Date of Award

Spring 2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy

Department

Education Leadership, Management and Policy

First Advisor

Martin J. Finkelstein, Ph.D

Second Advisor

Elaine Walker, Ph.D

Third Advisor

Kim Eunyoung, Ph.D

Keywords

Education, sexual harassment

Abstract

Impact of Sexual Harassment on Women Undergraduates' Educational Experience in Anambra
State of Nigeria


Sexual harassment in educational settings is a common problem globally. While it is well addressed in college and university campuses in most developed countries of the world through specific policies and mechanisms of enforcement, it remains a taboo topic in African
colleges and universities particularly in Nigeria. This study investigated the impact of sexual harassment on women undergraduates in public and private institutions of higher learning in one region of the West African nation of Nigeria, Anambra State. Its purpose was to identify the extent of harassment and to gage its impact on the academic experience of womenundergraduates, especially in terms of the impact of academic field differences.Astin's theory of students' involvement and Douglas and Wildavsky's Cultural Theory of Risk provided the framework for this study. Astin defined involvement as the amount of physical and psychological energy students devote to their academic experience. The basic element of
Astin's theory is that the more students are involved in their educational formation the more they learn. Astin identified four basic characteristics associated with involvement: (a) physical and
psychological energy must be invested in people, tasks, or activities; (b) levels of involvement occur along a continuum, varying in intensity for each student, and differing between students;
(c) involvement has both qualitative and quantitative characteristics; (d) the amount of learning and development associated with any education program is directly proportional to the quality
and quantity of student involvement in that program. Douglas argued that individuals associate societal harms with conduct that transgresses societal norms. This tendency, she maintained, plays an indispensable role in promoting certain social structures, by influencing members to developing the tendency to avoid subversive
behaviors and by focusing resentment and blame on those who defy such institutions. Douglas maintained that cultural ways of life and its related prospects can be depicted along two
dimensions called group and grid. She postulated that a high group way of life exhibits a high degree of collective control and a low group way of life shows a much lower degree of collective
control and a resulting emphasis on individual self-sufficiency. Also, a high grid way of life is characterized by obvious and lasting forms of stratification in roles and authority, whereas a low
grid way of life is indicated by a more egalitarian structuring.
The sample for this study was selected from the population of 760 women undergraduates in the fields of science and technology and 2 140 women undergraduates in other academic fields that currently enrolled in the 2009-2010 academic year at Nnamdi Azikiwe
University, Madonna University, Anambra State University, and Anambra State Polytechnic. The lists of women undergraduates enrolled in the 2009-2010 academic year were accessible
through the Head of Departments (HOD) in the sampled institutions.
The study sought to test the following research questions:
1. Are Academic Field; Organizational Variables (Faculty Gender and Student Gender Ratios); Individual Variables (Age and GPA), Behavioral Exposure Index, and Culturally-Embedded Gender Stereotypes associated with the Perceived Sexual
Harassment experienced by women undergraduates in Anambra State colleges and universities?
2. Are Academic Field, Organizational Variables (Faculty Gender and Student Gender Ratios), Individual Variables (Age and GPA), Culturally-Embedded Gender Stereotypes, Behavioral Exposure Index, and Perceived Sexual Harassment associated
with the Adjustment to Behavioral Exposure of women undergraduates to potential sexual harassment in Anambra State colleges and universities? Sexual Harassment on Campus Survey (SHCS) tool created purposefully for this study
was used to generate the data for the study. The survey questions addressed the four principal constructs for the study: Behavioral Exposure Index, Culturally-Embedded Gender Stereotypes,
Perceived Sexual Harassment, and Adjustment to the Behavioral Exposure. With SHCS the study examined how academic field impacted the sexual harassment experienced by women
undergraduates in Anambra States colleges and universities. Due to the cultural beliefs of the Igbos of Anambra State (which is the setting for the study) that genderized academic fields the
study compared the harassment experiences of women participants in the traditional female academic fields with those in the traditional male academic fields. The study argued that (1) academic field; organizational variables (faculty gender and student sender ratios); individual variables (age and GPA), behavioral exposure index, and culturally-embedded gender stereotypes are not associated with the perceived sexual harassment experienced by women
undergraduates in Anambra State colleges and universities. Secondly, the study also proposed that academic field, organizational variables (faculty gender and student gender ratios), individual variables (age and GPA), culturally-embedded gender stereotypes, behavioral
exposure index, and perceived sexual harassment are not associated with the adjustment to the behavioral exposure of women undergraduates to the potential sexual harassment in Anambra
State colleges and universities. Descriptive statistics was conducted on the demographic profile of the research participants and on each question of the survey variables. Frequency and percentage
measurements were used to explore patterns in the responses to the survey questions. The Cronbach's alpha coefficients were used to determine the quality of the survey subscales. Finally, a hierarchical linear regression was used to test the predictive power of the independent variables on the Perceived Sexual Harassment and the Adjustment to the Behavioral Exposure of women undergraduates to the potential harassment behavior of the male faculty and students.
Three successive models were tested to determine the best combination of predictor variables for Perceived Sexual Harassment and Adjustment to the Behavioral Exposure scores.
The findings indicated that women undergraduate participants in the traditionally male academic fields experienced behaviors that could be interpreted as harassment "often or very often" while participants in the traditionally female academic fields experienced behaviors that
are consistent with harassment mostly "sometimes". The findings indicated that more than 1 out of 4 (23%) of the participants in the traditionally male fields and 1 out of 7 (14.8%) of the
participants in the traditionally female fields have heard inappropriate jokes in front of them often or very often. Also, higher percentages of participants in the male academic fields indicated
of hearing inappropriate comments and negative things about their gender, experiencing inappropriate gestures directed to them, heard untrue rumors about them, were spoken to angrily by instructor and peers, spoken about negatively behind back and intentionally excluded from activities. Participants in the traditionally female academic fields are more likely to stand neutral, indicating probably that the participants were afraid of future attacks or punishments. Among all other female dominated fields, participants in the field of Arts are more likely to report themselves as being harassed. Overall, the finding indicated that the likelihood that women
undergraduates will report having experienced sexual harassment was determined by the (a) actual exposure to potentially harassing behaviors by faculty and students; (b) their academic
performance (GPA) and cultural gender stereotypes held by women undergraduates than age and institutional characteristics such as academic fields, faculty and student gender ratios. These
variables accounted for half of the variance in Perceived Sexual Harassment. On the variable Adjustment to the Behavioral Exposure the hierarchical linear regression was significant at the
.05 level, F (8, 124) = 2.21, p = .03, and predicted 12.5% of the variance in Adjustment to the Behavioral Exposure. The findings showed that behavioral adjustment to the environmental condition was not well predicted and if perceived harassment was quite predictable, how
individuals respond as regards to adjustment of behaviors seems to be less predictable.

Share

COinS