Sexual Harassment and Academia: A Call to Action
Julie Libarkin, Michigan State University
Despite headlines to the contrary, sexual harassment is both a far-reaching and longstanding problem in academia. The 1964 ban on sex discrimination in the workplace, the coining of the term “sexual harassment” in 1975, and the 1980 guidelines on sexual harassment issued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) all clearly emerged from a need for workplaces free from obscene remarks or advances. Despite fifty years of attention, sexual harassment continues to be a problem across many disciplines, including science. This talk will review existing research on academic sexual harassment as well as insights gleaned from an analysis of nearly 600 cases documented in media reports, legal briefs, and university documents. In the past year alone, sexual harassment perpetrated by a US professor, dean, or university president has been documented at least once a week.
While individual academic institutions are currently working to generate policies to protect against sexual harassment, these individual efforts are unlikely to produce the type of cultural shift needed to combat sexual harassment in academia. We analyzed sexual harassment policies for 38 universities responsible for graduating many future faculty as well as 252 affiliated societies of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This analysis indicates that most professional societies do not have sexual harassment policies. Those policies that do exist within both professional societies and universities fail to meet minimum standards established by the EEOC. We suggest that it is incumbent upon parent organizations such as AAAS to articulate norms and expectations regarding sexual harassment. In particular, graduate students need to be acculturated into disciplines where harassment of any form is both acknowledged and forbidden.
A reception will follow the talk.