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Published: 2023-04-06

A year since the inquiry – what has happened?

NEWS Last spring, Umeå University initiated an inquiry into its handling of misconduct – a task led by an external reviewer. The result was a report containing 32 proposed improvements. A year has now passed, and practically all the suggestions have been implemented or initiated. “Ensuring the University is a safe place to study and work has been a top priority for us in recent years,” says University Director Hans Wiklund.

Text: Johanna Fredriksson

In the spring of 2021, some flaws became evident in the University’s work against harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation, as well as in the processing of cases that occur despite the University’s zero tolerance policies. To learn more about these shortcomings and get support with rectifying them, the University assigned external reviewer Karin Röding the task of investigating its handling of misconduct. On 5 April 2022, Karin Röding presented her report, with 32 proposals for future improvements.

“We would all like Umeå University to be a safe place to work and study, with a culture characterised by inclusivity, equality, diversity and equal opportunities. To make that vision a reality, we need to take continuous action and analyse our actions and procedures from time to time. We’re aware that there are misgivings about how the University handles misconduct, which is why it is necessary to conduct an investigation at this point in time,” said Vice-Chancellor Hans Adolfsson when the report was presented.

Read about the report by Karin Röding from April 2022

Several measures taken

A year has now passed and practically all suggested improvements have either been implemented or initiated; some were even initiated before the report was presented. The University has improved its procedures for handling cases of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or victimisation, for example. It has also established a team to help managers handle such cases.

Further investigations into the University’s organisation have also taken place, on the University Management’s initiative. Researchers at Umeå Centre for Gender Studies analysed the prevalence of sexual harassment at Umeå University, for example. Another task – investigating the University’s equal opportunities and work environment organisation – was assigned to Professor Ulrika Haake. She presented her report in February. The University’s organisation for equal opportunities and work environment is now being reviewed, based on the recommendations provided in the report.

Learn more about the sexual harassment study that was completed at Umeå University in May 2022.

Learn more about the investigation of the equal opportunities and work environment organisation, presented in February 2023.

The University is also training its staff. Heads of department, deans and other leaders are trained to spot and prevent discriminatory behaviour (primarily gender-based discrimination), through lectures, workshops and practical exercises. In the autumn semester of 2022, a theme day on the subject of sexual harassment was organised for all students and staff.

Support when reporting

People who discriminate others may do so on purpose or be unaware of it, and discrimination can be a one-off event or structural. Those who discover misconduct are often either the victim or a person close by. To make it easier for students and staff to report and get support when such things happen, the University has established a whistleblower system and published the webpage “If something happens”, with details on how to proceed and where to turn for support.

Find the “If something happens” pages (for students)

New routine with Region Västerbotten

Nearly a year ago, the Faculty of Medicine began to collaborate with Region Västerbotten on these issues. The Faculty’s students and staff are often involved in Region Västerbotten activities, not least during clinical training or doctoral education, or as staff with combined employments. When two organisations are responsible for the same person, cases can slip through the cracks. This makes it even more important to have clear routines on how to deal with victimisation, harassment or sexual harassment when incidents occur at another organisation, or in interaction with individuals working at another organisation. The University’s legal officers are currently reviewing a proposal for such a routine.

This work will never be done. We must continue to address these issues, day after day.

A never-ending task

As an employer and education provider, Umeå University has an obligation to counter discrimination and to work for equal rights and opportunities for everyone. This is also stipulated in the University’s vision and basic values, which describe what kind of organisation Umeå University aspires to be. Several comprehensive initiatives have been undertaken to live up to that aspiration – and this work continues.

“Building and maintaining an equal and safe environment to work and study in requires continuous efforts and room for individual development and discussions. It calls for investigation, analysis, measures and follow-up of instances that are not in line with our vision and basic values. This work will never be done. We must continue to address these issues, day after day,” says Hans Wiklund, University Director of Umeå University.