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University department slammed for culture of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment knows no boundaries. It can happen to New Jersey workers in any environment -- including academia.

The philosophy department at a major state university has been hit with accusations that female faculty were routinely subject to sexual harassment and bullying for several years. A report by the American Philosophical Association chastises the department’s leadership for allowing “inappropriate sexualized unprofessional behavior” to continue.

Women members of the University of Colorado philosophy department have filed 15 complaints with the school’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment since 2007. According to the APA’s report, based on an investigation by its Status of Women Site Visit Program, found eight major failures in the department. Among them were:

  • An environment where sexual harassment and “sexualized unprofessional behavior” was allowed.
  • Lack of respect for “members of various groups.”
  • Lack of boundaries and professionalism.
  • Bullying of employees.

Female staff and graduate students reported being harassed during after-hours events. They said the harassment was so pervasive that they often sought to work from home and avoided male colleagues when possible. The CU philosophy has a very poor reputation in the academic community when it comes to treatment of female students and staff, according to the APA report.

Some faculty members acknowledged that sexual harassment was a problem, but claimed the report exaggerated the extent of the breakdown of leadership. Despite this contention, the chairman of the department has been replaced. In addition, the philosophy department has stopped accepting new graduate student applications for at least a year.

Women -- and men -- in New Jersey who are subject to unwanted sexual comments, requests or touching at work do not have to put up with it. They have the right to seek compensation in court.

Source: The Denver Post, “ CU-Boulder reports pervasive sexual harassment within philosophy department, ” Sarah Kuta, Feb. 3, 2014

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