'I'm Always Afraid': UL Lafayette Professors' Sexual Harassment Testimony

Jan 16, 2018

Louisiana's Select Committee on Women and Children heard potent testimony Friday, on the problem of sexual harassment within state government workplaces.

 

"I’m always afraid."

 

Dr. Patricia Lanier is one of three female professors within University of Louisiana at Lafayette's School of Business who said they've been battling the problem for over a year.

"In March of 2017, I experienced the peak of months of ongoing harassing, bullying and intimidating tactics by a male colleague. These actions were deliberate, and they were intentionally designed to control and coerce me."

In Lanier’s case, the fellow professor did not attack her physically, and that’s part of the problem.

 

"It's really hard to convince people you've been attacked, when there aren’t any bruises."

 

Marketing professor Lucy Henke says they've taken all the appropriate steps: going to the dean, the provost, human resources and to the university president.

 

"They advised us to remove ourselves from positions of leadership, insisting that the problem is between us and the male faculty members," she said.

 

Lanier told the legislative panel that the problem continues, affecting every aspect of her life.

 

"It’s difficult to concentrate on getting your job done when you’re fearfully listening for the footsteps coming down the hallway," said Lanier.

 

And, she says, she has no escape from the cycle of fear.

 

"For me personally, the worst has been the nightmares," she said. "Initially, I just relived the event over and over again, but as time went on, the dreams escalated. So now, every dream ends with me being physically attacked, and I wake up every day with brand new fear."

 

Dr. Lise Anne Slatten, a business management professor at ULL, says research shows their workplace — like the state legislature — is especially ripe for problems with sexual harassment.

 

"Organizations that are particularly prone to sexual harassment and abuse are: male-dominated, super hierarchical, and forgiving when it comes to bad behavior. Check, check check."