University of North Texas group takes leadership role in national program addressing sexual harassment of student

Thursday, January 26, 2006

According to "Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus," a report released this week by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, most college students encounter some type of sexual harassment.

Both male and female students encounter sexual harassment, but female students are more likely to feel embarrassed, angry, less confident, afraid, confused, and disappointed in their college experience as a result of sexual harassment, notes the report, which analyzes findings from a survey of 2,036 undergraduate students ages 18 to 24.

The University of North Texas in Denton recently became the only Texas college or university to receive funding from the American Association of University Women for a project to address this national problem.

The project, "UNT = Harassment Free," will survey students to assess their knowledge of the policies, procedures and resources on sexual harassment on the campus

"Our goal is to identify areas where information and resources may be so we can inform the university administration of areas that require attention," said Mary S. Pastorius, UNT director of student life and involvement and a project advisor for "UNT = Harassment Free."

The AAUW is funding programs on 11 campuses that will help students, faculty and administrators understand the scope of sexual harassment at colleges and universities, raise awareness of the issue and implement projects that result in changing the campus climate. Pastorius said UNT's project is the only one that the AAUW approved in the "assessment" category.

"We believe our initiative was selected for its potential to raise awareness and design effective programs that address sexual harassment," Pastorius said.

Programs were also announced at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y.; Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore.; Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga.; Indiana University in

Bloomington; Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La.; Mississippi University of Women in Columbus, Miss.; Pennsylvania State University; Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y.; the University of Akron; and the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.

AAUW president Ruth Sweetser said students deserve an educational climate free from sexual harassment and the embarrassment, anger, confusion and fear that it causes.

"A campus environment that permits inappropriate verbal and physical contact undermines the emotional, intellectual, and professional growth of millions of young adults," she said. "In such a setting young men and women fail to learn appropriate behaviors essential for success later in life. We need to support efforts that help them determine where, and how, to draw the line on sexual harassment."

The report is available at www.aauw.org/dtl. Its findings include:

  • Sixty-two of undergraduate students said they have encountered some type of sexual harassment. Nearly one-third of students (35 percent of female students and 29 percent of male students) described the harassment is physical, such as being touched, grabbed, or pinched in a sexual way.
  • Sixty-eight percent of female students who experience sexual harassment felt very or somewhat upset by it, but 35 percent of male students admitted to feeling this way. Among female students who encountered sexual harassment, one-third (32 percent) said they felt afraid and one-quarter (25 percent) said that they were disappointed in their college experience as a result of sexual harassment.
  • Half of male students and almost one-third of female students admitted to sexually harassing someone in college. A majority of students (59 percent) who admitted to harassing another student said they did so because they thought it was funny, as opposed to nearly one-third (32 percent) who thought the person liked it, and less than one-fifth (17 percent) who had a romantic interest in the person.
  • Only 7 percent of students reported sexual harassment to a faculty member or other college employee. More than half of students (57 percent) would like their college or university to offer a confidential, web-based method for submitting complaints about sexual harassment. Nearly half (47 percent) would like their college or university to designate an office or person to contact about sexual harassment.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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