Archive for Wednesday, October 30, 1991


October 30, 1991


Kansas University's acting affirmative action director Tuesday rejected the ACLU's contention that affirmative action officials mishandled students' allegations of sexual harassment in the KU law school.

Tom Berger said during a campus program on sexual harassment that his office handled the cases properly.

"There were hints or allegations that the Office of Affirmative Action mismanaged parts of the situation. That is absolutely untrue," he said.

BERGER SAID KU's rules of confidentiality prohibited him from commenting fully on allegations by the American Civil Liberties Union.

He responded to statements by ACLU attorney Ronald Nelson, which included: "Sexual harassment complaints filed with the Office of Affirmative Action have been mishandled."

Nearly two weeks ago, Nelson revealed that two current and two former KU law students filed sexual harassment complaints against two faculty.

The complaint against one law faculty member has been resolved. The other faculty member has appealed sanctions handed down by KU officials who examined the sexual harassment complaints.

Berger conducted Tuesday's sexual harassment program with Barbara Ballard, director of the KU's Emily Taylor Women's Resource Center.

The program has been presented annually since at least 1980, and this session was scheduled before the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings and allegations surfaced of harassment in the KU law school, Ballard said.

SEXUAL harassment is much more common than most people realize, Ballard said. One survey of 5,000 women showed 52 percent were the subject of sexual remarks, 20 percent were propositioned and 14 percent were repeatedly pressured for sex.

Berger said there are many myths about sexual harassment. One of the most damaging is that the victim causes sexual harassment. Another myth: Victims are all young, attractive and single.

"There is absolutely no relationship between sexual harassment and the victim's job level, race, age, appearance, ethnic background, marital status," Berger said.

He said there are two types of sexual harassment recognized by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They are "quid pro quo" and "environmental" harassment.

QUID PRO QUO harassment occurs when an employee is subject to unwelcome sexual advances and submission to them is made the basis of firing, hiring and advancement. Environmental harassment occurs when any type of unwelcome sexual behavior creates a hostile work environment.

"Some people don't recognize they have been harassed for years," he said. "It ranges from the stereotypical cat calls . . . to rape."

Ballard said victims of sexual harassment should take steps to halt the offensive behavior.

Victims should tell a harasser to stop. "Never ignore it," she said.

Keep a written record of what the harasser says and does, she said. If the situation persists, report the harassment to a supervisor. She stressed that people shouldn't hesitate to get help for themselves.

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