He’s made annual training on how to avoid, understand and report abuse mandatory for all of the state’s 20,000-some employees, contractors and interns. State agencies under his control will have to review their anti-harassment policies every three years. He’s promised to encourage other state offices to follow suit.
By itself, of course, no amount of training will upend a culture of entitlement and stop the abuse of power. And does anyone really need an instructor to tell him (or her) what constitutes harassment, or that it’s wrong?
Still, that this is Colyer’s first order sends a strong signal that, as he said when he signed it, “we will be fierce about it, absolutely.”
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That’s what it’s going to take to solve a problem that has been both pervasive and ignored for so long that it’s been seen more as a natural, no-big-deal byproduct of alpha behavior than as the criminal offense and potential career-ender that it is, with serious repercussions for all involved.
Through a spokesman, Kendall Marr, the governor said that he has both friends and relatives who’ve endured harassment themselves, and “that’s something he’s taken to heart, as the father of three daughters.”
“He said this is foundational, and he’s not going to tolerate discrimination in any form.” Thank you, governor, for setting the bar high. Please, governor, keep it there and follow through.
Kansas lawmakers, meanwhile, are reviewing their 24-year-old policy, which doesn’t require training for anyone. They’ve been holding voluntary training sessions since The Star began reporting on harassment in Topeka, where inappropriate comments and behavior have been described as “rampant.”
In the 2016 session, college interns regularly served as designated drivers for legislators who had been drinking. Gentlemen, this is why God made Uber.
In making his sexual harassment policy the subject of his first executive order, Colyer put that issue in the top spot that his predecessor, Sam Brownback, gave to establishing an “Office of the Repealer” to kill regulations and shrink government. (Brownback’s last order, in case you’re curious, was repealing the Office of the Repealer, perhaps because there was so little left to abolish.) President Donald Trump’s first order vowed to undermine the Affordable Care Act. President Barack Obama’s first reversed a George W. Bush executive order that limited public access to presidential records.
When it comes to undoing what came before, Colyer has taken on a more ambitious project than any of them.