Consciousness-Raising at Oberlin College During the Second Wave: Gender and Sexuality Conferences and Workshops

Part 1: Student-Focused Consciousness Raising     |      Part 2: Staff-Focused Consciousness Raising
Part 3: Administrative Response to Consciousness Raising    |     Appendices

Appendix 1: Student Sexuality and Rape Survey     |     Appendix 2: Details from the GLCA Survey
Appendix 3: Report from the Council on Campus Relations and Sexual Harassment

Appendix 3: Report from the Council on Campus Relations and Sexual Harassment


Title: The Council on Campus Relations and Sexual Harassment 1987-88 Report

Authors: Jan Cooper and Ray English

Date: 1 August 1988

Location: “Sexual Assault” 1988. Subgroup I. Administrative Records, Series 14. Subject Files, Box 2. Dean of Student Papers, RG 12. O.C.A.

Document Type: Typed Document


Content Warning: discussion and case descriptions of harassment and sexual assault.



Original                       Both                    Transcription






To: All College Employees                                                                  Date: August 1, 1988

From: The Council on Campus                                                Subject: 1987-88 Report

Relations and Sexual Harassment

Jan Cooper, Ray English, Co-Chairs


The Council on Campus Relations and Sexual Harassment is charged with assisting member of the College community in the informal resolution of complaints of sexual harassment. Members of the Council offer confidential counseling and support to those who encounter behavior that might be interpreted as harassment. The Council also works to educate the College community about issues of sexual and gender harassment. College policy states that “any form of intimidation, abuse or harassment based on race, ethnic origin, creed, gender or sexual preference is contrary to the ideals of Oberlin College.”



This year the Council was the largest it has ever been, composed of seventeen people, including twelve women, five men, and three minority members. Listed by employee group, the Council consisted of: four faculty members (Jan Cooper, Pat Day, Daune Mahy, and Vicki Skrupskelis), seven A&PS members (Yeworkwha Belachew, Ray English, Henry Duckham, Britt Friedman, Joanne Salus, Janet Stocks, and Tommy Woon), two Administrative Assistants (Judy Fannin and Andrea Thorton-Hill), and one Service Employee(Ruth Billman-Pogacsnik). Three students (Kathy Ledebur, Sasha Slocumbe, and Joe Smelser) were also members. Council members remain convinced that a large, broadly-based Council provides the best access to those in need of counselling.


Education and Public Awareness

The results of the 1987 Survey of Women Students at GLCA Colleges, which were made available to members of the Council at the beginning of the Fall semester, indicated that a high percentage of women students at Oberlin experience some form of sexual harassment. Equally troublesome was the fact that over half of the women students surveyed were unaware of the College’s policies and procedure for dealing with such problems.

In view of the GLCA survey results, the Council made stronger efforts to increase awareness of both the problem of sexual harassment and the availability of the Council as an appropriate means of dealing with such problems. The following actions were taken:

Membership of the Council was listed in the Oberlin College Directory, the Red Tape Cutter, and the Student Regulations Handbook. The Handbook also included the full text of the Council’s procedures for handling harassment cases.


The Co-Chairs of the Council gave brief presentations about harassment and the work of the Council at the end of the each of the “Sex at Seven” sessions during New Student Orientation. A total of approximately 800 students attended the sessions.


The Council reported to the General Faculty at its first meeting in September about recent experience with cases that involve harassment by faculty members.


An article on sexual harassment appeared in the Review in September.


A sexual harassment flyer, which lists all members of the Council. Was distributed in an all-campus mailing early in the fall semester and was also posted on bulletin boards around campus.


During the Spring semester the Council distributed a flyer to dining halls which described a typical harassment case and indicated that the Council is available to assist those who encounter similar situations.


The Co-Chairs of the Council met with all residence hall directors and with student residential staff to discuss issues of harassment and the work of the Council.




Council members were oriented to procedures and counseling techniques at a three-hour training workshop on October 17, 1987. Several members of the Council also attended other workshops or conferences, including 1) a workshop conducted by Residential Life and Services staff in September on the issue of unwanted sexual activity, 2) the GLCA Women’s Studies Conference on improving the campus climate for women held in Dayton in November, and 3) a conference on “Sexism on Campus” held at Ohio University in February which featured a national authority on harassment issues.




The Council dealt with 42 harassment cases during the year.  Council members talked with a total of 35 students, 7 staff members, 1 faculty member, and 1 person outside the Oberlin community. The 42 cases represent complaints against 14 students, 9 faculty members, 6 staff members, and 5 persons outside the College community. (Not all cases involved complaints by one person about another person. In some instances more than one person contacted us about a single individual, and in one instance a single individual complained about the behavior of a number of people.)


The results of the GLCA survey of women students, referred to above, underscore the need for greater community awareness of sexual harassment problems. Council members consider it important for students, faculty, and staff to know more about the kinds of harassment that occur at Oberlin as well as the ways in which the Council works with those who approach us for counseling. For these reasons we offer below brief descriptions of individual cases handled by Council members during the year. (A small number of cases where the party involved asked that the case not be reported or where the inclusion of a description could breach confidentiality, are not included.)


By far the largest number of cases involved students who encountered problems with other students. Eleven students consulted the Council in response to an incident involving graffiti, 4 students had various problems of unwanted sexual activity, 1 student received an anonymous harassing letter, and 5 cases involved sexist or otherwise abusive language: [sic]


Several cases were connected to graffiti in women’s restrooms that named a male student and called him a rapist. Ten women students talked to Council members about the situation. While six of the women reported that they felt uncomfortable because of the student’s behavior towards them, none of them indicated that a rape had occurred. The male student mentioned in the graffiti also contacted two Council members for support and advice. A co-chair of the Council wrote a letter to the Review which discussed the inappropriateness of public accusations and described the procedures that are available for handling cases of rape, assault, and harassment.


Two cases involved female students who experienced problems related to incidents of unwanted sexual activity with male students. In one case, the Council member helped the woman to clarify her feelings about what had happened. In the other case, the woman decided to talk with two male students with whom she had had problems, and the problems were apparently resolved.


A woman student talked with a Council member about a male student who would not accept her decision to end their relationship. After clarifying exactly what she did and did not want to happen, the woman was able to convince the male student of her decision, and she felt no further action was necessary.


A female student received an anonymous letter, apparently from another student, which contained harassing language and also propositioned her. She decided not to respond directly. She did talk with Residential Life staff who indicated that other women students had experienced similar problems.


Two separate cases involved female students who felt they were being verbally abused by male students. In both cases, after consulting with a Council member, each woman talked directly with each man involved and the problem was resolved. Two other female students complained to a Council member that another male student was verbally abusing them. One of the students and a Council member talked with the man, and the problem was resolved.


A female student was verbally harassed by five male students while at work in her student job. She refused further service to the students, and later one of the harassers apologized for the group. After talking to a Council member and seeing that the male students showed empathy and embarrassment when she saw them individually on campus, the woman decided that no further action was necessary. She did plan to ask her work supervisors to discuss with other employees appropriate ways of dealing with harassment problems.


A survey was distributed to women students in a dormitory which requested that they rank the male students based on 1) looks, 2) personality, and 3) overall characteristics. The instructions also stated that the results would be posted on bathroom doors. Both men and women expressed anger at the survey. A discussion group of approximately 18 concerned students was organized. The students agreed to ask the Council member who met with them to convey to those responsible for the survey their feelings on it.


Eight students came to Council members with complaints about faculty members. Three felt they had received unwanted sexual attention, 3 were affected by sexist or otherwise offensive language used by their instructors, and 1 thought she had been fired from a research assistantship because of her sexual orientation.


A female student in the College felt she was receiving unwanted sexual attention from a male faculty member who was her academic advisor. After discussing the matter with a Council member, she wrote a letter to him and switched to a new advisor. The problem seemed resolved.


Another female student in the College felt that she was receiving improper attention from one of her male instructors, including inappropriate looks in class and unwanted contact outside of class. After talking to a Council member about the situation, the student talked with the faculty member, who denied that he was aware of what the student was talking about. The student dropped the class.


A woman student in the Conservatory reported having been propositioned by one of her teachers during a previous year. The student felt she had handled the situation adequately at the time and decided not pursue [sic] further action. However, she continued to be angry because she felt that a female student’s appearance makes a difference in how she is treated by some Conservatory faculty. The differential treatment, which creates fear that a professor may make physical advances, makes some learning situations, such as private lessons, more difficult.

One woman student complained that a male faculty member in the College had publicly humiliated her in class. The Council member suggested that the student initiate formal mediation. The student decided not to start a formal proceeding, partly because the faculty person is in her major department. She believed the counseling was helpful and she resolved to avoid the faculty member’s courses in the future.


Two separate cases involved women students who felt that their College instructors used insensitive or sexist language in the classroom. In both cases, the women students decided to ask other members of their class to join in talking with the chair of faculty member’s department.


A woman student talked to a Council member about her feeling that she had been wrongfully fired from a research position because of her sexual orientation. Since the student had discussed elsewhere the possibility of initiating a formal complaint, the Council member helped the student to clarify her feelings about the situation.





[Transcribed by Rebecca Debus]