Committee on Assault Response and Educational Strategies
Our Story and Mission
Sexual harassment and assault are serious issues facing society and the academy. Additionally, sexual violence has been a pervasive theme throughout the history of the North American West, frontiers, homelands, and borderlands. As an association of historians responsible for studying and teaching this diverse history, we are committed to ensuring that our scholarly work advances and contributes to national conversations surrounding these issues.
The Committee on Assault Response and Educational Strategies (CARES) is a Standing Committee in the Western History Association (WHA). It is comprised of WHA members, including graduate students and professional members, dedicated to ending sexual harassment and assault in our organization and in our academic communities, and advocating for continued scholarly inquiry into the history of sexual violence in the North American West.
CARES owes it origins to a standing-room-only emergency “Spark Session” titled, “A Conversation on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in the Academy,” which convened on November 1 during the 2017 Annual Conference of the WHA in response to the widespread revelations of sexual misconduct in multiple industries around the world. During this session, WHA members shared their personal experiences with sexual harassment and sexual violence and expressed their frustrations about the inadequacy of Title IX enforcement on their campus communities. This hour-long panel initiated a conversation and a search for solutions that members of the WHA, the Committee on Race in the American West (CRAW), and the Coalition for Western Women’s History (CWWH) sought to continue on a regular basis.
To that end, in 2018 a diverse working group on sexual violence and harassment gathered to continue the conversation. The group created the WHA Committee on Assault Response and Educational Strategies to provide WHA members the tools to understand the problems of sexual violence and harassment, to respond to incidents in their workplaces and professional organizations, and to promote solutions to these problems through research, teaching, and advocacy. S. Deborah Kang, California State University, San Marcos, agreed to chair this group. Other working group members include José Alamillo, California State University, Channel Islands; Jennifer McPherson, Purdue University; and Erika Pérez, University of Arizona. WHA-CARES unequivocally condemns workplace harassment and violence in all its forms. It is committed to taking steps to promote a safe workplace environment for all WHA members. To this end, the mission of WHA-CARES has four components:
1. Uphold Professional Conduct: The Committee will ensure universal access to professional standards of conduct and policy statements issued by the WHA as well as the American Historical Association (AHA) with respect to sexual misconduct at professional meetings, including the WHA’s Annual Conference, and in the workplace.
2. Advocacy for Members: The Committee will explore teaching, research, and outreach opportunities for the WHA Council and WHA members to advocate for solutions to the problem of sexual misconduct. Such opportunities may include, but not be limited to, collaborations with other educational institutions advocating for the development of a national reporting system; public acknowledgment by the WHA of policy developments instituted at particular campuses; op-eds or resolutions issued in support of legislative reform at the state and national levels.
3. Reporting and Response Measures: The Committee will consult with the WHA Council and college and university Title IX coordinators to establish procedures for WHA members to report incidents of discrimination they believe to be in violation of the WHA’s anti-harassment policy (under development) and will outline procedures for responding to discrimination complaints.
4. Educational Strategies: The Committee will sponsor educational events, including conference panels, spark sessions, and mini-retreats, with other academic and non-academic organizations to raise awareness of the problem of sexual violence and harassment and to help members find appropriate resources. The Committee will provide WHA members with practical tools when confronting, experiencing, or witnessing harassing behavior. The Committee will also create and maintain a website where WHA members may access recent reports, policies, and procedures; federal government resources (ex. Title VII, Title IX, EEOC, and DOJ); a survey of college and university resources (ex. Campus Safety, Campus Psychological Services, Human Resources, Office of the Dean of Students, Peer Counselors, Title IX Coordinator, Office of Institutional Equity, Employee Assistance Program, Ombuds Office); and provide contact information for national hotlines and legal resources (ex. RAINN, MALDEF, National Bar Association). The resources would not constitute legal advice.
During the 2017 Spark Session, an esteemed WHA member tearfully reflected that silence was the only recourse for historians facing sexual harassment and discrimination in the 1970s. In the face of the ongoing failure of the nation’s educational institutions to solve the problem of workplace sexual misconduct, WHA-CARES is dedicated to providing WHA members with appropriate resources and support. As a WHA Standing Committee, WHA-CARES will ensure that members and conference attendees never have to suffer in silence again.
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