Jean Morrison ’76 was invited by the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to testify about sexual harassment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) this summer.
Currently Boston University’s provost and chief academic officer, as well as a geologist and professor, Jean spoke about Boston University’s efforts to combat harassment. She was joined by a small group of other higher education leaders who also spoke about experiences of harassment at their own colleges and universities.
The testimony is being collected in advance of a vote on House bill H.R. 36, the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act, to learn more about institutions’ experiences with harassment, and what actions they have taken to prevent future incidents.
The bill is focused on supporting researchers, and states that harassment is a major reason why women ultimately choose to leave scientific research. It will direct universities to alert federal scientific agencies when anyone who has received funding has been found to have harassed someone. It will also direct the National Science Foundation to fund research into sexual harassment in STEM fields.
Jean’s remarks during the testimony outlined Boston University’s progress against sexual harassment so far, and how the university has improved its culture among researchers. Steps taken include prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion; changing the tenure clock to include time for parental leave; expanding child care offerings for employees and their families; having students, faculty, and staff take mandatory online sexual misconduct prevention training; and the formation of a working group on gender-based harassment training.
She recommended to the committee that there should be “a government-wide approach to handling sexual misconduct by federal grantees” so there is a clear set of rules established at the federal level. She also stated that the National Science Foundation should be authorized to fund research on gender-based harassment. “It’s essential that efforts to address harassment are data-driven and evidence-based,” said Jean.
“I am pleased to tell you what BU is doing to support our scholars, but I want to make clear that we are still a work in progress,” said Jean. “Yes, our values and our intentions are in the right place. But our job is to match those values with concrete actions.”