Sexual Harassment on College Campuses: Abusing the Ivory Power

Sexual Harassment on College Campuses: Abusing the Ivory Power

Sexual Harassment on College Campuses: Abusing the Ivory Power

Sexual Harassment on College Campuses: Abusing the Ivory Power

Synopsis

An updated and expanded revision of the first edition, which received the Gustavus Myers Center Award for an outstanding book on Human Rights in the United States. Intended for administrators and faculty, it is also a resource book for individuals wanting to make changes in their campus' policy and procedures with regard to sexual harassment.

Excerpt

Since the publication of the first edition of Ivory Power in 1990, I have left academia full-time and started my own consulting firm in upstate New York that deals with education/training, policy development, grievance procedures development, and expert witness testimony in sexual harassment— both academic and workplace sexual harassment. Through this consulting work I have met hundreds of students, faculty, administrators, and university employees who have shared their experiences with sexual harassment—as victims, friends of victims, perpetrators, and individuals charged with investigating complaints of sexual harassment.

Throughout each of these aspects of my work I have been reminded of an experiment in social psychology to which I was introduced as an undergraduate and graduate student. The experiment, conducted by Solomon Asch in 1952, concerns social influence-how people alter the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of other people. In short, it is an experiment in conformity, of when we change our behavior in order to adhere to social norms. In Asch's experiment, a participant would enter a laboratory room with six people and be told the experiment concerns visual discrimination. The task was simple: Individuals were shown two cards. On the first card a single line was drawn. On the second, three lines were drawn and numbered 1, 2, 3. One of the three lines on this second card was the same length as the line on the first card. Participants were instructed to call out, one at a time, which of the three lines was the same length as the line on the first card. Unbeknownst to one of the seven individuals—the real participant in the study— the remaining six were confederates of the researcher and they had prearranged a number of incorrect responses. For example, five of these confederates would say "1" when the correct answer was "3." The question was, when confronted with five people responding with the objectively incorrect answer, would the participant conform to the erroneous group judgment or not conform? Asch reported that this experiment was a discomforting experience; individuals doubted their judgments; their discomfort was caused by the pressure to conform. Asch reported that 75 percent of participants went along with the crowd rather than assert what they knew to be the right answer.

I am reminded of this classic study when I provide education and training on sexual harassment for campuses, because it illustrates how sexual harassment can confront victims with perceptions that are often invalidated by those . . .

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