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Thursday, September 23, 2021

The California Aggie follows zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, assault and abuse

The Editorial Board expresses dedication to safe environment for staffers, community

In light of recent allegations against a former employee of The California Aggie, the Editorial Board wants to express its commitment to fostering a safe and supportive environment, both inside and outside of the newsroom. We condemn all forms of inappropriate or nonconsensual sexual behavior, including unsolicited communication, coercion and assault. We cannot comment on the veracity of these claims, but we hope that this editorial will continue to facilitate this discussion and that we can share ways to teach and prevent the dangers of sexual assault and harassment.

As the newest set of leaders at The Aggie, we understand that it is our role to lead staffers in their work as student journalists. Our roles as student journalists have taught us the importance of listening to those willing to share their stories, and we respect those who contribute their experiences on a public platform for the betterment of the community. In our work to deliver well-researched articles, we strive to uncover any injustice we encounter and to never center the narratives of abusers. 

Furthermore, we understand the strength and bravery it takes to recount traumatic experiences and fight for justice. We never want to discount those individuals or their experiences. 

As a college publication, we understand the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment on college campuses. According to a report examining 33 of the nation’s major universities from the 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct prepared for the Association of American Universities, 41.8% of students reported experiencing sexual harassment in college. Reporters from The Aggie have written multiple articles diving deep into this topic, speaking to survivors and hearing their perspectives. While we cannot substantiate claims of assault in our publications, we can still provide a platform to speak about these issues.  

In our reporting, our role as journalists is to inform the public. We must follow journalistic ethics regardless of who wrote the piece or is featured in the publication and cannot justify removing content for any reason other than if it was factually inaccurate at the time of publication. Because once our content is up, it’s up to stay, the Editorial Board understands our great duty in educating our staffers. 

Due to these ethics we follow, we are using every resource that we can to encourage our employees to be thoughtful, accurate reporters, and also decent human beings. 

All paid employees of The Aggie have been required to complete trainings through the UC Learning Center including the UC Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Non-Supervisors and the Clery Act Training for Campus Security Authorities. Under our new leadership, however, these trainings are a requirement for all staffers of The Aggie, regardless of whether their positions are paid or volunteer. 

While these courses require final assessments to check one’s learning, we know that one can only learn so much from online training. As leaders of The Aggie, we must lead by example and show sound behavior in our newsroom. 

While we cannot, of course, track all of our staffers’ actions in their personal lives, we ensure appropriate and professional behavior in our newsroom through a three-strikes policy, which reprimands decisions that do not align with our expectations as an organization. When it comes to more serious matters, The Aggie follows a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, assault or abuse, as stated in our staff manual. There is no room for sexual misconduct at The Aggie. Sexual harassment that involves a staffer is a work matter even if it occurs outside of the office. 

We encourage our employees to reach out to senior staffers and members of managing staff with any concerns. In our near future, we plan to integrate an anonymous question and suggestion form into our newsroom, with the intent to increase transparency within our community.

The editor-in-chief of The Aggie is a responsible employee and must report all suspected or reported incidents of harassment, assault or abuse to Title IX and the Harassment & Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program (HDAPP). If an individual wishes to file an anonymous complaint, they should seek other avenues such as HDAPP or the Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education. In the case of an accusation against any current staffer, The Aggie will consult with the Title IX office, and the staffer will be advised to immediately halt work at The Aggie until a conclusion has been made.

The Aggie never condones anything less than commendable behavior. In our reporting and in the actions of our personal lives, The Aggie works tirelessly to create a safe place where young journalists can grow, unhindered by the adverse impacts of assault and harassment. We are committed to preventing harm to our community, especially that which may be perpetrated by affiliates of The Aggie. Through our efforts to educate ourselves and our staffers, as well as our intolerance for any form of indecent or dangerous behavior, we work to create an environment where everyone feels safe to express discomfort.


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