By March 5th, all Academic Division, Medical Center, and College at Wise faculty and staff at the University of Virginia will have completed online training on Preventing and Addressing Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation (PADHR). This newly updated module, released by the University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR), operates in addition to the Title IX initiative “Not on Our Grounds – Responsible Employee Training,” which covers sexual and gender-based harassment and other forms of personal violence.
According to the EOCR, the University had contracted with an external vendor for this type of online training prior to 2015. However, after an update to Title IX policy, the EOCR decided to create its own UVa-centric online training for PADHR guidelines.
This type of workplace training regularly occurs every two years and extends to include all part-time and full-time employees at UVa, including student staff. However, the email issued to UVa employees specifically places the PADHR training in the context of recent reports of inappropriate behavior in the workplaces that include everywhere from the film industry in Hollywood to large media organizations such as Fox News and NBC.
“In recent months, stories of workplace harassment and other forms of inappropriate behavior in various corners of society have received daily news coverage and dominated our national conversation,” UVa President Teresa Sullivan wrote in the email. “Every employee plays a critical role in this effort to ensure that our community reflects our values, both as individuals and as an institution.”
The updated training module feels particularly timely to some members of the UVa community, especially when viewed in light of the #MeToo movement – a viral protest aimed at demonstrating the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace – and the Women’s Marches of 2017 and 2018.
For Olivia Henderson, a fourth-year student who recently attended the second Women’s March this January, workplace training for faculty and staff is just one of the ways by which to improve gender inequalities.
“I think the translation [of the Women’s March] to workplace harassment training is to focus on solidifying the interactions between women in the workplace and creating a strong united front,” she added. “Women in higher-ranking positions should be able to serve as a safe confidant for reporting workplace harassment.”
Elizabeth Gorman, an Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at UVa, is also happy to see the change. She explained that, “in order to develop a truly effective training program related to harassment, we probably need a better understanding than we currently have of why men do it in the first place.”
At the same time, Gorman noted that, while research is limited on the effectiveness of any form of diversity-related training in terms of changing behavior or bringing about better outcomes for women or minorities, “there is some evidence that it actually has small negative effects by raising subjects’ conscious awareness of race and gender.”
This subsequent backlash, Gorman explained, can prompt an avoidance of situations in which differences in race or gender are obvious. Unfortunately, she noted that this could potentially result in the exclusion of women from career opportunities such as dinners and business travel.
For now, the updated modules at least aid members of the University faculty and staff in understanding issues of gender inequality here in Charlottesville. And, according to Henderson, it is about time that the community listened.
“There needs to be a reframing of men and how they think of women…we need to reframe how men think of the value of women and treat them as equals instead of things they can use,” Henderson said.