Duke joins higher education partnership to combat sexual harassment

Duke is partnering with 42 other universities and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to prevent sexual harassment within higher education settings. 

As national conversations surrounding sexual harassment and equity within higher level institutions continue, Duke announced Wednesday in a release that it became a founding member of the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education.

The action collaborative aims to unite academic leaders and stakeholders across the disciplines to develop strategies, techniques and policies to prevent sexual harassment. 

The National Academies’ 2018 report—“Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine”—showed that between 20 and 50% of female students reported experiencing sexual harassment while in higher education. In addition, more than 50% of women faculty and staff said they experienced forms of sexual harassment during their time in academia. 

In response to these findings, Duke—along with other founding members—formed the action collaborative to work toward the systems-wide change the report called for in order to change these outcomes.

The action collaborative says its main goals are raising awareness about sexual harassment and its consequences, promoting evidence-based institutional policies to reduce and prevent it, setting and fulfilling the research agenda on sexual harassment and standardizing a way to evaluate progress.

Duke joins other schools like Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Washington and Stanford University in signing on. Earlier this semester, the University released the second iteration of its own student experience survey that included questions about students' experiences with sexual harassment. 

In the collective statement of commitment, the action collaborative pronounced its determination to combat sexual harassment while recognizing the seemingly insurmountable nature of the task at hand. 

“Achieving these goals is no small task, but we are confident that together we can make higher education a space where sexual harassment cannot and does not thrive, and where our students, faculty, and staff are able to achieve their goals and ambitions, and reach their full potential," the statement says. 

Claudia Gunsch, associate vice provost for faculty advancement and Theodore S. Kennedy associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, said in a release that joining the action collaborative fits into Duke’s collective efforts toward equity on campus.

“Duke’s participation in the Action Collaborative represents one facet of the broader ongoing efforts aimed at building an inclusive climate for all,” Gunsch said. 


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