Why this story matters:
Marking an extension of the sexual misconduct scandal that has rocked industries from Hollywood to media, the new report shines a light on an often hidden part of higher education.
The report makes it obvious that the blurred lines and power imbalances described with MeToo are still not settled. It seems even the students surveyed weren't sure what constituted sexual harassment.
Nearly a third of respondents who experienced sexualized behaviours didn't recognize their experience at the time as sexual misconduct.
This is why there needs to be a nuanced, and open dialogue about what we're defining as misconduct, harassment, and abuse. As flagged up in Babe.net's story on Aziz Ansari, an uncomfortable situation is not necessarily illegal.
Details from the story:
- A report by the National Union of Students surveyed 1,839 current and former students and analyzed data from focus groups, finding sexualized behaviours are widespread in the lecture hall.
- Of 1,839 respondents, 752 (41 percent) who were current students reported experiencing at least one instance of sexualized behaviour, such as inappropriate comments or unwanted touching from a member of staff.
- A further 94 (5 percent) said someone they know has experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour.
- There were 35 reported cases of non-consensual sexual contact and nine cases of sexual assault or rape by a staff member.
- Female respondents were more likely to report instances of misconduct.
- Eighty percent of respondents said they were uncomfortable with staff having sexual or romantic relationships with students. Some students described such relationships as “predatory.”
- The majority of reported perpetrators were academic staff.