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Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 83, Number 1 (Nov. 1981)

Wineke, William R.
Religion is "in" on campus,   pp. 19-27

Page 22

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Sexual Harassment
Continued from page 18
student who is asked for a date by a faculty
member is likely to feel pressured to accept
even though she would prefer not to. Now,
if there were a rule prohibiting a faculty
member from asking a student for a date,
this would protect the student, and such
protection would be a good. On the other
hand, in the face of such a ruling, a lot of
spontaneous relationships-indeed, some
that end in marriage-might never get off
the ground. So we've got to decide
whether, on balance, it's best to have any
sort of rule, and if so, how to write it to pro-
tect a potential victim at the least cost.
   "One important thing our committee
did-which to the best of my knowledge no
one else in the country has done-is to un-
derstand that there is not a problem of sex-
ual harassment but a variety of problems.
No one has written a rule specifically di-
rected to the teaching enterprise. We need
to deal with it. We have to be very careful to
protect academic freedom. Some things
that are done for legitimate teachifig rea-
sons and that a teacher probably ought to
be entitled to do, nonetheless might have
consequences harmful to women. Some
material legitimately used for teaching
might be especially offensive or demeaning
to women, or put them in an inferior posi-
tion. Suppose you are teaching an impor-
tant novel which suggests that a woman's
place is in the kitchen and in the bedroom.
What should the law be? Since all of us in-
volved in formulating these rules are part of
the academic enterprise, it's not surprising
that we came to the conclusion that the
teacher should be allowed to choose these
materials and use them. This is a case in
which we simply can't have our cake and
eat it too. It's a question of where the
greater good lies.
   "At the same time, we need to protect
students against abusive treatment in the
classroom. One concrete example: a
teacher might, for pedagogical reasons, use
racial epithets or those demeaning to
women, not because that teacher wants to
demean blacks or Jews or women, but per-
haps as shock technique. Should the peda-
gogical value of doing that outweigh the
negative impact on the students? We came
to the conclusion that it should not. So one
of our rules makes it clear that a teacher is
not allowed to subject students to that kind
of offense-not allowed to use racial epi-
thets, for example, or to call a woman a
bitch for the sole purpose of trying to wake
people up, shock them, or make a point.
   "Our committee heard about absurd
things faculty did, things terribly demean-
ing to women, with no significant teaching
function. One classic example: a faculty
member shows a slide of a nude woman in a
course to which such a slide is totally irrele-
vant. And the excuse is to gain attention!
Well, any faculty member who can't get
students' attention in some other way needs
to learn something about teaching. Yet,
there were no rules against this kind of
thing before.
   "Often such outrageous behavior stems
from a lack of awareness that it offends.
This is the way some people have grown up,
what they are accustomed to doing, and
they never stop to think that it might be
hurtful to others. I know of instances
where, when it was brought to the faculty
member's attention, he was perfectly
happy to discontinue it. For others, how-
ever, it's not simply their sensitivity that
needs to be increased; they need to know
that the rule is there.
   "I don't mean to say that sexual harass-
ment happens every day or that it is com-
mon among faculty members. I don't think
that is so. I think it's clearly the exception. I
think few faculty members, for example,
offer to exchange grades for sex, or other-
wise pressure students for sexual favors.
But, on the other hand, it isn't one-in-a-
million, either. Sexual harassment happens
often enough on our campus that we need
to be officially concerned.
   "We've been talking about faculty and
students, but a great deal of the problem ex-
ists elsewhere in the University. There are
many complaints from women in the
classified staff (secretaries, clerks, mainte-
nance staff) about sexual harassment. You
see, when a woman moves into an area long
dominated by men, sometimes men resent
it. They can't prevent her having an equal
opportunity to get the job, but they can find
ways of getting back at her; ways of saying,
'You may have the job, but we're still the
boss.' And they can make her life miserable
by physically and verbally harassing her.
   "This semester our committee will look
at ways to make the new rules against sex-
ual harassment effective. Suppose some-
one is accused of a violation. If the matter is
pressed, there will be a hearing. (We've al-
ways had a hearing procedure, but we don't
know if it is adequate for handling charges
of sexual harassment. There is, for exam-
ple, no assurance that any member of the
hearing body will be female.)
   "The very process of investigating a
complaint is sensitive. When a person
brings a claim of sexual harassment to us,
we have to find out the other side of the
story, of course. But a host of problems
thus arise: for instance, does the victim
want us to go to anyone? Often an inquiry
would have to identify the complainant,
and she, feeling understandably vulnera-
ble, may not want her name known. Some-
times victims don't want to lodge a formal
charge of misconduct, yet they do want it to
stop. We need to provide a place where
such a person can come and feel comfort-
able. We recognize that all the rules in the
world won't do any good unless people feel
free to use them."                  El

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