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Confronting Sexual Discrimination and Harassment

Word Cloud created by audience after discussion

Word Cloud: Post Discussion

Word Cloud created by audience prior to the discussion

Word Cloud: Prior to Discussion

UMass Amherst and the College of Engineering are addressing the nationwide “Me Too” movement with hands-on action. On December 7, the UMass Society of Women Engineers held a very timely and topical panel discussion entitled “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace - It Could Happen to You Too: Data, Strategies, Resources, and Allies.” Meanwhile, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy announced a new task force to address the important issues in the “Safe at Work” campaign and make recommendations for improving campus services, policies, and practices relating to their prevention and remediation.

The campus resources represented in the Sexual Harassment in the Workplace panel included the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, the Center for Women and Community, and Student Legal Services Office. In addition, www.umass.edu/titleix gives details of other resources for confronting gender discrimination. 

The panel discussion comes at a time when national surveys show that 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men experience sexual harassment in the workplace. In one study, 44 percent of female graduate students and 62 percent of female undergraduates reported experiencing sexual harassment. For graduate students the perpetrator was most likely to be a faculty member or adviser; for undergraduates the perpetrator was most likely to be a fellow student. In another study, some 26 percent of postdoctoral researchers said they had experienced harassment. In a study of field scientists, approximately 60 percent of women reported being harassed, and about 20 percent reported being assaulted.

Panelists on the panel discussion were engineering undergraduate Ajey Pandey, engineering alumna Marina DiCocco, engineering alumnus AJ Frere, UMass graduate student Christie L.C. Ellis, UMass post-doc Joelle Labastide, Jessi Bond of the UMass Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, Becky Lockwood of the UMass Center for Women & Community, and Raquel Manzanares from the UMass Student Legal Services Office.

Among other key questions, the panelists answered questions such as:

  1. What is the difference between someone being sexist and sexual harassment?

  2. What kinds of behavior could be considered sexual harassment?

  3. Why is it common for women to remain silent?

  4. What can I do if I believe I am facing sexual harassment at work?

  5. “How can one be an effective bystander and good ally?”

On the same day as the panel discussion, Chancellor Subbaswamy issued this announcement: “Earlier this semester, the Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) hosted a town hall as part of its Safe at Work campaign that underscored the need to rebuild trust between administrators and students and work as effective collaborators in the struggle against sexual violence, harassment, and assault against graduate students. In response to the serious concerns raised at the town hall, I invited GWIS to join a new task force to address these important issues and make recommendations for improving campus services, policies, and practices relating to their prevention and remediation.”

The chancellor added that “As I’ve noted before, sexual violence, harassment, and assault are national issues. We are committed to changing the campus climate and working directly with departments to prevent and correct the types of injustices highlighted by the Safe at Work campaign. While many initiatives are already under way on campus, there are always steps we can take to improve the campus climate for our students, staff, and faculty.” (December 2017)

Faculty, as mandated reporters under Title IX, are asked to voluntarily complete a training module on this important topic, called “Bridges: Building a Supportive Community

We welcome anonymous comments and suggestions related to harassment, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the College of Engineering