Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Sexual Harassment in the Sciences: A Call to Geoscience Faculty and Researchers to Respond

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Sexual Harassment in the Sciences: A Call to Geoscience Faculty and Researchers to Respond

Article excerpt

As geoscience educators we focus on teaching students about a wide range of geoscience topics and helping them develop scientific skills. However, we also (deliberately or through unconscious behavior) teach professionalism to our students. Professionalism is rooted in ethics and tailored to our disciplinary activities. How we behave to each other in the classroom, field, and lab, and at scientific meetings says a lot about who we are and what we value as individuals and as a community of practice. As educators and mentors, how we behave and what behavior we tolerate by others sets a tone and becomes a behavioral model for the undergraduate and graduate students with whom we interact. We raise these rather weighty and philosophical points to frame a discussion on a difficult topic: sexual harassment in the sciences. The urgency of addressing this issue follows several recent high-visibility incidents of sexual harassment/assault reported across the STEM disciplines (e.g., Witze, 2015; Balter, 2016; Feltman, 2016; Harmon, 2016; Williams and Massinger, 2016). More troubling, a recent survey of academic fieldwork experiences from the life, physical, and social sciences disciplines (Clancy et al., 2014) reveals that 64% of respondents (n = 666, 78% women) report personally experiencing sexual harassment (i.e., inappropriate or sexual remarks, comments about physical beauty, cognitive sex differences, or other such jokes) and 22% of the respondents reported being the victim of sexual assault (i.e., physical sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact, or sexual contact in which they could not or did not give consent, or felt it would be unsafe to fight back or not give consent). This behavior is illegal. It is unacceptable. And this must stop.

Community in Action

In September 2016 the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), the Association of Women Geoscientists (AWG), the Earth Science Women's Network (ESWN), and the American Chemical Society (ACS) convened a 1-day workshop on Sexual Harassment in the Sciences - A Call to Respond. The goal of this National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded workshop was to generate common principles and identify resources, and best practices to address the challenges of sexual and gender-based harassment on campus, in the field, and at scientific meetings. The workshop was powerful and informative. It brought together 60 scientists (many were geoscientists) from academia, government, and professional societies. Perspectives from victims of sexual harassment, legal professionals, and social science researchers set the stage for discussions on the challenges of, and potential countermeasures to, sexual harassment and assault in academia. We encourage you to read the press releases of the workshop outcomes (https://news.agu.org/press-release/ scientific-societies-speak-out-against-sexual-harassment/, and Wendel, 2016), as well a resource page on sexual harassment (http://harassment.agu.org/) developed by AGU.

Ultimately the workshop's impact will be measured by community-wide recognition of the scope of the problem and the development and adherence to a code of behavior that puts respect, responsibility, equality, and professionalism at its core. As participants in the workshop and active members of NAGT we feel compelled to extend the conversation that was started at the workshop to include members of NAGT, geoscience educators, and geoscience education researchers. Our goal is to provide starting points for conversations that we hope readers will initiate with their colleagues and students on the scope, challenges, and countermeasures to sexual harassment in the sciences. To that end, we share our reflections on points from the workshop and results from recent studies that particularly resonated with us and that we think have implications for geoscience education and geoscience education researchers. …

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