Online survey details 16 accusations of sexual harassment at U of T

Inappropriate touching, making comments about appearance most common forms of anonymous allegations

A crowdsourced survey created by student advice website The Professor Is In revealed 16 anonymous accusations of sexual harassment within academia at U of T.

The survey, which has so far documented more than 1,900 accusations of sexual harassment in academia worldwide, shows that 15 of the 16 accusations of harassment at U of T were of male professors harassing female graduate students. The other case involved alleged predatory action of a postdoctorate toward a grad student.

Almost all of the accusations involved multiple forms of sexual harassment. Half of the cases alleged inappropriate touching, and a quarter of them alleged making comments about the complainant’s appearance. One of the accusations cited stalking, and another two alleged bragging about sexual ability. Talking about sexual activity, posting or showing sexual images, asking for dates and not taking ‘no’ for an answer, making sexual jokes, showing genitalia, bullying based on sex or gender, demanding hugs, and sexual assault were all listed among the accusations.

The accusations also reported significant impact on the mental health of the complainants. In five allegations, the complainant noted anxiety following the harassment, and in three cases stress. Two of the accusations also detailed self-blaming and depression. Eating disorders, drug use, feelings of embarrassment, resentment, difficulty trusting people, anger, bitterness, feelings of humiliation, nervousness, lack of confidence, and feelings of shame also appeared among the survey responses.

In all of the accusations, it is alleged that there were no career consequences for the harasser. In six cases, the complainant did not note any impact of the alleged harassment on their life choices, but in another three cases they claimed to have changed research focus. An additional three complainants left academia altogether.

The Professor Is In serves to help recent PhDs search for tenure-track positions. It was founded by Karen Kelsky, a former professor who taught at the University of Oregon and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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