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Professional behavior and a discrimination-free workplace

NMSU and the Department are committed to a harassment-free environment, The NMSU policy on discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct can be found at:

In particular, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sexual misconduct, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation.

While different people might have different ideas about what constitutes harassment, everyone in this Department is urged to adopt the most conservative definition and adopt an "always err on the side of caution" attitude and behavior. In particular, any behavior that might be considered to have sexual connotations, either physical or verbal, should be avoided whenever there is interaction between two people at different levels of authority, and even at the same level of authority, when interaction takes place in a professional environment. Specifically, there should be no such behavior between professors and students at any level, and there should be no such behavior between graduate students in a TA role and the students in their classes.

If anyone feels that they have been the object of sexual harassment, you are encouraged, in the strongest terms, to report it. Such reporting can be to the Department Head or any faculty member in the Department; if you are a staff member, you can report to any supervisory personnel (including the Department Head). If you are uncomfortable reporting it within the Department, you can contact the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) at, (575) 646-3635 ( Any such reports will be taken seriously. If you wish to report anonymously within the Department, a typewritten note in an envelope placed in the box of the Department Head (or box of any supervisor) would probably work well. Per NMSU policy, the Office of Institutional Equity should be notified of any reports of harassment, so if such behavior is reported to you, you have an obligation to notify OIE; OIE will be notified of any reports made to me. See for a guide to reporting.

NMSU has also contracted with an external provider, EthicsPoint, to provide employees with an alternative anonymous way to confidentially report activities that are in violation of university policy, see

If there are situations where you may have been uncomfortable, even if you do not think they have reached the level of harassment, you are encouraged to bring those forward as well; it is much better to discuss appropriate standards of behavior with people before it might potentially become a bigger problem.

Responsibility for acceptable behavior extends outside of NMSU whenever you are in a professional setting. The American Astronomical Society has provided information about sexual harassment and reporting for AAS meetings, and everyone has the right to feel comfortable at any professional meeting. See

All Department personnel should be committed to making our profession free from harassment and welcoming to all who are interested. Obviously to do so requires, at a minimum, individual behavior that is in compliance with policy. To make the community stronger, however, you can consider going farther by being a vocal proponent of a harassment-free environment. Awareness of and discussion about the issue are potentially powerful tools for improving the environment. It may be important for all of us to recognize, however, that different people have different comfort levels in how vocal they want to be on this issue.

Academic ethics

You should be careful to be ethical about the work you do and how you do it. At a high level, science depends on people being ethical about research: you need to faithfully report what you do and what you find, taking care not to overemphasize facts that might support a view that you hold while underemphasizing facts that do not.

On a lower level, e.g., vis a vis classes, we expect that you will behave honestly. On tests, we expect that you will not consult any material that you have not been explicitly told that you can, or attempt to look at the work of other students. Homework is perhaps a bit of a greyer area, as we encourage discussion of issues among students, while at the same time, expect that each individual student puts in sufficient effort to develop an understanding independently.

For some classes, solution sets may have been distributed to students in previous years for homeworks or for exams, and it is possible that some professors may use similar or identical questions. As a result, we expect that you will not make any effort to get previous answers.

When in doubt about ethical behavior, ask an appropriate person, whether that be the professor of the class, your advisor, or the Department Head! We have also had an ``Inclusive Astronomy" group that has been meeting weekly to discuss related issues.

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Jon Holtzman 2017-06-24