Computer Based Sexual Harassment


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The presentation outlines prevalance, characteristics, and impact of computer-based sexual harrassment. Addressing and preventing such haaraassment are also discussed. Case examples and discussion follow in the presentation.

Presented at:
- American College Personnel Association (ACPA), Washington DC, April 2000
- The Center for Women's studies and The Affirmative Actions Office, Pennsylvania State University, PA, November 1999
- Pennsylvania College Personnel Association (PCPA), PA,October 1999

Published in: Education
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  • The harassment consisted of sexual language in an email message or other computer transmission. Half the colleges reported receiving complaints about students displaying pornography on computers in public places .
  • Computer Based Sexual Harassment

    1. 1. Computer-based Sexual Harassment Its Prevalence and Impact on Students Sarah Rogerson & Sejal Mehta The Pennsylvania State University
    2. 2. Program Overview <ul><li>Definitions of sexual harassment and hostile environment </li></ul><ul><li>Prevalence, characteristics and impact of computer-based sexual harassment </li></ul><ul><li>Case examples </li></ul><ul><li>Addressing and preventing computer-based harassment </li></ul><ul><li>Case study discussion </li></ul>
    3. 3. Characteristics of Sexual Harassment <ul><li>The behavior is sexual or related to the sex or gender of the person </li></ul><ul><li>The behavior is unwanted or unwelcome </li></ul><ul><li>The behavior occurs in context of a relationship where one person has more formal power than the other or more informal power </li></ul>
    4. 4. Hostile Education Environment <ul><li>Any sexually oriented conduct, or any sexually oriented atmosphere that is intimidating or offensive to a reasonable person, can be construed as creating a hostile educational environment </li></ul><ul><li>Generally requires a consistent pattern of behavior </li></ul><ul><li>This form of harassment often occurs over a period of time and is typically characterized by multiple, varied, and frequent occurrences </li></ul>
    5. 5. Peer Harassment <ul><li>Is generally a form of hostile environment harassment, where the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim is in most cases informal. </li></ul><ul><li>Peer harassment may interfere with a student’s ability to learn, his or her living conditions, and the ability to partake in any and all of the opportunities offered by the institution. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Computer-based Sexual Harassment
    7. 7. Prevalence of Computer-based Harassment and Misconduct <ul><ul><li>In a recent survey of 200 colleges, two thirds reported that at least one complaint about computer harassment had been filed. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In 1995 MIT reported 50 cases of computer-based harassment. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In 1998 Penn State, University Park reported 2300 incidents of computer misconduct to computer security officers. </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Characteristics of Computer-based Communication <ul><li>Communication can reach a wide audience </li></ul><ul><li>Anonymity unique to computer-mediated communication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Difficulty in tracing email </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using others accounts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using web-based accounts under fictitious name </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Characteristics of Computer-based Communication <ul><li>Absence of visual and contextual cues </li></ul><ul><li>Subculture of cyberspace </li></ul><ul><li>Gender differences in communication styles </li></ul>
    10. 10. Impact of Computer-based Harassment <ul><li>Mild annoyance to genuine fear </li></ul><ul><li>Vulnerability of victim </li></ul><ul><li>Creates hostile environment </li></ul><ul><li>Uncertainty of how to react to harassment </li></ul>
    11. 11. Case Examples <ul><li>Harassment via email </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Caltech University, 1995 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Harassment via posting on the Internet </li></ul><ul><ul><li>University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1995 </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Caltech Harassment Case <ul><li>Doctoral candidate was expelled for allegedly sexually harassing another student, largely via electronic mail </li></ul><ul><li>Email anonymity </li></ul><ul><li>Email as evidence of harassment </li></ul><ul><li>Communication in cyber-space </li></ul>
    13. 13. Jake Baker’s Case <ul><li>University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, October 1994 – January 1995 </li></ul><ul><li>Posted sexually violent stories to a news group </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Used his school email account </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Used the name of a student from his class in one story </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Used humiliating verbal and graphic descriptions in his stories </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The case has been dismissed because of lack of evidence that Baker planned to act on his writings. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Addressing and Preventing Computer-Based Sexual Harassment
    15. 15. Addressing and Preventing Computer-Based Sexual Harassment <ul><li>Educate students, faculty, and staff about computer conduct and how to recognize when harassment occurs </li></ul><ul><li>Print and make accessible university policies and guidelines dealing with harassment issues </li></ul><ul><li>Make available contact information of computer security staff </li></ul><ul><li>Computer security staff should act on complaints immediately </li></ul>
    16. 16. The Stopit Mechanisms <ul><li>Basic proposition: most offenders, given the opportunity to stop uncivil behavior without having to admit guilt, will do so. </li></ul><ul><li>Goals: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To discover harassment, improper use, and other uncivil behavior rapidly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To communicate effectively with its perpetrators </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. The Stopit Poster <ul><li>Goals of the poster </li></ul><ul><li>To encourage victims who feel they are in danger to call campus police immediately </li></ul><ul><li>To provide a clear “if you can’t figure out what to do” path to us </li></ul>
    18. 18. The Stopit Poster <ul><li>STOP IT! </li></ul><ul><li>Is it harassment? Ask yourself these three questions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Did the incident cause stress that affected your ability or the ability of others, to work or study? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Was it unwelcome behavior? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Would a reasonable person of your gender/race/religion subjected to this behavior find it unacceptable? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If you answer yes to these questions, please don’t ignore the situation. </li></ul>
    19. 19. The Stopit Poster <ul><li>Here’s What To Do </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If you are in danger or want to register a complaint, call campus police at_____ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To talk to someone off the record during the academic year (for students only), call Nightline at__ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To talk the someone off the record Mon.-Fri., call a Counseling Dean or an Ombuds at ____ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To file a complaint with Office of the Dean for Student Affairs, call_____ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If you want help from IS/Athena, send an email to [email_address] </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. What is happening on your campus?
    21. 21. Case Study Discussion
    22. 22. Thank you for coming! <ul><li>Sarah Rogerson, M.Ed. Candidate, College Student Personnel, Penn State </li></ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sejal Mehta, M.Ed. Candidate, College Student Personnel, Penn State </li></ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul>