Olin College Joins Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education

April 10, 2019

Olin College joins, as a founding member, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. In total over 40 colleges, universities and research institutions have joined the initial launch. 

The goal of the collaborative is to achieve targeted, collective action that moves toward policies and practices at the individual and systems levels for addressing and preventing all forms of sexual harassment and promoting a culture of civility and respect. 

“Gender equity is one of Olin’s founding precepts and therefore we believe we have a special obligation to mitigate and eliminate sexual harassment in higher education,” said Rae-Anne Butera, Dean of Student Life. “We are committed to supporting the goals of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Action Collaborative and we are also committed to graduating students who will continue that work beyond Olin’s campus.”

The four specific goals of the Action Collaborative are to:

  • Raise awareness about sexual harassment and how it occurs, the consequences of sexual harassment, and the organizational characteristics and recommended approaches that can prevent it.
  • Share and elevate evidence-based institutional policies and strategies to reduce and prevent sexual harassment.
  • Contribute to setting the research agenda, and gather and apply research results across institutions.
  • Develop a standard for measuring progress toward reducing and preventing sexual harassment in higher education.

The National Academies launched the effort in response to its own 2018 consensus study report that found between 20 and 50 percent of female students and more than 50 percent of the faculty and staff who identified as female experienced sexually harassing behavior while in academia.

The report found that while the sexually harassing behavior ranged from sexual coercion to  unwanted sexual attention (including sexual assault), by far the most common form of harassment was gender harassment. The report identified gender harassment as verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion, or second-class status about members of one gender.

The research shows that with these high rates of sexually harassing behavior it is clear the professional and educational attachment of all people in higher education could be undermined. The National Academies report concludes that system-wide changes to the culture and climate in higher education are needed and provides a roadmap for higher education to make these changes.

As part of the Action Collaborative, Dean of Student Affairs Rae-Anne Butera and others will be joining other members at annual meetings and in working groups to establish and enact best practices to achieve the stated goals of the Collaborative.