Former graduate student alleges gender harassment at Syracuse in anonymous Google form

Amongst thousands of sexual harassment stories, one former Syracuse student shares her own experience

In late November, Dr. Karen Kelsky created an anonymous Google form entitled, "Sexual Harassment in the Academy" which was circulated widely. Its purpose is to collect information on alleged sexual harassment at universities. The form currently holds over 2,000 entries, one of which came from Syracuse University.

An anonymous, female graduate student from Syracuse University alleged that she was harassed by her male supervisor because of her gender. At the time, she embarked on a two-year graduate assistantship under the supervision of a University professor at Syracuse's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

"A year into the 2-year position, I came into his office to find a screenshot of my face, from a music video I'd been in, as his computer background," she explained in the form. She claims that the professor bragged about tracking the video down and looking for her specifically to obtain the screenshot.

She wrote, "[He] was surprised how tasteful it [the music video] was because he 'thought it would be a bunch of half-naked women lounging on car hoods.'"

This wasn't the only incident she encountered with her boss. "Whenever I mentioned or make edits related to sex, gender, race, or sexuality, he'd make comments like, 'you and your girl-power thing again," wrote the anonymous graduate student. She explained how the professor would lecture her on her naivety by saying that she would "grow out of [it]."

Additionally, he teased her clothing, claiming that her outfits were too professional and that she was trying too hard. "I wore the typical 'male' work uniform… but apparently for women this wasn't appropriate," she wrote.

The M.A. student also described how her boss would imitate her body language and make fun of her behavior, calling her insecure, or childlike. "Perhaps because he made me feel those things," she wrote in the Google form.

The student says that she was advised against filing any claims to the University and she regrets not doing anything. She has since graduated from Syracuse University and decided to share her story.

"After graduating, once there wasn't an option to file anything or get department support, the former employer sent me a series of long emails, trying to re-write what had happened, argue his side, and remind me again that my concerns would seem trivial 'when I grew up'," she explained. "Knowing that I didn't really do anything to stop it or report it then is what eats at me now."

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