TV & Radio
Posted 1/24/2006 8:53 PM
Students: Sexual harassment all too common on campus
By Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY
Nearly two-thirds of undergraduates, male and female, say they have been sexually harassed either verbally or physically while in college, and another student or group of students usually is the perpetrator, a new report says.
And though more than 70% of women and 40% of men said they "would be somewhat or very upset" to be on the receiving end of sexual comments, jokes, gestures or looks, 51% of men and 31% of women had harassed someone. Most (59%) said they did so because they thought it was funny.
"College students' attitudes about sexual harassment are a combination of uncertainty and contradiction," says the report released Tuesday by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, a non-profit that promotes equity in education.
The group announced initiatives at 11 colleges and universities aimed at "building a sexual harassment-free campus."
About 25% of students overall said they were touched, grabbed or pinched; 53% cited comments, jokes, gestures or looks. About 7% said the source was a professor.
Findings are based on an online survey in May of 2,036 full- and part-time undergrads ages 18 to 24 enrolled in a two- or four-year college last spring. Data were adjusted to be nationally representative.
In some cases, students said they were so upset by harassment that they dropped a course or changed schools.
One in four women who reported being harassed said the incident undermined her college experience. Among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, 60% said they had taken steps to avoid the harasser; 9% said they transferred.
Colleges that receive federal money are required to designate a representative to handle sexual harassment. Most students (79%) said they were aware of campus policies against sexual harassment.
Findings suggest harassment is more common on large campuses and more prevalent at four-year campuses than two-year colleges. Also, white students were most likely to say they had been harassed.
Some experts caution schools against overreacting.
"There are aspects of harassment that nobody disagrees with," says Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based non-profit. But "too many people think harassment is the same thing as being offended. Offending somebody is not a crime."
The survey has a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points
The New York Times
January 25, 2006
One in Four College Students Cite Unwanted Sexual Contact in Survey
By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - One in four college students have been touched or grabbed against their will, or someone intentionally brushed up against them, in a sexual way on campus, according to a national survey released here on Tuesday.
The survey by the American Association of University Women, "Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus," found that one in six had received suggestive pictures, Web pages or messages, while 7 percent had had their clothes pulled down, and 5 percent were asked for sexual favors in exchange for a better grade, class notes, a recommendation or other perks.
"Sexual harassment is common among today's undergraduate students, so common that it seems normal," said Elena Silva, the American Association of University Women's director of research. Citing the survey, she said that as a result of unwelcome sexual overtures, female students especially "are embarrassed, angered, scared and disappointed in their college experience," she said.
The online survey was conducted by Harris Interactive, which polled 2,036 students at two- and four-year colleges. It had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. The survey was conducted from May 5 to May 25, 2005.
The survey defined harassment in an unusually broad way, an effort, its authors said, to capture the widest possible range of behaviors that could fall into the category of unwanted sexual incidents, and to prompt students, teachers and university officials to reconsider episodes that they ordinarily shrug off.
Defining harassment as any "unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior which interferes with your life," the poll found that more than 60 percent of students said they had experienced sexual harassment. But some scholars of discrimination said that the definition was so broad that it failed to distinguish between behavior that was an ordinary, if annoying, part of living among other teens, and incidents that were "severe or pervasive," the legal threshold used by courts to determine whether harassment has occurred.
"I'm sympathetic to their goal of calling attention to this form of conduct," said George Rutherglen, a law professor at the University of Virginia, and co-author of the 2005 book "Employment Discrimination Law and Theory" (Foundation Press). But he added, "People, particularly undergraduates, have to grow up, and part of growing up is making mistakes." He called for "a realistic appraisal of what needs to be prohibited."
The poll went on ask about what it called "examples of sexual harassment," which ranged from unwanted "sexual comments, jokes, gestures or looks," to being flashed or mooned, to being the subject of sexual rumors.
Ninety percent of the students never reported these behaviors to campus authorities, saying that they considered them "no big deal." Nevertheless, more than half the women and a third of the men said they felt self-conscious or embarrassed as a result of the incidents; 35 percent of the women and 16 percent of the men said the experiences shook their self-confidence.
Sexual Harassment Routine, College Students in Poll Say
Many Cases Unreported, Survey Finds
By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 25, 2006; A02
Sexual harassment is common on campus, according to a national online survey by the American Association of University Women released yesterday, with 62 percent of college students saying they had received a comment or gesture they found inappropriate.
Most didn't report incidents to campus employees or other officials.
One student involved with the survey said she sees harassment every day at school, including catcalls and people brushing up against her in hallways. It's a problem everywhere, said another student, Haley Pollack of Indiana University, but especially at college. "Campuses are just highly concentrated with not only hormones but everything else that comes with young adults." She said she was propositioned by a graduate assistant when getting extra help after a math class.
Greta Franklin, 27, of the University of Maryland said her friends haven't been troubled much by harassment. She thinks students are more likely to laugh things off. "I think a lot of people just think, 'What's the big deal?' "
Many students seemed confused about how to tell when a line had been crossed -- or where the lines should be.
Sexual harassment can be hard to view objectively and hard to measure, said Frank Vinik, an attorney and senior risk analyst for United Educators, a cooperative providing insurance to more than 1,000 schools. "I've been looking at harassment on college campuses from a legal perspective for more than a decade," he said, "and that [62 percent] is one of the highest numbers I've ever heard."
That could be because the survey defined harassment broadly or because the results are skewed by the survey's respondents, he said. Or the results could be a surprising new finding.
Of the millions of people who have agreed to participate in online surveys with Harris Interactive, a random sample was selected to be offered a questionnaire on college experiences. The roughly 2,000 18- to 24-year-old college students who responded to the survey in May were told that sexual harassment was unwanted behavior and could include anything from suggestive glances to spreading sexual rumors and forced contact.
The survey found that men and women are almost equally likely to say they had been sexually harassed on campus, but in different ways. Men are more likely to be called anti-gay slurs, and women are more likely to receive sexual comments or looks. Women are more likely to be uncomfortable about such incidents, the survey found, and men are more likely to laugh harassment off.
Gay students are more likely to be harassed and more likely to be upset about it, the survey found.
"We looked at who harasses and why," said Elena Silva, the director of research at the AAUW Educational Foundation. "A startlingly high number admit they've sexually harassed someone, 41 percent."
Less than a fifth of those who said they had harassed someone said they did it because they wanted to date that person. Nearly a third said they thought the person liked the attention. And almost 60 percent said they did it as a joke.