In February I wrote to you regarding our deep concern about sexual harassment in the academic world, and particularly at Duke. At that time, I committed the University to undertake a self-assessment of the current climate in academic units, for faculty, staff and graduate students in our schools and departments.
That assessment was conducted by means of a survey distributed to individuals in all academic units in August, and I am grateful to all of you for the seriousness with which you approached this task. I would now like to share with you some general survey findings and describe our next steps as an institution.
Overall, approximately 17% of the respondents indicated that they “felt harassed or made to feel uncomfortable within the environment of your academic unit based on age, disability, gender, race/ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual harassment, or sexual orientation” in the past five years. Sexual harassment was the most frequently reported action, followed by harassment based on race or ethnicity, gender and age. It is clear that much of this behavior presently goes unreported. Of those who indicated they had been subject to some form of harassment, about half indicated that they took no action, and another one-third said they discussed the event with either a colleague or directly with the offender. In all cases, an overwhelming majority of those indicating they had experienced some form of harassment were female.
While there were variations by department and unit, these findings are broadly consistent with national trends for both large employers and academic institutions. To be clear: that any of our colleagues should feel they have been harassed in any way is deeply troubling and utterly contrary to our values as an educational institution.
Now that we have more detailed information about the extent of this problem within Duke, Provost Kornbluth, Chancellor Washington and I have asked Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement Abbas Benmamoun and Vice Dean for Faculty in the School of Medicine Ann Brown to meet with deans, department chairs and directors to review their local results, identify best practices and positive steps, advance a university-wide dialogue about culture, behavior, conduct and process, and create clear action plans to address these longstanding and corrosive behaviors.
We are fortunate to be a part of one of the world’s great institutions of higher learning, but I know we can do better. I also know you share my commitment to ensuring we treat every member of our community with the civility and respect they deserve.
Vincent E. Price