Survey comments shed light on sexual harassment

The Commission on the Status of Women should be commended for the sexual harassment survey it conducted during the 1993-94 school year. The survey indicates that sexual harassment is real a problem on the University of Arizona campus, as it is in workplaces across the nation.

From the Anita Hill hearings to the movie "Disclosure," the issue of sexual harassment has been hashed out over and over again. Rather than preach the ills of sexual harassment for the umpteenth time, this editorial will consist of some of the comments made on the surveys. The survey comments speak for themselves:

"I was sexually harassed by my previous supervisor who was a high level administrator. He made constant remarks about my appearance and my anatomy. He went as far as to comment about the size of my breasts. He would always try to have conversations that were sexual. I confronted him and expressed to him that it made me feel uncomfortable, especially when he referred to my breasts. He became hostile and treated me even more unfairly. I became so miserable at work that I thought about quitting."

Staff employee, female

"Many, many men don't feel comfortable interacting with women anymore for fear of being misunderstood and accused of sexual harassment. I feel this sexual harassment issue(s) is a bomb that can burn someone at any given time regardless of motives and actions. It's perception-based and unhealthy for both genders. We must keep people aware of sexual appropriateness, but I believe that we are misdirecting the efforts way too often to the point that we have people 'searching' for its happening. People are 'finding' problems where there are none and ignoring real ones. We need solutions to the problem, not a 'Go-get-em' witch hunt."

Staff employee, male

"I was a victim of vocalized sexual harassment. I followed the guidelines Affirmative Action set . My supervisor called his supervisor, who set up a meeting between me and my co-worker (the man who harassed me). The meeting was a horrible experience. I am employed by a different department now and have absolutely no problems. My experience with my co-worker, my ex-supervisor and the office was horrible! I got extremely inadequate help! I was basically told to shut up!"

Staff employee, female

"A married professor propositioned me after I took a promotion with another department. The professor said she 'wouldn't approach me while I was with the department.' I'm married and was very surprised by this advance. I said no and no more contact was made."

Faculty, male

"Have you ever been in a situation where you experienced aggressive sexual advances but were forced to laugh them off and respond in a friendly manner to avoid antagonizing him for fear of retribution? This has happened to me twice. Once years ago by a top-level administrator and again by another administrator of one of our colleges. This administrator was actually angry because I wouldn't date him . and then tried to make my life miserable personally and professionally. My supervisor helped me remedy the problem."

Administrator, female

"If women wish to work alongside men they must accept 'men's talk' etc. If they can't stand it, they need to go back to the kitchen!"

Faculty, male

"I'm also saddened by the increased nervousness of men about their own behaviors. Maybe, in addition to a memo outlining what sexual harassment is, there might be a brief statement about what isn't one which makes clear that this isn't to be used as a license for questionable behavior, but as a reaffirmation of those behaviors that reflect mutual regard, respect and friendship/affection between men and women. I think it's a good idea to be investigating this subject."

Staff employee, female

"I was once accused of sexual harassment because I told a female co-worker that she should make a client 'happy.' At the time, I didn't suspect that this would be interpreted in the way it was. Now I know better and will be more professional in my choice of words. I was very fortunate that the woman brought this to my attention."

Staff employee, male

It's clear that education of both sexes is the key to stopping sexual harassment. Stereotypes must be dispelled on both sides of the fence. The survey comments indicate we are making some progress, but we still have a long way to go.

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