Stanford University
Stephan Graham Dean Earth Sciences

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Some painful truths and what we are doing about them

ClockApril 26, 2019

Gender and sexual harassment and gender equity are matters of focal concern in society at large and on university campuses, including Stanford. On April 17, a public discussion of these issues occurred in the large lecture hall of the Old Chemistry Building.

The #StanfordToo event was organized by STEM graduate students, including ESS PhD students Kat Gonzales and Hanon McShea, and geophysics PhD student Dulcie Head. Kudos to them and their associates for organizing this important grassroots event. One element of the gathering was a panel discussion with Provost Persis Drell, Dean of Medicine Lloyd Minor, Senior Associate Dean of the School of Engineering Tom Kenny, and me.  In Kat’s introductory remarks, she cited some truly disturbing national statistics: Greater than 50% of women faculty and staff and 20–50% of women students encounter sexually harassing conduct in academia, according to the 2018 National Academies report on sexual harassment of women. And 64% of survey respondents indicated that they had personally experienced harassment in a field work setting in a study carried out by Clancy et al., 2014: "Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault."

Clearly, all of this must change, and we here in the administration at Stanford Earth are fully committed to making our school an inclusive, respectful environment where all can flourish.  That is our aspiration, but we still have a distance to go to reach that goal. To promote greater transparency, I want to share an update on our current efforts. These began in earnest under my predecessor, Dean Pam Matson, and we are building on them today.  We have:

  • Updated our Respectful Community workshops.  The school has required Respectful Community workshop attendance for all new faculty, staff, post-docs and grad students for some 15 years. They are interactive discussion-based events, pedagogically designed, with school- and discipline-specific cases and videos to support dialog and debate. Sexual and gender harassment are part of the workshop, which addresses the respectful workplace more broadly. As impactful as we try to make this event, it is still a “one-time” session that captures our new arrivals each year but requires ongoing follow-up — some of which I describe below.
  • Initiated regular quarterly meetings of the directors of undergraduate and graduate studies from each of our departments and programs with me on important topics including gender and sexual harassment, as well as leveraging Faculty Forums to engage faculty on these issues and encourage dissemination of information at department and program levels. 
  • Developed guidelines for workplace gender transition.  Last year, the Dean’s Office engaged a respected, highly knowledgeable professional to create guidance for the school to support those in transition and everyone else in assuring a respectful workplace. You can find those new guidelines posted here. They are proving to be a useful tool that others at Stanford may adopt. And, on April 23, we hosted and co-led with ESS graduate student Callum Bobb a workshop for staff, faculty and students on the needs of people in transition.
  • Supported EARTH 203: Diversity & Inclusion in the Geosciences (DIG), which was championed by our Women in Science group and taught for the first time this past winter by grad students Kat Gonzales and Emily Cardarelli, with assistant professor Paula Welander providing faculty support.
  • Created a resource flow chart for grad students. This flow chart, also designed in partnership with student-led RiSE (Respect in Stanford Earth), has been broadly distributed. We hope that it provides process clarity and transparency, and a road map of where to go for help.
  • Launched a review of graduate advising and mentoring by senior faculty.  We have instituted a process for reviewing the advising of senior faculty who have not been so reviewed for many years.  The intent is to recognize good advising, and where deficiencies are discovered, to provide remedies, thereby creating a safer and more productive environment for students and faculty.

We are also in the process of:

  • Changing the faculty’s gender balance. Changing the composition of university faculty is generally a slow process, but we are making progress on improving the gender balance in our school. Six of the eight most recently hired faculty members are women. 
  • Creating active dialog, input, and involvement of Stanford Earth students. RiSE has been a fantastic partner with us. They have helped to develop resources and their recent white paper on field conduct and safety informed our efforts to create a school fieldwork guidelines document. A draft of that document will come across my desk later this month and we will be reaching out to  student, faculty and staff stakeholders for further feedback on policies and recommendations. 

I am proud of these developments in the school, but there is still so much more to do. Watch for additional developments in the space of gender equity and abatement of harassment in the near future:

  • Bystander/Upstander workshops. It is recognized that bystanders and those who stand up for people in a harassing incident can play a critical role in reducing harassment. The Dean’s Office Educational Affairs team is developing bystander/upstander workshops for the school based on excellent resources at the AdvanceGeo site and in partnership with colleagues at the Stanford Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response (SARA).   
  • An early career faculty mentoring program with content in the area of gender equity and harassment, as well as how to give and receive feedback.
  • Expanded exit surveys or other means to capture motivations when students leave degrees early, switch departments, or change advisors.
  •  More discussions among departments and programs about different graduate advising models.

I recognize that calling out harassing behavior may feel daunting and may discourage reporting, especially where power imbalances exist, as in faculty-student relationships.  Nevertheless, identifying a problem is the first step in solving it and providing help to the victim. 

If you are experiencing harassment or discrimination, and feel safe doing so, I encourage you to make use of the resources that the school and the university have to offer. Among those resources are our advisors trained in this area: Amy Balsom, Jef Caers, Sue Crutcher, Scott Fendorf, Ann Marie Pettigrew, and Lauren Nelson.  And my door is always open.

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