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Party may be over at McMaster Psychology Department

Party may be over at McMaster Psychology Department

While the writers of a just concluded review of the culture of the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior (PNB), at McMaster made no findings of fact, its recommendations suggest that  there was some inappropriate behavior going on in the department. The report was commissioned after the University received a number of serious allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence. One professor was charged with a sexual offense. In the review that consisted of 114 persons participating in a survey, and 35 in face to face interviews, Identified several areas of concern:

a) The culture of the department generally

b) Social events and the role of alcohol/other substances

c) Boundaries between faculty and students

d) Instances of non-sexual harassment

e) Lack of accountability

The report described a department where there is a culture of frequent social events where students and faculty mix and where alcohol is usually available. Some participants also described informal meetings between faculty and students taking place at the faculty club, restaurants or bars on

campus or near the university, or at coffee shops. There were also parties at homes of faculty members.

The report read, “Some of these participants spoke of how there is a culture of drinking

within the department, and some said that the alcohol consumption in the department blurs the professional lines between faculty and students. We should note that of the participants who described alcohol as playing a role in the culture of the department, some of them expressed that they did not

feel as though this was unique to PNB.”

The report suggested there was a lack of boundaries between faculty and students. The report read, “Some other participants commented that the lack of boundaries and the level of socializing that occur between students and faculty in the department is a “red flag” and leftover from a bygone era.”

Some participants felt that certain faculty had taken advantage of the lack of boundaries within the department to engage in sexually inappropriate behavior with students.  The report said more than 25 students described situations that would fall into the category of sexual harassment if proven true.

The report recommended training be provided to staff and students on sexual harassment and other forms of inappropriate behavior. It further recommended curbs on alcohol consumption, and that there be limits on the number of events where staff and students mingle. It also recommended a course of training in Equity Diversity and Inclusion. Finally, the report recommended a greater degree of oversight of the department, and a future survey to see if things are improving.

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