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Recognizing Sexual Harassment

When it comes to recognizing instances of sexual harassment in the workplace, age is a fundamental factor in shaping individuals’ perceptions of interactions, according to a University of Maine sociologist.

Amy Blackstone, an associate professor of sociology and chairwoman of UMaine’s Sociology Department, found age is important because how perceptions shift over time links to several age-related processes such as maturity and historical context.

“When it comes to how we understand harassment and how we respond to it, age, maturity and experience matter,” Blackstone says. “Our study suggests that employers should consider tailoring harassment training and interventions to the specific needs and experiences of workers at different life course stages.”

Blackstone worked with Jason Houle, a UMaine alumnus who is now an assistant professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, and Christopher Uggen, a Distinguished McKnight Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, to examine how perceptions of sexual harassment at work are linked to an individual’s age, experience and historical backdrop.

The findings were documented in the article, “‘I didn’t recognize it as a bad experience until I was much older’: Age, experience, and workers’ perceptions of sexual harassment,” which was published in June in the Mid-South Sociological Association’s journal “Sociological Spectrum.”

As many as 70 percent of women and 1 in 7 men experience sexual harassment at work, according to previous findings cited in the article. To study changes in perceptions of related experiences, the researchers analyzed data from 33 women and men who were surveyed over the course of 14 years and interviewed in 2002 about their workplace experiences from adolescence into their late 20s.

Three themes emerged among participants: As adolescents, respondents perceived some of the sexualized interactions they experienced at work as fun; while participants did not define some of their early experiences as sexual harassment at the time, they do now; and participants suggested prior work experiences changed their ideas about workplace interactions and themselves as workers.

The researchers used data from interviews with 33 participants in the Youth Development Study (YDS), a longitudinal survey of 1,010 adolescents in Minnesota that began in 1988, when respondents were 14–15 years old and in ninth grade, the article states. In the 2000 administration of the survey, when respondents were 26–27 years old, they were asked if they experienced sexual harassment in jobs held during and since high school. In 2002, when respondents were 28–29 years old, the researchers interviewed 14 men and 19 women of varying races.

Looking back at jobs held during adolescence, the majority of interviewees recast some of their early workplace experiences as sexual harassment, but said flirting and other sexually charged behaviors were considered normal interactions because they were at a point in life when sociability was believed to be an important aspect of the work experience. The participants also viewed some interactions as acceptable for adolescents but inappropriate for adults, the researchers found.

While some respondents attributed their shift in perceptions to role or status changes — growing older, marriage or parenthood — others cited the importance of historical context and landmark sexual harassment cases that altered workplace policies and garnered national attention, according to the article.

Public consciousness about sexual harassment may have heightened during the time participants were in high school, the researchers suggest, as a result of high-profile events such as the 1991 televised hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 that included amendments to Title VII that allowed for compensatory damages in cases of sex discrimination.

Interviewees reported that at least some of the sexualized interactions they experienced at work were not perceived as problematic because the interactions occurred among peers. Several participants said they enjoyed some of the workplace flirting and joking.

One participant said she and her co-workers at an an ice cream shop talked about sex because most of the workers were ‘‘at the age where people are starting to become sexually active so that’s a big deal.’’

Upon reflection, some respondents said they have redefined some experiences during adolescence as sexual harassment, and some participants — both men and women — felt they may have offended co-workers in the past, according to the researchers.

Based on the findings, the researchers suggest sexual harassment training and policies would be most effective if they were better tailored to workers at particular life stages, and further research should be considered.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Reuters Quotes Brewer in Article on Sen. King’s Endorsement of Cutler

Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, was quoted in a Reuters article about Sen. Angus King officially endorsing independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler. The article referenced the 2010 Maine governor’s race when Cutler posted a late-season surge following a similar endorsement from King. According to the article, many observers say Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic candidate Mike Michaud may be less susceptible to pressure from a third-party candidate this year. “People have been informed by the 2010 race and are very wary of splitting the non-LePage vote,” Brewer said. Yahoo News and Business Insider carried the Reuters report.

Fundraiser Led by Art Education Students, Shaw House Mentioned in Weekly Article

An art-making and fundraising project that was facilitated by University of Maine students in an advanced art education course was mentioned in a Weekly article about music becoming an important part of the lives of Shaw House residents. The first three instruments at Bangor’s Shaw House, an organization that works with youth who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless, were purchased with money raised through the sale of ceramic and found-object pins created by house residents under the instruction of Constant Albertson, an associate professor of art education, and students in her class.

Fried, Brewer Quoted in Sun Journal Analysis on Social Messaging in Maine’s Politics

University of Maine political science professors Amy Fried and Mark Brewer were quoted in a Sun Journal political analysis on social media use in Maine campaigns. Fried spoke about anonymous commenters who use hate speech online, saying “Not giving their names gives them a perch from which to lob uncivil comments, to present themselves as multiple individuals, and to avoid accountability for themselves and the parties and candidates for whom they may speak.” Brewer said campaigns should consider adopting stringent social media policies, including some pre-screening rules for people affiliated with a campaign. The Bangor Daily News carried the Sun Journal report.

Reuters Interviews Brewer for Report on Campaign Finance Law Challenge

Reuters interviewed Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, for the article “Maine campaign finance law challenged as unfair to independents.” Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler recently filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Portland that claims the state’s campaign finance law violates First and 14th Amendment rights to free speech, equal protection and political expression by allowing individuals to donate twice as much to major-party candidates as to independents. “We’ve had the two major parties writing our campaign laws, and they’ve really stacked the deck in their favor, making it difficult for third parties to compete. This could change things,” Brewer said. The Courant and Yahoo News carried the Reuters report.

Brewer Quoted in BDN Article on Chris Christie’s Maine Visit to Support LePage

Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, was quoted in a Bangor Daily News article about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s most recent visit to Maine to show support for Gov. Paul LePage and his re-election campaign. “Christie is about as big as it gets right now for a Republican fundraiser. He’s certainly an A-lister,” Brewer said.

Sustainable Science in Action

Jeff Lord concedes he does a lot of sitting, watching and waiting along the herring ladder at Highland Lake. But when gangs of alewives begin to leap and flop their way upriver from Mill Brook, his patience is well rewarded.

“It can get a little boring, so I really appreciate when there is action,” the Falmouth resident said as he gazed at the rushing waters. “It’s a chance to put my biology background to work at something that matters.”

Lord and about 13 other volunteers keep count of migrating herring, mainly alewives, as they make their way up fish ladders to traditional freshwater spawning areas. The newly established volunteer monitoring program is a joint research project of UMaine and University of Southern Maine (USM). Scientists want to see if volunteers can help government managers and university researchers amass important data on spring run alewife — something likely too expensive to accomplish otherwise.

The now-retired Lord, who has a Ph.D. in entomology, saw a chance to use his biology knowledge in a public service capacity. He sees citizen programs as a way to engage the public by introducing projects that affect their home turf: “I think that as more people get involved in this type of project and communicate with others, there will be more support for these kinds of conservation efforts,” Lord said.

The role of citizen science in sustainable river herring harvest is the focus of a $96,600 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Growing out of a project at UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center, the overall goals are threefold:

UMaine co-principal investigators are Karen Hutchins Bieluch, visiting assistant professor of communication and journalism, Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and professor of economics; and Laura Lindenfeld, associate professor of communications and journalism and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. Co-principal investigators from USM are Theodore Willis, adjunct assistant research professor of environmental science; and Karen Wilson, assistant research professor of environmental science. Jason Smith, master’s student at USM, is the project research assistant.

Volunteers for pilot projects in Windham and Pembroke, are already hard at work using good old-fashioned manual clickers to count as many fish as possible. Data from the Windham project is checked against recordings from a video camera installed by researchers. If the video and citizen counts match, the pilot program will be a viable alternative to expensive and difficult to maintain counting equipment, project scientists say.

This past year between 49,000 and 62,000 alewives climbed the Highland Lake ladder in Windham. The huge range occurred because a first wave of fish began leaving the lake before stragglers had finished migrating upstream, researchers say. It created some confusion for the volunteers, they said, something to iron out as the project moves forward. Though researchers hope to eventually have good estimates of newly spawned river herring streaming down the ladder, this first year focused mainly on citizen science group formation and learning methodology. Next year, researchers hope for a deeper pool of volunteers who will be ready to go by the start of migration in May. And if the adult count goes well next year, focus can shift to the little ones leaving the lake, which can number in the thousands per hour.

The big question: Can citizens be engaged in counts long term? USM fisheries scientist Willis thinks herring are charming enough to sustain interest.

“River herring are one of the few marine species that people can interact with because they swim inland to where we live,” Willis said. “There are dry spells in the counting, but then there will be 830 alewife an hour zipping past you. Early in the run there were thousands of fish piled up in the stream trying to work their way up the ladder.”

So much so that half the total count for 2014 was tallied in the first five days, Willis said.

Maine is one of only three states currently harvesting river herring and maintaining a viable fishery has been tough. Though herring fisheries are managed locally, they must comply with criteria issued by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Among the rules:

“What we’re beginning to learn from our interviews is that these volunteer monitoring programs provide critical data for managers assessing the sustainability of a run for harvesting population trends, and the effectiveness of particular restoration efforts. More than just collection of data, these programs help build a sense of community around a local resource and increase local awareness of the fish. A sense of stewardship is essential for protecting river herring, now and in the future” said investigator Hutchins Bieluch.

Researchers are hopeful that this project will not only help jumpstart new monitoring programs, but will also facilitate communication between volunteers, local government officials, harvesters, and managers.

Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755

Judd Quoted in New York Times Article on Millinocket

Richard Judd, a University of Maine history professor, was quoted in a New York Times article about Millinocket titled, “A paper mill goes quiet, and the community it built gropes for a way forward.” In the late 1970s and early ’80s, between 4,000 and 5,000 people were employed by Great Northern in the area, and Maine was among the leading papermaking states, according to the article. “I don’t think there’s any question that Millinocket, right through the ’70s, was one of America’s leading centers for paper production,” Judd said.

 

Brewer Quoted in BDN Article on Gubernatorial Debates

Mark Brewer, a professor of political science at the University of Maine, was interviewed for the Bangor Daily News article, “Pundits ponder why Eliot Cutler is so eager to debate Michaud, LePage.” According to the article, independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler has been urging his major-party opponents — Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud — to debate with him. Brewer said Cutler’s actions could benefit him. “Any little bit of information that the citizenry can glean about a political candidate for office, as long as it’s not an absolute blatant falsehood, is of value,” he said. “If people think Gov. LePage and Congressman Michaud don’t want to debate and Cutler does, they may think that says something positive about Cutler.” Brewer added that with absentee voting beginning, it’s unfortunate that some Mainers may vote before ever seeing or hearing a debate.

Two UMaine Grads Recognized by Maine Art Education Association

Two recent University of Maine graduates have been named the 2014 Higher Education Student Art Educators of the Year by the Maine Art Education Association (MAEA).

Elizabeth Miller of Kittery and Hilary Kane of Concord, New Hampshire, both graduated in May 2014. Miller earned a bachelor’s degree in art education with minors in studio art and art history. Kane received a bachelor’s degree in art education, as well as studio art.

The award is given to MAEA members who have completed their art student teaching internship within the academic year and have demonstrated outstanding evidence of professional leadership in schools and the community, use of new technology, and innovative teaching performance and written curricula. An award ceremony will be held in September during the 2014 MAEA conference at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine.

MAEA is the state chapter of the National Art Education Association, the leading professional membership organization for visual arts educators.

Miller, who is searching for a full-time teaching position, currently is an intern at the Piscataqua Fine Arts Gallery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and works at Art with a Splash, also in Portsmouth, teaching painting classes.

“This award is such an honor and I am very pleased to be able to represent the art education program at the university,” Miller said.

Kane plans to move to New Orleans in the fall where she will continue to focus on art education work and community arts.


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The University of Maine
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