LBCC confronts sexual harassment in wake of #metoo

Story by Hannah Robison / @hannahlbcc

The #MeToo movement has produced worldwide attention after a spotlight has been brought to executives and world leaders under fire after accusations of sexual harassment and assault.

Johnny Smith, 20, an aerospace engineering major, said Tuesday, Nov. 28, of people who sexually harass, “They think they’re better than the people they’re harassing. It’s all power.”

Noemi Rodriguez, 20, a nursing major, said Wednesday, Dec. 6, she hasn’t witnessed sexual harassment on campus, but she doesn’t believe LBCC “pays much attention to it.”

An anonymous source who works at the LAC Writing and Reading Success Center revealed Tuesday, Nov. 28, that a male harasser frequently comes into the center: “I’ve seen predatory behavior, but not direct sexual harassment. He goes out of his way to ask harassing questions and (attempt) physical contact.” The source said if they see the harasser come into the center, they have orders to take him to their supervisor.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wrote on its website, “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”

Trustee Ginny Baxter said on November 29, “More than 35 years ago this may have been a problem but I know of nothing recently.”

Psychology professor Katie Heaton-Smith said Wednesday, Dec. 6, the estimates are 70 percent of women and 20 percent of men in professional industries experience sexual harassment, but only about 15 percent of people come forward because “a lot of people think, ‘it’s just what I have to deal with.’”

Heaton-Smith explained she has never witnessed sexual harassment at LBCC, but she has seen it at other schools in which students would act inappropriately toward their professors, both male and female. “My co-worker was followed home by a student who ‘needed help’ with homework.”

Heaton-Smith added she discussed sexual harassment with her students Monday, Dec. 4.

On Friday, Dec. 1, LBCC’s Associate Director of Office of Communications and Community Engagement Stacey Toda said, “LBCC provides all managers with sexual harassment training upon hiring and again every two years as required by California law.”

Departments can also request a professional conduct training that includes a section about sexual harassment from the Human Resources Department.

Students are required to complete an online orientation upon admission to LBCC that covers information about sexual harassment and Title IX, which “prohibits discrimination based on sex in education and activities in federally funded schools, colleges and universities,” according to LBCC’s website.

In a response to a request for any recent reports of sexual harassment, Toda said, “In respect of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), we keep these reports private and do not aggregate the number of claims.”

LBCC President Reagan Romali said Thursday, Nov. 30, “The safety and well-being of our LBCC students and employees is our top priority and we do not condone any form of sexual harassment on our campus.

“We train our managers on how to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and take every opportunity to educate our employees on this issue. Our Office of Student Life organizes an education campaign every April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month to conduct workshops and events to better inform our campus community.

“We take every sexual harassment complaint seriously. Each report is investigated thoroughly and confidentially to protect all parties involved.”

Students can report sexual harassment to the Office of Student Affairs at (562) 938-4552. People needing mental-health services can go to the Student Health Services office in GG117 at the PCC and A1010 at the LAC.