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REPORT SAYS PROVOST DIDN'T DISCRIMINATE, NEEDS TRAINING INVESTIGATORS SAY STRATHE SHOULD SEEK INTERPERSONAL SKILLS TRAINING

Independent investigators have concluded that UND Provost Marlene Strathe did not harass or discriminate against a member of her staff.

However, the investigators did recommend several changes in the way UND handles grievances, and suggested that Strathe, who also is vice president for academic affairs, should get training in management skills, particularly in interpersonal relations.

The findings close out a grievance filed last November by David Bowen, then a member of Strathe's staff. Bowen, the financial officer in the vice president's office, charged that Strathe had discriminated against him because he is a man.

After a lengthy investigation, Dorraine Larison, a lawyer from St. Cloud, Minn., and Mary Olk, a psychologist from Elk River, Minn., concluded that while Bowen's job duties had changed under Strathe, there was no basis to conclude that any of the changes were related to discrimination.

The investigation cost the university $11,000.

By mutual agreement, Bowen has transferred to a similar position in the College of Business and Public Administration. Bowen's lawyer, Thomas Fiebiger of Fargo, said the situation has been resolved to Bowen's satisfaction.

made recommendations for changes in several areas.

training relating to management skills with a particular emphasis on Jerry Davis, UND Law School dean and the university's lawyer, noted that the recommendation about Strathe came in an addendum to the overall report, because it was based in part on testimony from a witness who came forward after the main part of the report was completed.

Although Davis praised the work the investigators did, he questioned UND President Kendall Baker also questioned the recommendation and said he Strathe had no comment.

Delay in response to Bowen's complaint. The investigators noted that Bowen filed his complaint on Nov. 27, 1995, but the investigation was not begun until March 1996.

Davis said that was partly because the grievance was filed as a gender discrimination complaint, but officials believed it should have been a workplace conditions complaint.

Bowen, however, insisted on pursuing it as a gender issue, Davis said. Those negotiations took some time, he said.

Then, university affirmative action officer Sally Page, who normally would investigate such complaints, excused herself from the case because she works too closely with those involved. That forced the university to seek outside investigators, Davis said.

Lack of an investigative team at UND. The report said one of the reasons there was a delay in investigating the complaint is that the university does not have a team trained and ready to investigate complaints against top management.

Davis agreed that such a team would be nice, but wondered where the university would find the funds to provide such training. He said, too, that even if such a team had been in place, it's doubtful its members would have wanted to undertake an investigation of the university's No. 2 administrator.

Page said an investigative team could be useful, but contended that it's only one of a number of possible approaches to solving the problem.

Affirmative action officer conflict. The report says affirmative action officer Page has two roles. On the one hand, they said, she is a counselor who talks to individuals and advises them in confidence on courses of action. On the other hand, she is an investigator who looks into complaints and who would conflict is unmanageable, partly because she rejects the contention that she is a confidential counselor.

Grand Forks Herald, July 27, 1996