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Study finds sex harassment common, UA reports none

By Erin Mahoney
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 1, 1999

Despite a recent study indicating that more than half of students are sexually harassing their professors, UA officials say no instances have been reported here.

Researchers at Illinois State University found that 63 percent of students admitted to sexually harassing a professor at least once, and 53 percent of professors said they had been sexually harassed by a student, according to a report published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Sexual harassment, as defined by the ISU study, includes gender harassment, sexual bribery and unwanted sexual attention.

Janie Nunez, UA associate vice president of affirmative action, said she was familiar with the study, but no University of Arizona professors have reported such harassment in recent years.

"I'm sure it does happen, but the complaints we get here don't support that finding," Nunez said. "It's not particularly something that's brought to our attention...that doesn't mean it doesn't occur."

A student found to be sexually harassing a professor would face consequences ranging from attending an educational program to expulsion, Nunez said.

"We don't treat employees any differently than students," she added.

UA law college professor Ellen Bublick said the high numbers may have been because of the study's definition of sexual harassment, which is much more broad than the legal definition.

"Those numbers are certainly troubling," she said. "(Especially) if people are getting harassed in minor ways all the time."

Math professor Deborah Hughes Hallet said she has never experienced any sexual harassment at the UA, and she isn't sure how she would handle it.

"It would completely depend on the circumstances," she said.

UA attorney Mike Proctor said he has never seen a sexual harassment case of this nature, but his office would refer such a case to Nunez before pursuing legal action.

"It's really hard," he said. "We (university attorneys) have such a non-traditional role."

Proctor said he "couldn't speculate" on whether or not a professor could win such a case.

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