Attacking sexual harassment

“Sexual harassment undermines the integrity of the academic environment and employment relationship,” the university Sexual Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedures states. According to the university, sexual harassment “includes, but is not limited to, repeated offensive sexual flirtation, advances, or propositions . graphic or degrading comments of a sexual nature . display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures; or any offensive or abusive physical conduct.”

“Occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature” are not considered sexual harassment.

While integrity can be tested following exposure of inappropriate campus incidents, one might wonder how the university handles improper relationships.

Upon proving sexual harassment and/or abuse to the University’s Sexual Harassment Committee, “remedial or corrective action” might include, but is not relegated to solely, oral and/or written reprimand, counseling services, duty transfer and/or demotion, suspension, termination and/or “any combination of the above.”

Not everyone must be coerced.

Though most professors are at least a generation older than their pupils, some students willingly submit to advances or proposition professors. Forty-seven percent of surveyed male students would date a “significantly older” professor. Thirty-seven percent of surveyed female students would do so. Ninety-nine students were surveyed.

Most respondents were legal.

If/when children are involved society happily casts adults into the fire. Teachers Debra Lafave, Sandra Borrego and Silvia Johnson grabbed headlines due to exposed sexual relationships with underage students.

Mary Kay Letourneau gained infamy when she married her significantly younger lover, Vili Fualaau, after her prison release. They sold their story rights for a reported six figures.

Countless relationships between students and teachers go unreported, thus, avoiding exposure and/or prosecution.

Increasing with age

As age increases, sexual harassment politics grey.

This phenomenon can become less pressing when it spreads to college campuses. Some believe that upon turning 18, issues of unwanted sexual propositions aren’t so magnified.

Grambling State is not exempt from these issues.

International senior Basira Davison (name changed for anonymity) reported several incidences of inappropriate teacher student attention and relationships.

She sat, ran fingers through her hair, munched ice and revealed a sexual underworld in Grambling. She spoke of pupils receiving personal performance grades.

Intercourse exchanged for graduation?

She reported that much of the campus is silenced due to fear of community positions and perceptions of students not being believable.

She expressed the homoerotic nature of some down-low professors and the emasculating shame male victims disclosed to her.

Who wants to hear the vict-him?

Approximately 60 percent of students surveyed believe that male sexual harassment victims aren’t taken seriously.

Davison will be.

Personal story

She recalled receiving scores of unwanted attention from professors, but said that it originally remained on a surface level. Then, two professors recklessly pursued her.

She paused for a moment and shared that both professors were lawyers. The first incident occurred in spring 2006 and the second incident, last fall.

When asked if she believed professors preyed on a disproportionate number of internationally born students, she said no.

“Most victims are African American students here.”

As a survivor of sexual abuse, her cadence picked up intensity when she described a male professor instructing her to attend class with her breasts more visible.

“Those are too pretty to cover up,” she mimicked.

She said phone numbers were slipped on her desk.

Her breaking point occurred after an ultimatum: fellatio or fail. She retook the course.

As she spoke, she ceased movement. Her nutmeg colored eyes widened. She relayed disappointment in a sedentary faculty that refused to aid her. She was told that sex was a matter of “personal discretion.” She could accept or decline the propositions. As an adult being harassed nothing more could be done.

She remembered posting fliers asking victims to call her. The fliers disappeared.

When she finally spoke with a female faculty member, one of her harassers was relocated for a few semesters.

She theorized that professors use a power imbalance to pursue students in need. It is a belief supported by The Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs website.

“[Despite] it’s legal definition, sexual harassment is about power and status, and is typically perpetrated by someone having power over someone with lower status and power.”

She claimed that freshmen and sophomores are the most approached.

Davison works in a department that (by her estimates) receives a handful of sexual harassment calls per semester. Family members typically call for the victims. They report the same perpetrators.

However, all hope is not lost.

Something can be done

She wants students to remember that they aren’t alone and don’t have to be silenced. She instructs them to address student affairs, find other victims, document their experiences and find ways to “jump the chain of command.”

“There is a code of conduct. Even flirtatious remarks . you can take care of it.I don’t care. There is no justification,” she said.

She asked that victims keep an eye out for upcoming forums to gain student perspectives and more information.

The university policy regarding sexual harassment is available online. Sexual complainant forms are also available online. Victims are encouraged to contact pertinent supervisors or Equal Employment Opportunity/Wage and Salary officers.

A representative from Human Resources stated that every professor is required to attend a yearly sexual harassment seminar. This year’s seminar is scheduled for April 2.