Sexual harassment found pervasive in universities

February 11, 1993|By Boston Globe

In the largest study done of misconduct in academic science, researchers have reported that 40 percent of female university faculty members and 32 percent of female graduate students surveyed in four major disciplines have direct evidence of sexual harassment by faculty members at their universities or have observed such harassment.

But despite such indications of widespread sexual harassment, many faculty members in engineering and science still do not consider it an ethical problem that they need to address, other researchers reported.

The findings were presented yesterday at a preconference session of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

"What these findings show is that there is a fairly serious pattern of unethical and often illegal behaviors within graduate departments," said Judith P. Swazey, president of Acadia Institute, the nonprofit research center in Bar Harbor, Maine, that conducted the large-scale survey of graduate students and faculty members. "The fact that this kind of behavior is tacitly accepted in so many departments sends strong messages to graduate students on what is and is not accepted in academia."

Ms. Swazey's findings, which are part of a broader study examining all kinds of scientific misconduct, were presented at a seminar on teaching ethics in science and engineering. The data are based on responses from questionnaires mailed to 2,000 doctoral students and 2,000 faculty members at 98 major U.S. research universities.

The questionnaire did not define "sexual harassment," and it did not distinguish among being harassed, witnessing harassment and having direct evidence of harassment.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Several speakers at yesterday's meeting said universities must do a better job of addressing all kinds of potential misconduct problems in science, such as scientific fraud or not fully disclosing ties to drug companies when reporting clinical research.

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