Skip to main content

VUMC joins with National Academies, other institutions to launch initiative to prevent sexual harassment in higher education

Apr. 11, 2019, 10:14 AM


Vanderbilt University Medical Center has joined the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and over 40 other colleges, universities and research institutions — including Vanderbilt University — to launch an Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education.

VUMC and VU are founding members of the action collaborative, which will bring together academic leaders and key stakeholders to prevent sexual harassment across all disciplines and among all people in higher education. The collaborative is designed to be an active space where colleges, universities and research and training organizations can research and develop efforts that move beyond basic legal compliance to evidence-based policies and practices for addressing and preventing all forms of sexual harassment.

Twenty-eight of the institutions, including VUMC and VU, joined the National Academies in founding the action collaborative at the beginning of this year; their statement on founding it can be found at

These founding members provided the initial support to start work and helped refine the goals and plans for the action collaborative during a meeting in March. In the weeks since, additional colleges, universities and research institutions have become members, bringing the total membership to 43 institutions.

The collaborative builds on the National Academies’ 2018 report Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which found that between 20% and 50% of female students and more than 50% of female faculty and staff experienced sexually harassing behavior while in academia. The report provides a road map with a range of promising practices for preventing sexual harassment, such as using bystander intervention, producing annual reports to convey that reports of sexual harassment are taken seriously and people are held accountable, and combining anti-harassment efforts with programs to promote civility and respect.

“We have been engaged and developed training sessions — called Respect@Work: Eliminating Sexual Harassment — prior to the inception of the action collaborative,” said Arie Nettles, PhD, associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics and director of the Office of Inclusion and Health Equity for VUMC. “We have conducted 21 Respect@Work sessions that 1,000 clinicians, staff and senior management have attended. We have been out in front creating a safe, virtuous work environment that is respectful.”

The four main goals of the action collaborative are to:

  • Raise awareness about sexual harassment and how it occurs, the consequences of sexual harassment, and the organizational characteristics and recommended approaches that can prevent it;
  • Share and elevate evidence-based institutional policies and strategies to reduce and prevent sexual harassment;
  • Contribute to setting the research agenda, and gather and apply research results across institutions; and
  • Develop a standard for measuring progress toward reducing and preventing sexual harassment in higher education.

The action collaborative will also deal with the issue of sexual harassment in the context of other damaging behavior, including incivility, bullying, and other forms of harassment such as racial harassment.

“We hope that, going forward, even more colleges, universities and other organizations will join us in our efforts,” said Frazier Benya, a senior program officer at the National Academies who is directing the action collaborative. More information, along with letters of commitment from member institutions, can be found at


The members of the action collaborative are listed below (founding members in bold).


Argonne National Laboratory

Boston University


Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Colorado College

Columbia University

Dartmouth College

Duke University

Harvard University

Johns Hopkins University

Los Angeles Community College District

Michigan State University

Mills College

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Northwestern University

Olin College of Engineering

Rutgers University

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Stanford University

American University in Cairo

University of California Berkeley

University of California Los Angeles

University of California Merced

University of California Riverside

University of California San Diego

University of California San Francisco

University of California Santa Barbara

University of California Santa Cruz

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

University of Kansas

University of Maryland Medical School

University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

University of Washington

University of Wisconsin System

University of Southern California

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Wellesley College

Yale University

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Vanderbilt Medicine
VUMC Voice