AWIS Issues Letter Urging Secretary Devos to Protect Against Sexual Harassment on College Campuses

Sep 7, 2018 | Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Maria Ibañez
202-588-8175
Ibanez@awis.org

AWIS Issues Letter Urging Secretary Devos to Protect Against Sexual Harassment on College Campuses

WASHINGTON DC, September 7, 2018 – Leading advocate for women in STEM the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) issued a letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos urging the U.S. Department of Education to redraft regulations on existing protections against sexual harassment on college campuses.

“The Association for Women in Science (AWIS), the largest network of women in STEM professions, is extremely disappointed with the proposed regulations drafted by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos,” said AWIS National Governing Board President Sue Windham-Bannister, PhD. “We believe that they will significantly reduce the efficacy of existing protections against sexual harassment and assault on college and university campuses. The demands of the #MeToo movement for greater accountability to address sexual harassment and assault in educational and work spaces should be incorporated in any new regulations.”

In the letter, AWIS underscored that the existing language maintains and reinforces existing barriers to the protection of survivors.

“AWIS will continue our efforts to advocate for changes that hold perpetrators accountable for their actions,” closed Windham-Bannister.

Text from the letter below.

The Honorable Betsy DeVos
Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-1100

Dear Secretary DeVos:

As Chair of the national governing board of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), the nation’s leading advocate for women in STEM, I am writing to urge you to take immediate action to protect survivors of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses. AWIS is concerned that the proposed regulations as currently formulated will maintain and reinforce existing barriers to the protection of survivors. We represent a global network with 80 grassroots chapters and affiliates connecting more than 100,000 STEM professionals.

It is the duty of the Department of Education to develop and implement policies that establish a safe space for students and educators to learn, teach, and research. According to a National Academies report, statistics underscore how hostile campuses can be: 58% of individuals in the academic workplace report experiencing sexual harassment. Most alarming is that these data understate the problem. Research shows that the number of reported cases grossly underestimates the actual rate at which sexual harassment is occurring. (Source: Huffington Post & Yougov, Poll of 1,000 Adults in United States on Workplace Sexual Harassment, Aug. 2013).

Sexual harassment has negative career consequences for women and minorities in STEM, who regularly cite these behaviors as reasons for leaving their STEM workplaces and fields. Women of color are not only more likely to experience sexual harassment but race-related harassment as well. (Source: Clancy, K., Lee, K., Rodgers, E., Richey, C. (2017). Double jeopardy in astronomy and planetary science: Women of color face greater risks of gendered and racial harassment. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 122, 1610-1623).

Women of color reported higher rates of feeling unsafe in their workplaces because of their gender or sex (40%) and race (28%). LGBTQ+ scientists also are more likely to be targets of harassment behavior.

For example, a survey of 324 physicists showed that LGB women experienced harassment related to their gender or sexuality at three times the rate of LGB men. For gender-nonconforming and transgender scientists, the rate is four and five times more, respectively. (Source: Atherton, T.J., Barthelemy, R.S., Deconinck,D., Falk, M. L., & Savannah Garmon, E. (2016). LGBT Climate in Physics: Building an Inclusive Community. American Physical Society Special Report).

Little research looks at the experiences of women with disabilities. Our AWIS survey research with 327 scientists, engineers, and mathematicians found that 37% of white women with disabilities experience disability-related stigma, discrimination, and harassment at work. For women of color with disabilities, this is 73%. For LGBTQ women of color with disabilities, it’s 100%. (Source: See Metcalf, H., Russell, D., & Hill, C. (2018). Broadening the science of broadening participation in STEM through critical mixed methodologies and intersectionality frameworks. American Behavioral Scientist, 62(5): 580-599).

Considering the dire reality that exists in college and university campuses across the country, the Department of Education should incentivize effective strategies for addressing harassment and assault on campuses, instead of scaling regulations back. Colleges and universities should be encouraged to effectively intervene in a wide range of behaviors early-on before they create hostile educational or work environments. By preventing an escalation of behavior and encouraging individual accountability, college campuses can create fair processes, supporting the best interests of everyone involved.

To receive more information or ask questions, please contact Maria Ibañez, AWIS Chief of Communications, by email at ibanez@awis.org or by phone at 202-588-8175.

Sincerely,
Susan Windham-Bannister, PhD
AWIS National Board President

###

About AWIS:
The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) is a global network with 80 grassroots chapters and affiliates connecting more than 100,000 professionals in STEM with members, allies and supporters worldwide. Founded in 1971, AWIS has been the leading advocate for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to achieve business growth, social change, and innovation. We are dedicated to driving excellence in STEM by achieving equity and full participation of women in all disciplines and across all employment sectors. To learn more, visit www.awis.org and follow us @AWISNational on Twitter and Facebook.

1667 K Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20006
awis@awis.org
(202) 588-8175

LET'S CONNECT

1667 K Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20006
awis@awis.org
(202) 588-8175

© 2017 Association for Women in Science. All Rights Reserved.

© 2017 Association for Women in Science. All Rights Reserved.