Tekst: Linn Victoria Brekke,

Foto: Lisa Botterli Flostrand,

Publisert: 06.02.2018 12:55,

#Metooacademia works towards a goal of enlightening and
preventing the issue of sexual harassment in academia.

As of 2016 there were approximately 289 000
students of higher education in Norway.
Numbers from a recent study performed by
Professor Ingrid Lund with the Education
Development Center at the University in
Agder, has revealed that as many as one
percent of students have experienced sexual
harassment during their studies. That equals to
approximately three thousand students, and that
is just in higher education.

Another study executed by First Associate
Mons Bendixen and Professor Leif Edward
Ottesen Kennair with the Institute of Psychology
at NTNU, shows that the same number of high
school students have reported incidents of sexual
harassment.

Clearly, sexual harassment within the
academic world is an obvious problem, and
in light of the #metoo-campaign, stories are
beginning to emerge also within academia.

– Nothing happened

Senior advisor Marit Hovdal Moan with the
Institute of Medicine and Health Sciences, and
postdoctoral scholar Sophia Efstathiou with
the Programme for Applied Ethics at NTNU,
are the two women behind the Norwegian
Metooacademia-campaign.

They have both experienced incidents of
sexual harassment themselves.

– For us it was personally important because
we have both had this type of experience,
something we had previously discussed with each
other. And it was also, I think, an opportunity
for us to take a position and try to create some
momentum for change, says Efstathiou.

She goes on to explain that she never reported
her own experience after consulting with her
supervisor, largely because she found the whole
procedure of reporting an incident like this very
problematic.

– It is very personal, but I believe in doing
something about this structurally.

Efstathiou says that they have a Facebook
group in connection with the campaign, and
they received stories from people who have
experienced sexual harassment in academia. In
these stories there are a lot of similarities in how
harassment occurs.

Marit Hovdal Moan says she had been
waiting for someone to take the initiative for
such a campaign.

– It’s such a huge sector and I was taking it for
granted that you know, ‘now soon – we’ll see this
explode in academia too, it won’t take long now’,
and then nothing happened. So I was sitting there,
and I was thinking, ‘well someone has to do it’.

Moan explains that it was the Swedish
campaign in academia that inspired her to take
the initiative for something similar here in
Norway as well. She agrees with Efstathiou that this campaign is just as important on the societal
level as it is on the personal.

– What has been important to me, as Sophia
said, was the lack of trust in the system in relation
to harassment.

The isolation effect

Moan says she did not immediately see her
experience as a type of sexual harassment. She
wants to stress how important it is to talk about
what sexual harassment is, because it is such an
elusive concept.

– The law gives a more or less precise
definition of what harassment is, but it does
not capture every aspect of it. Perhaps that is
also why it is so difficult to talk about it, there
is a lot of shame and insecurity connected to
these kind of experiences. It is easy to think: ‘is
this something I should react to, or am I being
oversensitive?’

It is easy to feel isolated, because you don’t
have a frame of reference. This campaign shows
people that they are not alone, and also that
something clearly needs to be done about the
routines for reporting sexual harassment in
academia.

– It is not okay that some senior professor
pats your butt and later you cannot look them in
the eye. You feel ashamed because perhaps you
shouldn’t have worn a short skirt that evening,
was it your fault? You can never work with
this person, which excludes you from a lot of
important meetings with the institute.

Efstathiou and Moan both agree that
situations like this can have potentially massive
consequences, even if it does not fall under the
legal definition of assault.

– It excludes you. In my case, the person
would corner me in the corridors, and grab
me in public. You are afraid to go to work. It is
impossible to be in a relaxed state of mind, says
Efstathiou.

She explains that this is a potential health and
safety issue. But perhaps with added weight on
the safety issue.

«In case of fire»

Efstathiou mentions that when she was in
Bergen she compared responding to harassment
to fire safety. When first moving to Norway she
was surprised to find Norwegians so worried
about fire. There are fire safety plans posted
everywhere, who to contact, how to act, etc. in
case of fire. But there is nothing similar on how
to respond to sexual harassment.

– There is nothing comparable to that. There
is no clear set of instructions for how to deal with
sexual harassment.

Moan thinks it is important how you frame
sexual harassment. Whether it is a health issue,
safety issue, work environment issue. There is
also the aspect of gender, women are usually
more exposed than men to this sort of behavior.

– The strategy to fight sexual harassment
at NTNU that was published in 2012 seems to
frame it as a health problem. This is something
I am critical of. Once you frame something
as a health problem, it becomes an individual
problem. It has to do with you, the person who
experienced this and your mental health, and you
individualize it. Further there is little mention on
the offender, those who commit harassment.

She claims that this is not first and foremost
an individual problem, but structural. It has to
do with power relations.

Strategic ignorance

A study published by professor Ingrid Lund at the
University in Agder, revealed that as many as one
percent of students in Norway has at one point in
their studies experienced sexual harassment, this
translates to roughly 3000 students nationwide.

Efstathiou and Moan believes that the actual
numbers may be much higher. They mention,
among other things, strategic ignorance as one
of the reasons why this could be the case. If high
statistics of sexual harassment are reported at a
university it could harm the reputation of the
university. Efstathiou says she has come across
stories from universities in the UK and US,
where harassment has been covered up.

– It might not necessarily be a conscious
decision on the part of the universities, but as of
today there are very few Norwegian institutions
of higher education that have any statistics to
present on the topic. It is not that difficult to do
a survey around the universities where you ask
these questions.

[ image ]

Foto: Lisa Botterli Flostrand
Sophia Efstathiou (left) and Marit Hovdal Moan are the two women behind the Norwegian #metooacademia-campaign. They feel something has to be done about the structural system in terms of reporting sexual harassment in academia.

A male dominated hierarchy

Both women agree that the main goal of this
campaign is to shed light on the very real
problem of harassment in academia. They want
to capture the attention of the media, enlighten
the government and unions about the problem,
and create some lasting change.

– One of the most prevalent problems today is
that the academic structure is often characterized
as a strong hierarchical system, and in certain
aspects it can also be very male dominated. This
is not exclusive to academia.

For example, a young female researcher may
experience high levels of insecurity and perhaps
a lack of self-confidence. Senior professors and
researchers can often be seen as a as a kind of
father figure or mentor, and if this person then
takes advantage of the uneven balance of power
between the two it is an almost impossible
situation.

– You do not necessarily want this person
to lose his job, but maybe the person should
be monitored in some way. The people affected
by sexual harassment want recognition, and to
know that they are being taken seriously.

Respect and freedom are two of the things
that Efstathiou and Moan mention as the most
important messages they are hoping to convey
with the Metooacademia campaign.

– You want respect and recognition for the
work that you do, not for the focus to be on your
body. This needs to be about freedom, and have
people respect it when you say no.

Unrecorded Incidents

NTNU, Høyskolen Kristiania and Handels-
høyskolen BI all have different routines when
it comes to sexual harassment. The common
denominator for all three institutions is that
none of them, at this point, have any statistics
concerning sexual harassment among students
and employees.

– I have had this job for almost four years
now, and during this time we have not received
any reports of sexual harassment. We will now
discuss these types of challenges internally to
see if a change is required in our readiness and
routines, says the campus director at Høyskolen
Kristiania Trondheim, Camilla Prytz.

She explains that they have a reporting
system concerning the social aspects and the
learning environment through the different
representatives within a class, and that regular
meetings are held. Further, she stresses in more
serious cases that the road is short to a student
advisor and the rest of the school’s resources.

Head of communications at Handelshøyskolen
BI, Ole Petter Syrist-Leite, shares that there are
no registered complaints of sexual harassment at
the school, but that unfortunately there might be
unrecorded incidents also in academia.

– The institution takes this very seriously.
Sexual harassment is behaviour that is not
accepted in our workplace. We have a zero
tolerance policy for bullying and harassment,
and we all have a responsibility to prevent it from
happening, Leite says.

He points out that the most important thing
they do going forward, is to prevent this type of
thing from happening in the future.

– Prevention is on the agenda in the BI work
environment group and learning environment
group, and recently we have made sure to go
through our routines and update them.

The routines and rules for handling such
incidents at NTNU, depends on the relationship
between those involved, explains Head of
Human Resources, Arne Hestnes at NTNU.

– Sexual harassment of students where an
NTNU employee is involved follows the same
regulations as the harassment of employees. The
regulations are created by the HR department,
but handled locally by institutes and faculties
based on the principle that cases should primarily
be solved where they happen. Sexual harassment
between students is not encompassed through
the regulations.

Head of the department for student services
at NTNU, Jenny Bremer, redirects us to the
NTNU students’ internal network, Innsida.

– Information about sexual harassment and
who students can contact if they experience
sexual harassment can be found on Innsida. There
will be a survey about sexual harassment in Shot
2018 (student health and well-being survey – ed.),
and then we will have more certain numbers.

- Annonse -