So I’m not pleased to see a report on sexual harassment by faculty titled Worse Than It Seems. It summarizes the results of a survey of harassment in academia, and takes an objective, outsider’s look at the problem.
“A Systematic Look at a Serial Problem: Sexual Harassment of Students by University Faculty” seeks to cut through the noise with data, analyzing nearly 300 faculty-student harassment cases for commonalities. The study, which focused on complaints by graduate students, led to two major findings: most faculty harassers are accused of physical, not verbal, harassment, and more than half of cases — 53 percent — involve alleged serial harassers.
Data “confirm that faculty harassment of students is more widespread than many may appreciate” says the study, forthcoming in Utah Law Review. Perhaps most importantly, it says, a “disturbingly high proportion of available cases indicate evidence of higher-severity sexual harassment that includes unwelcome physical contact and/or a pattern of serial sexual harassment of multiple victims by the same faculty member.”
In other words, data challenge what the study calls “stereotypes” about sexual harassment, including that the current reporting environment has compromised faculty members’ academic freedom.
That last bit is also surprising: treating students and colleagues with respect compromises academic freedom? Who claims that? It’s a new one to me, although given the stupidity of so many arguments from affronted men, I guess I should expect it.
It’s also eye-opening to get the perspective from the inside, close-up: read about Gina Baucom’s informal query about “what’s the crappiest thing you’ve heard said about a woman academic?” It’s horrifying.
The worst thing I’ve personally and directly heard?
She’s an Asian girl, they’re always so good with their hands followed by a snigger and a leer. And my decision that I wasn’t going to work with that guy. That was in my first year as a grad student, so I got disillusioned early.