Sexual Harassment Rampant in Science, New Report Reveals

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A new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reveals that half of women studying and working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) positions at American universities have been subject to sexual harassment. And, as STAT, an online journal of biotech, pharma and life sciences, reports, “there’s no evidence that current policies are significantly helping to stem the issue.”

Researchers spent two years surveying female students and faculty who were the targets of sexual harassment, compiling data from women at the University of Texas and Pennsylvania State University school systems, representing 10,000 undergraduates, graduate students and female faculty.

As The Washington Post observed, “Between 20 percent and 50 percent of female students in science, engineering and medicine, and more than 50 percent of faculty, said they had experienced harassment.”

Researchers also found that such harassment was more common for engineering and medical students than it was for students in non-science-oriented fields.

STAT notes how the results of this treatment impacted respondents’ personal and professional lives:

Victims interviewed for the report said they had skipped professional meetings and social situations, dropped out of research projects, and left jobs, just to avoid harassment. They described being mortified, devastated, and outraged in some cases. Many didn’t formally report their harassment, often for fear of retaliation. And some who did said the drawn-out proceedings drained them of precious time and energy to do their work.

Some scientists welcomed the reports’ findings. Heidi Lockwood, a professor of philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University, told The Post that the 300-page report is “a spectacular and encyclopedic piece of research and writing, and will no doubt serve as the touchstone for research, policy and advocacy in this area for years to come.”

Others, while grateful for quantitative data to back up their lived experience, questioned whether NASEM was willing to reckon with its own history of harassment accusations. Inder Verma, formerly a cancer biologist at the Salk Institute and editor in chief of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, resigned from both positions in the last few weeks following sexual harassment allegations.

Geoff Marcy, another NASEM member, resigned from his position at the University of California at Berkeley following a 2015 Buzzfeed article that revealed the university investigated student claims of harassment and found that Marcy had violated the school’s conduct policies.

But NASEM has not revoked Verma or Marcy’s memberships. As BethAnn McLaughlin, an assistant professor of neurology at Vanderbilt University, told The Post, the lack of action “certainly undermines the credibility of the National Academy to implement meaningful change.”

Still, the report offers recommendations for moving forward. They include hiring more women and people of color, especially in leadership positions; creating stronger anti-sexual harassment policies and being more transparent about them; providing more support services to victims of sexual harassment; and offering stricter enforcement of federal anti-discrimination policies such as Title VII.

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Tens of Thousands of University of California Staff Strike for Better Pay and Benefits

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

More than 20,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 are on day three of a labor strike, protesting what they characterize as unacceptable wages, health care costs and retirement benefits offered by the University of California system.

During contract negotiations, the union requested a 6 percent annual wage increase, in addition to protections for health and retirement benefits, but the university agreed to only 3 percent, sparking the strike.

“Our Bargaining Team has been negotiating in good faith,” union representatives said in a statement posted on Local 3299’s website, explaining the decision to strike. “UC still has yet to offer real wage increases, benefit protections, job security, safe staffing and ending discrimination in the workplace. Instead, UC wants us to take cuts.”

The strike is expected to end Thursday, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Custodians, gardeners, cooks, truck drivers, lab technicians and nursing aides have been joined in a sympathy strike by 14,000 additional members of the California Nurses Association, as well as “15,000 members of the University Professional & Technical Employees, who include pharmacists, clinical social workers, physical therapists, physician assistants and researchers,” the paper added.

The L.A. Times also reported Tuesday that the strike has caused UC medical centers to reschedule over 12,000 surgeries, cancer treatments and other medical appointments, as well as to cancel classes and cut dining services on some campuses.

These disruptions have so far done little to slow down the strike. The total number of striking workers is expected to reach 50,000.

“The growing divide between UC’s top administrators and the rest of UC’s workforce is far beyond what a taxpayer funded institution should allow,” AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said in a statement released earlier this week. “What we now have is a public university that’s literally becoming a monument to inequality, and workers all over the UC system have had enough.”

The UC system strikes come on the heels of similar actions from public school systems as well as universities across the country.

In April, members of Columbia University’s Graduate Student Union went on strike for a week as Columbia’s top administrators refused to recognize the union and begin bargaining. That strike, as the union’s blog noted, included participation from multiple politicians and political candidates “from New York City Council members to Cynthia Nixon to the President of Ireland.”

Another New York City graduate student union, at the New School, went on strike Wednesday morning, protesting multiple elements of the negotiating process for their first contract, particularly health care benefits. The New School strike is just getting started, and has not yet attracted the kind of attention from the media or politicians that Columbia’s strike drew.

Even in the most conservative, anti-labor states, educators have been at the forefront of a resurgence in activism around labor rights. In addition to the strikes at universities on the East and West coasts, elementary and secondary public school teachers in Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia have all used strikes to protest wages, working conditions and health and retirement benefits.

The UC was unmoved as of the beginning of the strike, with one spokeswoman on Monday telling CBS News, “A disruptive demonstration will change neither UC’s economic situation nor the university’s position on AFSCME’s unreasonable demands.” Whether that position will change as the strike builds momentum remains to be seen.


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