Panel discusses sexual harassment
In an effort to heighten awareness and expand discourse
on the issue of sexual harassment and assault at Bowdoin College, a panel
discussion was held Wednesday night at Quinby House.
The idea for the panel was sparked by an article by Todd
Buell '03 in the November issue of The Patriot. The article downplayed
the problem of sexual harassment and assault at Bowdoin and subsequently
caused concern for many who fear that people do not understand that such
problems do exist here. The article launched a number of responses, including
a joint article by fellow panelists Corona Benson'02 and Clare Forstie
'02 published soon after in the Disorient.
These three- Benson, Forstie, and Buell- were the students
sitting on the panel. Dean of Student Affairs Craig Bradley, who moderated
the discussion, commended the three students for their willingness to
share their thoughts on the issue and break the silence. Joining the four
college panelists was Sue Dreher, director of Sexual Assault Support Services
of Midcoast Maine.
Benson first explained the panel's goal: to "bring
to public light the wider culture of silence about many issues on campus."
She said, "Silence over occurrences of sexual harassment is a metaphor
for the treatment of many issues on campus."
Forstie defined sexual harassment in terms of the college
handbook guidelines as any unwanted, repeated sexual behavior. "I
could write a book about instances of sexual harassment that I've witnessed
since my freshman year, she said."
Benson said that she felt College policy only aims its attention
at sexual harassment that interferes with academic interests. "The
policy can't cover sexual harassment that happens on a day-to-day basis."
Bowdoin's policy, she said, presents a minimum standard
of allowable behavior and that members of the community should hold themselves
to a higher standard than the policy outlines. Bowdoin is not immune to
sexual harassment, Dreher said, explaining that there are cases of sexual
harassment in the college community.
To the surprise of many, Dreher explained that "sexual
harassment is at its worse in 5th and 6th grade." She explained that
with age the manifestation of sexual harassment becomes less obvious but
no less damaging to the individual.
Buell then read a statement that he had prepared prior to
the discussion. He stated that the purpose of his article was to shed
light on the unequal treatment that those accused of sexual offenses often
receive due to what he sees as unjust policies. He expressed support for
Bowdoin's Sexual Misconduct Board for its treatment of both parties, as
opposed to certain publicized controversial practices at Brown University
and Columbia University in cases of sexual misconduct.
The months following the article's publication have "made
me more aware and more sensitive to the concerns of people who responded
strongly," Buell recounted, but he defended his article against accusations
that it was sexist.
The panelists then opened the floor to the audience, and
many students shared their thoughts on the ways in which victims of sexual
harassment can find support and ways in which the community environment
can encourage respect for all.
Openness and discussion on campus was repeatedly cited as the strongest force against sexual harassment.