Mills English Professors Discuss Sexual Harassment on College Campuses

Oakland, CA—January 11, 2018

In an article entitled “The Paradox of Protecting Students” recently published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mills English Professors Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young reflect on how women in academia cope with sexual harassment. They point out that even if female professors are not the immediate victims of harassment, they are burdened with extra work that the harasser is relieved of by virtue of being put on administrative leave. “Those in power seem to be protected, defended, and, only if things get bad enough, placed on administrative leave,” they write, adding “in the current system, sexually harassing students can result in a significant decrease in workload and thus an easier job.”

Spahr and Young note that women professors spend uncompensated hours mentoring and advising female students on how to negotiate harassment on campus. “Female academics are thus not only victims of such harassment but also those whose scholarly and emotional work is needed to patch things up afterward.” They suggest that until harassers—even those with tenure—can be fired, female professors are laboring with the “Sisyphean task of doing additional work to support rather than dismantle a system that hurts both students and ourselves.”