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Safe and Healthy Learning Environment

I. INTRODUCTION

The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine is committed to the principle that the educational relationship should be one of mutual respect between teacher and learner. Because the school trains individuals who are entrusted with the lives and well being of others, we have a unique responsibility to assure that students learn as members of a community of scholars in an environment that is conducive to learning.

Maintaining such an environment requires that the faculty, administration, residents, fellows, nursing staff, and students treat each other with the respect due colleagues. All teachers should realize that students depend on them for evaluations and references, which can advance or impede their career development. They must take care to judiciously exercise this power and to maintain fairness of treatment avoiding exploitation or the perception of mistreatment and exploitation. The quality and worth of a University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine education rest not only in the excellence of the content and the skills that are taught, but also in the example provided to students of humane physicians and scientists who respect their professional colleagues at all career levels, their patients, and one another.

Safe Environment Flow Chart

II. RESPONSIBILITIES OF TEACHERS AND LEARNERS

The teacher-learner relationship confers rights and responsibilities on both parties. Behaving in a way that embodies the ideal teacher-learner relationship fosters mutual respect, minimizes the likelihood of learner mistreatment, and optimizes the educational experience.

  1. Responsibilities of Teachers
    • Treat learners fairly, respectfully, and without bias related to their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin.
    • Distinguish between the Socratic method, where insightful questions are a stimulus to learning and discovery, and overly aggressive questioning, where detailed questions are repeatedly presented with the end point of belittlement or humiliation of the learner.
    • Give learners timely, constructive, and accurate feedback and opportunities for remediation.
    • Be prepared and on time for all activities.
    • Provide learners with current material and information and appropriate educational activities.
  2. Responsibilities of Learners
    • Be courteous and respectful of others regardless of their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, or role in your education.
    • A medical student should act in accordance with the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine Code of Conduct, http://www.med.upenn.edu/student/standards/part3.htm#4
    • Be aware of the medical condition and current therapy of patients.
    • Put patients' welfare ahead of educational needs.
    • Know limitations and ask for help when needed.
    • Maintain patient confidentiality.
    • View feedback as an opportunity to improve knowledge and performance skills.

III. DESCRIPTION OF INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR

Inappropriate behaviors are those that are not respectful or professional in a teacher-learner relationship. Determining whether a given behavior is inappropriate involves a subjective assessment of the intentions of the performer and the perception of the recipient. Clearly inappropriate behaviors, which compromise the integrity of the educational process, include, but are not limited to:

Romantic or sexual relationships between a teacher and student (see the University of Pennsylvania Policy on Consensual Sexual Relations Between Faculty and Students, http://www.upenn.edu/assoc-provost/handbook/vi_e.html )

IV. WHAT TO DO IF YOU BELIEVE INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR OR MISTREATMENT HAS OCCURRED

While we believe that the professional behavior is generally practiced and respected by the members of our diverse community of scholars throughout the Perelman School of Medicine , we recognize that there may be occasions when real or perceived incidents of unprofessional behavior directed toward learners occur.

The Perelman School of Medicine is committed to establishing the facts through a fair process, which respects the rights and confidentiality, to the extent possible, of the involved parties. Exchanges of information, whether verbal or written, will be handled in a confidential manner. However, at any level, there may be situations that limit the ability for confidentiality, such as those involving potential harm to a student or others, including sexual assault.

A complaint should be reported as soon as possible but not more than 90 days after the alleged incident. Several avenues are open to the student who experiences an incident of inappropriate behavior and mistreatment.

A. Informal Pathway

The student may consider speaking directly with the person. If the behavior stems from a misunderstanding or a need for increased sensitivity, the person will often respond positively and stop. Open communication may clarify any misunderstanding or issue(s) and lead to a successful, informal resolution.

B. Counseling and Guidance

A student, who has concerns about the learning environment, may speak with the Course Director, the Office of Student Affairs, an Advisory Dean, a Perelman School of Medicine Ombudsperson , or a peer advisor.

All involved parties must agree upon all informal resolutions. For tracking purposes, a written record of the resolution must be filed with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs; however, this can be done without reference to specific names.

C. Consultation with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs

If Steps A or B are not successful or appropriate, a student must refer the complaint to the Associate Dean for Student Affairs, who will make one last attempt at informal resolution.

D. Formal Pathway – Preliminary Inquiry

  1. Inquiry into a violation of these standards of conduct committed by any individual, whether or not affiliated with the University, should be initiated by written complaint and filed with the Vice Dean for Education within 90 (ninety) days of the violation. 
  2. The complaint must be detailed and specific, and accompanied by appropriate documentation. The Vice Dean has the responsibility to protect the position and reputation of the complainant.
  3. Upon receipt of a properly documented complaint, which has been made in good faith, the Vice Dean shall inform the respondent of the nature of the charges and identify the complainant.  The Vice Dean shall also appoint an inquiry officer, who may not be a member of the same department as, or collaborator with, the complainant or respondent. The inquiry officer shall be unbiased and have appropriate background to judge the issues being raised. He/she must be a faculty member of the Perelman School of Medicine . An inquiry officer will be appointed within two weeks of the receipt of a properly documented complaint and the complainant and respondent will be notified. The Vice Dean shall also make every effort to protect the identities of both complainant and respondent with respect to the larger community.
  4. The inquiry officer shall gather information and determine whether the allegation warrants a formal investigation. He/she shall then submit a written report to the Vice Dean, the complainant, and the respondent. The report shall state what evidence was reviewed, summarize relevant interviews, and include conclusions. This report shall ordinarily be submitted within 30 calendar days of receipt of the written complaint by the Vice Dean. If the inquiry officer finds that a formal investigation is not warranted, the complainant shall be given the opportunity to make a written reply to the officer within 15 calendar days following receipt of the report to the Vice Dean. However, if the inquiry officer finds that a formal investigation is warranted, the respondent shall be given the opportunity to make a written reply to the report within 15 calendar days following submission of the report to the Vice Dean. Such replies shall be incorporated as an appendices to the report. The entire preliminary inquiry process shall be completed within 60 calendar days of the receipt of a properly documented complaint by the Vice Dean unless circumstances clearly warrant a delay. In such cases the record of inquiry shall detail reasons for the delay.
  5. If the report of the inquiry officer finds that a formal investigation is not warranted, the Vice Dean may (i) initiate a formal investigation despite the recommendation of the preliminary inquiry committee, or (ii) not initiate a formal investigation, but take such other action as the circumstances warrant, or (iii) drop the matter. The Vice Dean ordinarily shall complete the review within 10 days of receipt of the report. The Vice Dean shall inform the concerned parties of the decision. In the event the Vice Dean determines, in consultation with legal counsel, not to initiate a formal investigation, the Vice Dean shall, as appropriate, use diligent efforts to restore the reputation of the respondent and to protect the position and reputation of the complainant if the complaint is found to have been made in good faith.
  6. If no formal investigation of the respondent is conducted, sufficient documentation shall be kept on file to permit a later assessment of the reasons that a formal investigation was not deemed warranted.
  7. If the report of the inquiry officer finds that a formal investigation is warranted or the Vice Dean decides the matter should be pursued through a formal investigation the Vice Dean shall:
    • notify the complainant and respondent;
    • initiate a formal investigation as provided in section E.

E. Formal Investigation

  1. To initiate a formal investigation, the Vice Dean shall appoint a formal investigation committee of not less than three individuals, all of whom shall be faculty members of the Perelman School of Medicine . The Chair of the Student Standards Committee will chair the formal investigation committee. The formal investigation shall be initiated within two weeks of completion of any inquiry that finds that such an investigation is merited.
  2. The formal investigation committee shall undertake a thorough examination of the charges. Whenever possible, interviews shall be conducted with the complainant and respondent, as well as with others having information regarding the allegations. Summaries of these interviews shall be prepared, provided to the interviewed party for comment or revision, and included as part of the file. During its proceedings, the committee shall have access to and consult legal counsel. When appearing before the committee the respondent and the complainant may each be accompanied by an adviser. The student's adviser shall be a Perelman School of Medicine faculty member and the respondent's adviser must be a University of Pennsylvania employee. The committee shall not conduct formal hearings. Except in unusual cases, the respondent and the complainant shall not appear before the committee at the same time.
  3. Following the completion of its investigation the committee shall submit a written report with full documentation of its upholding the complaint or not to the Vice Dean with copies to the complainant and respondent. This report shall describe the policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted, how and from whom information was obtained, the findings, and the basis of the findings and texts or summaries of the interviews conducted by the committee. This report shall ordinarily be submitted to the Vice Dean within 60 days of the appointment of the formal investigation committee. The complainant and respondent shall be permitted to make a written reply to the Vice Dean within 15 calendar days of receipt of the report. Such replies shall be incorporated as appendices to the report of the formal investigation committee. The entire formal investigation process shall be completed with 90 calendar days of its initiation, unless circumstances clearly warrant a delay. In such cases, the reasons for a delay shall be documented.

F. Resolution

  1. If the report of the formal investigation committee finds the charges to be unfounded, the matter shall be dropped and the concerned parties shall be informed. The Vice Dean has the responsibility to take an active role to repair any damage done to the reputation of the respondent or the complainant (provided the complainant acted in good faith), and to take appropriate action should the Vice Dean determine that the accusation was knowingly false.
  2. If the report of the formal investigation committee finds the charges against a respondent to be substantiated, the following offices will be notified.
    • For a non-faculty UPHS employee (including but not limited to nursing, housestaff, and fellows), the Vice Dean shall inform the UPHS Office of Human Resources.
    • If a non-faculty employee of the University of Pennsylvania is named in a complaint and charges are substantiated against him/her, the Vice Dean shall inform the University's Human Resources Office.
    • If charges against a faculty member (including Clinical Care Associates) are substantiated, the Vice Dean shall inform the Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine who will proceed to take whatever actions are appropriate to the seriousness of the offense and in accordance with University procedures and which consider the previous record of the respondent. For major offenses by members of the standing (including clinical) or research faculties, the Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine shall determine whether there is substantial reason to believe that just cause exists for suspension or termination, and shall take other steps as may be appropriate under the University's procedure for Suspension or Termination of Faculty for Just Cause. For less serious offenses which do not warrant suspension or termination, the Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine may impose penalties including, but not limited to, removal from a particular project, a letter of reprimand, special monitoring of future work, probation, or below average salary increases, including zero salary increases, for one or more years.
  3. The respondent shall have access to all established University grievance and appeal procedures in accordance with the stated jurisdiction of such procedures.

G. Procedures

  1. If the Vice Dean is the respondent or in any other way has a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest, he or she is obligated to remove him or herself from the case during the preliminary inquiry and formal investigation, and the Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine shall appoint someone else to assume responsibility for carrying out these procedures.
  2. Complete records of all relevant documentation on cases treated under the provisions of this policy shall be preserved in the Office of the Vice Dean for at least ten years.
  3. The Perelman School of Medicine may act under these procedures irrespective of possible civil or criminal claims arising out of the same or other events. The Vice Dean, with the concurrence of the Dean of the School of Medicine , after consulting with the Office of the General Counsel, shall determine whether the University shall, in fact, proceed against a respondent who also faces related charges in a civil or criminal tribunal. If the University defers proceedings, it may subsequently proceed irrespective of the time provisions set forth in these procedures.
  4. The Vice Dean shall have the authority to take any actions on behalf of the Perelman School of Medicine that he or she deems necessary to protect the complainant and/or the respondent, or to address other needs or deliberations related to the situation, pending the investigation and resolution of the complaint.
  5. Retaliation against any member of the school community, who comes forward with a complaint or concern, is prohibited. If an individual believes that he or she is being subjected to retaliation as a result of coming forward with a concern or a complaint, he or she should refer the matter to the Vice Dean.

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