Non-Discrimination Policy | API Study Abroad

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Non-Discrimination Policy and Adjudication Procedures for Infractions

 

1. Scope of Policy
2. Reporting Discrimination or Other Inappropriate Behavior
3. API Procedure Following a Report of Sexual Assault or Physical Harassment Between Program Participants
3.a The API Investigation
4. API Procedure Following Allegations of Harassment/Discrimination by an API Representative
5. False Claims or Allegations

 

1. Scope of Policy

API is committed to providing enriching international opportunities for all participants. API does not discriminate against any individual based on ethnicity, nationality, ancestry, race, sex, gender identity, creed, age, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability in its admissions decisions, program activities or employment practices.

API believes that all of our program participants have the right to study, intern, volunteer, work or teach in an environment free of any type of discrimination, bullying or harassment, be that harassment emotional, verbal, physical or sexual in nature.  All API stateside staff and international representatives are responsible for following local laws and performing their duties in an ethical manner.

All participants are required to sign API’s Code of Conduct prior to their arrival on-site*, which explicitly states that participants are prohibited from:

“Any behavior that could result in harm of a fellow program participant, API representatives, a local host or the community at large. Any physical or verbal abuse or harassment by a participant can result in automatic dismissal from the API program. “

The API Code of Conduct specifically refers all participants to API’s Non-Discrimination Policy, and holds them accountable for respecting it.

Violations of API’s non-discrimination policy by an API representative can result in official letters of reprimand or job dismissal.  Violations of the Participant Code of Conduct may be handled via the issuance of warnings, temporary or permanent removal from API housing or activities, loss of other program privileges, damage assessments or dismissal from an API program.  By maintaining and enforcing its non-discrimination policy, API seeks to establish a welcoming and inclusive environment for all participants.

2. Reporting Discrimination or Other Inappropriate Behavior

Legal protections in the host country may differ from those in place in a participant’s home country.  For example, the Title IX legislation in place in the U.S. assists students who experience some form of gender discrimination (e.g., sexist jokes, catcalls, inappropriate touching, sexual assault, dating violence, etc.) while studying at a U.S. university.  Certain behaviors considered inappropriate or discriminatory in the U.S. may not be considered rude or offensive in a host country. While API has no control over the laws in a given host country, API representatives abroad aspire to support alleged victims of gender discrimination to the best of their ability and according to U.S. standards.

As participants navigate their host country environments, with which they are relatively unfamiliar, API wants them to feel comfortable coming forward for assistance when needed.  On-site API directors or local coordinators will help a participant who has shared allegations of discrimination or harassment (defined by API as the “reporting party”) by providing access to the resources or support needed (e.g., medical care** or counseling) and accompanying the individual to file a formal police report or complaint if desired.

When a participant puts forth allegations about inappropriate behavior or actions taken by a fellow API participant (defined as “responding party”), API has an obligation to act and investigate those allegations.  Additionally, it may be necessary for API to share some details regarding a given incident with fellow participants in order to protect their safety; API will seek to do so without exposing the identity of the reporting party.

For participants who are U.S. university students, API generally has an obligation to inform each student’s home university about allegations of gender discrimination, especially aggravated incidents involving violence.  In doing so, API and a participant’s home university can provide guidance and support for the reporting party, and provide fair notice of how the responding party may be affected***.  No information will be shared with the reporting or responding parties’ emergency contacts in the event of harassment or sexual assault without the express permission of the participant in question, or if API determines that there is cause for program dismissal of the responding party.  API generally encourages both the reporting and responding parties to be open with trusted friends or family members at home about such incidents, so they may provide additional emotional support.

If a participant has experienced an incident (e.g., rape) and does not wish to discuss the incident with API, API urges the participant to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate or the U.S. Department of State for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can provide a list of reputable medical services and other resources in the area. Consular staff can also contact the participant’s family or may in some cases provide a reimbursable loan to cover limited emergency medical funding.

More information, including contact information, about support for victims of crimes abroad can be found online at:

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/emergencies/victims.html

If an API participant has concerns that the behavior of an API on-site representative or a stateside employee constitutes harassment, bullying or gender discrimination, the behavior should be reported immediately to the Senior Vice President of Organizational Operations or the API President. If the participant fears imminent harm, the participant should seek assistance from a representative of the host university, other emergency authority in the host country (e.g., hospital, counselor, etc.) or the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy.

3. API Procedure Following a Report of Sexual Assault or Physical Harassment Between Program Participants

Given the degree of complexity involved with operating programs in international destinations, each with its own laws, legal system, and cultural perceptions of appropriate behavior, API cannot have one uniform approach to all forms of disrespectful behavior, harassment or sexual discrimination. API does, however, seek to maintain a standard set of procedures to ensure the safety of its participants and respond fairly and systematically to reported violations of the API Code of Conduct or local laws.

When a participant reports a violation of the API Code of Conduct related to physical harassment or sexual assault to an API representative stateside or abroad, API will make reasonable efforts to support the reporting party while simultaneously protecting the right of the responding party to continue in the program until an API investigation can be completed. While an investigation is pending or in process, API reserves the right to take the following actions in order to limit contact between the reporting party and the responding party to the fullest extent possible:

  • Make housing modifications:  This may take the form of a housing move or temporary removal from API housing for the responding and/or reporting party.
  • Rework schedules for classes, volunteer/teaching placements or internships: API will work with host institutions or local partners to make adjustments to the schedule(s) of the involved participant(s) if standard program activities would ordinarily bring them into contact with one another.  In the case of academic programs, it may be impossible for API to facilitate course changes to reduce contact within the academic environment. For example, if there is only one section of a given course, it may not be possible to remove the responding party from that course until an investigation has been completed.  In that case, students may be given specific instructions on how to conduct themselves within the confines of a given course and students may be provided with specific routes that they must take to and from class to avoid unsupervised contact.
  • Modify access to API activities: Unless duplicate events/excursions are offered that allow the participant to be placed in separate cohorts that will not come into contact with one another, the reporting party will be allowed to select no less than half of any upcoming API activities (e.g., within a month-long timeframe) and the responding party will not be allowed to participate. The responding party may participate in the activities that are not selected by the reporting party.  These arrangements will continue until the API investigation has been concluded. A full refund of all forfeited activities will be offered to both parties until the investigation has been completed.
  • Enforce “no contact” agreements: API may require the reporting and responding parties to sign an agreement specifying that they will make every effort to avoid unsupervised contact.  Deliberate violation of such an agreement by either party could result in immediate dismissal from the program, even if the formal API investigation remains ongoing.

It is important that the reporting party is aware that API cannot fully control the host environment.  While API can take action and enforce rules to limit interactions in API housing and while participating in API events, API has no control over public spaces (e.g., public transportation, eating or social establishments, local points of interest, etc.).  A reporting party should be aware of the risk of coming into unsupervised contact with a responding party outside of program spaces and sponsored activities.

If a reporting party elects to file a police report with local authorities, API may be required by law to defer or suspend an internal investigation. Even if local laws do not preclude an API investigation, they may limit how API can respond (e.g., place restrictions on speaking to witnesses, collecting evidence, etc.).  API will continue to support the reporting party and provide guidance to the responding party during this time.

3.a The API Investigation

  • Providing it has clearance to do so from the reporting party and local authorities (if applicable), API will move forward with an investigation as expeditiously as possible. In general, the investigation will proceed as follows:
  • API will ask the reporting party to share the specific allegations in writing, providing as much detail as possible.  Then the reporting party will complete an official interview with leadership in the API Student Services division via, telephone, Skype, or another communication method.  A note-taker may be present during the interview.  A synopsis of the interview will be provided to the reporting party to verify accuracy following the interview.
    API will inform the responding party(ies) of the accusations and require them to provide written testimony of their actions during the specific window of time in question within 72 hours of receiving the request from API.  All responding parties must also complete an official interview with leadership in the API Student Services division via telephone, Skype, or another communication method.  A note-taker may be present during the interview.  A synopsis of the interview will be provided to the responding party to verify accuracy following the interview.
  • Both the reporting and responding parties will be permitted to review the written testimonies of the other party.  They will then be required to provide feedback within 72 hours of receiving the request from API, and submit any additional documentation considered relevant, including a list of witnesses to corroborate their respective testimonies.
  • API will interview any applicable witnesses. In the majority of cases, it will be impossible to interview witnesses without making reference to the specific allegations in question, as well as to the parties involved.
  • Based on any physical evidence available, personal testimonies, and witness testimonies, API will ultimately make a ruling about the likelihood that the reported incident occurred.

Following standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Education for such cases, API uses a “preponderance of evidence” standard rather than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, unlike criminal court cases in the U.S.  In simple terms, this means that if API finds that the alleged incident is more likely to have happened than not, API will proceed to discipline the responding party and may immediately dismiss the responding party from the API program.

Unless delayed by local law provisions, API will seek to conduct and conclude an investigation within 30 days of the allegations being shared by the reporting party.

Note: Even if a reporting party does not choose to pursue an investigation, API will take reasonable action to support the participant to successfully complete the API program. If API has cause to believe the allegations are true, API may choose to dismiss a participant at any time to protect the reporting party or fellow participants from potential harm, without conducting an extensive investigation.

4. API Procedure Following Allegations of Harassment/Discrimination by an API Representative or Employee

When a participant reports inappropriate behavior by an API representative to API’s Senior VP of Organizational Operations, API will take all steps necessary to investigate the veracity of the concerns. To do, the participant reporting the behavior will be asked to:

  • Share the specific allegations in writing, providing as much detail as possible.
  • Complete an official interview with the Senior VP of Organizational Operations and/or the Senior Director for Student Services.  The interview may be conducted via telephone, Skype, or another form of communication.

Depending on the severity of the charges (e.g., inappropriate comments versus sexual advances), API could:

  • Assign a new API representative to be the point of contact for the reporting participant on-site.  If only one API representative is based in the host city, an API representative from the same country shall be assigned to support the participant or a non-API representative could be identified to work with the participant who has reported the incident.
  • Remove the API representative from the position until a thorough investigation of the allegations has been completed.
  • Interview other API participants to determine if they have experienced the same unwelcome behavior, without sharing the identity of the reporting party whenever possible.

If it is determined that the API representative has behaved inappropriately, API management will take steps to address the inappropriate behavior and/or discipline the representative. Discipline may include:

  • Issuing a letter of warning to the API representative and requiring the individual to complete formal training regarding more appropriate behavior;
  • Dismissing the representative from the position with API;
  • Reporting the API representative to local authorities, provided the reporting party wishes to press charges.

5. False Claims or Allegations

Any participant who deliberately makes false accusations or provides false testimony against an API participant or representative will be subject to review and potential dismissal from the API program.  Additionally the participant could be subject to criminal or civil charges being filed by the responding party.

*For customized or faculty-led programs, API may defer to the Code of Conduct of the participants’ home institution.

**In cases of sexual assault, the insurance plan provided by API requires participants to seek medical attention within 24 hours of the incident to cover certain types of treatment.

***Students are informed that their home university may wish to conduct an internal investigation concurrently with API or upon the completion of API’s investigation.