News
Professor Neil Malamuth in the News!
November 27, 2017

Sexual harassment is learned long before the perpetrators enter the workplace.  

Arguably, one of the main goals of a college education is to prepare graduates for a successful life and career. But how far does that obligation extend? Does it include teaching students how to treat people with respect?

These questions are gaining new importance in light of the recent national conversation surrounding sexual harassment, assault and even violence in the workplace. About 30% of women said in a recent poll that they experienced unwanted sexual advances at work, and scandals in industries ranging from Hollywood to media to politics indicate that America’s workplaces are suffering from a sexual harassment epidemic. 

Over the past several years, our campus culture has been exposed as tolerating or even condoning troubling sexual encounters, in many cases. Now the debate over the best way for colleges and the federal government to combat this culture is coming at a time when the stakes are becoming clearer: Namely, normalizing inappropriate behavior at college could have consequences beyond campus.

“Behaviors around sexual harassment and all sorts of sexual violence aren’t happening in a vacuum in the workplace,” said Anne Hedgepeth, the interim vice president of public policy and government relations at the American Association of University Women, a Washington, D.C.-based organization advocating for equity in education for women and girls. “Behaviors develop over a lifetime.” 

And college can be a formative period where students’ philosophies, attitudes and beliefs are shaped — particularly on this issue, said Neil Malamuth, a psychology professor at UCLA who studies sexual aggression in young men. In a 2015 survey, more than 11% of students surveyed at 27 universities said they’d experienced non-consensual sexual contact by physical force.

College is often the first time where students can experience their sexuality unfettered by watchful parents or guardians. It’s also an environment more tolerant of copious drinking than most.

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