Female faculty most likely to face student harassment

Women and minority faculty are more often the recipients of hostile and threatening behaviors from students at UAA than their male counterparts, according to a harassment survey completed by UAA faculty last year.

The survey was conceived and conducted by Claudia Lampman, professor of psychology at UAA, who saw a clear-cut need for further exploration of the issue and its implications.

“I had some really significant experiences with student harassment, and began talking with other faculty about these issues,” Lampman said. “I realized that my experience was not uncommon, and that it really seems to take a toll on women faculty, so I started searching for research on this topic. When I found little empirical research had been done, and most of it suffered from poor survey response rates, I decided to do a study.”

The four-part survey covered job satisfaction, the frequency and effect of harassment, and the demographics of the respondents. The survey questions covered a wide range of behaviors, from small annoyances such as interruptions to physical threats.

According to The Association of American Colleges and Universities Web site, psychologist Katherine Benson defined these types of behaviors as “contrapower harassment,” where people with less organizational power harass those in more powerful positions.

Contrapower harassment comes in two types: obvious and covert. The effects of obvious harassment are more visible, and the effects of covert harassment are longer-lasting and more pervasive.

Alissa Phelps, an adjunct professor in the psychology department at the time, and students Samantha Campbell and Melissa Beneke helped Lampman conduct the study.

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Beneke was astonished at what the survey, which had a high response rate, revealed.

“As a student, I think it really made me realize just how disrespectful students have become and even worse, they are getting away with it,” Beneke said. “It is also a huge reflection on societies’ morals and thoughts about college. As a woman, I was really shocked to realize that harassing behaviors happen to men as much as they do, especially the frequency of sexual attention received.”

Results of the survey indicate that, while most faculty have experienced various types of harassment at one time or another, female faculty members are more likely to be affected. Effects may range from depression to fear of physical harm. Women are affected longer and more adversely than their male peers, data shows.

In addition to how harassment affects faculty, the survey also illustrates the fact that certain kinds of people are more likely to be harassed. Aside from race and gender, the study showed that certain positions and colleges are more vulnerable to harassment than others. For example, the study revealed that tenure-track and term professors were significantly more prone to harassment than adjuct faculty.

Additionally, the College of Arts and Sciences experiences a much higher instance of harassment than do other colleges at UAA.

Harassment at UAA may not often be witnessed or remembered by students, and the seriousness of these interactions is at question for some members of the student body.

“I think harassment has nothing to do with gender, that it is more based on the individual,” said Jeremy Hughes, a senior at UAA. “I personally have not witnessed harassment, but I wouldn’t say it doesn’t exist. If I saw it happening, I don’t think I would take any action-I would help the teacher if needed, but ultimately, I feel it is up to the teacher to resolve it.”

Lampman said she agrees, and hopes the survey will encourage professors to do just that. She said she doesn’t want others to go through what she did.

“Hopefully this survey will bring awareness to the university that these things are happening and begin a dialogue about them. Ideally, faculty would be trained that these things may happen to them, that they are educated in what actions to take, and that it is not about them, it is about the person committing the harassment,” Lampman said. “I want these women to not feel they have to resolve this by themselves, but to recognize they need to put it in another’s hands, that there is social and administrative support available.”