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Feb. 26, 2021

UArizona Joins Network of Institutions to Combat Sexual Harassment in Higher Education

TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona has joined a network of 60 institutions with a shared mission to address and prevent sexual harassment in higher education.

The university became a Partner Network Organization of the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced the partnership on Thursday. The National Academies supports and facilitates the work of the Action Collaborative, which was created in 2019.

That work includes raising awareness about sexual harassment and its consequences across all disciplines and how to address and prevent it; sharing policies that reduce and prevent sexual harassment; forming a shared research agenda for institutions in the network; and standardizing a measurement system to track progress on addressing sexual harassment in higher education.

"I am very mindful that a great many women leave the STEM disciplines because they encounter hostility and sexual harassment, which has for too long gone unaddressed," said Liesl Folks, UArizona senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. "I am very pleased that the University of Arizona will be part of this national network to implement real and lasting measures to change the culture such that sexual harassment will be addressed and prevented."

Leading the UArizona's involvement in the network is Kathleen Melde, associate dean of faculty affairs and inclusion in the College of Engineering.

Melde worked with Andrea Romero, vice provost for faculty affairs, on a commitment statement about the university's work to advance the mission of the network, which was later approved by President Robert C. Robbins.

"We are proud to join the Partner Network because in order to change the current climate of sexual harassment in higher education we need to work together with peer institutions," Romero said. "We are looking forward to contributing to discussion and development of policy and system-level changes across the nation. With Dr. Melde's leadership and the collaborative work of partners nationally and here at the University of Arizona campus, we believe that we can create accountability and ensure safe work environments for women."

Melde will serve as the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Faculty Fellow, acting as the university's liaison to the Action Collaborative Partner Network.

As a partner organization, the university will have access to strategies that have worked at other universities to combat sexual harassment in higher education, Melde said. But the university has already taken on some of that work.

In her role as faculty fellow, Melde will also coordinate regular campus meetings with offices that already are dedicated to the prevention of sexual harassment, including the Office of Institutional Equity, the Division of Human Resources, Faculty Affairs and the Consortium on Gender-Based Violence.

"Creating a work environment where a wide set of ideas can grow and prosper is essential," Melde said. "The University of Arizona is a thought leader, and we have so many diverse programs. We can certainly improve the work climate for all to flourish. I expect in this journey to have many difficult conversations, but through the listening and caring, I trust we move the university to an even more inclusive work environment."

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Media contact:
Kyle Mittan
University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 40 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2019 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $734 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 65 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.