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0px Arial; min-height: 16.0px}span.s1 {text-decoration: underline ; letter-spacing: 0.0px}span.s2 {letter-spacing: 0.0px}1.0 Introduction and AimsSexism, sexual harassment and gender discriminatory behaviour is a serious issue at universities, both within peer groups, with an estimated third of female students in the United Kingdom “having endured sexual assault or unwanted advances” (Goldhill and Bingham, 2015), and from lecturers towards the students.

Although reports of sexual misconduct between staff and students is not well documented in the United Kingdom, a recent study from the United States suggests that one in twenty undergraduate students experience sexual harassment in any form from a member of staff, such as a lecturer or a university advisor (NUS, 2017). Although the statistics for UK universities are unknown, the universities often leave the students “vulnerable” by the policies of the universities. For example, a retired Cambridge lecturer made a public apology for the “sexist and sexual” comments he had made towards female students “throughout 2014 and 2015” (Bretan, 2017). Cambridge did respond to the accusations by undertaking an internal investigation and by the termination of the lecturer’s teaching. This behaviour is not a recent phenomena, however. It has been occurring for decades, as is demonstrated in this qualitative interview. In 1980, academic sexual harassment was defined as “the use of authority to emphasize the sexuality or sexual identity of a student in a manner which prevents or impairs the student’s full enjoyment of educational benefits, climate, or opportunities” (Till, 1980). The interviewee in this research attended Royal Holloway and Bedford New College in the late 1980s.

Although no sexual advances were made towards her, she certainly suffered discrimination because of her gender. This research is to be considered only as a case study, and does not necessarily reflect the norms of the time or the University, and cannot be generalised to anybody other than the participant herself.  2.0 Methods2.

1 Field SettingFor this research, my interviewee, who for the purpose of this paper shall be referred to as Petra, was a personal relative. I hoped to use this to my advantage, as the close relationship might mean Petra was more comfortable sharing more the personal details and information with me than perhaps a stranger would be. Petra was initially tentative at being recorded, although she was willing as long as she did not have to listen to the recording of herself after the interview. To make her feel more comfortable, the interview took place in her living room in the early evening of a weekday after work. The room otherwise was empty apart from Petra’s dog, who was asleep next to the interviewee. The dog did not interfere, remaining asleep and quiet for the duration of the interview, but it relaxed Petra in that she was able to stroke her dog when the conversation became more difficult and the subject matter was more unpleasant. There was certainly a noted difference in her interaction with the dog in these instances: for the questions on background and more general questions, Petra merely rested her hand on the dog’s head, whereas when she revisited the memories that “haunt” her, she stroked the dog more frequently, using it as her safety blanket.

For ethical reasons, all the names mentioned in the interview have been changed to pseudonyms in order to protect their identities. The interviewee was informed of her rights within the study: for example she had the ability to withdraw at any stage; there would be complete anonymity in the write-up; the recording would not be published or share. 2.2 Data CollectionTo collect the data, this research required a qualitative interview. The aim of a qualitative research interview is to “trigger honest, open responses” (Qu and Dumay, 2011:244). I used a semi-structured approach, as I felt it would be most appropriate to begin the interview with a rough idea of the layout and which questions would be asked in which orders, and which information I wanted to gather, following Seale’s suggestion of a checklist of topics to include (1999). However, the semi-structured approach allowed me to edit this slightly to keep the questionnaire coherent: I based the question order on Petra’s responses and tried to keep a natural-feeling flow to the conversation.

A downfall of qualitative research is that it cannot be without bias. Whilst the interviewee’s bias is part of the responses, the interviewer’s bias is inevitable, but not desired. I therefore attempted to be as introspective as possible, and both in the interviewing and the analysis, endeavoured to remove any prior information and perceptions that were not directly mentioned in the interview. The interview was recorded on the “Voice Memo” application on a smartphone. To ensure that battery remained on the device, it was plugged into a charging port throughout the interview. The sound quality was good. I then transcribed it by listening to the sound recording multiple times, using a fairly broad transcription method (Appendix 1). 2.

3 Data CodingOnce the transcription was complete, I had to code it which is a crucial aspect of the research, and aids analysis, with inspiration taken from Rubin and Rubin (2005). Analysis can be defined as “the search for patterns in data and for ideas that help explain why those patterns are there in the first place” (Bernard, 2006:452). Of course, this means that the patterns must be found. I found colour coding the clearest way to categorise the wording. A sample of the initial colouring in the transcript is available in Appendix 2.

Once it was coloured, I tabulated the data into main theme, sub-theme, paraphrased example and then the relevant quotes from the transcript (Appendix 3). This allowed me to see which themes repeatedly occurred throughout the interview. 3.0 FindingsOne of the most prevalent themes in the interview is how unjustly Petra feels she has been treated. Although she found humour in the sexism from employments, such as the child calling her ‘Sir’ as he didn’t know a more respectful title for her (line 399), and the people not expecting her to be a female based on how she played the organ (line 362).

Under the main theme of gender, I placed these under the sub-theme “women in the working world”. Although there was a level of injustice in the late 1980s in terms of the treatment of men versus women, in Petra’s experience it was not malicious and vindictive in intention. The second sub-theme under gender, I labeled “sexism”, but all are related to academic institutions. Her school suggested she should not attend university, and instead train in “traditional women’s occupations” (line 50).

When she did arrive at university, she and the other girls were expected to clean up after the boys when they made a mess because “that’s the sort of thing boys do” (line 128), and the girls could tidy it up if they wanted to use the kitchen. Whilst this is unreasonable and certainly discriminates against both the female and the male students by sticking to gender stereotypes that are certainly outdated by today’s standards, and ought to have been outdated by the late 1980s too. However, the most sinister sexist example from the interview is how Petra was treated by the clarinet teacher, who not only did not know her name, but also told her (lines 292-223): ‘I don’t know why the university is bothering to waste its money to educate you and give you clarinet lessons” and have you here he said “all you’re going to do is stand behind a kitchen sink and bring out baby after baby after baby popping them out” he said “don’t know why you’re bothering I can’t be” bothered’This is very misogynistic and hurtful, and Petra was not the only the only one: her friend Mary suffered similar treatment, and a girl from the year above dropped out of the university due to the treatment from the same teacher. The belief that all women are good for is to have a family and stay at home, and that there is no benefit in giving them education had no place thirty years ago, as it has no place now. The treatment Petra suffered under the teacher, and the way he treated the other girls can certainly be considered to fit under Till’s definition of sexual harassment in 1980, mentioned in 1.0 Introduction. However, one of Petra’s strongest criticisms with the university is how they treated the situation.

Whereas these comments ought to be met with a response such as how Cambridge responded to the “sexist and sexual” comments previously mentioned in Bretan’s article (2017), when Petra and Mary took the situation to somebody who would be able to make a difference, he treated them as if they were overreacting, and he placed the priority on the reputation of his department rather than the welfare of the students: “he’d rather we didn’t bring this up again because it was a high point of the university um (2.0) selling point that they had this famous clarinetist who came in and taught their clarinet pupils it was how they got a lot of their students” (lines 275 to 278). Making “a few there there noises” (line 274) does not count as dealing with the situation. An interesting observation is that the people Petra felt comfortable with and had a positive relationship, she provided a name (although here they are pseudonyms): Mary, Tommy Hansen, Luke, David Blake.

However, the people she did not feel comfortable with either had a title or nothing in reference: “Prof” and there was no name in reference to her clarinet teacher. 

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