The Staff-Faculty Wayfinder Website Project

The Wayfinder is a user-centered, private, intersectional, and trauma-informed website that provides information, referrals, and reporting options for employees at The University of New Mexico who have experienced or witnessed bullying, harassment, discrimination, and other harmful incidents in the workplace.

 

 


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Why did we build the Wayfinder?

At UNM as in many universities, when staff and faculty experience or witness bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment, they often don’t know where to turn for help, or whether and how to report such incidents. Although all UNM employees complete annual online training on sexual harassment, and new faculty and department chairs receive additional orientation in university policies, many UNM employees have little knowledge about how existing policies and resources might – or might not – benefit them following incidents of bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment. The challenges university employees face in accessing accurate information -- including guidance on what kinds of misconduct constitute potentially actionable civil rights complaints, and what kinds of support targets can access if they do not wish to file a complaint – presents an ongoing challenge for the university’s attempts to prevent and mitigate the effects of sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination.

Compounding this lack of information are the many barriers that faculty and staff may encounter when seeking information, support, and/or redress for bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

 

This is not just a challenge for UNM. The NASEM Report on the Sexual Harassment of Women notes the importance of social support for targets seeking information and support, as well as the detrimental effects of ineffective institutional response and the organizational cynicism it can engender (NASEM, 2018; Cortina and Magley, 2003). According to dispute resolution researchers, “The availability of multiple access points significantly reduces barriers to entering the system and encourages employees to address problems early and constructively” (SPIDR, 2001; Rowe and Bendersky, 2002). Barriers to getting support and/or making reports are not unique to higher education (or to UNM), but rather common to many employment and organizational settings, notwithstanding the existence of clear and detailed policies and associated grievance processes concerned with a wide range of incidents. Institutional barriers themselves are frequently experienced by targets as institutional betrayal, defined by trauma researchers as “wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution.”(Freyd, 2013)

 

Like other universities, UNM leaders have and continue to address such incidents through multiple mechanisms – including policy, training, support, investigation, and sanction – which ensure compliance with federal and state law and offer benefits to some members of the university community. However, according to various UNM practitioners, as well as staff and faculty affinity groups, staff and faculty could use more support for accessing clear and accurate information about their available options. University websites provide contacts, guidelines, and policies relevant to their scope of practice, but available pathways remain complicated at best for staff and faculty who want to get reliable information about their choices. Bombarded by conflicting messages about confidentiality – frequently demanded of those engaged in mediation or formal complaints, but denied anyone disclosing sexual harassment to a university employee – university employees currently enjoy few “safe spaces” where they can share their experiences and gather information in confidence.

What is the Wayfinder?

The “Staff-Faculty Wayfinder Website” provides accessible, clear, and accurate information about the nature and impact of choices available to employees experiencing harm in the workplace, from bullying and violations of academic freedom to discrimination, harassment, violence, and retaliation. The website is designed to provide information in a user-centered, private, and trauma-informed format, which will enhance users’ sense of mastery and choice as they navigate the university’s available support and response services. Recognizing that the populations experiencing the highest rates of bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment are communities of color, disabled persons, and sexual- and gender-identity minorities, and that many individuals experience multiple and intersecting harms, a “user-centered” website means that all users of the website have the freedom to explore and learn the pros and cons of multiple pathways – informal as well as formal, primarily supportive as well as reporting – so that they can judge whether and how to take any action. The project also rests on the best practice in ombuds and advocacy services, which suggest that targets of bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment (as well as those with other concerns) generally benefit from the ability to choose their own pathways, as well as change those pathways, as circumstances and their own well-being might require. The website also provides individual users with the information they need to make their own assessments about trustworthiness and possible efficacy of all available options, including that of connecting to campus personnel who can offer the employee confidential and/or advocacy support.

Who designed the Wayfinder?

Inspired by emerging research in trauma-informed design, the plan for the Wayfinder website was developed by Associate Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Liz Hutchison in collaboration with DEI’s Joanna Furnans and IT Applications department staff in 2021 and 2022.

  1. Conceptualization and framing of website proposal;
  2. Consultation with DEI and campus partners, including the UNM Action Collaborative Team; the Office for Compliance, Ethics, and Equal Opportunity; Staff Council Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee; Ombuds Services; and Sexual Assault Advocates;
  3. Development of website design in consultation with the Applications Department of UNM Information Technologies, including
    1. Usability studies on current web search practices;
    2. Proof of concept UX design;
    3. Usability studies on Wayfinder desktop and mobile applications (Fall 2022)
    4. Wayfinder rollout, including communication, training, and dissemination (Fall 2022)
    5. Evaluation of Wayfinder impact via campus surveys and focus groups (ongoing)

Key design principles included:

  • Minimal clicks to complete a single pathway
  • Jargon-free language describing available services and processes
  • Website escape and confidential resource buttons always available

The Wayfinder has five kinds of pages:

  • Definitions and examples of harm
  • Information/support and reporting options
  • Possible consequences and effects
  • UNM office contacts and webpages

The Wayfinder design also features an “escape” button on all pages, which allows users to use it without fear of discovery by colleagues, supervisors, and others, and provides privacy information indicating what little tracking information the site will temporarily collect during use. The site’s many pages also prominently display a “talk to someone” button that links to contact information for confidential campus and community resources, thereby encouraging users to move beyond the passive website to seek direct support.

How will the Wayfinder be evaluated?

Continuous evaluation of the Wayfinder is a crucial aspect of its design and implementation. The Usability Tests conducted in 2022 gathered information about how individuals currently find information about university resources for staff and faculty who experience bullying, harassment, or discrimination. Tests allow participants to search for information and services in response to case studies describing staff and faculty who experience misconduct. In pre-tests of present state, and beta tests of the new Wayfinder in Fall 2022, participants will be interviewed about their satisfaction with available language, website functionality, and the navigation experience.

References

Ahmed, 2021

Brubaker, 2017

Cantalupo, Nancy (2019). And even more of us are brave: Intersectionality & sexual harassment of women students of color. Harvard Journal of Law and Gender 42

  1. Cortina, V. J. Magley, Raising voice, risking retaliation: Events following interpersonal mistreatment in the workplace. J Occup Health Psychol8(4), 247-265 (2003).
  2. M. Gomez, Gender, campus sexual violence, cultural betrayal, institutional betrayal, and institutional supporting in U.S. ethnic minority college students: A descriptive study. Violence Against Women (2021).

Rowe, M., and Bendersky, C., Workplace Justice, Zero Tolerance, and Zero Barriers, In T. A. Cochan and D. B. Lipsky (eds.), Negotiations and Change: From the Workplace to Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003, pp. 117-137.

Smith, C. P., & Freyd, J. J. (2014). Institutional betrayal. American Psychologist, 69(6), 575–587. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037564

Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR), Guidelines for the Design of Integrated Conflict Management Systems Within Organizations – Executive Summary,” 2001: https://www.mediate.com/articles/spidrtrack1.cfm

Wood, L., Voth Schrag, R., Hairston, D., & Jones, C. (2020, September 14). Exploring Advocacy Practices for Interpersonal Violence Survivors on College Campuses: Approaches and Key Factors . Psychology of Violence. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/vio0000343