Gender-based Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

I. What our unionized peers have
a. Grievance procedures
b. Effective advocacy of inclusivity
II. What we want
a. A stronger voice for change
b. Legal protection and aid in cases of harassment or discrimination

PGSU will work to support and empower graduate students who have experienced gender-based discrimination or sexual harassment. Sex discrimination (defined by Princeton as adverse treatment of an individual related to their sex, gender identity, or gender expression) and sexual misconduct (defined by Princeton as including non-consensual sexual penetration or contact, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, as well as other forms of misconduct related to sex, gender identity, or gender expression) are realities at all colleges and universities.

Princeton’s We Speak: Attitudes on Sexual Misconduct at Princeton survey found that about 10% of all graduate students who participated had experienced at least one instance of inappropriate sexual behavior (1 in 9 for 2014-15 and 1 in 10 for 2015-16). 1 in 23 graduate students surveyed experiences sexual harassment, but for women, the number was closer to 1 in 9. The survey found similar rates for experiencing non-consensual sexual contact (1 in 21 for 2014-15 and 1 in 28 for 2015-16). Notably, graduate students are less likely to report to others (a friend, an administrator, or a health professional) than are undergraduate students. Princeton’s statistics may be no better and no worse than those of our peer institutions, but it is clear that discrimination and harassment continue to pose danger for graduate student workers and to impede their work and research.

What our unionized peers have

Grievance procedures

Graduate union contracts at New York University [Article XIV], University of Michigan [Article IV], and Rutgers University [Article IV], to name a few, guarantee that violations of University non-discrimination policies can become grievances handled through the arbitration process.

At New York University [Article XIV, §B] and University of Michigan [Article IV, §B], graduate workers invoking grievance procedures relating to a violation of the non-discrimination clause may bypass the usual initial steps (e.g., meeting with an immediate supervisor or departmental chairperson) and bring the grievance directly to the Provost, granting the worker valuable privacy on sensitive matters.

Effective advocacy of inclusivity

The graduate union contract at University of Washington [Article 19, §8] guaranteed the creation of 26 all-gender bathrooms in the first year of the contract (2015) and stipulates biannual joint meetings between the union and the University to discuss additional plans and actions.
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What we want

A stronger voice for change

Currently, Princeton’s Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct makes annual recommendations for decreasing the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campus, but it lacks the authority to implement these changes and must rely on the administration to amend the University’s Rights, Rules, Responsibilities. PGSU will work integrate these and other solutions into University policies.

Legal protection and aid in cases of harassment or discrimination

PGSU’s mission statement makes clear that it stands committed to promoting better working conditions for graduate students and standing in solidarity with those whose voices have not been recognized. A union would work to increase the accountability, transparency, and resources for graduate student workers on campus in situations involving gender-based harassment and discrimination.

Recently signed contracts between graduate workers and their employers at NYU and Rutgers include articles guaranteeing that violations of University nondiscrimination policies can become grievances handled through the arbitration process. This means that the University can be held accountable for the resolution of these cases by an external body with real power. While Princeton has some effective mechanisms for protecting its students and punishing those who violate its policies, it is still too easy for a single student’s dissatisfaction with the University’s actions to be silenced by an entirely internal bureaucratic process. A union contract would allow the resolution of such cases to be more transparent and less isolating for graduate students who choose to file a formal report.

Transparency and support in Title IX adjudication processes

The adjudication process of Princeton’s Title IX office finds parties responsible or not responsible for a violation, and punishments for offences vary depending on the severity of the violation and the responsible party’s previous violations, if any. Title IX can issue no-contact or persona non grata orders during the investigation process, but the punishments for parties found responsible through Title IX hearings are decided unilaterally by the ranking administrator for the responsible party (e.g. by the Dean of Faculty for faculty members found responsible). The bureaucratic processes that surround a Title IX investigation and hearing, however, are opaque and isolating for those who must go through them, and in some cases, the outcomes are unsatisfactory.

By demanding a more complete explanation of each step of a Title IX investigation and hearing and making available union resources, PGSU will work to empower graduate student workers to navigate a difficult and time-consuming process with a better understanding of their rights and with the knowledge that their union and their community stand behind them.

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