I. Standard of Conduct
The University of Tampa’s Physician Assistant Medicine Program is committed to the principle that the educational relationship should be one of mutual respect between teacher and learner. Because the school trains individuals who are entrusted with the lives and well-being of others, we have a unique responsibility to assure that students learn as members of a community of scholars in an environment that is conducive to learning. Maintaining such an environment requires that the faculty, staff and students treat each other with the respect due to colleagues.
The teacher-learner relationship confers rights and responsibilities on both parties. Behaving in a way that embodies the ideal teacher-learner relationship fosters mutual respect, minimizes the likelihood of learner mistreatment, and optimizes the educational experience.
II. Purpose of Policy
The purpose of this policy is to promote a positive learning environment for PA students and to outline the procedures for reporting and addressing alleged incidents of student mistreatment. (This policy meets the requirements for ARC-PA Standard A3.15f.)
III. Definition/Examples of Student Mistreatment
As described by the Association of American Medical Colleges, mistreatment occurs when “behavior shows disrespect for the dignity of others and unreasonably interferes with the learning process. It can take the form of physical punishment, sexual harassment, psychological cruelty, and discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age or sexual orientation.”
Examples of student mistreatment include, but are not limited to:
- Unwanted physical contact (such as touching, hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing) or the threat of the same
- Sexual harassment, misconduct and relationship violence (see UT policy: https://www.ut.edu/campus-life/student-services/office-of-student-conduct/student-code-of-conduct
- Discrimination based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin (see UT policy: https://www.ut.edu/campus-life/vice-president-for-student-affairs-and-dean-of-students/other-university-policies)
- Requiring learners to perform personal chores (e.g., running errands)
- Verbal harassment, including humiliation or belittlement in public or privately
- Use of grading and other forms of assessment in a punitive or self-serving manner
- Romantic or sexual relationships between a teacher and student
IV. Procedures for Reporting Possible Mistreatment
While we believe that professional behavior is generally practiced and respected by the members of our diverse community of scholars, we recognize that there may be occasions when real or perceived incidents of unprofessional behavior directed toward learners occur. In addition, students may observe unprofessional behaviors directed towards other students, staff members, or faculty that impairs the learning environment. Any concerns should be reported as soon as possible after the alleged incident.
The program has a policy on professional behavior that addresses student on student and student on faculty mistreatment. See https://www.ut.edu/graduate-degrees/physician-assistant-medicine-program/program-policies for the professionalism policy and pathway for lodging a complaint. Students and faculty may use the Professional Concern Report to file a complaint regarding mistreatment, which is a violation of the professional behavioral expectations, between student to student or student to faculty member.
A. Informal Pathways
If the student feels comfortable doing so, the student may speak directly with the individual involved in the incident. If the behavior stems from a misunderstanding or a need for increased sensitivity, the individual involved in the incident will often respond positively and stop the offending behavior. Open communication may clarify any misunderstanding or issue(s) and lead to a successful informal resolution. Phase director or other faculty member will serve as a third party to this discussion.
A student may discuss an incident or concern with their advisor who may be able to help the student achieve an informal resolution. In addition, these individuals may be able to provide assistance in the form of counseling, coaching or directing the student to appropriate University resources.
B. Formal Pathways
Students who chose to make a formal report or complaint of an incident of possible mistreatment may do so by filing a complaint with the PA program PPP committee using the Mistreatment Form.
- If a student chooses to pursue a formal complaint, s/he must be willing to be identified to the person against whom the complaint is directed.
- Only the student who is aggrieved may make the formal complaint. Complaints made “on behalf” of another student will not be accepted.
- Complaints must be made within seven days of the alleged mistreatment incident.
V. Process for Resolution of Formal Complaints
When the PPP receives a formal complaint of mistreatment, they will take appropriate action to determine the facts and the appropriate avenue for resolution of the complaint.
The appropriate channel and timeline for formal investigation and resolution of a complaint will depend on the nature of the offending behavior. If there is an existing University policy that addresses the behavior of concern, the procedures dictated by that policy will be employed. For example, alleged behaviors that violate the University’s sexual harassment policy will be handled in accordance with the procedures described in that policy and alleged behaviors that violate the University’s sexual violence policy will be handled according to the procedures outlined in the University’s procedures for resolving complaints of sexual assault, sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking.
The status of the offending party will also inform the process for further action. For example, if the offending party is a faculty member, further action will be pursued through an appropriate mechanism for addressing faculty behavior. In the case of a University staff, the PPP committee chair will consult with the department chair who may consult with the Department of Human Resources regarding the appropriate steps for further action.
For incidents of mistreatment that occur in locations beyond the parameters of the University, the PPP chair will inform the department chair who will pursue appropriate steps at the institution where the alleged mistreatment occurred.
The PPP committee will make a recommendation to the department chair as to whether the behavior was a violation of the student mistreatment policy. The department chair will consult with the dean to determine repercussions of the violation considering all applicable University policies and guidelines. The faculty member will be informed by the department chair or dean regarding the final decision and consequences.
The department chair will meet with the student to discuss the final decision.
The student may choose to appeal the decision to the dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences. They must appeal within one week (seven days) of receiving the final decision.
VI. Protection from Retaliation
Retaliation against any member of the PA program who comes forward with a complaint or concern is prohibited. If an individual believes that he or she is being subjected to retaliation as a result of coming forward with a concern or a complaint, he or she should refer the matter to the department chair.
VII. Course and Rotation Evaluations
Students are encouraged to report any mistreatment that occurs during a course or rotation by use of the official evaluation tool for the course or rotation. While these reports do not necessarily result in an investigation, the data are helpful in identifying and documenting systemic problems that may interfere with the safe learning environment.
VIII. Notification and Assessment
Faculty and staff will be informed and updated on this policy during the annual summer retreat.
Students will be informed and updated on this policy during their new student and clinical phase orientation.
A learning environment survey will be conducted annually to discern any patterns or concerns related to the learning environment that have not resulted in formal complaints.