The Third Workshop on Extremely Precise Radial Velocities (EPRV III) has a zero tolerance policy for harassment of any kind. All attendees have the right to a space free of all forms of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Harassment on the basis of any characteristic, protected or otherwise, is a form of misconduct, and violators of this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, as outlined below.
It is important to bear in mind that harassment is in the eye of the victim. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.
What is harassment?
Harassment is defined as epithets, slurs or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts; denigrating jokes and display or circulation of written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group. It includes any unwelcome contact or discussion of a sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature, and obscene or sexist remarks. Harassment can be targeted at one particular characteristic, or can be intersectional in tone. Women of color, for example, can experience racialized sexual harassment that targets the intersection of their identities.
For more information on sexual harassment and how it can manifest in astronomy, see the Fed Up With Sexual Harassment series on the Women in Astronomy blog. The fifth in the series specifically deals with harassment at the intersection of gender and race:
Often these incidents can take the form of “microaggressions,” which are one of the most pervasive and damaging forms of harassment. Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target individuals based upon their marginalized group membership. For example, commenting on a woman’s appearance rather than her work is a microaggression; telling someone of colour that they “speak such good English” is another example. Exclusion from a group can be a common nonverbal form of microaggression. Often, microaggressions can be couched in the form of a “compliment,” (e.g. “you’re too attractive to be a scientist”) which causes additional stress to the target when trying to decide how to respond. Targets of microaggressions must spend time decoding the insult (“This person just implied that I don’t belong in science”), wondering whether it was intentional (“Did this person mean it in the way I took it? Should that affect my response?”), and deciding whether to speak up and risk being branded as “oversensitive” by the perpetrator or others in the group (“All s/he did was pay you a compliment! Why are you overreacting?”) or ignore the comment and feel like they should have said something (“Why didn’t I stand up for myself? Does s/he now think that’s an OK thing to say to me?”). Over time, these comments can take a great toll on mental and emotional health, and the target’s feeling of belonging in science and academia.
If you are feeling uncomfortable in a situation, or if you notice an interaction between others that makes you uncomfortable, trust your gut, even if you can’t explain exactly what triggered your response. An excellent guest post on John Johnson’s blog (http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2013/12/closing-time-at-astronomy-nightclub.html) described the “alarm bells” that we all have that tell us that something isn’t right, even if we can’t identify exactly what. Trust these instincts! Research shows that we are often subconsciously picking up on warning signs that we have not consciously registered.
If you notice an interaction between other people that causes you concern, be prepared to intervene. This can be as simple as joining their conversation, or inviting them to join yours. Again, the guest blog post linked above has some good suggestions for ways to intervene without potential risks to a junior colleague’s career. If you do not feel comfortable taking direct action, please contact a member of the EPRV III organizing staff for assistance, even if you are unsure of the situation.
Procedure for reporting harassment
If you wish to report harassment, suspect that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of the EPRV III local organizing committee immediately. No one will be faulted for making a report in good faith about suspected harassment. The committee’s response to witnessed or experienced harassment will be to report the conduct to Penn State as per the University’s anti-harassment policy (see below) and, based on discussion and agreement with the person being harassed, take action accordingly. This can range from requesting that no administrative processes be initiated, to informal resolution such as a letter of reprimand, to formal resolution including disciplinary action and police involvement. Penn State’s policy for following up reports involving visitors to the University (“third parties”) is outlined here: http://www.psu.edu/dept/
You may also directly and anonymously report harassing behavior to Penn State at http://universityethics.
Penn State’s anti-harassment policy states:
“The University is committed to equal access to programs, facilities, admission and employment for all persons. It is the policy of the University to maintain an environment free of harassment and free of discrimination against any person because of age, race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, physical or mental disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information or political ideas. Discriminatory conduct and harassment, as well as sexual misconduct and relationship violence, violates the dignity of individuals, impedes the realization of the University’s educational mission, and will not be tolerated. Gender-based and sexual harassment, including sexual violence, are forms of gender discrimination in that they deny or limit an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from University programs or activities.”
The full policy may be found here: https://guru.psu.edu/