Much has been posted on this blog about the AAUP and their recent working paper, “Americans’ Views of Political Bias In the Academy and Academic Freedom.” But another organization starting with AAU should also be on everyone’s radar screen.
Last week, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) came to Washington, DC, for their National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. The focus of the conference was combating sexual harassment on campus. The AAUW’s recent sexual-harassment push started in January with the release of a study claiming that nearly two-thirds of university students (both male and female) have been sexually harassed. If that were true, I’d be outraged, but the study is severely flawed. It uses an overly broad and inaccurate definition of harassment, leading to inflated and shocking statistics. My organization, the Independent Women’s Forum, has been critical of the study, as has the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. As I pointed out last week in an op-ed, there are many problems with the study:
According to the AAUW, sexual harassment includes unwanted “sexual comments, jokes, gestures, or looks.” More specific examples included in the report including “being flashed or mooned” and guys calling each other “gay.” This behavior may deserve rebuke, but it’s a far cry from the jeering cat-calls or torment I imagine when I think of sexual harassment.
In fact, just more than half of the harassed students “were upset by their experience.” The report admits that “the top reason that students gave for not reporting sexual harassment is that their experience was not serious or ‘not a big deal.’” Fifty-nine percent of the harassers thought their actions were funny.
In other words, half of students who were “harassed” weren’t upset by the experience and more than half of the “harassers” didn’t have ill intent. Of course, legitimate harassment is horrible and must be dealt with, but much of the findings in the AAUW report are simply not harassment.
Motivated by these misleading statistics, the AAUW is hoping to develop sexual – harassment policies to combat the problem. What does a AAUW-type policy look like? Take a look at the nonsense passing for a sexual misconduct policy at Gettysburg College. The policy uses a similar, overly broad definition of harassment, like the AAUW study. As a result, innocent acts like hugs become criminal.