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Update from the ASA Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Assault

1 June 2018 One Comment
Leslie McClure, Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Assault Chair

    Over the past few years, public acknowledgement of sexual harassment/assault has emerged as a critical workplace and professional issue in need of greater attention. No social environment is immune to it. Members of associations like the American Statistical Association deserve policies that preserve the dignity of members individually and professionally. In November of 2017, the ASA Board of Directors approved the formation of the Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Assault.

    The charge of the task force is as follows:

    1. Assess the extent of sexual harassment/assault in the ASA community.
      • Review surveys used by other professional organizations to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment/assault.
      • Develop an ASA membership survey to assess the frequency, location, and kinds of harassment/assault occurring.
      • Distribute the survey to ASA membership.
      • Summarize the findings from the survey.
    2. Review the current best practices of professional organizations and academic institutions with respect to sexual harassment/assault.
    3. Consider creation of a resource that allows victims of sexual harassment and assault to anonymously receive support.
    4. Make recommendations to the ASA Board of Directors regarding sexual harassment/assault policy changes for the organization.

    What follows is an update on our activities since the task force was approved by the board.

    During the two months following the formulation of these charges, the ASA president, in consultation with the executive director, appointed task force members with the goal of including a diverse, representative cross-section of the ASA membership. The membership of the task force can be found on the ASA website.

    The task force members convened for the first time at the end of January and have met a few more times since. There are regular meetings scheduled going forward and members have begun addressing the charges above. Task force members are diverse and each brings different experiences to the table, thus enabling lively discussion with a variety of perspectives.

    Following is the progress made on each of the four main charges:

    Survey of Sexual Harassment/Assault in the ASA Community
    We are fortunate to have experienced survey statisticians among our task force membership who drafted a plan describing options for developing and implementing a way to gather information about our membership’s experiences and perceptions of sexual harassment. As we reviewed the potential paths available for this effort (e.g., formal or informal survey, census), it became clear this was an undertaking larger than could be handled by the task force. The ASA has thus graciously agreed to fund a membership survey and has put out a request for proposals (RFP) to external organizations.

    The chosen organization will contact all ASA members and give them an opportunity to answer a set of questions related to their experiences and perceptions of sexual harassment. The responses will not constitute a probability sample, but will provide valuable information about the severity of these issues among our membership.

    In addition to the obvious benefits of allowing professionals to manage this effort, it also buy ativan sale allows the data to “live” outside of the ASA, which is important given the sensitive nature of the data collection.

    The RFP was developed by the ASA staff and has been reviewed and revised by the task force. It was made publicly available on April 25, 2018.

    Early in our discussions, we reached out to colleagues at the American Political Science Association (APSA), which recently published the results of its survey on sexual misconduct in their discipline. We received important and useful feedback from their executive director that helped guide some of our discussions about our approach.

    Review of Best Practices
    We have been assembling information from other professional organizations regarding their policies on sexual assault and harassment, both for meetings and professional conduct. In this vein, we included a request for input from ASA members in the April 18 member e-newsletter.

    Resource for Anonymous Reporting
    We have not yet directly addressed the development of a mechanism for anonymous reporting of incidents of sexual assault and harassment; however, for most of our discussions, reporting is an issue we have touched on. As we move forward with developing policy recommendations, discussions of a reporting mechanism will be the next step.

    Policy Recommendations to the ASA Board
    With respect to policy recommendations to the ASA Board, we have started the process of examining the current meeting conduct policy and are brainstorming ways to improve the policy and the means by which it is communicated to the ASA membership. This has led to discussions about policy for meeting conduct vs. policy for professional conduct. In addition, we have had much discussion about psychological, confidentiality, legal, and reporting issues that may arise through implementation of such policies, thus resulting in recommendations that the ASA employ an ombudsperson for the Joint Statistical Meetings. This would allow reporting to occur in a confidential manner and to someone who has training in the psychological and legal actions necessary in these situations.

    In addition to the topics described above, we have talked about how to engage the ASA community more broadly in our efforts. We have therefore reached out to the Committee on Women in Statistics, Committee on Professional Ethics, and Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment to ensure we align our efforts. We are particularly interested in working with the Committee on Professional Ethics to ensure we address the professional conduct aspects of sexual misconduct. In addition, as described above, we have solicited input from the ASA membership regarding best practices for an inclusive meeting/organization and plan to solicit input on our draft policy recommendations.

    We have made a decision to be proactive, rather than reactive, and to think about the long-term goals of our recommendations. It is our hope that the recommendations we make are approved by the ASA and make an impact on the health and happiness of our organization.

    The ASA Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Assault welcomes your input and invites you to provide feedback.

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    One Comment »

    • Danna Moore said:

      I would like to serve on the task force if still open. I have been an IRB member on two different boards (state department of health, HHS and university, 12 years experience. I also presented sexual assault survey results for Washington State to AAPOR and ISI meetings(women issues) in the past. This is an extremely important topic and strongly related to mental health outcomes.