In 2018, members of the Houston FAUSA group attended a talk by Allison Vogt describing the work of The Sexual Assault Free Environment (SAFE) Office at Houston’s Rice University. Ms. Vogt spoke about the ways the program addresses interpersonal violence on campus and provides prevention education to the Rice community on sexual and domestic violence, sexual harassment, stalking and Title IX and Clery Act requirements.
Being impressed with the intention and vigor with which Rice was addressing these topics, Houston FAUSA sought a way to support the university’s attempts to protect its community from interpersonal harm. Ms. Vogt expressed the SAFE office’s desire to evaluate the prevalence of sex discrimination and sexual harassment in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduate programs at Rice. Because the numbers of female professors and mentors in these programs remain low, female students find themselves particularly vulnerable to gender related discrimination and harassment.
Accordingly, FAUSA Houston collected donations from individual members, and FAUSA national made up the difference toward a $2000 donation to Rice to fund the event described below.
On September 10th, 2019, the Rice student organization, Graduate STRIVE, held a panel discussion entitled “Sexism in Academia,” consisting of four female professors working in the Psychology, Chemistry, Bioengineering, and Earth Science Graduate Departments. The event was designed to “create a space for discussion around the topic of sexism in academia and how it impacts” both students and faculty.
STRIVE Coalition is a dedicated group of students addressing sexual and domestic violence on the Rice university campus. The Coalition consists of an executive board, liaisons to colleges and graduate programs, representatives to a variety of student groups, and volunteers. Graduate STRIVE liaisons provide support on issues such as off/on campus sexual harassment, concerns about Title IX policies, interpersonal violence, stalking, discrimination based on gender, sex, or pregnancy and dynamics of healthy relationships.
The STRIVE panel addressed topics including:
- The effect of female to male ratio in academia and science careers;
- The pressure and expectations women may face in attempting to balance work and home life compared with male colleagues;
- Actions that can help address the prevalence of gender and sex based discrimination in academia;
- Effective male allyship in and outside of the field;
- Gender-based disparities in opportunities; and
- The consideration of intersectionality in gender and sex discrimination.
In conjunction with the panel discussion, graduate students, post doctoral students, staff, and faculty participated in an online survey related to their personal experiences with the above matters in their respective departments. The questions in the survey were designed to help identify the prevalence of gender and sex-based discrimination, particularly in STEM departments at Rice University. The survey findings and outcome of the panel discussion helped inform the development of Rice’s Policy 830, Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff and Students. FAUSA’s contribution provided the opportunity to collect data that directly impacted the content of this policy designed to keep members of the Rice community safe.
Interestingly, one of the films in the FAUSA virtual LUNAFEST® fundraiser, benefitting the FAWCO Target Project, addresses a similar topic. “The Scientists versus Dartmouth” by Sharon Shattuck tells the story of a young neuroscientist and her colleagues who make a life-changing decision to speak up for women like themselves in Dartmouth’s science graduate programs who are being subjected to sexual harassment and assault by male professors.
Learn more about the challenges faced by women in STEM, support female filmmakers and benefit the Target Project by joining FAUSA for this exciting event. See details in the article in this newsletter.
Policy 830: https://policy.rice.edu/828