Section I — The Department of Astronomy Code of Conduct

The ability to produce high-quality science and offer excellent educational opportunities is a hallmark of top academic research programs. Recognizing that scientific productivity and educational success are enabled by a respectful and professional environment the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Astronomy adopts this Code of Conduct. This Code aims to foster an environment where everyone may reach their full potential, be it in research, education, public outreach, administration, or studies. It applies to all members of the Department, including visitors, but does not supplant University policies and procedures.


  • Be polite. The operation of the Department depends on people carrying out a wide range of necessary tasks. Civil behavior and timeliness helps everyone to work or study effectively.
  • Behave professionally.
  • All formal communications from members of the Department should be appropriate for a professional audience including people of many different backgrounds. Disrespectful or exclusionary language or imagery is not appropriate.
  • Be respectful of the opinions, views, and rights of others.
  • Be fair. We expect students and colleagues to be treated fairly and that standards for the assessment of performance will be applied equally.
  • All members of the Department are expected to follow University policies for proper workplace behavior and to follow standard rules for ethical research practices (see
  • The Department has an anti-retaliation policy that applies to complainants. A person making a complaint about violations of this code, or expressing a concern about the departmental climate, is protected from retaliatory actions.
  • Harassment and sexist, racist, or exclusionary comments or jokes are not appropriate. Harassment includes: unwelcome and sustained/repeated disruption of teaching, studying, talks or other department-related events or tasks; inappropriate physical contact, sexual attention or innuendo; deliberate intimidation; stalking; and photographing or recording of an individual without consent. It also includes offensive comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion.

Section II — Remediation

As a first option, any person who is concerned that someone violated the code of conduct is encouraged to bring that concern to a member of the Committee on Departmental Environment. The Committee is confidential and has the resources to assist in suggesting steps to resolve the issue.

Within the Department: Cases that cannot be resolved through the Committee on Departmental Environment described above can be brought directly to the attention of the Department Chair or Associate Chair. The Chair or Associate Chair then decides how to address the situation, which may include the involvement of resources outside of the Department. The Chair/Associate Chair will seek information on the nature of the problem, will discuss the complaint with all parties involved and will appropriately inform the parties of the outcome of this process.

Outside of the Department: If discussion with the Department Chair or Associate Chair would be inappropriate, the option exists to bring a complaint to the attention of appropriate authorities outside of the Department. In this situation, the process depends on the status of the person making the complaint. Examples of possible remediation steps are listed, but other options may exist depending upon the particulars of the situation:

  • The Dean of Student’s office is ready and able to assist undergraduate and graduate students (see, e.g., or similar sites). Graduate students also have the option to discuss issues with the office of the Dean of the Graduate School.
  • Issues concerning faculty or instructors should be brought to the attention of our Associate Dean in the College of Letters and Science.
  • Situations involving staff can contact the Associate Dean who can recommend an appropriate resource.
  • Postdoctoral researchers and Scientists should contact either the College or the Graduate School as a first step.
  • Our Ombuds Office ( and Title IX Office for Equity and Diversity ( have resources to help any member of the Department deal with a range of situations.

We expect the specifics of this list to be updated annually by the Committee on Departmental Environment (see Appendix). This committee also will insure that this information is available to all members of the Department, including undergraduate students.

Appendix — Committee on Departmental Environment

The Code of Conduct is intended to be a living document that reflects a shared responsibility for maintaining a professional environment in our workplace. The Chair will annually request nominations for elections to the Committee on Departmental Environment that is the caretaker of this Code.

Committee members will be nominated to be representatives from the following groups: faculty, graduate students, scientists, post-doctoral researchers, technical staff, and administrative/office staff. When more than one nominee is presented from any departmental group, the committee members will be elected by vote of the relevant component of the department. Once formed the Committee will annually elect its Chairperson and committee members may serve terms of up to 3 years that are renewable.

The initial Committee, first meeting in January 2018, comprises the following people:

Rich Townsend (faculty)
Julie Davis (graduate students) (chair)
Marina Orio (scientists)
Adam Schaefer (post-doctoral researchers)
Sheri Pittman (administrative/office staff)

(There is currently no representative for technical staff.)

The Committee on Departmental Environment is responsible for making the first step in resolving a concern that is brought to their attention, reviewing campus options for remediation, and providing this information on a web page that is accessible to all members of the Department. Any complaints brought to the Committee will be held in confidence unless doing so would violate a College or University policy.

This Committee also is charged with maintaining the formal Code of Conduct, and as appropriate will present suggestions for revisions to the Chair and the Department.

In addition the Chair of the Committee on Departmental Environment will provide an annual report to the Chair and Executive Committee on the departmental environment. This report normally will be presented in an executive session during the last departmental meeting of each academic year.

The Committee on Departmental Environment will cooperate with the Chair to ensure that we are sustaining a healthy workplace. To this end the Committee Chair may bring concerns to the Department Chair provided that the conditions for anonymity discussed above are not violated.

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