Panel urges reporting sexual harassment

ool campuses as well as in the work environment where two types of sexual harassment take effect: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

“Quid pro quo is the exchange of sexual favors in return for ‘I’ll give you a job’ or ‘I’ll give you a promotion,’” public justice professor Margaret Ryniker said. “Hostile work environment is when the place where I work makes me very uncomfortable.”

Hostile work environment is the most common type of sexual harassment, Ryniker said, and it often raises questions such as: am I being unreasonable or am I just being sensitive? And finally, did I cause this?

“First of all, no, I did not cause this,” Ryniker said. “If I’m uncomfortable, then that’s probably somebody else’s fault.”

Ryniker said the person being harassed should always trust his or her instincts and intuition in order to prevent the harassment from happening again.

Oswego State faculty members Margaret Ryniker, Lisa Langlois of women’s studies, Renee Landers-Jennings of the residence life office and Lisa Evaneski of judicial affairs led the panel discussion held in the Campus Center Auditorium March 1.

College campuses’ are a site where a lot of sexual harassment occurs; students often see someone being sexually harassed through words or actions, and they construe it as a joke. Residence life staff member Landers-Jennings explains that although the immediate response of the victim is to laugh it off because others may be laughing as well, it may contain a serious connotation.

“Get your own confidence,” Landers-Jennings said. “Find out how you can confront it.”

According to the Oswego University Police 2010 Annual Report, only two cases of sexual harassment were reported on campus, two more than reported in 2009. There were no sexual harassment charges in 2010, down by one from 2009.

Although sexual harassment is a common issue on college campuses, it often goes unreported due to fear felt by the victim.

“Speak up, it really helps you and it also helps other people,” Evaneski said.

Students in the audience were encouraged to speak up if they saw other people, or if they themselves experienced any sort of sexual harassment.

One student asked if there is a time limit to file a sexual harassment report.

“The student handbook states that there really is no limit in terms of dealing with the campus response for anything involved under that code of conduct charge,” Evaneski said.

“Basically it’s 180 days under the federal law, but under New York State law it’s three years,” Langlois said.

Landers-Jennings theoretically asked if she is a student and she feels she has been sexually harassed, where could she turn to for help?

“You can file a report either at our university police station where they can take the original report, or at the Oswego police to file the report there,” Evaneski said. “We get 200 sexual harassment reports from Oswego County every year.”

Another students asked: “I work on campus, and I witnessed what could be construed as sexual harassment being performed on someone who is superior to me. She did not see anything wrong with it, or at least I don’t think she did, but I noticed it. Is that still sexual harassment?” Langolis said, it is to an extent.

“If it made you feel uncomfortable, then yes,” she said, “but not every situation should be blown out of proportion.” What you should do in this case is talk to the person who you thought was being harassed, she said. You should make sure she knows the difference between joking around and being sexually harassed.

“Make sure that if you are a student employee and you do see someone getting sexually harassed that you do report it,” Evaneski said. “As a student employee, you want to make sure you can create a safe environment for the students and that you can get them help when they need it.”

Women are not the only victims of sexual harassment, men can be sexually harassed as well. One student asked if men are less likely to report sexual harassment.

“Yes,” Langolis said. “Because they don’t view it as manly.” She later said that one in five men are sexually harassed. She said to encourage male peers to get help if they feel they are being sexually harassed.

If you feel that you or a friend is being sexually harassed, call University Police at 315-312-5555 or contact the counseling center at 315-312-4416.