Date of Award

2001

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education (MED)

Department

College of Education

Abstract

The purposes of this research were to determine: 1.) if sexual harassment policies, content, communication and subsequent related training, or lack thereof, subject South Florida community colleges to legal risk; and 2.) the perceptions of how sexual harassment policies and procedures affect students and faculty, their interactions, and how students learn and how faculty teaches, being mindful of a possible cultural component.

In determining if the sexual harassment policies and training subjected the colleges to legal risk, a sexual harassment policy and procedural grid was used to analyze the policies in place at all four South Florida community colleges. The grid was created based on relevant case law, employment litigator position papers, the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) Enforcement Guidance: Vicarious Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors, and the written conclusion of legal counsel of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (see Appendix G) .

Determining the perceptions of how the subject matter affects students and faculty was accomplished by interviewing a non-random, purposeful sample of twelve individual subjects and two focus groups of ten participants each, from two of the four community colleges in South Florida.

Within-case and across case analysis were performed on seven different constructs: policy content, communication, training, teachers/teaching, students/learning, risk and culture.

It was determined that the community colleges of South Florida are at legal risk, due to the lack of, and at best, insufficient training in the subject matter; the content of their sexual harassment policies; and the manner in which the policies themselves are administered and communicated.

While educators saw little affect on teaching itself, there were numerous comments about the loss of personal interaction between teacher and student due to a heightened awareness of new physical boundaries.

Students overwhelmingly reported a negative effect in the classroom and in interactions with instructors. Additionally, culture and age were found to be highly influential factors in the reporting of claims.

The subject of training was the underlying theme throughout the research. Lack of training contributes to legal risk for the colleges and allows young students, and students and employees who are either from authoritarian countries or who do not have an adequate understanding of the English language, to remain uneducated regarding where they can turn for assistance. Additionally, the lack of training can subvert education by allowing ill-equipped students to face important issues, thinking that they have no recourse.

The research indicates that the administration of sexual harassment policies and procedures is not seen as a priority issue on South Florida community college campuses.

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