How Men Can Help Stop Sexual Harassment on Campus

Posted by Josh Young on 25 April 2017 |

Recently, the University of Texas released the results of a campus-wide survey focused on the sexual misconduct and violence experienced by students. Among the disturbing results uncovered as part of this study, 42 percent of responding students had reported experiencing sexual harassment at the hands of their peers. And 22 percent of respondents claimed to have experienced sexist gender harassment from university faculty or staff.

The survey also found that the majority of reported faculty or staff harassers, roughly 81 percent, were male.

And the University of Texas is not alone in this struggle. Just a few weeks ago, the University of California, Berkeley settled one of several sexual harassment complaints currently facing the school, placing the former dean of its law school on a two-year sabbatical after he had already paid out a $100,000 settlement.

With so many male students and faculty misbehaving on campus, many schools are beginning to ask how they can help discourage this behavior and encourage more responsible action on the part of men.

Personal Responsibility

Every man can individually make the choice to help discourage gender discrimination and harassment by controlling their own actions. In refraining from inappropriate discussions or sexist language, students and faculty can help make your campus a safer, more welcoming environment.

If You See Something, Say Something

When it comes to sexual harassment and violence, the responsibility fall on the shoulders of a small percentage of campus men (and women). This reality is why bystander intervention -- when an outside party intentionally interrupts a potentially harmful social situation -- can also prove an invaluable tool in the fight against sexual harassment and abuse.

Research conducted by Dr. John Foubert suggests that among young males, their perception of surrounding opinions can influence their behavior more than their own personal opinions -- particularly when related to subjects of rape prevention or harassment.

So by encouraging men on your campus to speak out when exposed to sexual harassment, even when they are not directly involved in the discussion where hurtful or derogatory comments are being used, they can have a direct impact on this problematic minority.

Sometimes this encouragement meets some strong mental resistance. Common excuses used to justify inaction in these unpleasant social situations include:

  • "I don't know what to say"
  • "I don't want to cause a scene"
  • "It's none of my business"
  • "I'm sure someone else will deal with the situation"

These feelings, which are entirely common, are manifestations of what is known as the bystander effect. The bystander effect is a psychological phenomena that allows members of a crowd to diffuse social responsibility for a threatening or harmful situation by placing the initiative to act on everyone else in the crowd.

Bystander intervention, however, encourages your students and faculty to ask themselves: "If I don't choose to speak up, who will?"

Campus Programs

Of course for students to intervene, they need to be adequately prepared. To help encourage its students to serve as active bystanders, the University of Texas network launched its Do One Thing (DOT) program. The DOT campaign is a combination of regular training sessions, seminars, and other community tools designed to equip students to intervene as bystanders.

Cornell's Gannet Health Services instituted a similar program with its "Intervene" bystander campaign. As part of the campaign, the school identified seven steps that can help students to achieve an effective bystander intervention:

  1. Recognize the behavior
  2. Interpret the behavior as a problem
  3. Feel a sense of responsibility
  4. Know what to do (or not do)
  5. Feel empowered that you have the ability to do something
  6. Perform a quick cost/benefit analysis of taking action
  7. Act (direct, distract, delegate, discuss)

Further Education

Beyond bystander intervention training, a more comprehensive anti-harassment and discrimination program can help change the cultural tone of your campus and improve gender relations. Consider offering seminars or workshops that equip students to build healthy romantic relationships that avoid objectification and exploitation.

When students have a healthy respect and appreciation for others, they are less likely to engage in harassing behavior.


Of course, male students and faculty are not the only people who engage in sexual harassment or that can serve as active bystanders. By empowering everyone on your campus to behave respectfully and appropriately, your school can reduce the frequency of these unfortunate social interactions.

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