Universities: The dimensions of discrimination highlighted by an unprecedented research

Posted on 10/19/2022 at 10:00 p.m

Fifteen years before #MeToo, social science PhD students formed the Clasches, an acronym for Collective Against Sexual Harassment in Higher Education, and highlighted the need to address the issue. However, a sufficiently general study to measure the magnitude of the phenomenon of sexual and gender-based violence has been lacking. Just like the discrimination against the staff of universities and research institutions.

This is the dual purpose of a major investigation called Acadiscri, launched in 2018 with the support of the human rights defender, at two universities whose names have been anonymized. The first results of this work, which will be published this Thursday morning during a conference of the independent body responsible for combating discrimination, provide a worrying diagnosis of the situation.

Sexism, harassment, aggression…

His focus on the student population at the renamed Bropolis university shows the importance of both mainstream sexism and the phenomena of harassment and sexual assault at universities. “Not only are women more likely to be confronted with sexist behaviors of a sexual nature than men, but these behaviors are also more repetitive, violent, varied in form and ultimately more severe in people’s emotions,” the study summarizes.

One in five students, compared to less than 7% of students, reported having been confronted with sexist situations, ranging from “disturbing sexual offers disguised as humor” to voyeurism or exhibitionism, including sexual innuendos or gestures.

In addition to this frequency, there is also a repetition phenomenon: almost 10% of the schoolgirls have been confronted with these situations five or more times since the beginning of their school days. In addition, “almost every tenth woman states that she has experienced a forced sexual act at least once,” the survey shows. Finally, if one in two students rated the issue they suffered as “not serious”, a quarter think that at least one of them was “fairly serious” or “very serious”.

A “degraded work environment”

Also on the side of the staff of universities and research institutes, this is the second part of the study, which refers to a university in the Ile-de-France nicknamed Pilote, we note a sexist climate, a quarter of women judge that they do so as a result of being discriminated against and 3.5% reported being victims of sexual harassment or assault.

The survey, which indicates a “degraded work context”, also reveals a strong sense of unequal treatment across the board, with half of employees saying they have been treated unequally at least once since the beginning of their career. While almost 40% mention demeaning remarks or remarks, a quarter speak of bullying, 22% of discrimination and 21% of insults. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the perpetrator is a hierarchical superior, all discriminatory grounds combined.

Too few references

Aside from harassment and sexual assault, the study also finds that minorities are more exposed to these behaviors. This racist unequal treatment affects administrative and technical staff more (almost 13%) than scientific teachers (almost 7%). Note that males are more affected than females (12.5% ​​versus about 8%).

On the Ombudsman’s side, we stress the need for higher education institutions to strengthen their anti-discrimination policies beyond the impetus given in 2018. Students and employees are also called upon to turn more closely to the institution, which has so far been under-understood. In 2021, the High Authority recorded only 2,000 referrals in the field of national education and higher education combined.

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