Sexual harassment among students: an examination of university policies and practices

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University of New Brunswick


In the Maritime Provinces, universities consistently offer mediation as an option for addressing cases of sexual harassment (SH). This is inconsistent with literature on the subject that warns of the challenges and even the dangers of using mediation in SH cases, given the documented disadvantages for victims. These disadvantages mirror the concerns about the use of mediation in family law cases, when intimate partner abuse (IPA) is present. This pilot study identifies links between SH and IPA to demonstrate how lessons learned in family mediation can inform policy improvements in university settings. In this study, 10 key informants (KIs) shared their experiences and perspectives on policies regarding SH mediation at their universities. There is much variation across universities in terms of how SH mediation is approached. I have proposed revisions to key elements of university policies and practices (e.g., mediator training requirements, mediation guidelines, pre-screening, etc.) to promote mediation approaches that more closely reflect professional standards of practice for mediators, conflict resolution theory, and findings from literature on mediation involving SH and IPA. While my study focuses on the Maritime Provinces, the lessons learned can be applied at any university offering SH mediation (or other form of alternative dispute resolution).