“Sexual Harassment at Miami”

A Miami University Women’s Resource Center newsletter from September 1978 discusses sexual harassment at the Oxford campus. The document provides examples of harassment experienced by female students and a professor. The first listed example occurred at King Library, when a male student crawled under a study table to look up a female student’s shorts. She fled the building, and later reported the incident. A second example involves a graduate student who was being harassed by a male professor, who asked for her home number and wanted to meet outside of class. When the student refused, the professor became angry and withdrew his letters of recommendation for her. Ultimately, the student felt the need to drop his class. The final incident described in the newsletter takes place between a female staff member and her male superior. He inappropriately touched this employee and made explicit comments to her. However, she was afraid to reject his advances and potentially lose her job.

The document provides a helpful description of what sexual harassment entails. It may include:

  • Verbal harassment or abuse
  • Sexist remarks about a woman’s clothing, body, or sexual activities
  • Subtle pressure for sexual activity; unnecessary touching, patting, or pinching
  • Leering or ogling of a woman’s body
  • Demanding sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt threats concerning one’s job, grades, letters of recommendation, etc.
  • Physical assault

It is interesting to note that some parts of the definition directly refer to women, as if to imply that sexual harassment does not happen to men. Though the newsletter does acknowledge that female students and staff sometimes “initiate or encourage sexual relationships with male faculty or staff, and at times the line between acceptable flirtation and harassment is not easy to delineate.” This particular quotation is concerning because it suggests that student/professor flirting is sometimes acceptable.

Today, Miami’s policy on prohibiting harassment and discrimination is not female-specific. That is, Miami realizes harassment can and is experienced by anyone. As with the annual Take Back the Night march I mentioned in previous posts, the university’s discrimination policy has adapted to modern times and is more inclusive.

Sunday, October 9, 2016