The Issue: While much of the attention toward sexual harassment in the workplace has been focused on high-profile Hollywood cases recently, there is one area that hasn’t gotten as much coverage: the classroom.
Our Stance: Sexual harassment on any level and in any setting is unacceptable, no excuses. No one should be pressured to remain silent about this issue for the sake of their career or livelihood.
The American public has been bombarded lately with a collection of news stories that have made the terms “male celebrity” and “sexual predator” synonymous. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. are all merely a preface to the lengthy list of celebrities that are being called out on their inappropriate behavior off-screen.
While some of us in Bowling Green and the greater Commonwealth may write this issue off as Hollywood’s problem, anyone that has been affected by sexual harassment and/or sexual abuse knows it can happen anywhere. If we’ve learned anything from the #metoo campaign that recently went viral on social media, it’s that some of our closest friends and family have likely suffered due to sexual harassment at some point in their lives.
Compared to the immoral, “anything goes” attitude commonly associated with Hollywood, the field of academia is one that most people might consider a safe haven, where sexually deviant behavior is ruled out by Title IX precautions and minds that should know better.
However, according to a recent survey that measured sexual assault and misconduct at a variety of prominent universities, “more than 20 percent of female undergraduates … said [in 2015] they were victims of sexual assault and misconduct … according to one of the largest studies ever of college sexual violence.”
What’s even more unsettling is that it is not uncommon for sexual assault allegations to be directed toward university faculty members.
A 2015 survey by the Association of American Universities shows that “roughly one in 10 female graduate students states that she has been sexually harassed by a faculty member at her university.”
The College Heights Herald is quite familiar with university faculty and staff member sexual misconduct as we are currently being sued by WKU for filing records requests looking into the matter on our very own campus.
What’s truly heartbreaking about this particular issue is not just that men and women at the collegiate level are being violated by their teachers, and in many cases, their mentors. It’s that many undergrads and graduate students alike, predominantly women, are often silenced because they know the risks involved with reporting sexual abuse by a male superior.
Often the consequences of reporting the truth means forfeiting one’s life’s work, specifically through the loss of one’s funding, tenure or even his or her job altogether.
This is unacceptable. Not only are victims scarred from the experience of being abused by someone they should be expected to trust, but then they are promptly pressured to remain silent on the issue so that they don’t sacrifice their livelihoods.
It is crucial the general American public, even those who haven’t been affected by this issue in some way, remain educated on the hard truths of sexual misconduct at universities across the country.
What is encouraging through all of this mess is that more victims who were once abused by Hollywood predators are now speaking out against those who wronged them. Once one individual speaks out against an injustice, more who have suffered are likely to speak out as well.
Hopefully this trend will extend to the world of academia. People should not be pressured to remain silent about sexual assault for the sake of their future.