Date of Award

Spring 1998

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ellen S Cohn


Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in higher education (Truax, 1996). Graduate students occupy a unique power position in academia as both students and teachers. As such, they are potentially victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment. The purpose of the current research was to (a) understand the dynamics of sexual harassment by examining the experiences and perceptions of graduate students and (b) assess whether a commonly utilized education program was effective in raising awareness and changing the attitudes of graduate students. Graduate students from both the University of New Hampshire (Study 1) and around the country (Study 2) were asked about their experiences as victims and perpetrators of unwanted sexual behavior, their perceptions about how sexual harassment is behaviorally and legally defined, and certain attitudes surrounding the issue. Men and women did not tend to vary in their perceptions or experiences as predicted; however, other personal (marital status, coping strategies) and situational (department sex-ratio) variables did predict participants' victimization experiences. In Study 3, graduate students' knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes were assessed before and two months after an educational program on sexual harassment. Participants' awareness of university policies and procedures increased over time; however, their behavioral definitions of sexual harassment became narrower, and their attitudes did not change. The implications of these findings for applied research aimed at eliminating sexual harassment are discussed.