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UT is joining a network of more than 40 colleges and universities and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to research and develop new methods of preventing sexual harassment in higher education.

The Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education brings together academic leaders across disciplines and organizational structures to study the issue and develop evidence-based policies and best practices to address and prevent sexual harassment that can be implemented across academic and research organizations.

“UT’s commitment to sexual misconduct prevention and education extends to all members of our community,” said David Manderscheid, UT’s provost and senior vice chancellor. “Learning all we can about preventing sexual harassment and how to respond effectively in our units and departments is essential to providing a safe and welcoming workplace to our faculty and staff, and, in turn, models respectful relationships to our students.”

The network builds on the National Academies’ 2018 report Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which found that between 20 percent and 50 percent of female students and more than 50 percent of female faculty and staff experienced sexually harassing behavior while in academia.

The report provides a road map with a range of promising practices for preventing sexual harassment, such as promoting bystander intervention, producing annual reports to convey that reports of sexual harassment are taken seriously and people are held accountable, and combining antiharassment efforts with programs to promote civility and respect.

Joining the action collaborative builds on the university’s community approach to student sexual assault prevention, which includes a focus on faculty and staff. UT’s sexual assault prevention plan includes educational programs that run throughout the year. Information on bystander training programs at UT, the university’s policy on sexual misconduct, and 2018 annual report on sexual misconduct are available online.

The action collaborative has four main goals:

  • To raise awareness about sexual harassment and how it occurs, the consequences of sexual harassment, and the organizational characteristics and recommended approaches that can prevent it
  • To share and elevate evidence-based institutional policies and strategies to reduce and prevent sexual harassment
  • To contribute to setting the research agenda, and gather and apply research results across institutions
  • To develop a standard for measuring progress toward reducing and preventing sexual harassment in higher education

The action collaborative will deal with the issue of sexual harassment in the context of other damaging behavior, including incivility, bullying, and other forms of harassment such as racial harassment.

“It’s exciting to see academic institutions come together to address sexual harassment in a collective structural approach to ending long-standing patterns of discrimination,” said Elizabeth Hillman, president of Mills College and a member of both the action collaborative’s leadership group and the study committee that wrote the 2018 report.

The national academies are private nonprofit institutions that provide independent objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

Read the full release from the National Academies.

CONTACT:

Karen Dunlap (865-974-8674, kdunlap6@utk.edu)

Sara Frueh, senior media officer, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (202-334-2138, news@nas.edu)