The Respect Cell: Constantly evolving to serve everyone on campus

© 2022 EPFL

© 2022 EPFL

The release of its first publicly available annual report is just one way that EPFL’s Respect Cell is reinforcing its visibility, effectiveness, and transparency.

For almost four years now, [email protected] has been the dedicated point of contact for members of the EPFL community who have experienced or witnessed discrimination, mobbing, sexual harassment, and other forms of inappropriate behavior. Created in 2018, the EPFL Respect Cell and its activities are a testimony to the School’s commitment to ensuring that everyone on campus, from its students to its academic staff to members of its central services, can enjoy a safe place to study and work.

This year, the Cell has publicly released its annual report on its website, transparently laying out ongoing initiatives to improve its activities and reporting on the cases it handled last year.

Total number of allegations same – but not their nature

According to the report, 2021 saw the Respect Cell open 20 new cases while managing and closing 13 of them, as well as five cases that continued from 2020. It also opened 13 discussions addressing situations not brought in as formal complaints – seven more than the previous year. Ten were handled and closed; one was eventually taken up as a formal complaint.

While the total number of allegations didn’t change compared to 2020, their nature did. 2021 saw a slight decrease in reports of the use of social media as a harassment tool. During the same period, reports of sexual harassment by female students shot up from one in 2020 to eight last year. Other reported cases involved allegations of derogatory remarks and managerial problems or conflicts.

All in all, reports were primarily submitted by the complainant, with exception of four cases involving sexual harassment that were initially reported by a support network member or a line manager on their behalf.

Reinforcing its visibility, effectiveness, and transparency

Since its inception, the Respect Cell has been active on multiple fronts to enhance its visibility, responsiveness, effectiveness, and transparency. For one, its presence in the Task Force Harassment A-Z, led by EPFL’s Vice-President for Responsible Transformation (VPT), has increased visibility and transparency into its operations and resources.

Initiatives such as a new case management system fully aligned with Legal Affairs increase the Cell’s effectiveness, make it easier to follow up on cases after they have been referred to the next instance.

At the same time, work is ongoing towards creating a new, more efficient structure for the Respect Cell: In 2023, the Respect Cell will be replaced by the Respect Compliance Office, which will be the second step in the implementation of the revised respect structure elaborated by the Task Force Harassment A-Z of the VPT.

These and many other details are all available to the public in the 2021 annual report, which is now available online.

At the service of everyone on campus

As it evolves, the Respect Cell ([email protected]) will continue to offer a safe and transparent support structure for victims and witnesses of inappropriate behavior, including psychological harassment (mobbing), sexual harassment, discrimination, and other unethical actions.

Learn more about the Respect Cell on its dedicated website and discover the full range services promoting the wellbeing of the EPFL community on the Community & Support page.