The more and more we hear about discrimination and harassment in academia, the more it becomes clear that one of the biggest problems with the current system is the potential for roadblocks along the reporting path. Somewhere along the way, it is possible for a Chair, Dean, Administrator, Lawyer, etc., to say "this isn't enough to be considered." and that's it. And certainly, with the degree to which universities appear to be more interested in self-protection than fixing the problem, these incidents can and have been swept under the rug with little to no change.
So how do we start to fix the reporting side? How do we remove roadblocks to the reporting process so that complaints are at least heard at the different levels they need to be? At my institution there is a form that one fills out to submit a complaint, which is filtered through our (woefully understaffed) Affirmative Action office, which spends 90 days investigating before a finding is sent to the Provost. Just the Provost.
I see a lot of issues here, many of them stemming from whether the mindset of a few individuals is set to protect the university or protect the complainant. Recent cases in the news make it very clear where many administrators are inclined to come down.
I don't have the answer, but I do seem to have the ear of the people in admin who could likely effect change. How do we set up a reporting system that is both transparent enough, while protect victims? Who needs to be informed of a complaint and when? How do we simplify the process to make it as easy as possible for victims to be heard? What safeguards need to be in place to protect them after a complaint? How do we make it so we are not asking the victims to shoulder all the work and consequence of this process?
I am aware of the issues that exist on the punishment side of this equation, but for now I would like to focus on the reporting side.