Appropriate Treatment of Students and Postdocs

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The Graduate School at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is committed to cultivating a world-class educational and training experience by ensuring equitable standards and serving as the advocate and central resource for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. We strive to ensure an environment where early-career scientists thrive while building the foundation for impactful contributions to society.‚Äč

In addition to instituting policy and serving as a resource for our research scholars, we follow the guidelines outlined in the Appropriate Treatment of Research Trainees (AToRT) document published in October 2021 by the Association of American Medical Colleges Working Group on Research, Education, and Training (AAMC GREAT).

The Goals and Principles of the ATORT Guide

Many inappropriate behaviors do not rise to the level of clear illegality or a violation of existing policies. Instead, such behaviors remain as “under the surface” slights (e.g., microaggressions) that unsettle or compromise the training climate and research trainees’ experiences. It is important to recognize and call-out behaviors that prevent the actualization of the below principles.

Although these examples may include behavior that would be addressed by laws such as Title VII and Title IX, the focus of the AToRT document is on behaviors that likely do not cross legal thresholds.

The overarching goals of the Appropriate Treatment of Research Trainees (AToRT) document are:

  1. TO AFFIRM the shared principles that are essential for fostering supportive and inclusive graduate and postdoctoral training environments.
  2. TO IDENTIFY and consistently call out examples of behaviors that are incompatible with these principles
  3. TO PROVIDE a framework for identifying and addressing these issues that may be adapted for use at individual institutions.

 


Three essential principles should be upheld within our scientific training environments:

Leadership LEADERSHIP

Mentors are expected to be leaders and role models. By accepting a research trainee, a mentor agrees to undertake the training and development of a scientist and to set the tone, the culture, and the climate for their research group. As the head of the research group, it is the mentor’s responsibility to establish a supportive and inclusive training environment.

ProfessionalismPROFESSIONALISM

Mentors are expected to conduct themselves in a courteous, conscientious, and respectful manner as well as adhere to a high standard of personal behavior. Professionalism involves having integrity, being responsible, and holding oneself accountable.

EquityEQUITY

Mentors, like institutions, are expected to commit to valuing and embracing diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. The scientific discipline attracts research trainees from a multiplicity of countries, ethnicities, backgrounds and experiences. Just as diversity in scientific thought is integral for the advancement of science, it is also important to recognize the value of diverse perspectives rooted in each individual’s lived experiences.


Examples of Behaviors that Violate These Principles 

You can report experiencing this type of mistreatment here. You can use this tool to identify other resources available to support you.

  • Sharing sensitive information about a research trainee without their explicit permission (e.g., sexual orientation, disability status, personal information, medical/health status).
  • Ignoring a research trainee’s opinions or dismissing them without consideration.
  • Intentionally singling out a research trainee for arbitrary and/or punitive treatment.
  • Using aggressive questioning under the guise of the “Socratic method” to intentionally badger or humiliate a research trainee.
  • Overt or implied threats of violence; intimidating behaviors (e.g., finger-pointing, invasion of personal space, shoving, or blocking one’s path, shouting, directing anger, etc.); and/or using obscene gestures, cartoons, or jokes in the presence of a research trainee.
  • Directing verbal abuse (e.g., obscenities/ profanities) against a research trainee to belittle or ridicule them in connection with their work, identities, attitudes, or private life. This includes any dehumanizing language based on race, culture, and/or gender. Even if not directed at the trainee, using such verbal expressions, so as to create a negative environment.
  • Via words or actions, teasing, taunting and/or being sarcastic without regard to how the research trainee perceives these behaviors or actions.
  • Disrespect for boundaries (e.g., texts at inappropriate times, critical comments regarding a research trainee’s agency/personal time when outside the laboratory).
  • Refusing to use the correct pronunciation of a trainee’s name, their preferred pronouns, or “deadnaming” research trainees who are transgender or transitioning.
  • Spreading gossip, allegations and/or rumors about a research trainee.
  • Displaying a hostile reaction when approached by others.
  • Not responding to requests for feedback or accommodations in a timely manner.

You can report experiencing this type of mistreatment here. You can use this tool to identify other resources available to support you.Ordering work not typical for a research trainee to perform at the institution.

  • Assigning duties to a research trainee as punishment rather than for academic or research advancement.
  • Coercing or encouraging a research trainee to disregard institutional or federal policies regarding training and/or research.
  • Coercing or encouraging a research trainee to lie or withhold the truth from a colleague or superior, or to perform a task that is unethical or illegal.
  • Coercing a research trainee by threatening to withhold research resources, reference letters, or other critical professional development support.
  • Requiring research trainees to perform personal services (e.g., run errands, personal caregiving duties, listen to personal problems).
  • Pressuring a research trainee not to claim something to which they are entitled (e.g., travel expenses, university holidays, medical leave, vacation/time-off, intellectual property).
  • Leveraging grades, authorship, or annual performance reviews as punishment or coercion rather than as an objective evaluation of competency.
  • Leveraging visas to coerce a research trainee to work more hours or perform other duties above and beyond reasonable expectations.
  • Criticizing a research trainee for cultural attire, attitudes, beliefs, and/or linguistic characteristics.

You can report experiencing this type of mistreatment here. You can use this tool to identify other resources available to support you.

  • Ordering work not typical for a research trainee to perform at the institution.
  • Assigning duties to a research trainee as punishment rather than for academic or research advancement.
  • Coercing or encouraging a research trainee to disregard institutional or federal policies regarding training and/or research.
  • Coercing or encouraging a research trainee to lie or withhold the truth from a colleague or superior, or to perform a task that is unethical or illegal.
  • Coercing a research trainee by threatening to withhold research resources, reference letters, or other critical professional development support.
  • Requiring research trainees to perform personal services (e.g., run errands, personal caregiving duties, listen to personal problems).g. Pressuring a research trainee not to claim something to which they are entitled (e.g., travel expenses, university holidays, medical leave, vacation/time-off, intellectual property).
  • Leveraging grades, authorship, or annual performance reviews as punishment or coercion rather than as an objective evaluation of competency.
  • Leveraging visas to coerce a research trainee to work more hours or perform other duties above and beyond reasonable expectations.
  • Criticizing a research trainee for cultural attire, attitudes, beliefs, and/or linguistic characteristics.

You can report experiencing this type of mistreatment here. You can use this tool to identify other resources available to support you.

  • Implying that a research trainee’s capacity for a specific skill is due to an aspect of their identity (e.g., they are of a given ethnicity or gender).
  • Inquiring about a trainee’s plans for starting a family based on their gender.
  • Marginalizing research trainees by invoking harmful stereotypes, making broad group generalizations, degrading a person on the basis of a personal or cultural characteristic (e.g., “you people all expect me to read your minds”) that may invoke a sense of “other-ness.”
  • Creating inequities in learning opportunities, teaching, feedback, performance evaluations or grading based on personal characteristics of the research trainee (e.g., giving a better grade because someone is going into a preferred career path or personal preference).

You can report experiencing this type of mistreatment here. You can use this tool to identify other resources available to support you.

  • Excessive monitoring and micromanagement of the work performed by a research trainee.
  • Knowingly assigning an unmanageable workload for a research trainee, or pressuring them to exceed established restrictions on work hours.
  • Pressuring a research trainee with meeting unrealistic goals and/or not providing clear work expectations; yet, holding them responsible for meeting those expectations.

Official Referral and Resolution Options