September 9, 2021
Dear WHOI Community,
Reports of incidents at WHOI related to bullying and harassment have been brought to my attention. Without delving into the specifics of those incidents or the actions taken in response, it is critical to state unequivocally that behavior harmful to a respectful workplace will not be tolerated.
WHOI is committed to anonymous and retaliation-free reporting environment so that we can investigate any incidents and respond appropriately. To this end, we have a Code of Conduct, Policy Against Sexual Harassment, Respectful Workplace and Violence Prevention policy (internal only), and training resources related to harassment and bystander intervention. I understand that these methods alone have not stopped such conduct from occurring, despite efforts on this serious issue.
To ensure a safe and respectful workplace for all, I have directed, for immediate effect, the following measures:
- Internal Review: Assess all disciplinary and accountability processes, with revision where necessary.
- Transparency in Investigations: Disciplinary actions will be shared with relevant stakeholders and the public to the degree permissible under the law, while respecting needs for privacy.
- Transparency in Hiring: All prospective hires throughout the institution will complete a misconduct attestation, understanding that this information will inform hiring decisions.
- Promotion and Compensation: Disciplinary histories and reports will be considered in annual performance reviews, promotion reviews, and merit (pay) distribution. Individuals found to have engaged in misconduct, have and will continue to face, disciplinary consequences, including: ineligibility for pay raises or promotions, reduction in pay, removal from leadership positions, reporting incident to NSF (where appropriate), compulsory training, suspension and/or probationary review, and in certain cases termination of employment and/or appointment.
- Next Steps: Further, I have directed my leadership team to assess what other actions, reviews, protocols, management protocols, and best practices we may also engage in as soon as possible. As part of this process, we will bring in an external third-party team to help review and provide independent guidance on identified concerns. These actions will be taken in conjunction with the broader goals of our DEI strategy, including a review and revision of our existing training programs. These next steps will include engaging stakeholders throughout the community and implementation of these protocols will be forthcoming.
As a leading ocean science and engineering institution, WHOI must also lead in making ocean science a welcoming and supportive discipline for all. We cannot achieve our full potential without addressing cultural problems that hinder our community’s right to safety, respect, and fair treatment at work. We recognize that many people work tirelessly to foster a culture of respect at WHOI. We thank you for your efforts. Further, we strongly affirm our commitment to improving WHOI’s workplace climate and doing the work necessary to make WHOI safe, inclusive, and welcoming place for all.
As an especially important reminder, all supervisors must remember that if they observe or receive a report of misconduct (even if informal) per the Policy Against Harassment and the Investigation Policy they must report to HR. In cases where a supervisor, or other individual, feels uncomfortable reporting to HR directly, WHOI provides several resources such as counseling or other methods of reporting, Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Other Misconduct at WHOI, and an anonymous reporting line: WHOI Ethics Point Confidential Hotline: 866.868.0920.
I do not have all the answers today, but I am taking swift action even as we continue to collect more information. Expect further updates and communications as we move forward with this review and plan. Making WHOI a safe, welcoming, and harassment-free environment is an urgent Institutional priority.
Peter de Menocal
President and Director