ERIC Identifier: ED364134
Publication Date: 1993-00-00
Author: Riggs, Robert O. - And Others
Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.| George Washington
Univ. Washington DC. School of Education and Human Development.
Sexual Harassment in Higher Education from Conflict to
Community. ERIC Digest.
Colleges and universities are expected to provide learning and working
environments wherein all members of academic communities may pursue their
studies, scholarship and work without bias or intimidation. The specter of
sexual harassment is inimical to this end.
Since the impact and scope of the sexual harassment problem on college
campuses first were recognized during the early 1980s, an enormous amount of
attention has been focused on the problem. Campuses have developed policies,
procedures, extensive training programs, and materials that seek to identify and
prevent sexual harassment and promoted conferences and symposia addressing the
problem. Yet, in spite of these substantial initiatives and perhaps as a result
of heightened awareness of sexual harassment as a problem (or perhaps more
people alleging harassment), the frequency of complaints on college and
university campuses has increased.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND WHY IS IT
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other
verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when
(1) submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or
condition of an individual's employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such
conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting
such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably
interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating,
hostile, or offensive working environment.
Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination and is prohibited by
federal laws. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the
Education Amendment of 1972 are the federal statutes under which are brought the
majority of sexual harassment complaints against higher education institutions
and their employees. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 provides additional rights and
remedies to sexual harassment complainants.
WHAT KINDS OF BEHAVIOR CONSTITUTE SEXUAL
Sexually harassing behaviors encompass a broad range of actions,
including unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors when the
acceptance or rejection of such actions serves as a basis for academic or
employment decisions. Sexual harassment behavior also includes conduct that
interferes with a student's or employee's performance by allowing the existence
of a hostile working or learning environment.
More specifically, sexually harassing behavior includes the following: (1)
gender harassment, including sexist statements and behavior that convey
insulting, degrading, or sexist attitudes; (2) seductive behavior encompassing
unwanted, inappropriate, and offensive physical or verbal sexual advances; (3)
sexual bribery, involving solicitation of sexual activity or other sex-linked
behavior by promise of reward; (4) sexual coercion of sexual activity or other
sex-linked behavior by threat of punishment; and (5) sexual assault, attempted
rape, and rape (Fitzgerald et al. 1988).
HOW OFTEN DOES SEXUAL HARASSMENT OCCUR ON CAMPUSES, AND WHO ARE THE VICTIMS?
While all members of the academic community are
potential victims of unwelcome sexual behavior, the majority of complainants are
female students, faculty, and staff. Dziech and Weiner report that 20 to 30
percent of undergraduate female students are the victims of some form of sexual
harassment by at least one of their professors during their undergraduate years
(1984), and Ernest Boyer reported that more than 60 percent of the presidents
surveyed at large research and doctorate institutions said sexual harassment is
a problem (1990).
When the definition of harassment is expanded to include sexist remarks and
other forms of gender harassment, the incidence rate among undergraduate women
exceeds 75 percent. Fitzgerald et al. reported approximately 50 percent of women
at one university and nearly 76 percent at another university indicated that
they had experienced some form of harassing behavior during their careers
(1988). Paludi and Barickman suggest that, because of power structures and
cultural biases within the academy, women are overwhelmingly the targets of
sexual harassment and, although a profile has not been empirically established,
nearly all harassers are male (1991c).
WHAT STEPS SHOULD INSTITUTIONS TAKE TO ELIMINATE SEXUAL HARASSMENT FROM THE ACADEMY?
Members of institutional boards of
governance and college and university administrators must provide strong support
of programs to eliminate sexual harassment if this blight is to be removed from
the academy. Among the most important steps that institutional leaders must take
to this end are: (1) carefully drafted definitions of what constitutes sexual
harassment and clear policies that prohibit such actions; (2) accessible
grievance procedures that are communicated to and understood by all members of
the academic community; and (3) ongoing efforts to educate the campus community
about the nature of sexual harassment and its destructive impact within the
community. Taken together, these three steps represent the best practice that
institutions have experienced after more than a decade of aggressive response to
FROM CONFLICT TO COMMUNITY
The nation's colleges and
universities occupy roles in our culture that impose unique expectations and
opportunities. They are obligated to serve as moral exemplars by embracing
diversity and inclusiveness while providing an environment free of debilitating
harassment. They must lead by example in eliminating gender inequities among all
segments of the academic community. They have also the important opportunity to
shape the future by forging an ethos of enfranchisement, equity, and care. In no
other institution in American society are these expectations and opportunities
more clearly focused than in institutions of higher education.
Bayly, S. 1990. "Meritor and Related Cases." Synthesis: Law and Policy in Higher Education: 114-19.
Boyer, E.L. 1990. A Special Report. Campus Life: In Search of Community.
Princeton, N.J.: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Cole, E., ed. 1990. Sexual Harassment on Campus: A Legal compendium. 2d ed.
Washington: National Association of College and University Attorneys.
Dziech, B.W., and L. Weiner. 1984. The Lecherous Professor: Sexual Harassment
on Campus. Boston: Beacon Press.
Fitzgerald, L., S. Shullman, N. Bailey, M. Richards, J. Swecker, Y. Gold, M.
Ormerod, and L. Weitzman. 1988. "The Incidence and Dimensions of Sexual
Harassment in Academia and the Workplace." Journal of Vocational Behavior 32:
Hughes, J.O., and B.R. Sandler. 1986. In Case of Sexual Harassment: A Guide
for Women Students, We Hope It Doesn't Happen to You, but if It Does.... Booklet
published by the Project on the Status of Women. Washington, D.C.: Association
of American Colleges. ED 268 920. 9 pp. MF-01; PC-01.
Olswang, S. 1992. "Reassessing Effective Procedures in Cases of Sexual
Harassment." New Directions for Institutional Research No. 76. San Francisco:
Paludi, M.A., ed. 1990. "The Student in the Back Row: Avoiding Sexual
Harassment in the Classroom." In Ivory Power: Sexual Harassment on Campus,
281-86. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Paludi, M.A., and R. Barickman, eds. 1991a. "In Their Own Voices: Responses
from Individuals Who Have Experienced Sexual Harassment and Supportive
Techniques for Dealing With Victims of Sexual Harassment." In Academic and
Workplace Sexual Harassment: A Resource Manual. Albany: State University of New
Stimson, C.R. 1989. "Over-Reaching: Sexual Harassment and Education." Journal
of the National Association for Women Deans and Counselors 52(3): 1-5.