We are the Gender-based Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Working Group of NUGW. We formed in response to a nation-wide climate that is inhospitable to gender minorities, women, and survivors of sexual assault. This climate makes it difficult to address issues of gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct affecting graduate workers at Northwestern. As an organization dedicated to advocating for graduate worker well-being, NUGW must be committed to recognizing and addressing the impact these issues have on graduate student workers. Our future plans include: assembling a comprehensive resource guide for graduate workers who have experienced sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination; advocating for the creation of more gender neutral restrooms on campus; and continuing to build our union so that we can win a contract that protects all graduate workers.

NUGW Position Statement on Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment and sexual assault seriously disrupt all graduate students’ ability to participate fully and freely in intellectual life. Abusive practices create a culture that makes it impossible for students to feel safe, respected, and affirmed. This culture persists when students are shamed into being silent, threatened with retaliation for taking action, or made to feel alone.

Research has shown that gender-based harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion by colleagues and supervisors has significant effects both on the survivor’s emotional and mental state and their work behavior and performance. In other words, discrimination and harassment do not only have negative emotional and mental effects for survivors, it also negatively impacts the quality of work that survivors are able to accomplish within our community.

Sexual violence is not specific to any one community. It intersects with racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism to elevate the stories of certain survivors while diminishing others. Remaining vigilant about these different manifestations of injustice, across campus as well as within NUGW,  enables us to form a stronger, healthier, and more effective coalition. Although these are injustices that primarily affect women and gender minorities, these issues stem from broader questions concerning where power and authority are held in the workplace that lie at the heart NUGW’s efforts.

Northwestern University Graduate Workers advocates for the rights of every graduate student to pursue their graduate studies in environments free from sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender-based discrimination. We hold that survivors of discrimination, harassment, and assault deserve to be believed. Moreover, we believe that sexist practices influence all members of our community, not only the targets of discrimination and harassment.

It falls to all members of our community to take action against harassment and assault. But crucially, by instituting practices and policies that provide resources, support, and recourse for survivors of discrimination, harassment, and assault, Northwestern can do a great deal to address the individual and community-wide consequences of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment.

NUGW intends to identify shortcomings in the way that Northwestern currently addresses these issues and push for graduate worker decision making power that will enable us to create policies that support and protect all graduate workers.

  1. Kimberly Schneider, Suzanne Swan, and Louise Fitzgerald. “Job Related and Psychological Effects of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Empirical Evidence from Two Organizations.” Journal of Applied Psychology 82, no. 3 (1997): 401-415.