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More efforts underway to combat sexual harassment in academia

In our post last week, we discussed how important it is for people to understand that sexual harassment isn't just confined to certain industries, but rather can occur in virtually any job setting.

By way of illustration, consider the scandal that rocked the University of California-Berkeley just last month when it was revealed that an renowned professor in the school's highly-respected astronomy department was being investigated for sexually harassing four female students, undergraduates and graduate students alike.

Specifically, the school came under fire for taking what many viewed as lenient disciplinary actions against the professor, who later apologized for only some of his actions in an open letter and ultimately resigned.

As upsetting as the debacle at UC-Berkeley was, advocates indicate that it has helped draw attention to the unfortunate state of affairs at many higher education institutions, where both undergrads and grad students alike may feel powerless when subjected to repeat episodes of sexual harassment.

That's because they may fear that speaking out could result in retaliation in the form of poor grades, withheld letters of recommendation, jeopardized grant money or other costly actions taken by spiteful professors.

The good news, say experts, is that not only are people now more aware of this endemic problem, but the previously vulnerable parties are now feeling empowered to take action.

Indeed, an online petition is now circulating that is calling on Congress to pass some type of national misconduct policy governing faculty members at schools that receive federal funding. Furthermore, two young female astronomers have started a new support group called Astronomy Allies designed to help those who are experiencing sexual harassment in a field that many say has long been too tolerant of unacceptable conduct by senior scientists.

This is truly an encouraging development. Here's hoping we continue to see this type of conduct exposed and punished accordingly.

In fact, if you or a loved one has been victimized by what you believe was sexual harassment, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can help you pursue justice.     

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