct the individual on standards of appropriate conduct. The APA may also remove an individual from an APA meeting for inappropriate conduct, in accordance with the APA's meeting registration and attendance terms.

What if my complaint is currently under review somewhere other than the APA, such as my institution or the court system?

The APA will not take formal action on any complaint currently under investigation, adjudication, mediation, or litigation in another body (e.g., the court system, the AAUP, a university or department). The ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment is available to provide informal advice while a complaint is under review elsewhere.

Members are free to bring complaints to the APA for formal review after other proceedings have concluded, at which point the APA may consider appropriate sanctions.

What action can the APA take on a discrimination complaint?

The ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment and the committee on the defense of professional rights of philosophers have the authority to recommend that the board of officers take action in response to a complaint against an institution. There are two possible courses of action that the board can take against an institution: a letter of concern or censure.

Please note that only cases brought by current APA members may be considered for formal sanctions, such as censures or letters of concern.

If the board issues a letter of concern or votes to censure an institution, the action will be publicized on the APA website (omitting the complainant’s name to preserve anonymity). In the case of a censure, any job advertisements submitted by that institution to PhilJobs: Jobs for Philosophers will be marked as coming from a censured institution.

In addition, following a complaint against an individual, the APA may remove that individual from an APA event.

What kind of records does the APA keep regarding discrimination complaints?

The ombudsperson prepares two annual reports. The first report, containing very general information about the number and types of complaints received, is provided to the board of officers and is available to APA members as an addendum to the minutes of the board meeting at which it was submitted.

The second report describes each complaint received and action taken, with all identifying information removed. This report is held as a confidential record in the APA’s national office and may be consulted only by officers of the APA in the course of their duties.

What if I am not satisfied with how my discrimination complaint was handled by the APA?

If you are not satisfied with the handling of your complaint by the ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment or by any APA committee or officer to which the complaint was referred, you may file a formal complaint with the board of officers. Please note that only current APA members may file formal complaints with the board of officers. The decisions of the board of officers are final and not subject to appeal.

To file a formal complaint with the board, the member shall submit the complaint in writing to the executive director, specifying the violation of the APA nondiscrimination or sexual harassment policy, identifying the perpetrator of the violation (for example, an individual, a university department, or an administration), and presenting the available evidence of the violation. If the complaint is against the executive director, the written complaint should be submitted to the chair of the board of officers. The complainant’s identity will remain confidential so far as is consistent with full redress of the complaint. The board will likely request all supporting documentation, including records of the complaint with the appropriate institution, the APA officer, or the APA ombudsperson.

The APA executive director is Amy Ferrer, who can be reached at [email protected]. The ombudsperson is Ruth Chang, who can be reached at [email protected].

Upon receipt of such a complaint, the executive director and ombudsperson will create an ad hoc committee, whose charge shall be to make a determination regarding the complaint and to recommend a course of action to the board of officers.

The ad hoc committee will normally consist of the following:

  • the ombudsperson (or designee)
  • the chair of the committee on inclusiveness in the profession (or designee)
  • depending on whether the complaint is about current or past employment or about prospective employment, the chair of the committee on the defense of professional rights (or designee) or the chair of the committee on academic career opportunities and placement (or designee)
  • the executive director, ex officio

To these members may be added, if appropriate to the issue(s) raised by the complaint, the chair of the relevant diversity committee or designee. The executive director is empowered to expand the ad hoc committee’s membership if a majority of the members express the need for an additional APA member with specific expertise. Thus, the ad hoc committee may be as small as four members or as large as six members. The executive director shall appoint a committee member as chair.

The ad hoc committee will review the case and report its findings to the board of officers, including recommendations for sanctions if the committee judges these are warranted.

The board of officers shall receive the committee’s report and make a decision on the final disposition of the complaint. The complainant and the institution against which the complaint was made will be made aware of the outcome.

For more details on this procedure, see our page on the Discrimination Complaint Procedure.

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