Astrid Söderbergh Widding
Astrid Söderbergh Widding

2400 academics published the #Akademiuppropet in Svenska Dagbladet on 24th November. It gave numerous examples of sexual harassment and assault within higher education.  #Akademiuppropet stresses that these kinds of incidents must not be allowed to go on in the academic world and demands that the country’s educational institutions take action.

Stockholm University’s Vice-Chancellor, Astrid Söderbergh Widding says that this #Akademiuppropet is important and urgently needed and that the university must take it with the utmost seriousness. Everywhere that there are relationships with power differentials is a possible trouble zone – and higher education isn’t immune.

“The #Akademiuppropet breaks the culture of silence, and it is high time. We have good procedures in place, but the harassment has to be reported. For this to happen we need good, sensitive leadership and an even stronger, more open dialogue about the problem on every level within the university. Zero tolerance is the keyword!”

In a blog post on 14 November, the vice-chancellor wrote about #metoo and other movements against sexual harassment along with the need for action and good leadership.

We need sensitive and courageous managers

In a response to the #Akademiuppropet the university’s Director of Human Resources Marie Högström said that it was important to shine a spotlight on unhealthy cultures where sexual harassment can occur.

“We must be proactive. Stopping unacceptable behavior in general requires sensitive and brave managers. These managers create secure and open environments where employees feel comfortable and can grow,” says Marie Högström.

How Stockholm University fights sexual harassment

Stockholm University has the responsibility to investigate sexual harassment, both as an educational institution and an employer. If sexual harassment should occur, it also takes action to prevent future incidents.

The university works to prevent sexual harassment. The deans and unit supervisors are responsible for issues of workplace environment, discrimination and equal treatment. This means that they are responsible for pre-empting sexual harassment and ensuring that there are functioning procedures for how incidents of sexual harassment are handled.

Act immediately

There are directives for deans/unit supervisors to support them in taking action if an employee or student becomes the target of sexual harassment. If a manager becomes aware that an employee is the target of sexual harassment, the manager need to act immediately to ensure that the harassment does not continue. Similarly, it is the duty of university employees to take immediate action if they become aware that a student is the target of sexual harassment.

Information on the treatment of sexual harassment

The university’s manager training includes information on how managers should react if someone experiences sexual harassment. In addition there are information seminars about these issues in a number of different contexts. The university has also produced a brochure about sexual harassment and abusive behavior aimed at students and employees that describes the university’s responsibilities. The brochure includes information and resources for anyone who feels that they have been targeted.

Departments and institutes should regularly conduct employee surveys. If the result shows that employees experience sexual harassment, an informational seminar will be held on what sexual harassment can entail, where those targeted can get assistance and the university’s responsibilities.

Reported harassment investigated

When harassment is reported it is investigated in accordance with the laws in force and in accordance with the established processes at Stockholm University. Nevertheless, the process requires sensitive managers and employees who act, and that the problems are actually reported and this is probably unrecorded.