Study of sexual harassment in academia

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.

For more, go here.

2 thoughts on “Study of sexual harassment in academia

  1. I think the ‘serial harassers’ point is an important one—I think there are a lot of professors who are nervous about activism in this domain because they’ve gotten the idea that if they slip up and make a thoughtless remark they’ll be forever branded a harasser. (Media narratives like to emphasize this kind of picture.)

    From a brief scan of the introduction, I do have the feeling that the authors might be underestimating the methodological complications having to do with the ‘tip of the iceberg’ phenomenon. They point out that harassment typically goes unreported, but suggest that studies, including quantitative ones like these, of reported cases can be a good guide to the phenomenon on the whole. I think this is plausible in some areas but not in others. It depends on whether you’d expect systematic correlation with the decision whether to report. In particular, I am suspicious of the finding that most harassment is physical rather than verbal. There are many reasons why I’d expect physical harassment to be reported at a much higher rate than verbal harassment.

    Something like this worry might apply to the serial harassers finding too. It’s a lot easier to report if you’re not the only one.

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