UW News

April 10, 2019

National Academies join colleges and universities, including UW, to found Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education

UW News

University of WashingtonUniversity of Washington

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have joined with over 40 colleges, universities, and research institutions, including the University of Washington, to launch an Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education.

The purpose of the action collaborative is to bring together academic leaders and key stakeholders to prevent sexual harassment across all disciplines and among all people in higher education. The action collaborative is designed to be an active space where colleges, universities, and research and training organizations can research and develop efforts that move beyond basic legal compliance to evidence-based policies and practices for addressing and preventing all forms of sexual harassment.

Twenty-eight of the institutions, including the UW, joined the National Academies in founding the action collaborative at the beginning of this year; their statement on founding the action collaborative can be found at www.nationalacademies.org/sexualharassmentcollaborative. These founding members provided the initial support to start work and helped refine the goals and plans for the action collaborative during a meeting in March. In the weeks since, additional colleges, universities, and research institutions have become members, bringing the total membership to 43 institutions.

The action collaborative builds on the National Academies’ 2018 report Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which found that between 20 percent and 50 percent of female students and more than 50 percent of female faculty and staff experienced sexually harassing behavior while in academia. The report provides a road map with a range of promising practices for preventing sexual harassment, such as using bystander intervention, producing annual reports to convey that reports of sexual harassment are taken seriously and people are held accountable, and combining anti-harassment efforts with programs to promote civility and respect.

“It’s exciting to see academic institutions come together to address sexual harassment in a collective, structural approach to ending long-standing patterns of discrimination,” said Elizabeth Hillman, president of Mills College, a member of the action collaborative’s leadership group, and a member of the study committee that wrote the 2018 report.

“I’m very pleased that an influential organization like NASEM has taken on this important subject,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “Creating a workplace culture that does not tolerate sexual harassment will take commitment, determination and persistence. Culture is complex and multifaceted. Changing it certainly requires deliberate and concerted leadership, but culture change is most effective when it also comes from grassroots movements, something that’s underway here at the UW.”

President Cauce has also agreed to serve as a member of the leadership group which will provide overall guidance and direction for the collaborative. This leadership group will include leaders from the higher education community and leaders involved with the work of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The four main goals of the action collaborative are to:

  • raise awareness about sexual harassment and how it occurs, the consequences of sexual harassment, and the organizational characteristics and recommended approaches that can prevent it;
  • share and elevate evidence-based institutional policies and strategies to reduce and prevent sexual harassment;
  • contribute to setting the research agenda, and gather and apply research results across institutions; and
  • develop a standard for measuring progress toward reducing and preventing sexual harassment in higher education.

The action collaborative will also deal with the issue of sexual harassment in the context of other damaging behavior, including incivility, bullying, and other forms of harassment such as racial harassment.

“We hope that going forward even more colleges, universities, and other organizations will join us in our efforts,” said Frazier Benya, a senior program officer at the National Academies who is directing the action collaborative.  Institutions that are interested in joining or learning more about the action collaborative can contact Dr. Benya at fbenya@nas.edu.  Information about the action collaborative, along with letters of commitment from member institutions, can be found at www.nationalacademies.org/sexualharassmentcollaborative.

Additional information about the structure of the collaborative and its work groups will be available in coming weeks.

The members of the action collaborative are listed below, with the founding members in bold:

Argonne National Laboratory

Boston University


Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Colorado College

Columbia University

Dartmouth College

Duke University

Harvard University

Johns Hopkins University

Los Angeles Community College District

Michigan State University

Mills College

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Northwestern University

Olin College of Engineering

Rutgers University

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Stanford University

American University in Cairo

University of California Berkeley

University of California Los Angeles

University of California Merced

University of California Riverside

University of California San Diego

University of California San Francisco

University of California Santa Barbara

University of California Santa Cruz

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

University of Kansas

University of Maryland Medical School

University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

University of Washington

University of Wisconsin System

University of Southern California

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Wellesley College

Yale University