University of Alaska joins collaborative to address sexual and gender harassment in higher education

The University of Alaska has joined National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and 60 colleges, universities, and research institutions to launch an Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. The action collaborative is a four-year commitment that focuses on the faculty role and engagement in Title IX. 

“An inclusive and welcoming academic environment brings out the best in everyone,” said Paul Layer, UA Vice President for Academics, Students & Research.  UA Chief Title IX Officer Mary Gower shared “joining the action collaborative further positions UA to lead on Title IX issues in Alaska and nationally. The University of Alaska will work together with experts at high caliber universities across the U.S., as well as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.”

The action collaborative is a way of sharing awareness and responsibility for change among the entire academic community; from students to faculty to administrators, everyone is responsible for preventing sexual harassment. A new report from the National Academies revealed a need for systemwide change to the on-campus culture at colleges and universities. Sexual harassment is less likely to occur in higher education institutions that build a culture of diversity, inclusivity and respect.

Between 20 and 50 percent of female students and more than half of female faculty and staff have experienced sexually harassment in a university settling, according to the National Academies’ 2018 reportSexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report also includes a road map of best practices for preventing sexual harassment and promotes programs that foster an environment of civility and respect.

The report revealed that the policies and procedures that are in place at most educational institutions are ineffective and more focused on avoiding liability than significantly reducing sexual harassment. According to the report, academic sciences, engineering and medicine, as well as research, suffer when women leave academia due to harassment and misconduct. 

The four main 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; and
  • develop a standard for measuring progress toward reducing and preventing sexual harassment in higher education.

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