The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Study shows sexual harassment large on college campuses

Nearly two-thirds of male and female college students face some type of sexual harassment, according to a recently released research report.

The survey, released in January 2006 by the American Association of University Women, showed the numbers of students who face sexual harassment are high. Less than 10 percent of students, however, have approached someone for help.

The AAUW is a national organization with the stated goal of promoting education and equity for all women.

More than 2,000 random undergraduate students represented nationwide were part of the report conducted in 2005 by Harris Interactive Inc. The students answered a questionnaire about various circumstances involving sexual harassment and how they felt about accessible resources.

One out of three college students said they are physically harassed, according to the survey.

Students who are harassed feel pressured to come forward, according to the survey.

“I think it could be the environment that they’re in,” said Whitney Hightower, an elementary education graduate student. “Sometimes you run the risk of people saying, ‘Oh you’re just over reacting.’ I think that holds a lot of women back from really saying, ‘This made me uncomfortable.’ ”

Hightower, who is a student and mother, said now there is a better support system exist at CSUN.

“(On campus) there’s definitely now a lot more safety awareness of it and support,” she said.

Hightower remembered one incident during her undergraduate years at George Washington University, when one night, a man who was acquainted with one of her friends, offered to walk Hightower to her apartment.

“I told him ‘Well thank you for walking me back good night,’ and he started to just come in with me,” Hightower said. “He was getting too forward.”

After the brief confrontation, she said she told him to leave, and he then left.

In the study, only 7 percent of the students said they reported sexual harassment to a faculty or administrative member.

Jo Ann Fielder, director for the Equity and Diversity, was not surprised by the study’s reported figures.

She said only a few sexual harassment cases have been reported over the past three years at the department, which aims to meet the provisions of the state and federal laws associated with the university system.

During this school year, two students filed sexual harassment reports, Fielder said.

Both students filed reports against faculty members, she said. One report was filed this March. A staff person filed the third report in December 2005 after he viewed sexual harassment in a classroom, Fielder said.

According to the California Education Code, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome, sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, made by someone from or in the work or educational setting.”

Fielder is usually the first person people come to when they have a concern. She said she knows how important it is to devote time to people who walk into her office.

“They need to be able to say what they want to say,” Fielder said. “It’s a ‘closed-door’ situation.”

The survey also showed that students prefer more efficient methods of reporting sexual harassment.

The report stated 57 percent of those surveyed said they would like a confidential, web-based program for reporting incidents of sexual harassment.

Fielder said it would be impossible for such a service to exist because it delineates the purpose of conducting a formal investigation.

“There’s really no such thing as a confidential website for people to report such things,” she said. “When a person says they are being harassed, we take that seriously.”

Fielder said no one has to file a report. The office, however, does handle each case with scrutiny to decide whether an investigation is needed.

Geraldine Marquez, freshmen business major, said having a confidential resource available is useful, but she also agrees that disclosing information would be appropriate in certain cases.

“It makes sense to have details and names,” Marquez said.

College students are aware sexual harassment exists on campus.

Christina Villalobos, CSUN Public Safety Department spokesperson, said it is important for students to be aware of the legal terms and definitions of sexual harassment.

When students or faculty members consider an issue such as sexual harassment, they also have to think about their safety, she said.

Villalobos said there are a number of services on campus for students, faculty and staff.

“It’s a sensitive issue, something we take seriously,” Villalobos said. “We would definitely provide the resources for them.”

Villalobos was one of several CSUN employees who received sexual harassment training online that is now mandated based on a new state law passed in 2004.

The sexual harassment training law, AB 1845, requires all employees who hold any supervisory position to go through two hours of “interactive” training.

Robert Foldesi, assistant vice-president of Human Resources, facilitated the search with other administrators to find out who would be eligible. He said 680 people ended up undergoing the training.

“We are committed to ensuring that we have a harassment-free environment on campus,” Foldesi said.

Mathew Waters, third-year history major, spoke out about harassment and violence against women at the “Take Back The Night” March 9 – a rally to protest the stop of violence against women.

Groups, such as Violent Acts Grounded and the Women’s Resource and Research Center, sponsored the rally.

“These are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters our girlfriends and the women we hold in the highest of respect,” Waters said, as the crowd cheered him.

Yolanda Noack, director of University Counseling Services, expressed her concerns about harassment at the rally and encouraged people to use their counseling services if they are sexually harassed.

Rachel Levitt, assistant director of the Women’s Resource and Research Center, said sexual harassment should be taken seriously. She said public cases of sexual harassment have often misrepresented woman’s side of the story.

“All these super-public issues of sexual harassment are so often talked about in terms of not being true or the woman asking for it,” Levitt said. “It’s really prevalent in pop culture to not grapple with these issues in a productive way that makes women feel like they can come forward.”

Barbara O’ Connor, AAUW Educational Foundation president, said the study is aimed to take a closer look at what occurs on campuses and how to prevent further problems to create “harassment-free” schools.

Claudia Sanchez, sophomore business major, understands how hard it can be on a person who feels he or she has been sexually harassed. Even if that person is afraid to come forward, Sanchez said sometimes he or she needs an “extra push” to tell someone.

“It may seem as if you don’t want anybody to know, but it’s important for you to speak out so nothing worse can be done.”

Nia Guleyon can be reached at

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