At the end of October, William V. Harris, a noted professor of Greek and Roman history at the University of Columbia, stepped down from his 50-year career in education at the Ivy League school. His departure came amid allegations in a federal lawsuit that he had groped a student, and pressured her for sex.
Around the same time, officials at Dartmouth College and the New Hampshire attorney general’s office announced that three permanent teachers in the school of psychological and brain sciences department were targets of a criminal investigation of sexual misconduct” charges dating back to 2002.
“The dynamic, we hear about a great, absolutely play a role in higher education.”
– Anne Hedgepeth
In the wake of the many allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct leveled at Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and a multitude of other news and media personalities, scientists from Boston to Berkeley have under the increasing demands for their own dalliances and inappropriate behavior in the direction of students and subordinates.
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“The dynamic, we hear about a great, absolutely play a role in higher education,” said Anne Hedgepeth, vice-president of public policy and government relations at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), told Fox News. With power-over-grad students and assistants, “she said,” professors “are the gateway to the future.”
It is difficult to pin down exactly how prevalent sexual harassment and sexual assault by academics, given the fact that many victims have not reported the crimes for fear of being humiliated or professionally ostracized. Nevertheless, current research shows that sexual harassment is an open secret on the campuses in the entire country.
A 2015 study by the Association of American Universities on the 27th of elite private and public universities have shown that about 1 in 10 female graduate students are sexually harassed by a faculty member. Surveying 221 reported cases of 210 institutions, a soon to be released study in the Utah Law Review found that perceived academic offenders were often accused of physical harassment than verbal, and that 53 percent of the cases surveyed involved serial stalkers.
Low Memorial Library at New York’s Columbia University, where Prof. dr. William V. Harris ended a 50-year career in education in the midst of allegations of sexual harassment.
At the end of August, a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission documented dozens of incidents of sexual harassment attributed to the University of Rochester professor, T. Florian Jaeger. The brain and cognitive sciences professor is accused of sleeping with students, making inappropriate comments about women in front of their colleagues and press them into compromising situations. (Jaeger has denied the allegations, and internal investigations have cleared him of violations, according to an article this week in the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper.)
Jaeger case is an example of how a lot of universities have dealt with such problems in the past. The professor has been put on administrative leave and the school remained quiet about his future or what actions are being taken to prevent a recurrence of such actions.
Billie Wright Dziech, the co-author of “The Lecherous Professor: Sexual Harassment on Campus,” wrote on Inside Higher Ed that long-held functions colleges increasingly sensitive to also misconduct.
“As for the full-time tenured faculty members, whether they are big names or not so famous, their misconduct can go on for years, because it is easier to view it as eccentricity, or the result of personal problems, instead of to invite conflict by telling colleagues or administrators of what they don’t want to hear,” Dziech wrote.
She added, “Colleges and universities to protect the big names and moneymakers with whom they are more or less reciprocal agreements because of their worth to institutional reputation and finances.”
Together with the institutional malaise, dark language about the school policy on student-faculty relationships in the game. It Is more difficult to draw conclusions about what is or isn’t sexual harassment under the school rules.
Some schools – especially Ivy League institutions such as Harvard and Brown, have banned sexual relationships between professors and undergrads. Other schools’ guidelines are not as cut and dried.
Dartmouth’s policy states that a member of the faculty, which makes use of “a position of authority to induce a student to enter into a non-desired romantic or sexual relationship … is inconsistent with the law and college policy” and adds that even the everyday relationships can raise conflict-of-interest issues.
In regard to the Jaeger, the complainants say that he was able to get the loopholes to exploit in the University of Rochester policy.
Although there has been much discussion about Obama’s policies in the context of Title IX, a law that aims to stop the discrimination of women on the campus who were focused on the prevention of student-on-student sexual violence, there is little about sexual harassment or abuse carried out by the professors.
With little supervision, this let schools, and, more particularly, the individual academic departments, to the police themselves.
Some institutions have taken steps to curb sexual harassment by professors – Penn State the department of psychology faculty members meet with students to discuss how to safely report sexual harassment, while the officials at the University of California, San Diego are looking for campuswide changes in their reports.
But experts say that, while steps have been taken and more students are speaking, an old established mentality of the protection of these professors and the institutions they represent remains firmly in place.
“There are incentives to keep people from taking action,” Hedgepeth said, “but it is entirely inappropriate and disappointing to see, 45 years after Title IX was enacted.”