This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
I'm teaching a writing class this semester at a large local university. Just one semester. Just one class.
Nevertheless, yesterday I had to spend two hours doing an online course in sexual harassment -- that's a requirement, by the way: you've got to spend at least two hours; if you spend any less, there's a pop-up warning telling you to slow down. Somehow, they know.
And I’m not really complaining about it. If this is what people who run universities think they need to do – or, more accurately, what the lawyers of people who run universities tell them they need to do – then, okay, who am I to contradict them? I don’t have to face the lawsuits.
Actually, I do: that was a big part of the training – reminding the trainee that everybody is liable in a harassment lawsuit. So, stick to your knitting.
The other thing I learned, which was interesting, was that even if you’ve filed a harassment complaint with the Department of Equity and Diversity – not making that name up, by the way – you’ve still got to show up to work every day. So my dreams of getting patted on the backside and then spending the semester at home, drinking in the afternoon, evaporated. The minute you file a complaint with the Department of Equity and Diversity – not making that name up, by the way – everything sort of freezes in place – nobody’s allowed to talk about it or retaliate or do anything while the relevant authorities investigate.
Here’s a partial list, by the way, of the stuff you’re not allowed to do, ever:
Stereotype. Joke about protected categories. Joke about physical characteristics. Allow offensive objects in the workplace. Allow sexually explicit material in the workplace. Joke about offering benefits in exchange for sexual favors. Use work computers for personal purposes. Discriminate. Or retaliate.
So, basically, here’s what I learned about sexual harassment, during the contractually-obligated 120 minutes: whatever you do, don't. Whatever you say, don't say it. And whenever you're faced with this issue -- as a supervisor, teacher, student, harasser, harassee, whatever -- stop, freeze, and file a formal complaint and/or report to the Department of Equity and Diversity. Not making that name up, by the way.
But here's the irony: the class I'm teaching is a television writing class. The students in it are aspiring television writers. For them, the goal is to get a job writing on a television series and eventually to be the creator of a series of their own.
Almost every item on that list, however, is a regular, daily occurrence in the writers' room of a television show. Some are twice daily occurrences. Some happen too often to keep count.
So while I hope I'm teaching my students something about writing professionally, I'm sure not teaching them anything about being a professional writer. Which may make me a bad teacher. Which may result in a complaint to the Department of Equity and Diversity. Not making that name up, by the way.
And that’s all for this week. Next week, we’ll talk about the Keith Richards of television. In the meantime, head over to KCRW dot com slash Martini Shot and tell us about your list of Don’ts. For KCRW, this is Rob Long.