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General information about new guideline for fostering and ensuring a positive social environment at UCT Prague

Defining a “positive social environment”

What the guideline encompasses:

Violation of personal dignity in interpersonal relationships (all forms of behaviour that violate human dignity, including discrimination, aggression, bullying, intimidation, sexual violence, or other forms of oppression).

What the guideline does not include:

  • Relationships between students and UCT Prague as an institution (meaning non-personal issues involving UCT Prague’s rules/system; such matters are resolved by the disciplinary code/Disciplinary Panel)
  • Relationships between employees and UCT Prague as an institution (meaning non-personal issues with UCT Prague’s rules/system; dealt with by labour laws; Personnel Department)
  • Research ethics and plagiarism (violations of scientific fair-play; exclusively handled by the Ethics Committee)

 

Introduction

In order for universities to fulfil their mission, which includes creating an appropriate environment for education and research, it is essential that they foster and ensure a positive environment in which everyone feels free. UCT Prague students, instructors, and employees need to concentrate on their studies, research, and work, which is not possible if they have to deal with intolerable harassment.

Harassment is verbal or physical behaviour so severe or happening repeatedly resulting in disproportionate interference with an individual’s ability to work or study and/or that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment/set of behaviours in the workplace or as part of the educational process. Such behaviour stems from different origins: ranging from a pathologically disproportionate pressure to perform; to personal cultural, racial, or gender antipathies; to sexually motivated behaviour, among others.

UCT Prague’s leadership is aware that these are often very complicated situations in which it is not always clear what the ideal resolution procedure should look like. Thus, the procedures and measures described here should serve as a guideline offering help with assessing such situations and resolving them.

The main goal in resolving interpersonal misunderstandings and disputes is reaching a timely and fair state of calm and equilibrium. This usually means:

  • Explanation and comparison of the asymmetric perceptions and emotions of the actors involved
  • Having the involved parties reaching an agreement about how to prevent an undesirable state in the future
  • In cases that will require it, resolution of a formal dispute (=formal solution, most often by the Ethics Committee)

 

Why is it necessary for interpersonal disputes to be systematically resolved?

A person's subjective belief that their conduct is/is not humiliating, intimidating, or hostile does not necessarily mean that the conduct does/does not constitute intolerable harassment.

Differences in understanding in such situations creates negative consequences for one or both actors involved and also can negatively impact their professional and social surroundings.

The negative effects are multiplied by three primary factors:

1) If the harassment/behaviour persists despite requests to stop it.

2) Power inequality: A supervisor’s either positive or negative behaviour is perceived more intensely by a subordinate. A wide range of relationships can be included as this kind of inequality.

  • These can be so-called hard power differences (e.g. age, year of study, titles achieved, academic function, generally higher positions in any hierarchical system, or the ability to set the rules in a situation). Hard power differences are more significant, from an institutional perspective, than soft power differences.
  • Soft power differences include, among others, the superiority of a highly intelligent person over an average person; the “superiority” of an attractive person as perceived by another person; in society, the predominance of a more socially-capable person over a less-social one. Interpersonal relationships tend to be a complex mix of those inequalities. However, it is generally assumed that a person in a higher position carries, together with more experience and power, more responsibility in caring for the social well-being of subordinates.

3) Delay: Not resolving disagreements when they occur. Feelings of wrongdoing that have not been addressed deepen over time, making it more likely that behaviour(s) will be repeated and that the realities of the original situation become less clear and more subject to subjective interpretation.

  • This is why it is also in UCT Prague’s interest to resolve misunderstandings, disagreements, and possibly more serious problems continuously, actively, and as soon as possible—to prevent additional negative impacts for both parties in a dispute, including future study, research, or work impacts.

 

Mechanism for handling incidents

We hope that the vast majority of incidents can be resolved informally by finding a settlement or agreement regarding a path forward. This is why UCT Prague’s incident settlement mechanism is based on a robust informal procedure.

  1. SafeTalk Anonymous Chat. This service, above all, provides a way to orient oneself in a situation, regardless of one's own feelings about a problem. Experience from other universities indicates that the majority of issues can be resolved at this stage. Anyone, in any position, in any situation, can contact SafeTalk anonymously (anonymity is guaranteed by the service provider, an independent third party) to discuss a situation and a possible course of future action.
  2. UCT Prague’s contact person serves as a trustworthy guide and moderator for any situation. Using anonymous chat, the contact person communicates with those affected and leads the process of working towards a solution. UCT Prague’s Rector, Pavel Matějka, has entrusted the role of contact person to UCT Prague’s Chancellor , Klára Muzikářová, who reports directly to the Rector.
  3. If it is necessary to ensure psychological stabilization of the parties involved, a psychologist will be consulted. Likewise, the UCT Prague contact person is trained in psychological crisis intervention.
  4. The preferred form of incident resolution is an informally moderated resolution, where, under the guidance of the UCT Prague contact person, an effort is made to find an amicable result and agreement about next steps in confidentiality, without superiors or others being notified.
    1. The result of the agreement is a resolution workable for both parties and UCT Prague (represented by the contact person).
  5. If this process fails, an incident will be handled by a formal process after a final consultation with the UCT Prague contact person. Please note that a formal complaint cannot be filed anonymously.
  6. This process is subject to relevant UCT Prague regulations such as Ethics Committee rules/procedures.
    1. A formal procedure results in a recommendation for corrective or disciplinary measures provided by the Ethics Committee to the relevant Deans, Rector, or senior employee of a given faculty/department.
    2. In the event of an offense by a student, the process will include disciplinary proceedings following valid UCT Prague regulations (read more).

 

Implementation action plan

A series of educational workshops, together with educational materials, on the topic of interpersonal ethics will be offered to employees and students.

Action/education plan for implementing informal resolution services

  • UCT Prague contact person appointed: May 2023
  • SafeTalk anonymous chat launched: May 2023
  • Regulations and Ethics Committee role modified: June 2023
  • Informational brochures for students updated: Spring 2023
  • Educational video launched: Summer/Autumn 2023
  • Educational workshops for Ethics Committee: Summer to Autumn 2023 (+ regular repetition)
  • Educational workshops for the academic community: Autumn 2023
  • Educational articles in SPIN magazine: Autumn 2023+
  • Activity report/statistics from the first year of service operation: June 2024

 

Has something happened that you would like to discuss?

Updated: 22.3.2024 11:08, Author: Jan Kříž

CONTACT

UCT Prague
Technická 5
166 28 Prague 6 – Dejvice
Identification No.: 60461373
VAT: CZ60461373


Copyright: UCT Prague
Information provided by the Department of Communication.

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