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Grievance Reporting

1. Have a concern? Start here:

Has a concern been raised about you? In any workplace or social institution, people are bound to have disagreements about what is appropriate. This can be especially true at universities, which seek to promote open intellectual discussion of diverse and controversial ideas. Having a concern raised against you can be a troubling experience. The Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (OAAEO) represents the university and their attempt to resolve these issues. They represent neither the accuser nor the accused, but serve as a resource for both parties. The staff at the OAAEO are specially trained and have much experience dealing with those about whom concerns have been raised. They encourage you to contact them so they can inform you of the resources available to you. Due process in any complaints brought to their office requires that you are given the opportunity to hear the concerns and respond to them.

In any workplace or social institution, you may encounter speech and behavior that you find unwelcome or offensive. This can be especially true at universities, which seek to promote open intellectual discussion of diverse and controversial ideas. While some of this conduct can be valuable, some of it can also create a difficult working and learning environment. Some of it can even violate rules about Discriminatory Harassment. This flowchart aims to provide information about the processes that are available to you for dealing with this type of conduct.

The ideals of open communication and competition of ideas at universities should allow for people to challenge the views and values of others, even if they cause you discomfort or offense. The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects such speech from disciplinary action, unless it rises to the level of Discriminatory Harassment. Discriminatory Harassment is defined by the UO’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (OAAEO) as “conduct that unreasonably discriminates among individuals on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and that is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it interferes with work or academic performance. Discriminatory harassment includes sexual and racial harassment.” (more information here). The Supreme Court stipulates that Discriminatory Harassment is “harassment that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims’ educational experience, that the victims are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.”

While only conduct that qualifies as Discriminatory Harassment can be the basis of disciplinary action, other conduct that doesn’t rise to that level can nonetheless compromise learning and research goals. This may especially be true in cases of Bias. Bias is a subset of protected speech that is defined by the Bias Response Team as “any physical, spoken or written act of abuse, harassment, intimidation, use of vulgarity, cursing, making remarks of a personally destructive nature toward any other person, and any restriction or prevention of free movement of an individual.” Though such conduct cannot be the basis of discipline, you may still wish to discuss this unwelcome conduct, be it through talking with the second party directly, or discussing it with the OAAEO or the UO’s Bias Response Team (BRT) .

Distinctions between (a) merely offensive but protected conduct, (b) biased but protected conduct, and (c) unprotected Discriminatory Harassment can be difficult to make. The OAAEO is a great resource to help determine the nature of your situation and the most appropriate course of action. Even if what you have experienced is not considered to be discriminatory harassment, you may still want help in resolving the situation; you can still seek help from the OAAEO, and there are also many other resources available to you (see flowchart/list for more information).

2. Is there an identifiable second party?

Often, concerns stem from issues that arise during conflict between two individuals or a small group of individuals. If your incident is the result of an interaction between yourself and another, identifiable person or small group of people, then the best place to start in dealing with the incident is often to talk with that person/group of people.
However, some grievances do not have an identifiable second party. For example, discriminatory posters or graffiti may rise to the level of harassment, but the authors may not be readily identifiable. If you cannot identify an individual or a group of people as the second party in your incident, then the  Bias Response Team is best equipped to help you with your grievance.

3. Submit complaint to the Bias Response Team

The  Bias Response Team (BRT) works to gather information about incidents of bias and to support those who have witnessed or were targets of bias. BRT writes that “Bias occurs whether that act is, intentional or unintentional or is directed toward an individual or group regarding race, color, creed, national origin; Sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, political, religious ideology, or any other distinguishing characteristic.” The BRT can help you process your incident and determine what action to take. If the incident involves student conduct code violations, affirmative action issues, or issues of state or federal law, the BRT can connect you to resources in each of these areas for appropriate resolution. You have the option of either filling a “For Action” report if you would like the BRT to help you directly or a “For Information” report if you would simply like your incident to be recorded with no follow-up action, which can help the BRT to keep track of campus climate. For more information visit the BRT website.

4. Feel comfortable talking to the second party?

One useful method to address grievances at the UO is through open dialogue with the other party. You may find that engaging in open dialogue with the second party involved in your incident to be an effective step towards resolving your dispute or grievance. This type of dialogue can be difficult to have, especially if there is a power differential between the two parties, but the University has resources for third-party mediation to help you with these conversations (see Would you like a mediator?).

However, you may find that such a dialogue is too difficult or not possible in your particular situation. In that case, it is best to contact the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.

5. Second party willing to talk?

You may find that engaging in open dialogue with the second party involved in your incident to be an effective step towards resolving your dispute or grievance. If the second party is willing to talk, then you both need to decide what type of open dialogue you will have. Will you meet on your own? Will you have a mediator present (see Would you like a mediator?)?

However, some may find that such a dialogue is undesirable, too difficult or not possible. If the second party if not willing to talk, it is best for you to contact theOffice of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.

6. Would you like a mediator?

Even if you and the second party are both willing to talk, you may feel more comfortable having that conversation with a trained mediator present to serve as a neutral observer and/or a facilitator for the discussion. The University has several resources to help with mediation, and the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity can help you to determine which would be best in your situation and to set up a mediated conversation.

7. Follow OAAEO guidance for developing in-department resolution

You may feel more comfortable working informally with members of your own department to resolve your incident, which you can do and still get advice from the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (OAAEO). You do not have to file a formal complaint with the OAAEO in order to receive guidance from them. In most situations, it can be helpful to have someone from OAAEO provide an outside perspective on the incident and advice about how to proceed.

8. Engage in informal resolution with OAAEO

The Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (OAAEO) is equipped to help you resolve various concerns through various means. You may not want or have grounds to file a formal grievance about your situation. The OAAEO is still a helpful resource for you, as they are willing to work informally with you to find a resolution to your incident.

9. Follow OAAEO guidance for lodging formal grievance

The Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (OAAEO) is equipped to help you resolve various concerns through various means. While roughly 90% of grievances are settled through informal means, if the grievance involves a violation of a University code of conduct or a state or federal law, you may wish to file a formal complaint or grievance. The OAAEO can help you determine whether you have grounds to do so and guide you through the process. Depending on your status (student, GTF, staff, faculty) and that of the second party, this process will likely involve going through another office such as the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, or your union. The OAAEO will help you identify which is the appropriate office for starting a formal grievance process.

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