Posted by Stacey K. Vargas, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Virginia Military Institute
As we pass the midterm of another academic semester, I find sexual harassment on the center stage at both W&L and VMI. However I find it very interesting that those in the administration do not seem to realize sexual harassment exists, prevails and haunts women on both campuses. Why is it so easy for administrators to talk about civility and ask everyone to be civil and yet behind the scenes they are tolerating, condoning and therefore encouraging one of the most uncivil behaviors that exists in our society, sexual harassment? At VMI I sense a level of fear that surrounds the words “sexual harassment.” I feel the administration panic as they ponder the embarrassment that the Institution would suffer if the words sexual harassment were in any way associated with the institution. I see their fear and panic turn to relief as they send out an occasional email with the subject, civility or mention at a faculty meeting that civility is their number one priority. How honorable is it for an institution that builds its reputation on honor and integrity to cover up the truth?
Knowing that I will never be able to influence the administration as a single voice nor will any one female at W&L, I am pleading with all women who are experiencing sexual harassment at any level to come forward. I know from experience that this is not an easy process and there can and most likely will be some form of illegal retaliation. Nevertheless, as women, we must put a stop to this barbaric behavior. We can not allow it to continue nor can we watch as one woman speaks out alone. We must file formal complaints and have documented records before our administrators will stop hiding behind the word “civility.” Don't allow yourself to be a silent victim. Speak out and speak freely.