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Responses of Male and Female Undergraduates to Scenarios of Sexual Harassment in an Academic Setting

Essay by   •  December 19, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,215 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,764 Views

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Abstract

This study sought to identify how individuals respond to sexual harassment in an academic setting depending on the alleged perpetrator's status. In this study, 349 male and female students from a Midwestern university were issued questionnaires consisting of 4 hypothetical scenarios involving the victim: a 19 year old college sophomore and her alleged perpetrators: a professor, a T.A., a close friend, and a stranger in her class. In each scenario the victim took offense to the perpetrators' behavior so she filed a grievance against them with the University's Review Board. Given the status of these alleged perpetrators, this study wished to establish how sexual harassment is perceived among each gender. There were two dependent variable measures collected based upon questions asked to the respondents regarding these scenarios. They were asked to rank to what extent did the perpetrators' behavior constitute sexual harassment and how reasonable they thought the victim's action was in each scenario.

The vast majority of sexual harassment studies have focused on male harassers and female targets (Wayne, Riordan, & Thomas). This study follows the same premise with the female target being Sandra, a 19 year-old college sophomore and the perpetrators being all men of various statuses. There are multiple hypotheses to be tested from this study. The initial hypothesis is based on the main effect of the perpetrator status variable that was examined in the study. Lalonde and Weiss (2001) performed a similar study in which they sought to identify some of the factors that lead to assertive responding to sexual harassment. They basically used the same scenarios but in their case they focused mainly on the perpetrators of higher status: the professor and the T.A.

Methods

Participants

The participants for this study included students from a current and previous class at a Midwestern University as well as several random recruits. The demographics of the participants are presented in Table 1. There were 349 male and female participants representing various ages and races thus making this sample quite diverse.

Materials

The materials in this study included a questionnaire containing 4 scenarios of sexual harassment in which the victim was Sandra, a 19 year-old college sophomore and the alleged perpetrator was one of either a professor, a T.A., a fellow student who was a friend, and a fellow student who was a stranger. The questionnaire was followed by two questions regarding the 4 scenarios. The materials used to analyze the collected data included a computer containing the SPSS program.

Procedure

The first action performed with this study was to collect sufficient data using a representative sample. Data collection for this experiment was accomplished by using students from a Midwestern University. Some outside participants were also recruited for this study. The students were given a questionnaire containing 4 scenarios in which Sandra, a 19 year-old college sophomore was approached for a date by a professor, a T.A., a close friend in her class, and a stranger in exchange for assistance in getting a better grade in her class. Sandra takes offence to these advances and seeks to file a grievance with the University's Review Board. The students were asked to give rankings on a scale of 1-10 for these two questions: to what extent Sandra's actions were reasonable and also to what extent did the perpetrators' behavior constitute sexual harassment.

Results

The data was analyzed using a One-Way ANOVA and Independent Samples T-Test. The ANOVA was used to perform an overall comparison of the four conditions for the 2 dependent variable questions on the context of the harassment and the reasonableness of the victim's action to file the grievance with the URB. For ratings of Reasonableness these figures were calculated: F=46.430. For the ratings of sexual harassment, these figures were established: F=38.322, p=.000. These results reveal a significant relationship between the status of the perpetrator and the higher mean effect. Thus it can be stated that the participants gave a higher rating to the scenarios with the professor and the T.A. respectively than they rated the other two scenarios with the friend and the stranger. . The mean ratings of sexual harassment over the 4 scenarios are illustrated on Figure 2. The mean ratings of reasonableness over the 4 scenarios are illustrated on Figure 1. The differences in mean ratings between genders for the question regarding sexual harassment is illustrated on Figure 3.

Table 1:

Demographics of the Sample

Age

Mean 32.1576

Std. Dev 15.24911

Gender

Frequency Percent

Male 126 63.6

Female 222 36.1

Race Freq. %

African- American 74 21.2

White 254 72.8

Asian 7 2.0

Other 11 3.2

Table 2: Sexual Harassment Scenarios and Question

Friend Scenario:

Sandra is a 19-year-old college sophomore. The following incident

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