Institute must eliminate unintentional acts of bias
(The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to President Charles M. Vest.)
I am grateful that you, as president of MIT, take interest in improving MIT's sexual harassment policy. I was pleased to see that the Committee on Sexual Harassment recently recognized that insidious forms of sexual harassment, often "masked as trivial incidents or accepted behavior," have a serious impact on the MIT community.
I'd like to report two instances of insidious sexual harassment that I've experienced recently.
In October, when I went to the stock room of lab supplies in Building E19 to pick up space-heaters, I noticed several glossy pin-ups of partially clad women in "alluring" poses taped to the wall facing me.
Since I had to wait a few minutes for my order, I had time to look at the pictures and experience the atmosphere there. The pictures offended me; they made me feel mistrustful, frightened and unwelcome in the seemingly all-male enclave. I was anxious to get out of there.
I feel that soft-porn pictures such as these do not belong in public places in the Institute. By allowing these posters, the Institute (inadvertently, I'm sure) condones this type of harassment.
The second incident happened recently (Dec. 20) when I called the MIT Campus Police to investigate heavy paint fumes that were pouring into the third floor of Building 51. Two Campus Police officers came to investigate, and when they finished, the older of the two said to me, "We can't find the source, but why don't you just open your window, dear."
As a senior secretary who has been at MIT for over four years, I find being called "dear" very offensive. It undermines my credibility, and implies that the speaker has power over me.
I feel that the Campus Police, whose job it is to maintain a
safe environment at MIT, need to be informed that calling women "dear" creates an unsafe environment. Using the term "dear"
is condescending and inappropriate; it is a form of sexual harassment.
If I were a male professor or a male student or even a male secretary, I doubt the officer would have called me "dear." Conversely, I would certainly never address an MIT police officer as "dear" (e.g., "Thanks, dear, for your help. I'll call again if the problem persists").
Both of these incidents indicate that the Institute needs to initiate training in not-so-subtle forms of sexual harassment. I would be glad to take part in any training seminars that the Committee on Sexual Harassment might sponsor in the upcoming months.
Thank you for your attention to this very important issue.
Department of Architecture->