Workshop disccusses harassment

By Julie Zvitkovits

A sexual harassment education workshop sponsored by the NIU Office of Affirmative Action is planned to reach supervisors and students during the spring semester.

Office Director Marilyn Monteiro said the workshop was presented to the president’s cabinet members and Council of Deans during the fall semester. It began with the highest university ranks to gain executive-level support and understanding, she said.

“It is eye-awakening that supervisors may be directly liable if they don’t react immediately upon receiving a complaint,” Monteiro said.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as “behavior which emphasizes the sexuality or sexual identity of another individual in a manner which prevents or impairs the victim’s full enjoyment of educational opportunities.”

The commission also applies the same definition of sexual harrassment to employment opportunities.

According to a mail-in survey conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, more than one-third of female professors and academic staff reported they have been sexually harassed. However, 97 percent never reported their incidents to authorities. Results of the survey were released in November.

The two-hour NIU workshop begins with a brief introduction, then a video presentation entitled “Intent vs. Impact,” followed by a question and discussion period. Participants also can answer an optional questionnaire.

“It is designed to make people aware of what sexual harassment is and how victims may grieve,” said Sharon Howard, coordinator of the Office of University Resources for Women. People in positions of authority need to know what their responsibilities are, she said.

“We’re encouraging anybody who is a victim of sexual harassment to report it,” Howard said.

The program is available to any student groups requesting it, she said. The program will be presented on campus throughout this semester and next year, she said.

The NIU program was presented during the fall semester as part of an in-service training program for resident assistants and graduate assistants.

Monteiro and Howard have conducted the workshops so far, but the job will now be handled by Frederick Dearborn, the recently-hired assistant director of the Affirmative Action Office.