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The purpose of these pages is to inform members of our community about resources, policies and best practices related to the handling of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is a specific type of discriminatory harassment.
The Policy Against Harassment at ACM Activities provides the following definition:
Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal/physical conduct of a sexual nature. Examples include (but are not limited to):
– unwelcome advances or propositions, particularly when one individual has authority over the other;
– inappropriate touching of an individual’s body;
– degrading or humiliating comments about an individual’s appearance;
– using an activity-related communication channel to display or distribute sexually explicit images or messages.
The following links cover some but not all examples of sexual harassment:
- Sexual Harassment at Work (from Equal Rights Advocates, a civil rights organization)
- Examples of Sexual and Non-Sexual Harassment (from The Balance Careers, a career advice website)
- What is Sexual Harassment? (from the UN Women Watch)
- Sexual Harassment Resource (from the National Postdoctoral Association)
Title IX is a law that prohibits discrimination based on sex regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, pregnant or parenting status, and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) identity. This law applies to universities as well as K-12 institutions in the US.
Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.
If you are a student at a US university, you can report incidents of harassment to your Title IX office. You do not need to be a US citizen to be protected.
- The Title IX Office is required to assess and respond to all complaints or reports they receive.
- You can report to the Title IX office at your university even if the incident occurred off campus.
- If an incident involves a professor from another US university, e.g. at a conference, you can report it to their Title IX office as well.
- Please be aware that Title IX does not guarantee confidentiality. Moreover, any person of authority at the university (such as a faculty member) may be required to report to the Title IX office any incident of harassment they are aware of. Therefore, if confidentiality is paramount, a student may wish to first seek guidance or advice from other campus or community resources (such as confidential advocates) which can offer full confidentiality and help the student determine next steps, including whether to contact a Title IX office or other person of authority at the institution.
- Check your local Title IX web pages for more precise information about how these issues are addressed at your university.
The NSF is in the process of implementing a new policy whereby institutions supported by NSF will be required to disclose when researchers are found to have violated policies or are put on leave pending investigation.
Most companies and research labs have human resource departments to which you can report harassment by one of their employees, whether you work there or not.
Most computer science researchers work at universities, government labs, and companies. These workplaces typically have strict codes of conduct. However, conduct at conferences is just as critical because these form a global workplace and community for researchers and contribute in a critical way to career advancement, grant funding, and collaboration. Conferences should thus encourage and enforce the same code of conduct as local workplaces.
Advice for Conference Organizers
- Ensure that the organizers, keynote speakers, panelists, and other visible conference leadership includes women and minorities, and their numbers mirror or exceed the diversity of the attendees. Research shows that just having more women and minorities in visible, prestigious roles changes workplace culture and behavior.
- Ensure that conference web pages contain a code of conduct (see bottom left tab).
- Have attendees confirm that they will abide by the code of conduct as part of registration.
- Establish a process for reporting violations of the code of conduct.
- We recommend including an option for anonymous reporting.
- Make clear that retaliation will not be tolerated.
- Identify and publicize the contact information for a person that attendees can turn to in the event of an issue.
- If your conference has an app, include links to local sexual harassment resources.
- Establish and publish a clear process for how the organization investigates incidents, including a procedure for determining the outcome.
- For example, ACM has a process that involves reporting to the conference chair or the ACM President or the ACM CEO.
- Put up a slide on expected behavior during the first session of the conference.
* See bottom left tab for sample codes of conduct
A number of research communities within computer science have formed committees to help combat harassment and discrimination, collect resources, and develop best practices. These subfields include:
ACM encourages any SIG to form a committee for per-conference, on the ground support of people who experience harassment/discrimination at a SIG conference.
The individual still reports directly to ACM, but the per-conference committee members can offer support in the immediate aftermath of an event. The presence of trusted, familiar people at a conference can help encourage people to report and can encourage a better atmosphere.
* Please let us know how your research community is addressing sexual harassment, as we’d like to share your resources on our site.