Seattle – In 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report showing that rates of sexual harassment and assault were pervasive throughout academia – second, in fact, only to the U.S. military. Earlier this year, postdoctoral scholars at the University of Washington formed a union and negotiated a historic first contract that included meaningful protections against harassment and assault on campus. And today, NASEM is holding a public summit at the University of Washington on how institutions can work together to prevent sexual harassment in higher education.
“Far too many people, many from marginalized communities, have been pushed out of academic science due to persistent sexual and gender harassment at work,” said Emily Myers, a PhD Candidate in Pharmacology at UW and a Trustee of UAW 4121, the union that represents academic workers on campus. “A recent survey on our own campus confirmed the findings from NASEM’s 2018 report, showing that 63.4% of women and nonbinary people have experienced harassment or discrimination within the last year. Together with the university, we’ve codified real protections against this kind of abuse. We are proud that our activism has led to continued national attention on this critical issue.”
Not all universities have welcomed the kind of reform that NASEM and others agree is necessary. Workers at Harvard are currently preparing to strike over the administration’s refusal to agree to similar protections. And workers at Columbia have been stonewalled for years by negotiators. Both universities have faced waves of allegations against serial abusers.
“At UW we’ve developed an innovative peer-to-peer prevention training program jointly with the University, and we’re really encouraged by the results we’re already finding,” said Sam Sumpter, Vice President of UAW 4121 and a PhD Candidate in Philosophy at UW. “So we know change is possible when all of us are working together to empower the most vulnerable voices.”
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