A new campus website designed to make it easier to find support for, or to report, instances of harm that staff and faculty experience will soon be available at The University of New Mexico. The website and mobile app, known as Wayfinder, will help university employees learn about the supportive services and reporting options that they can access when they experience harm in the workplace.
The Wayfinder website, which can be found at https://wayfinder.unm.edu/, is an in-house, UNM-specific app co-produced by the Division for Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and IT Applications, with support from a variety of campus partners, from campus Ombuds and Advocates to the Office of Compliance, Equity, and Equal Opportunity (CEEO) and the Committee on Academic Freedom & Tenure (AF&T). The site relies on research and best practices in conflict resolution and User Experience (UX) design, particularly trauma-informed design principles, to help users to learn about their options safely and privately. The project has increased communication and buy-in across university units, who perceive the site as a benefit to the campus community.
“We want staff and faculty to ask for help and report misconduct when it happens, and we want people to know where to go and how things work,” said Chief Compliance Officer & ADA Coordinator Francie Cordova. “When people have a better understanding of what CEEO and other offices provide, they may feel more comfortable reaching out. Responding to discrimination, harassment, and other misconduct at UNM requires multiple prevention and reporting options: the Wayfinder helps us understand these options.”
The Wayfinder site helps UNM employees learn about the nature and impact of choices available to those employees who have experienced or witnessed acts such as bullying, discrimination, harassment, violence or threat of violence, retaliation and threats to academic freedom. While navigating the site, users can access definitions and examples of different kinds of harm, browse available reporting options and supportive services, and learn what to expect if they decide to contact different UNM offices. Wayfinder also features an “exit quickly” button on all pages, which allows users to navigate the site 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 “who can I call?” button, which provides contact information for confidential campus and community resources, thereby encouraging users to move beyond the passive website to seek direct support.
“Wayfinder is set up to ensure that our Lobos can find confidential guidance as they navigate the safest ways to respond when they are targets. Not only are minoritized groups at a higher risk to become targets, but they are also more likely to experience retaliation when they respond appropriately. Therefore, Wayfinder is an accessible and critical tool for UNM’s many communities.” – Assata Zerai, UNM vice president, Division for Equity and Inclusion
“We call it ‘Wayfinder’ because through it, we seek to empower our colleagues to find their way to getting help,” said Elizabeth Hutchison, associate vice president for the Division for Equity and Inclusion, who is leading the project. “There is no single pathway that is right for everyone. Some people just want to find someone who can listen, while others want to engage in mediation or file a formal complaint. By exploring the Wayfinder's pathways, users can learn more about their options, before deciding how they want to proceed.”
Wayfinder is a unique website among university help websites nationally because it takes an intersectional approach to identifying and remedying harms. Many individuals experience different kinds of harm simultaneously – such as racism and bullying -- but the University typically addresses those harms separately. Wayfinder allows users to learn more about university response systems before engaging with them. 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 is also grounded in principles of Justice, Equity, Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion (JEADI), because those populations experiencing the highest rates of bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment are typically communities of color, disabled persons, and sexual- and gender-identity minorities,
“So often universities make important strides to diversify their campuses without thinking about how to actually *include* and support diverse groups,” said Dr. Assata Zerai, UNM vice president of the Division for Equity and Inclusion. “Given that bias is often implicit, it makes sense that university communities that were historically, white, cisgender male, and heteronormative may not realize that minoritized groups encounter harassment, bullying and discrimination. Therefore, DEI’s Wayfinder website is an important step forward to providing resources to women, folks with disabilities, queer, trans, religious minorities, and racially minoritized groups.”
“We want staff and faculty to ask for help and report misconduct when it happens, and we want people to know where to go and how things work. When people have a better understanding of what CEEO and other offices provide, they may feel more comfortable reaching out. Responding to discrimination, harassment, and other misconduct at UNM requires multiple prevention and reporting options: the Wayfinder helps us understand these options.” – Francie Cordova, chief compliance officer and ADA coordinator
Responding supportively and effectively to harm in the workplace is not just a challenge at UNM. Employees at universities around the U.S. 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 for preventing sexual harassment, and new faculty and department chairs receive additional orientation to university policies, many UNM employees have little knowledge about how existing policies and resources might – or might not – benefit them if they have experienced harms like bullying, race and disability discrimination, sexual harassment, threats of violence, or threats to academic freedom. Moreover, because fear of retaliation remains a pervasive and intractable problem throughout higher education, the privacy offered by Wayfinder – like the confidentiality guaranteed by ombuds and other confidential campus resources – is a mechanism for enhancing users’ access to the support services and reporting options already available to them.
“Wayfinder is set up to ensure that our Lobos can find confidential guidance as they navigate the safest ways to respond when they are targets. Not only are minoritized groups at a higher risk to become targets, but they are also more likely to experience retaliation when they respond appropriately,” said Zerai. “Therefore, Wayfinder is an accessible and critical tool for UNM’s many communities. It promotes justice for all and evens the playing field in terms of access to university resources to respond to threats and other marginalizing and violent behaviors.”
"The website 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.” – Elizabeth Hutchison, associate vice president and project lead, Division for Equity and Inclusion
The National Academies report, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine notes the importance of social support for targets seeking information, as well as the detrimental effects of ineffective institutional response and the organizational cynicism it can engender. 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 employees who have tried to navigate UNM’s systems on their own, staff and faculty could use more support for accessing clear and accurate information about their available options.
“The project rests on best practices 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,” said Hutchison. “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.”
Work on the Wayfinder website began with a review of current research on the efficacy of university websites and consultation with national experts in communications and organizational studies. Members of the Division for Equity and Inclusion, Diversity Council, Liaisons for Equity Advocacy and Diversity (LEAD) Council, and Ombuds Services for Staff reviewed and provided important input on the project.
Over the last year, Wayfinder has also received feedback from these campus partners: the Office of Compliance, Ethics, and Equal Opportunity (CEEO), Human Resources, Ombuds Services for Staff, Ombuds/Dispute Resolution Services for Faculty, Academic Affairs (Main and HSC), Women’s Resource Center, LGBTQ Resource Center, ADVANCE at UNM, Staff Council, Academic Freedom & Tenure (AF&T), Accessibility Resource Center (ARC), Counseling, Assistance & Referral Services (CARS) and United Academics of UNM (UA-UNM).
Staff and faculty volunteers also reviewed existing UNM websites and evaluated the Wayfinder site’s usability and effectiveness, contributing significantly to Wayfinder’s content and design.
To learn more about the research foundations, conceptualization, design, testing and continuing evaluation of the Wayfinder site, please see The Staff and Faculty Wayfinder Website Project at the Division for Equity and Inclusion website. Questions and suggestions regarding Wayfinder can be submitted at any time to firstname.lastname@example.org.