The Media is NOT Reporting on University Sexual Harassment

Today is June 8, 2016. That means 22 weeks of the year have passed. In those 22 weeks, I have documented the reporting of 23 cases of sexual harassment and assault perpetrated by university faculty or administrators. These are only the cases I could find, and the number of actual cases is likely higher. In those 22 weeks, at least 12 lawsuits were also filed claiming harassment or assault by university faculty or administrators. Most of this harassment and assault occurred before 2016 – 2016 is the first time these cases were publicized. And the publicity usually occurred on a very local scale.

Here is a graph showing when the media first reported on the 23 confirmed cases of sexual harassment or assault:

June8_2016_SH

Here is the same graph with the names of the perpetrators included. Six of these names are likely familiar to you because of national press attention to their cases (black). I would guess that most of you are unfamiliar with the 17 names in red:

SH-names

What might explain the differences in press coverage? Let’s see:

1.Discipline. Maybe the media focus on specific disciplines over others. In 2016, we have seen well publicized cases in law, anthropology, astronomy, bioscience, and english. Doesn’t seem like much of a pattern, does it? Especially when you look closely at the disciplines of the less publicized cases and see that some of these disciplines experienced poorly publicized cases (Harwood is in bioscience, for example). You would also think that the media would want to publicize cases of people who really, really, really should know better – like the guy from criminal justice (Swindell). The media really, really, really needs to do a better job investigating and reporting on sexual harassment and assault committed by university faculty and administrators.

2. Type of harassment/assault. Well, you might say. Perhaps the perpetrators receiving national attention simply committed the worst offenses. Let’s see. This would mean that faculty/administrators who sexually assaulted students or colleagues would be at the top of the news page. Here are the perpetrators who were arrested or are being investigated for sexual assault. How many of these cases do you remember reading about? Sexual harassment is horrible in whatever form it takes, but the media sure isn’t reporting on the worst of the worst. 

2016: Mahmood G. Ghamsary, Loma Linda University. ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE FROM UNIVERSITY, ARRESTED. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-university-professor-arrested-sexual-battery-student-20160317-story.html

2016: Youssef Taleb, Northern Virginia Community College. FIRED/JAILED/SEXUAL ASSAULT CHARGES FILED. http://www.afro.com/northern-va-professor-charged-with-sexual-assault-on-students/

2016: Guo Ping Wang, Indiana University-Bloomington. FIRED AND POLICE HAVE OPENED INVESTIGATION INTO SEXUAL ASSAULT. http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/indiana-university-lecturer-fired-after-reported-sexual-assault/article_96457e37-aa93-5f20-afcd-95fefa8bf723.html

3. Type of institution. Let’s look at the schools where the sexual harassment occurred. The seven well publicized cases occurred mostly at elite institutions, both public and private. The remaining cases primarily occurred at community colleges, smaller regional institutions, and niche institutions. Oh, it’s elitism! Sexual harassment and assault committed by university staff is a problem no matter where it occurs! The media should do a better job covering all of the cases, not just an elite few.

  • Ott: California Institute of Technology, or Caltech
  • Slater: University of Arizona
  • Richmond: American Museum of Natural History
  • Lieb: University of Chicago (Princeton, University of North Carolina)
  • Latham: University of California-Riverside
  • Choudhry: University of California – Berkeley
  • Piterberg: University of California-Los Angeles, or UCLA
  • Wells: Kilgore College
  • Elsey: University of North Alabama
  • Swindell: West Virginia State University
  • Jones: Alabama A&M University
  • Lee: Grand Rapids Community College
  • Ghamsary: Loma Linda University
  • Markman: Ohio University
  • Harwood: University of Kentucky
  • Ellis: University of Iowa
  • Taleb:Northern Virginia Community College
  • Wang: Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Miller: Northern Kentucky University
  • Christensen: Columbus State University
  • Brule & Parker: Purdue University
  • Parisi: Texas Tech University

Hey, reporter! Yeah, you. How about doing your job? Stop following the easy stories, stop reporting on cases that only affect elite students. HARASSMENT IS A PROBLEM, AT ALL KINDS OF INSTITUTIONS. The media should be ashamed for falling down on the job. I don’t believe that the scale of the problem of faculty/administrator harassment will truly be felt until we have fair reporting that highlights harassment – wherever it may occur.*

*don’t get me started on the scale of the problem internationally. This is not just a problem for the U.S., but we have to start somewhere.

 

 

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