Contrapower Harassment in the Sport Management Classroom
By Elizabeth Taylor, Robin Hardin, & Cheryl Rode
Blog Post written by Elizabeth Taylor
During my second semester as a doctoral student I was sexually harassed by an undergraduate student in a sport governance class I was teaching. In attempts to effectively handle the situation I went to my advisor, Dr. Robin Hardin, for support and guidance. He encouraged me to discuss this issue with female faculty members in the field to gain insight on how to best negotiate this type of situations. Conversations with a fellow doctoral student, Dr. Cheryl Rode, about our lack of training in classroom management and with several female faculty about their personal experiences with harassment led to the conceptualization of this study.
The goal of the project was to examine experiences of female faculty in relation to sexual harassment and incivility (i.e., contrapower harassment) from their students. The research process was extremely beneficial for me as it allowed me to form a network of strong women within my chosen career field. Many of the study participants have become research collaborators, mentors, and friends.
The findings of this article shed light on the struggles of female faculty member in an academic discipline dominated by male students and faculty. The project not only discusses the numerous ways in which female faculty are sexually harassed and bullied by their students, but also how they manage this harassment. The latter findings have proven to be extremely useful for me and my colleagues. Since the completion of the project I have updated my course policies to specify accepted classroom behaviors and feel more empowered to end inappropriate, harassing behavior within the classroom.
I’m grateful for Dr. Hardin’s recommendation to turn my negative experience into a learning opportunity. My hope and the hope of my co-authors is that the findings will help create an inclusive classroom so students and faculty feel safe and welcome.
Sexual harassment and incivility in the workplace are the unwanted sexual attention and bullying of employees by their superior. There are times, however, when the roles are reversed and the superior is the target of such behavior. Contrapower harassment refers to subordinate incivility and/or sexual attention directed toward a superior. The focus of this study was in the higher education classroom, more specifically the male-dominated sport management classroom. More than 90% of female faculty have reported experiencing acts of incivility, and 25% have experienced at least one act of sexual behavior shown toward them by a student (Lampman, 2012). This study explored the issue of contrapower harassment in the sport management classroom through semi-structured interviews with 10 female sport management faculty members. Contrapower harassment was described by all but one respondent based on each individual’s lived experiences. These incidents occurred in the form of verbal or written comments and in physical actions. Strategies to manage the issue include addressing contrapower at orientation sessions and in-class content as well as the implementation of a zero tolerance policy toward sexual behavior in the classroom.