Maria’s story from Georgia: Campus Harassment

Earlier this year, I was offered the opportunity to work as a teacher apprentice for a professor who was considered one of the best in the communications department. I was offered the position because of my hard work in the field, and immediately accepted his offer. Little did I know that he had a history for harassing female students and was hiring me for other reasons.

The first couple of months went by with no trouble, but during the third I began to feel very uncomfortable. As a “gift” for handling the lab by myself for a week, he presented me with real silver earrings. At the same time, whenever I would work at a certain station with him, he would get uncomfortably close. I would ask for him to move politely, but he would either laugh it off or shift even closer. I knew I needed to tell someone– and soon.

I turned to my female co-worker. She revealed to me that similar things had occurred between him and other women, but the women were too afraid to voice their complaints for fear of being fired or having points deducted from their grades. (If we were to work with him, we had to be in at least one of his classes.) One girl received a pair of hand-knitted socks while another was constantly presented with gifts whenever he returned from a trip. My co-worker continued by telling me that she and several other ex-workers found a certain online bookstore with his wish list on it. Included were books like “How to Woo Younger Women for Men Thirty-Five and Older Volume Two” and “Inside Japanese Sex Houses.”

I was outraged! How could no one report such foul things? I knew then and there that I had to be the one to speak up even if my grade was affected.

My co-worker and I filed a complaint at the Human Resources Department. I then filed one at the Sexual Harassment office and wrote a letter to the head of the Department of Communications. Despite all of my attempts, the case was shut down for lack of evidence. The website was considered “hearsay” and my complaints were nothing compared to other cases (i.e. physical harassment and/or rape) in their eyes.
Tenure was also keeping him safe even though other people had spoken negatively about his classes.

At the end of the day, yes, I am furious about the results. However, I was neither ashamed nor afraid to be the first to speak the truth. I encourage other young girls to do the same if in a similar situation. Your voice is a mighty tool- use it, no matter what anyone else says! Who knows? I might be the pebble that gets the boulder rolling…. I do hope so.

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