Skip to Main Content

Message from the President

Nov 27, 2019

Announcing the launch of the AJS Sexual Misconduct Procedures and AJS Sexual Misconduct Webpages

I am pleased to announce the inauguration of the AJS’s procedures for handling complaints of sexual misconduct, in time for the 2019 annual conference in San Diego. I am also pleased to announce the launch of a new section of the AJS website dedicated to the topic of sexual misconduct.

The roll-out of the procedures and the launch of the website are a proud moment and a double achievement that marks the culmination of the work of the AJS Sexual Misconduct Task Force appointed in December 2017. I thank the Chair, Laura Levitt, and members of the Sexual Misconduct Task Force for their dedication and hard work, and I welcome the members of the newly constituted Committee on Sexual Misconduct who will be responsible for the ongoing implementation of the procedures.

I invite all AJS members to visit the website in order to learn more about the issue of sexual misconduct in academia and Jewish Studies, and in order to acquaint themselves with the range of reporting and resolution options available within the AJS.

Christine Hayes
Yale University

FAQs on the New AJS Sexual Misconduct Procedures

What does the new Committee on Sexual Misconduct do?

The members of the Committee on Sexual Misconduct are responsible for operationalizing the AJS procedures for handling complaints of sexual misconduct. The Committee currently consists of a Chair, a Secretary, 3 Ombuds team members, and 4 core members. Some members of the committee are reporting members (members who can be contacted to initiate a report of an incident) while others serve on hearing panels only. All members have received specialized training on sexual misconduct generally, and on the AJS procedures for handling complaints of sexual misconduct specifically.

What is a reporting member?

The reporting members are the Chair; the Secretary; and three Ombuds Team members who answer inquiries, provide information about AJS’s sexual misconduct policy and procedures, receive reports of incidents, and handle informal complaints. While you may contact any AJS CSM reporting member to seek information about the AJS sexual misconduct policy and resolution procedures, Ombuds Team members are often the best first point of contact and can provide the most detailed information and specific assistance.

What is the role of the Ombuds team members?

An Ombuds team member will listen to you share as much as you want to about issues and experiences of sexual misconduct and the AJS. The Ombuds team member will try to be responsive and supportive and will provide information about resources and resolution options within the AJS, specifically the informal and formal complaint procedures. It is not necessary to provide details in order to have a conversation with an Ombuds Team member about the available resolution options. The Ombuds Team member will remain neutral and will not advocate any particular course of action. Should you choose an informal procedure or resolution process, the Ombuds Team member will work with you to implement that process.

What are the resolution options available within the AJS?

There are three informal options that the Ombuds Team member can facilitate: archiving a complaint for possible future action; working out an accommodative measure responsive to the complainant’s needs as appropriate and reasonably possible; and informal mediation conducted by the CSM chair and secretary in consultation with the reporting Ombuds Team member where relevant. AJS procedures also include a process for filing a formal complaint that is heard by a formal hearing panel.

What’s the difference between an informal and a formal complaint?

Informal resolution procedures are typically handled by an Ombuds Team member and/or the CSM chair and secretary depending on the procedure and are focused on identifying an appropriate remedy. They do not entail formal hearings and they do not entail formal findings of a violation or the imposition of penalties.

A formal complaint entails notification of the respondent and a formal hearing before a hearing panel which can result in a formal finding of a violation and the imposition of penalties.

What do I do if I am considering reporting an incident?

If you are considering reporting an incident, contact a reporting member of the Committee on Sexual Misconduct. Contact information for reporting members is available on the AJS website and at the conference registration desk. Ombuds Team members are often the best first point of contact and can provide the most detailed information and specific assistance.

How do I contact an Ombuds Team member?

You can speak with an Ombuds team member in person at the annual conference or by telephone, Skype, or other remote service at any mutually convenient time throughout the year. Contact information for Ombuds Team members is available on the AJS website or at the conference registration desk. It is not necessary to provide details in order to have a conversation with an Ombuds Team member and/or discuss the available resolution options.

Will I be able to speak with a reporting member at the annual conference?

Yes. You may contact a reporting member, including any Ombuds Team member, at the conference using the contact information available on the AJS website or at the registration desk. If you have difficulty contacting a reporting member, ask the AJS staff at the registration desk for assistance.

If I speak with someone about an incident will I have to file an official complaint?

No. It is not necessary to file a complaint or provide more details than you are comfortable sharing in order to speak with a reporting member or have a conversation with an Ombuds Team member about the available resolution options.

If I file a complaint, will I be forced to adopt a specific resolution procedure?

No. The Ombuds Team member will help you understand and evaluate your options so that you can determine which resolution procedure is the best option for your particular situation.

If I report an incident or pursue a resolution procedure, will the respondent (the person who is the subject of the complaint) be notified?

The answer depends on the procedure. In the informal case of archiving and accommodation, the respondent is not notified of the complaint. In the informal case of mediation, the respondent is notified of the complaint and a mediator facilitates a process aimed at a mutually agreed remedy.

In a formal case, the respondent is notified and both complainant and respondent have an opportunity to be heard by a formal hearing panel.

What about confidentiality?

The AJS expects all participants in proceedings of the Committee on Sexual Misconduct to maintain the confidentiality of the proceedings and any information obtained in and for the proceedings. The purpose of confidentiality is to encourage the co-operation and willing participation in the association’s informal and formal procedures in order to reach fair outcomes and create a better overall climate for the organization’s members and affiliates. If parties fear that their participation or the information they provide in a CSM proceeding could be revealed, then concerns about reputation, social tension, or retaliation may cause them to keep silent.

Is there a limitation period for reporting an incident?

No. However, resolution options may be limited for incidents that occurred long ago.

If a complaint is made against me, how will I know and what can I expect?

If you are the subject of an informal complaint in which mediation has been requested, you will be notified by the Secretary of the CSM. Your participation in informal mediation is voluntary. In this process, the Chair and Secretary act as neutrals to facilitate a mutually agreed resolution between the parties.

If you are the subject of a formal complaint, the Secretary of the CSM will notify you and clarify the formal complaint procedures as detailed in the AJS Sexual Misconduct procedures available on the AJS website. You will be asked to respond in writing to the allegations in the complaint and to appear before a hearing panel.

Is filing a complaint with the AJS the same as filing a Title IX complaint?

No. The Association for Jewish Studies does not fall within the reach of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects people from sex discrimination in educational programs and activities at institutions that receive federal financial assistance. Complaints of sexual misconduct in connection with AJS programs and activities are handled in accordance with the Association’s board-approved policies and procedures.

Where can I learn more about sexual misconduct and the best way to help eliminate it?

The new section of the AJS website dedicated to the issue of sexual misconduct contains a number of valuable resources. Click on “Additional Resources” and “Get Involved.”

How were the AJS sexual misconduct procedures arrived at?

The Sexual Misconduct Task Force began its work in early 2018. The task force collected general data about sexual misconduct in AJS programs and activities through the 2018 Member Survey. The task force also reviewed the policies and procedures of other learned societies and academic institutions and consulted with mediators, ombudspersons, lawyers and other professionals to craft a set of procedures for handling complaints of sexual misconduct that occur in AJS programs and activities.

The Sexual Misconduct Task Force began its work in early 2018. The task force collected general data about sexual misconduct in AJS programs and activities through the 2018 Member Survey. The task force also reviewed the policies and procedures of other learned societies and academic institutions and consulted with mediators, ombudspersons, lawyers and other professionals to craft a set of procedures for handling complaints of sexual misconduct that occur in AJS programs and activities.