Over the past several years, colleges have been accused of failing to address students’ claims of sexual harassment or violence head on, treating the complaints as public relations problems instead of campus climate issues or ignoring them altogether.
That type of approach from colleges can suggest to victims of harassment that “this kind of behavior is something that they just have to tolerate,” said Barbara Gault, the vice president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “It’s a problem in an institution that’s designed to set people up in their working lives and careers to have that kind of environment and culture condoned.”
Still, it’s hard to say how large of a role the college environment plays in a graduate’s approach to these issues. There’s evidence to suggest that in a lot of cases, this behavior is context specific. For example, young men who are sexual aggressors in high school typically stop when they get to college, according to research from Kevin Swartout, a professor of psychology and public health at Georgia Southern University.