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September 2018


I'm fabulous! Why do I need the union?
Kevin McCoy


  faculty shock and denial
The initial reaction of faculty when called in for a Title IX investigation is shock and denial. These are good teachers, and they didn't believe it could ever happen to them. FA members don't need to worry, though, as they'll have an FA rep by their side throughout the process. (graphic by Cynthia Eaton)

Over the past two years, Dante Morelli and I attended nearly 100 Title IX investigations and disciplinary meetings.

The initial reaction of faculty when notified is shock. The second reaction is that they tell us that it could never happen to them: They talk about the positive rapport they have with their students, the good relationship they have with their supervisor and the impressive CV they have built up over the years.

In most cases these are excellent teachers, and you would never expect them be summoned to a disciplinary meeting or Title IX investigation. (For some helpful hints on how to avoid receiving complaints, see the December 2017 issue of The WORD: “Avoid becoming the subject of a Title IX complaint.”)

The reason we are seeing a dramatic jump in these meetings is that federal law now requires the college to conduct an investigation whenever a student files a Title IX complaint. The college is understandably risk averse, so complaints that in the past would have been handled by academic chairs are now handled by the Title IX office, legal affairs or human resources.

You can be an excellent employee and still be the subject of a complaint. Below are some case studies from the meetings Dante and I attended:

  • A student with testing accommodations brings an ADA discrimination complaint after a faculty member catches them cheating.
  • A religious student brings religious discrimination complaints against several faculty members, claiming their religious rights were violated when legitimate course content was discussed.
    A student files a sexual harassment complaint against a Physical Ed teacher who touched the student while teaching a particular movement related to the course.
  • A student makes a discrimination complaint when a psychology professor talks about impact of race and ethnicity.
  • A student brings a complaint against a sociology professor for talking about politics during class.
  • An art professor receives a sexual harassment complaint when the professor showed a piece of art that a student thought was sexist.

While it is extremely uncomfortable to receive a registered letter from the college’s legal affairs office directing you to arrange a meeting, you should not panic. If you are a member of the FA, you will have a union representative with you at the meeting.

However, if you are not a union member, you should reconsider your decision not to join the union. If the college continues the investigation after the initial meeting, you will definitely want the union to be there with you for the entire process. We also have access to a NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist who can also assist you during the investigation.

Another reason not to panic: many other excellent professors have found themselves in the same situation, and with the FA’s support and assistance, they’ve gotten through the process just fine.

It’s another good reason to stay UNION STRONG.