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A Third of Female Harvard Gov Students Report Limitations Due to Gender

Harvard's Center for Government and International Studies.
Harvard's Center for Government and International Studies. By Michael Gritzbach
By Jonah S. Berger and Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writers

Roughly a third of female respondents to a Government Department climate survey reported that their work or study within the department was “limited” by their gender, according to a report released Wednesday.

The survey, which featured questions about demographics and the general climate of the department, attained relatively high response rates — 72 percent among students and 87 percent among faculty and staff. The department sent the survey to all of its faculty, staff, and students in October. All responses were left anonymous.

The department decided to survey affiliates last fall, several months after more than 20 women publicly accused Government Professor Emeritus Jorge I. Dominguez of incidents of sexual misconduct spanning nearly 40 years. Government concentrators and graduate students called on the department to address climate issues and sanction Dominguez in the wake of the allegations.

The department established a “climate change” committee in March 2018 — weeks after the allegations became public — and tasked the committee with scrutinizing departmental culture.

One of the committee’s seven subcommittees, the “inclusive climate” subcommittee, was responsible for creating and distributing the survey in conjunction with the University’s Office of Institutional Research. The office processed the data in order to keep the responses anonymous, while the subcommittee analyzed the results.

Government Professor Ryan D. Enos, who chairs the inclusive climate subcommittee, said in a Tuesday interview that the goal of the survey was both to assess the “overall climate” of the department and to gauge the experiences of specific demographic groups.

Nine total respondents reported they have experienced harassment from “somebody associated with the Government Department.” In seven of the cases, the perpetrator was a faculty member, and three of the cases involved “undesired sexual attention.” Respondents were not asked to identify the perpetrator by name.

Roughly a quarter of the survey’s total respondents indicated there is not a Government Department faculty member or “other person in authority” in the department whom they would feel comfortable speaking to about issues of sexual harassment or “other issues of abuse.”

Additionally, nine percent of respondents overall reported that they had experienced some form of discrimination, defined in the report as “unjust or prejudicial treatment,” though there were significant disparities between groups. While just two percent of undergraduates reported discrimination, the figure rises to 16 percent for graduate students and 26 percent for female graduate students.

The most commonly cited reasons for discrimination were “gender identity” and “race/ethnicity,” according to the survey.

The survey also touched on issues of advising and mentorship.

More than 65 percent of all respondents reported being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the department overall.

Graduate students generally reported facing challenges at higher rates than undergraduates: roughly half of graduate students indicated they feel the department’s system of assigning graduate teaching appointments is not “adequate to [their] needs.”

A plurality of female graduate students also reported that they “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the statement, “Mentors, teachers, and advisors in the Government Department are not sufficiently sensitive to issues of inclusion, diversity, and belonging.”

The survey asked respondents how their political ideology affects their sense of belonging in the department. Sixty-one percent of self-identified conservatives reported their work or study was “limited” in some capacity by their political views, compared to nine percent of self-identified liberals.

“When it comes to saying they feel like they can be their authentic selves, conservatives are unlikely to do that, and they don't feel like they can speak out in class,” Enos said.

Much of the data in the survey cannot be adequately contextualized due to a lack of comparable data from other departments, according to Enos.

“The most important thing that we should compare it to is, what is the department that we aspire to be,” he said. “The Government Department, we not only educate a big portion of the College, but when it comes to our particular academic field, we’re a leader in the world.”

“So we have a duty to be a model,” he added.

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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