SCWH Sexual Harassment Policy Announced Last Week

SCWH Sexual Harassment Policy Announced Last Week

Last week, the Society of Civil War Historians announced a new policy on sexual harassment that brings the organization in line with the new standards endorsed by the American Historical Association and others.  As the official journal of the society, the JCWE is committed to supporting this policy in our work for the journal and in our participation in the society.

The Society of Civil War Historians strongly opposes sexual harassment in all aspects of academia. In adapting the Sexual Harassment Policy of the Southern Historical Association (with which we are an affiliated society), the Society offers the following Code of Ethics for its members and for the consideration of the larger society.

I. A. Sexual harassment within academe is unethical, unprofessional, and threatening to academic freedom. In the academic context, the term “sexual harassment” may be used to describe a wide range of behaviors. It includes, but is not limited to, the following: sexist remarks or behavior, whether in or out of the classroom; requests for sexual favors; sexual advances, whether sanction free, linked to reward, or accompanied by threat of retaliation; the use of authority to emphasize the sexuality or sexual identity of a student in a manner that prevents or impairs that student’s full enjoyment of educational benefits, climate, or opportunities; and sexual assault. Such behaviors are unacceptable because they are forms of unprofessional conduct that seriously undermine the atmosphere of trust essential to the academic environment.

B. The potential of sexual harassment is not limited to incidents involving members of the profession and students. Sexual harassment of colleagues and staff also is unethical, as is student harassment of other students.

C. It is unprofessional behavior to condone sexual harassment or to disregard complaints of sexual harassment from students, staff, or colleagues. Such actions or inactions allow a sexually hostile environment to exist and are inconsistent with the maintenance of academic freedom.

II. In addition to sexual harassment, amorous relationships that might be appropriate in other circumstances are inappropriate and should be avoided when they occur between members of the profession and any student for whom he or she has a professional responsibility. Implicit in the idea of professionalism is the recognition by those in positions of authority that in their relationships with their students there is always an element of power. It is incumbent upon members of the profession not to abuse, nor seem to abuse the power with which they are entrusted, since relationships between members of the profession and their students are quite imbalanced. Such relationships may have the effect of undermining the atmosphere of trust among students and faculty on which the educational process depends.

III. The Society of Civil War Historians encourages chairs of departments of history to pass these guidelines on to the members of their departments. It suggests, moreover, that department chairs and historians urge their respective universities and workplaces to enforce existing federal regulations prohibiting sexual harassment and to publicize grievance procedures available to students, faculty, or staff who have been subjected to sexual harassment.

If SCWH members encounter problems of sexual harassment, they should refer those problems to the American Historical Association’s Professional Division, located at 400 A Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003-3889. Telephone: 202-544-2422. As the umbrella organization for the history profession, the AHA’s Professional Division has experience in handling sexual harassment complaints. The Division also has legal counsel to guide its work.

Judy Giesberg

Judith Giesberg is professor of history at Villanova University and author, most recently, of Sex and the Civil War: Soldiers, Pornography, and the Making of American Morality (UNC, 2017).

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