A new protected class, more detailed definitions of violations, and an appendix that includes specific examples of violations are three of the improvements Washington State University has made to Executive Policy # 15.
Executive Policy #15, or EP-15 for short, is the university’s policy pertaining to discrimination, discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment and sex and gender-based violence.
After two years of careful analysis, collecting input, and crafting changes, the university published an updated version of EP-15 today.
The call to make EP-15 more “user friendly” was initiated by students across the WSU system. They felt the policy was cumbersome to read and difficult to understand and access. In 2017, WSU President Kirk Schulz directed then Provost Daniel Bernardo and Mary Jo Gonzales, vice president of Student Affairs, to develop a plan to improve WSU’s culture and climate. That led to the creation of five working groups, one of which focused on EP-15.
“We were impressed to see how many interested and committed students, faculty, and staff provided feedback on the policy,” said Holly Ashkannejhad, director of WSU’s Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation (CRCI). “Their input led to a recognition that combatting discrimination and harassment requires the commitment and participation of our entire WSU community – the policy now clearly identifies each department’s roles and responsibilities to encourage a culture of compliance with the policy.”
New protected class
In accordance with the recently passed Washington State Senate Bill 5165, which goes into effect on June 11, 2020, EP-15 will provide protection against discrimination based on immigration or citizenship status.
Ashkannejhad explained that the CRCI has been addressing discriminatory violations related to immigration or citizenship status but, until now, they were categorized under national origin or perceived national origin.
“This updated language more accurately reflects the concerns of individuals experiencing targeted discrimination on the basis of their immigration or citizenship status”,” she said.
Expansion of violation definitions:
The EP-15 working group expanded the definitions of the 12 types of discrimination the policy protects against in order to make it easier for students, faculty and staff to understand what constitutes a violation.
“During the review process, students and employees expressed that it was not clear if certain concerns fit under the policy or were serious enough to report,” Ashkannejhad said. “The policy changes are intended to help identify a broad range of categories that can be reported and to encourage reporting of a broad spectrum of conduct.”
In addition to the expanded violation definitions, an appendix including examples of prohibited discriminatory conduct was also added. The appendix section includes easy-to-understand examples of different types of discrimination that members of the WSU community can use as a reference when considering whether or not to file a violation.
Detailed reporting options
The new policy expands information on the different reporting options available to faculty, students and staff. These include reporting to the university, reporting anonymously, reporting to confidential resources, reporting to law enforcement, and reporting to external agencies.
The policy also includes information about options when reporting to CRCI. Specifically, reports can be made to CRCI for the purpose of documenting concern, facilitating resources, requesting a consultation, requesting an alternative resolution, or requesting a university investigation.
“The goal here is to encourage reporting so that individuals can be connected with resources,” Ashkannejhad said. “Providing these options helps make that connection for individuals who may not be ready to proceed with a formal investigation, due to trauma or some other reason.”
Some of the other updates to the policy include a list of participant rights and responsibilities and clarification on the roles of departments, managers and supervisors in addressing conduct violations.
A full copy of EP-15 is available online for those interested in learning more about updates to the policy.
- Holly Ashkannejhad, J.D., director, Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation, 509-335-8288, email@example.com