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Using illustrations from university settings and popular culture, this article explains and clarifies what is and is not a false allegation, contrasts false allegations with allegations that are not proven (not substantiated) following an investigation, and discusses some important considerations when dealing with allegations of sexual harassment. An allegation is a statement of belief that some wrong or harm has occurred.It is simplistic and unhelpful to frame allegations as “true” or “false”. For example, a student alleges that a professor has sexually harassed her; she believes the professor has crossed the line into behaviour that is illegal, contravenes the university’s policies, is unacceptable, and harms her (her learning, her grade in the course, her completion of the course, academic references, her comfort level with the faculty member, her academic or personal reputation, etc.).While the onus is first on the complainant to make out a prima facie case (before the onus shifts to the alleged harasser to respond to the allegations), the prima facie case does not in itself create proof of substantiation.As noted earlier, whether the complaint has merit will be determined through a fact-finding process.Person A may not have accurately identified who made the comments; therefore, the allegation made about Person B is not substantiated.Person A may not have accurately or completely identified the comments or the context in which the comments were made.Keep in mind that any of these examples may indicate that inappropriate or unprofessional conduct occurred, but it does not fit the definition of sexual harassment.
We struggle with what appears to be the male (and professorial? It presents prima facie evidence of “something”—possibly of sexual harassment, maybe of assault, probably of abuse of power (by the professor? As an attempt to discover the truth and deliver fairness, justice, or equity it fails miserably—and that may be why it makes good theatre.) privilege of John and the awakening feminist (and mob? Over the years, labour arbitrators have cautioned against using subjective impressions to decide the merit of workplace grievances of harassment.They have emphasized that objective standards, not solely the subjective impressions of the alleged victim or alleged harasser, must be applied in determining whether harassment or abuse has occurred.Too often people quickly and inappropriately rush to judgment, declaring harassment exists before the facts are known, the evidence is assessed, and a proper determination is made. Indeed, David Mamet’s controversial play is sometimes referred to as a he-said-she-said sexual harassment story.
It is also considered to be a play about false accusations of sexual harassment.It answers two questions: Did it (what is alleged) occur? The totality of the evidence must be assessed to determine whether specific behaviours constituted sexual harassment—or something else, such as interpersonal conflict, miscommunication, unprofessional behaviour, or potential criminal behaviour, such as sexual assault or criminal harassment (stalking).