Professors host panel discussion about sexual harassment experiences

Published: Mar. 28, 2018 at 8:13 PM CDT
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Students at Western Kentucky University gathered for a panel discussion as their professors spoke about their experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace.

The National Broadcast Society, a group at WKU, hosted the event held inside the Jody Richard's Hall Auditorium.

Christine Johnson, an associate broadcast professor and the adviser of the NBS chapter at WKU, led the discussion as several professors from the university gave their testimony. She mentions from first-hand experience that it is hard for young adults to comprehend sexual harassment.

"A lot of times, college-aged students really don't understand what sexual harassment is and about how it can affect them and how it maybe does affect them," said Johnson.

Three other professors sat on the panel as students listened to their stories attentively. Among those was Sara Corkern, assistant film professor. Corkern began her work in the film industry at a young age and recalled an experience where a well-known filmmaker visited her college and sexually harassed her in front of her peers. She said her friends found the encounter amusing, so she tried to brush it off as a joke. As she continued work in her career, she said it was clear this had affected her.

"I started working in the film industry and I realized it's not just him," Corkern said.

Another professor on the panel is Enakshi Roy, an assistant broadcast professor, added to Corkern's testimony by saying many people find sexual harassment amusing.

Roy mentioned that she often felt that in the times she'd witnessed sexual misconduct, it felt like people attempted to play it off as a joke. She also added that as a foreigner to the U.S., she was targeted more often.

"International students are slightly more vulnerable to sexual harassment," Roy said.

As the testimonies were shared, the professors encouraged students to be aware of their surroundings and always speak to someone about these problems. However, those on the panel realize that isn't always an easy task.

"It's kind of something that you don't want to talk about again," says Johnson. "When you continue to talk about it, it kind of brings it all up."

Johnson also said that she felt having professor share their stories would leave an impact on the students.

Those students in attendance realized the importance of just that.

It shows that there are so many people around us, especially people that mentor us, that have experienced these issues and how they've overcome them and what they've done," said Katey Cook, 20, a broadcasting student at WKU.

Cook, who plans on pursuing a career in the media said she realizes that this kind of behavior is alive in the journalism field.

The panel's main purpose was to allow students to feel comfortable speaking about this topic and encouraged them to do just that.

"Just open up and talk to somebody, and get it out," Johnson said. "Don't push it down, and don't let the stress overcome you."