At The Fed­er­alist Society’s Tuesday night panel on sexual harassment in the work­place. Pexels.

“What would you do?” Pro­fessor of Psy­chology Kari McArthur asked the audience.

At The Fair­field Society’s Tuesday night panel on sexual harassment in the work­place, spon­sored by Light­house, three female pro­fessors — McArthur, Pro­fessor of French Sherri Rose, and Pro­fessor of Biology Angie Pytel — shared anec­dotal expe­rience and pro­fes­sional advice with, and answered public ques­tions from, the 40 lis­teners.   

McArthur dis­tin­guished between quid-pro-quo (sexual favors for job security, for example) and a hostile work envi­ronment. She recalled expe­ri­encing the latter while working in a male-dom­i­nated field — hearing lewd jokes and seeing cal­endars with nude women.

“Things were just dif­ferent then,” she said. “Maybe things are still there; maybe they’re just more covert.”

McArthur pro­vided a step-by-step approach: First, doc­ument the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of the incident.Then, only if it’s safe, con­front the harasser. Third, check to see if the company has an anti-harassment policy. If not, talk with a super­visor. Fourth, report within 48 hours. Finally, know that the Equal Employment Oppor­tunity Com­mission pro­tects accusers between 180 and 300 days, and if they find just cause, will supply lawyers.

Pytel said because women have his­tor­i­cally been treated as objects, not as tran­scendent beings with their own minds, some men can’t parse out that sexual desire which objec­tifies women.

She said that a solution would require under­standing how women feel when they’re objec­tified, and under­standing how men think and how to react to that.

“As long as there’s mutual respect, sexual harassment isn’t going to happen,” Pytel said.

McArthur and Rose both addressed the bystander effect, where the more people witness an incident, the less likely people are to report it.

“One takeaway from the #MeToo movement is the impor­tance of speaking up,” Rose added. “Staying silent is a form of com­plicity.”

Pytel also gave con­crete tips for being aware of one’s sur­roundings, like making eye contact with people or unplugging earbuds: “This place is a good place to work, but not every place is won­derful, so just be careful.”

After the talk, senior Monicah Wanjiru said she came because of the national dis­cussion.

“Large, mostly liberal schools deal with social justice issues some­times more than a school like this would, and some­times com­pletely ignore the topic because the other side is dealing with it, maybe even wrongly,” Wanjiru said.  

Wanjiru, who said she comes from a culture that is more vocal about sexual harassment than Hillsdale is, sug­gested formal con­ver­sa­tions at ori­en­tation.

“I want to see Hillsdale start a con­ver­sation on that, and not just be silent,” Wanjiru said. “I would want to see the admin­is­tration more vocal about this.”

Fair­field Society co-pres­ident sophomore Madeline Hedrick said several people talked to her afterward, grateful for the infor­mation.

“We thought that nar­rowing it down to sexual harassment in the work­place would make it applicable for us, espe­cially because we are such a driven campus of young, current or future pro­fes­sionals,” Hedrick said.  

Sophomore Mary Kate Boyle, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions director of the Fair­field Society, said stu­dents at Hillsdale are lucky to be in an envi­ronment that’s gen­erally safe and respectful, but that the sense of security can cause people to think, “It can’t happen here.”

“I think we want people to be aware of their sur­roundings, and we want people to be thoughtful about the way they treat each other and what it’s like when they’re not in a bubble like Hillsdale.”

Editor’s note: If you have expe­ri­enced sexual harassment or know of someone who has, please, doc­ument the incident(s), talk to a coun­selor, and reach out to the deans’ office. The college’s policy regarding sexual harassment is available on the website.

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Jo Kroeker
Jo Kroeker is a junior from Fresno, California (no, it’s not Cali). She is the Opinions Editor of the Collegian, studies French and journalism, and writes for Hillsdale College’s marketing department. Her trademarks include oversized sweaters, experimental banana bread, and yoga. | twitter: @jobethkroeker