Universities Are NOT Immune: Anywhere, Everywhere, There is Sexual Harassment

The wave of revelations about the mistreatment of female artists (actresses) by Harvey Weinstein, including allegations of harassment by the President, Bill Cosby, and allegations against a prominent Psycholinguistics professor Florian Jaeger of the University of Rochester. About 14 victims alleged that Jaeger forced them to meet, do drugs and have sex with him.  According to Emil Guillermo, Mother Jones Magazine investigation reported that at least 19 UC-Berkeley employees were found to have violated the school’s sexual-harassment policy since 2011. According to news reports, an Amazon executive has been suspended after a producer came forward with sexual harassment allegations against him. For the most part, some of these allegations involved “powerful” men in high places having sex with their employees or graduate students. It’s not a matter of just anecdotal evidence, in fact, based on recent revelations, it is still clear to me that women are often the target of harassment in the workplace.

According to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), workplace sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment is not limited to any particular race or gender or sex. Acknowledgeably, there may be cases of false allegations or exaggerations. But to be clear, sexual harassment can happen anywhere, and in any workplace, including on college and university campuses. Professors, staff and students are not immune.  Students may be more likely to be the victims of sexual harassment. As some of these allegations have shown, more need to be done to improve workplace culture, empower victims to report inappropriate behaviors and file complaints about any form of discrimination that creates a hostile work environment.

Victims of abusive behaviors ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault often suffer in silence. Taking a proactive approach in preventing and dealing with harassment is critical. Now that the culture of silence on sexual harassment is a trending public and topical debate, I hope universities are taking note on how to handle allegations of sexual harassment by staff, student and faculty. For a start, I think Virginia Tech may want to begin an annual survey into sexual misconduct by university staff and faculty towards students. This may be part of the university’s campus safety program.

In sum, Emil Guillermo asked in an article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education (http://diverseeducation.com/article/103316/) – Guillermo: Will Weinstein Saga Change Attitudes Toward Campus Sexual Harassment?