Research Article: Underreported and unknown student harassment at the Faculty of Science

Date Published: April 25, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Laura Jussen, Toine Lagro-Janssen, Joke Leenders, Colin Logie, Rachel Mijdam, Luís A. Nunes Amaral.


Reports of sexual harassment at medical faculties throughout the world, including the Radboud University, raised the question how prevalent this is at the Faculty of Science. We performed a survey among students to assess their experiences with harassment. This questionnaire consisted of questions from the EGERA survey, a questionnaire held among staff of multiple European Universities. We found that 9% of the respondents had observed or experienced harassment at the Faculty. Hardly any of these cases were reported to one of the institutional services. Moreover, most students did not now any of the provided services. We therefore suggest raising awareness on harassment and to make students more familiar with the trust person.

Partial Text

In 2005, the Dutch Journal for Medical Sciences (‘Nederlands Tijdschrijft voor Geneeskunde’) reported on sexual harassment as a large problem among medical interns in the Netherlands [1]. Since then, multiple studies have researched the extent and degree of sexual harassment at medical faculties. Over the years nothing changed, despite the efforts to make sexual harassment discussable and easier to report. Still almost 20% of medicine students and medical interns felt sexually intimidated [2]. At other universities throughout the USA and Europe this rate was even higher at 30–50% [3]. Among offenders of medical students and medical interns were staff members, teachers, nurses and patients [1, 2]. According to a large investigation, sexual harassment is a widespread problem among universities, not only at Faculties of Medicine, but at Faculties of Engineering and Science as well [4].

To obtain more insight into the prevalence of harassment at the Faculty of Science at Radboud University, a questionnaire was sent to all of its 2271 Bachelor’s and Master’s students. The working group ‘Intimidation’ of the Faculty’s Gender and Diversity committee ( prepared the questionnaire (S1 File) and on-line survey. Students were invited to participate by the Faculty Board in an e-mail in June 2017 (S2 File). The invitation was both in Dutch and English, although the questionnaire itself was only in English (S3 File).

Our study shows that 7% of the respondents (n = 41) reported experiencing harassment, representing 1.8% of all potentially surveyed students. In absolute numbers, 20 of these (± 2% of all female students) have reported sexual harassment events, ranging from once (2 occurrences) to often (6 occurrences). The actual number of students who have experienced harassment might be higher, since non-responders could also have experienced harassment but were not registered through this survey, which may lead to underreporting.




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