University of Arizona joins network of institutions to prevent sexual harassment

Preventing sexual harassment

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona has joined a group of 60 institutions working to address and prevent sexual harassment. Dr. Kathleen Melde, associate dean of faculty affairs and inclusion in the College of Engineering, is leading the university’s collaboration.

The universities are finding ways to raise awareness about sexual harassment and making sure people know how to recognize it.

“There’s gender harassment and that could be disparaging remarks, a lot of us might have the sensibility to let it go,” Dr. Melde said.

She said her time in the College of Engineering has allowed her to see some of the problems that can arise in the STEM fields. Over 58% of women faculty and staff in sciences, engineering, and medicine say they’ve encountered or experienced sexual harassment, according to a report by the National Academies of Science, engineering and medicine.

“It has been traditionally men, but the demographic is changing quickly. There’s some old-fashioned values,” she said.

The universities in the network are sharing ideas to make reporting easier and teaching staff exactly what to do if they receive information.

“We really want to prevent the person that has been targeted from having to relive that story over and over again,” Dr. Melde said. “Even bringing it up the first time is so emotional.”

She said they want staff and students to feel comfortable to report harassment.

“That speaking up is not going to cause retaliation and we as an organization, as the university, need to really respect, listen and protect that,” she said.

Through the collaboration, each university is hoping to create environments that provide support and reassurance to staff, students and their families.

“We get a lot of parents who do not speak English who send their child halfway across the world to come study here, and this relates to parents of female students and male students,” Dr. Melde said.

The university plans to roll out a handbook this fall for faculty and students with methods to better address sexual harassment.

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