A force for good

Eric Rosane, News Editor

The Faculty Senate has begun talks on drafting a new sexual harassment task force brought up by the executive committee. This committee would combat instances of sexual harassment or misconduct where faculty use their authoritative power over students.

Kenneth Smith, department chair of the accounting department, expressed his approval of the proposed task force during public comment at the executive committee’s Jan. 17 meeting.

“Parents entrust their students to us and for us, and I think that we need to jealously protect their safety,” Smith said. “And it’s a high risk environment. [This] is education, we’re adults— people of power dealing with people who are impressionable and have less power. It’s a high-risk environment, so you need to have policies and procedures. You need to acknowledge that these kinds of things happen.”

Prevent, detect and correct were the steps that Smith said would be the best way to proceed with the implementation of the task force. Smith also said that it would benefit the task force and the corrective process if the proposed task force was based on substantive research about how to best implement detection and correction.

The executive committee also talked about the possibility of having the task force made up of not only faculty and students, but possibly parents of CWU students. This would be to increase representation on the force.

It’s not clear yet what administrative power the task force would have or if they would have any power in decision making with regards to dealing with cases of sexual harassment or discrimination.


New Resolution Passed

The senate and executive committee also unanimously passed a new resolution during Faculty Senate’s first meeting Jan. 10, which condemned any acts of sexual violence, assault, harassment or gender discrimination. In the resolution, the senate also stated that it will encourage and support all efforts to work closer with staff, faculty, students and alumni to prevent any further cases of harassment, assault or discrimination from happening.

This action by the senate comes roughly a month after the Seattle Times published an article detailing allegations from two separate investigations into political science professor and State Rep. Matt Manweller on Dec. 7.

Four days later, CWU placed Manweller on paid administrative leave and opened a new investigation on Manweller of the basis of new claims.

In a Jan. 9 interview, Executive Director of HR Staci Sleigh-Layman told the Observer that five or fewer teachers are currently being investigated on claims of sexual misconduct. She was not able to give a specific number.


Gaudino’s Letter

On Thursday Dec. 7, President James Gaudino released a public statement condemning any and all forms of sexual harassment or discrimination that happen on campus, citing the cultural change that has happened throughout sports, politics and entertainment with regards to sexual harassment. This came mere hours after the Times published their story on Manweller.

Gaudino also said that when CWU receives complaints detailing harassment in any form, Human Resources makes sure that their investigation is prompt, objective and thorough.

“Sexual harassment has become the current focus of the media spotlight,” Gaudino penned. “However, even after this issue fades from that limelight, the safety of our students and employees and the quality of the education environment we provide will continue to be our paramount duty.”