Faculty Resource Guide

The following information includes ideas, recommendations, and practices for instructors in supporting students impacted by gender-based violence and harassment. We recognize that each student will navigate impact and circumstances that are unique to their experience, and that the options and flexibility that an instructor may be able to provide will vary on a number of factors, including the course itself. If the Gender Violence Services Coordinators (GVSCs) can support you in brainstorming options and considerations for supporting students in your course or program, please reach out to us at [email protected] or 919-962-1343.

Introduction

Every year, experiences of sexual and interpersonal violence, stalking, and sexual and gender-based harassment impact members of our campus community. During their time on campus, students may navigate the impact of violence that occurred before or during their time at Carolina, and work to cope and manage impact that may intersect with many parts of their lives, including their academics, coursework, and learning environments. 

According to the 2019 Association of American Universities’ (AAU) Campus Climate Survey, 20.7% of UNC-Chapel Hill survey respondents reported experiencing sexual touching or penetration involving force, an inability to consent, coercion, or non-voluntary agreement since entering college. Aggregate data for all 33 campuses that participated in the climate survey indicated that gender-based violence and harassment had a significant academic impact for students. Results showed 62% of women, 75.7% of transgender, genderqueer or nonbinary, or questioning individuals, and 48.2% of men reported at least one academic or professional consequence such as difficulty concentrating on studies, assignments or exams, decreased class attendance, and difficulty going to work.

Responding to Disclosures

When a student chooses to share their personal experience with an instructor, we encourage the instructor to consider the trust and vulnerability the student expressed by disclosing. 

Some students may be comfortable disclosing, and for others, choosing to share with a professor may be the only way they feel they can ask for help or seek assistance for the course. Students may disclose in-person, via email, or through assignments and coursework. We encourage instructors to thank students for sharing their experience, affirm their support for the student, and ask how they would like to proceed in discussing their needs and potential options for support that may exist in your course. We also encourage instructors to refrain from asking detailed questions about the student's experience or the incident and focus any questions on identifying concerns and needed support related to the student's academics and well-being. When instructors respond with care and compassion, we often see that students are more likely to engage with them to best determine how they can move forward in the course.

"Thank you so much for trusting me with this information. Is there any support you feel that you need related to our class or outside of the classroom?"

"Thank you for sharing this with me. How about we work together to come up with a plan for your success in class this semester?"

Instructors may be interested in following up with a student at a later point to check in. In the initial conversation with a student, we encourage instructors to share that they would like to follow up with the student and ask if the student is comfortable with that. From there, the instructor and student can come up with a plan for follow up that may include a timeframe and method of follow up. Some students may feel more comfortable initiating a conversation while others may find an email check in helpful. This allows the student to set boundaries and develop a sense of control around sharing their experience. Follow the student’s lead – some may share details, others a vague update, and some may not respond at all. If a professor has concerns about following up with a student or a student’s lack of engagement, please reach out to us and we are happy to brainstorm ideas and approaches. 

"I really appreciate your openness in sharing this with me so that we can talk through how I can best support you. Is it okay if I follow up with you around midterms?"

Employee Responsibilities to Report

It is important for instructors to understand if they are designated as a Responsible Employee and/or Campus Security Authority. If instructors hold these designations, they are required to share information they learn regarding gender-based violence and harassment with the appropriate office.

We encourage instructors who hold Responsible Employee and/or Campus Security Authority designations to proactively inform students about the designation(s), responsibility to share information, and what will happen once information is shared. Ways to inform students include incorporating a syllabus statement for the course, reviewing designations during the first class, and reminding students at the beginning of any individual conversation. While all instructors may not hold these designations, we encourage them to work with departments to determine whether any reporting protocols may exist specific to a department or school. 

When informing students about the requirement to share information with the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (Responsible Employee) and/or the Clery Compliance Coordinator (Campus Security Authority), please share that the student should expect an outreach email from the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office offering support and resources. Students are not obligated to respond to that email. 

For questions about Response Employee or Campus Security Authority designations, please contact the following offices: 

Referring to Resources

Instructors do not need to be experts in all the options and support available. Instead, they can serve as an informed bridge by sharing resources and helping students connect with resources of interest.

Upon receiving a Responsible Employee report, the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office will send outreach to the student to share resources and offer to connect. However, instructors are encouraged to still share information about resources like Safe at UNC, the Gender Violence Services Coordinators, and the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office regardless of whether a Responsible Employee report is made.

With a student's explicit permission, instructors can also offer to connect the student directly with a resource to help make the referral. Some students find it helpful for their instructor to send an introductory email to the Gender Violence Services Coordinators ([email protected]) or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office’s Report and Response Coordinators ([email protected]) and copy them on it. This email does not need to include any details about what they have shared and can focus on their interest in connecting. 

It is important to refrain from providing advice or direction about the resources a student “should” connect with. Students need to feel empowered to make decisions that are best for them and instructors can play a critical role in supporting their decision-making. Some students may opt to connect with resources immediately and others may take some time to consider their options and needs.

Support for Yourself

It can be difficult to learn that gender-based violence or harassment has impacted someone you know. It is not uncommon to feel some level of personal impact when you learn of someone's experience or are offering support. We encourage instructors to seek support for themselves and reach out to resources available on campus and in the community. 

All GVSC services are available for students, faculty and staff. Please reach out to share any impact you may feel and discuss questions or concerns that arise as you are supporting a student. Instructors do not need to disclose identifying or specific information about a student in order for us to provide a supportive space for processing. 

Learn more about supporting yourself and victims/survivors on the Safe at UNC website.

Types of Academic Support the GVSCs Offer

Options for academic support will vary depending on a student's needs, circumstances, and concerns. Learn more about academic support that exists for students impacted by gender-based violence and harassment on the Safe at UNC website. 

Professor Notifications

Professor notifications may be sent by the Gender Violence Services Coordinators and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office. A professor notification email indicates that a student has connected with a resource and serves as an informal request for any support or flexibility that may be possible. The email does not include specific details about the student's experience. 

Professor notifications are separate from any formal accommodations a student may receive through Equal Opportunity and Compliance's accommodations process. In most cases, a professor notification does not include any specific requests for support. Instead, the email serves as a way to initiate conversation between the student and instructor. 

We inform students that a professor notification does not request or guarantee specific options or flexibility for a class and/or coursework. Students often find it helpful when an instructor confirms receipt of the email and offers any support or next steps, such as an invitation for further conversation or any specific options that might be available. 

University Approved Absences

Circumstances and impact related to gender-based violence and harassment may qualify for University Approved Absences (UAA). A University Approved Absence requires instructors to make reasonable accommodations to allow students a fair and equitable experience in the course. University Approved Absences are approved by designated resources on campus and issued through the University Approved Absence Office (UAAO). If a student would like to request a University Approved Absence in a confidential manner, they may reach out directly to the Gender Violence Services Coordinators at [email protected] or 919-962-1343.

Referrals

The Gender Violence Services Coordinators work to connect students to other offices across campus to help coordinate academic support including Equal Opportunity and Compliance's accommodations team, Dean of Students, UNC Advising and academic advisors, and Counseling and Psychological Services

Fostering a Supportive Learning Environment

Ideas like the ones below may help instructors convey to students their awareness, recognition, and consideration of the impact experiences of gender-based violence and harassment can have on a student's experience.

Syllabus Statement: A syllabus statement conveys an instructor's recognition of gender-based violence and harassment's impact, provides information about resources, and can help normalize seeking support. Example language is included in the Tips for Faculty on the Safe at UNC website. 

HAVEN Training: After completing the HAVEN training, display your placard or sticker prominently in your office, email signature, website, or syllabus. 

Content Awareness: Include notations on syllabi for topics, assignments, readings, lectures, etc. that may relate to gender-based violence and harassment. Encourage students to reach out proactively if they have concerns about participating or completing coursework on these topics and consider offering alternative assignments or attendance options for those classes, if reasonable. 

Advance Notice and Reminders: Proactively remind and share information with students about upcoming relevant topics or coursework to help students prepare for class. 

Breaks during Class: Offer quick breaks during discussion for lectures related to gender-based violence and harassment, when reasonable. Offering students a couple minutes to get water, stretch, or briefly change up their environment may help students who are concerned about singling themselves out or excusing themselves during class. 

Ideas for Course-Specific Support

We recognize not all ideas may be possible for every course, and we encourage instructors to balance support and flexibility while upholding fairness and learning objectives for their course. Many of the strategies and practices below have come from instructors across our campus in a variety of programs and disciplines.

  • Flexible Attendance: Some instructors may permit additional absences, allow a student to come late or leave early, or participate remotely, asynchronously, etc.
  • Alternative Assignments: This could look like offering for a student to present an assignment to the instructor and teaching assistant versus the class, submit reading summaries instead of class participation, or complete the same assignment with a different, but relevant, topic than the original one.
  • Alternative Testing Locations and Times: Some students may benefit from taking tests or exams in a different location or at a different time. We've seen instructors use their offices, allow a teaching assistant to monitor at alternative times or locations, or request the student uses the Undergraduate Testing Center or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Testing Center if they have accommodations. 
  • Navigating a Shared Classroom: A student may share class with someone who harmed them. If this situation arises, it can be helpful to strategize ways to create distance between them in situations like group work, shared projects, peer grading, and seating configurations. For more assistance in navigating shared learning spaces, we encourage instructors and/or the impacted student to reach out to the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office at [email protected] to strategize options and considerations.
  • Grading: Some instructors may adjust weights for graded assignments. For example, if a student is struggling with attendance, the instructor may reduce the weight of their attendance grade and increase the weight for other assignments or coursework.
  • Plan for the Semester: Offer to meet with the student to come up with a plan for the semester. This can be a great way to review expectations and course schedule, identify areas of concern, and proactively consider options and flexibility that may be available. 
  • Disclosures in Assignments: If a student discloses in an assignment, it can be helpful to follow up and acknowledge their disclosure, thank them for sharing, and offer to connect them with resources. We encourage instructors to include information about your Responsible Employee or Campus Security Authority designations, if applicable.

Considerations for Virtual Learning

Remote and virtual learning environments present unique challenges. Video platforms invite users into an individual’s personal space, which can feel intimate, violating, and impact privacy. The space students use to attend class and study not be a safe environment for them or may be the same space they were harmed in. 

Surroundings can provide cues or information about location which may aid someone in monitoring or tracking. When students share a class with someone who has harmed them, the “face-to-face" nature of virtual learning increases the ways a student must interact, see, or hear the other person. Platforms can also serve as an additional channel for unwanted communication and harassment. 

Many recommendations for supporting students mentioned in this guide remain applicable in the virtual environment. However, here are some additional supports that may be helpful for remote and virtual learning environments. 

  • Flexible Video Policy: We recognize the challenge of teaching to a screen of blank squares. However, students may feel more comfortable participating and engaging in class if they have flexibility to turn their video on or off. Some instructors may always allow for video flexibility and some structure their course to include only specific times where video is required.
  • Chat Feature: If a student shares concerns regarding unwanted communication, it may be helpful to turn off the chat feature for the duration of class. In other circumstances and cases, the chat feature may allow a student to participate in a safer and more comfortable manner than audio and video afford. 
  • Exam Proctoring: If an exam requires proctoring, it may be helpful to provide options for how it can be proctored. For some students, in-person proctoring may be preferable over sharing a virtual space with classmates or being monitored by an online, remote proctor who is not visible to them. 
  • Virtual Backgrounds: Allowing virtual or blurred backgrounds can help students participate via video without having to show their location or surrounding environment. 

Difficult Course Topics

A student's experience of gender-based violence or harassment is unique to them, so it is challenging to know which topics may or may not be difficult for particular students in your class. 

Topics or content that explicitly reference sexual violence, interpersonal (relationship) violence, stalking, or sexual or gender-based harassment may be challenging. For others, it may be topics that are relevant and specific to the circumstances of their own experience. We encourage instructors to create a classroom environment where students feel supported in sharing their needs and concerns without requiring them to disclose specific details of their experience.

We encourage instructors to be proactive in sharing information about topics and content that will be covered throughout a course to help students prepare appropriately for their engagement and seek support when needed.

As mentioned in the "Fostering a Supportive Learning Environment" section (above), including notations on syllabi can be helpful for students in approaching and engaging with topics, assignments, readings, lectures, etc. that may relate to gender-based violence and harassment.

Common Responses to Gender-Based Violence and Harassment

There is no right way for a student to respond or cope after experiencing gender-based violence or harassment. Students may feel a range of emotions, reactions, or responses, and all these may shift and change over time.

Learn more about common responses and supporting victims/survivors on the Safe at UNC website.

Learn More: HAVEN Training

For additional training related to supporting individuals impacted by gender-based violence and harassment, register for a HAVEN training. HAVEN (Helping Advocates for Ending Violence Now) is a 3-hour training that emphasizes the importance of listening, responding compassionately, and connecting individuals to resources on campus and in the community. 

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