A Study of Student-to-Teacher Harassment in the Traditional Classroom:
An Overview

In 1995, Julie Jung, Tilly Warnock, and I surveyed 900 female teachers of college composition across the United States about student-to-teacher harassment (see Ferganchick-Neufang "Breaking the Silence" for further discussions of this study) . The 235 teachers who returned our survey ranged in age from 21 to 64. A majority of the teachers, 38.3 percent, were between the ages of 21 and 31; 30.3 percent were between the ages of 32 and 41; 27.6 percent were between the ages of 42 and 51; and the remaining 8.8 percent were between the ages of 52 and 64.

While we had asked writing program administrators to distribute these surveys to teachers who represent various ages, positions, and ethnicities, there were only 17 responses from women of color. Over 92 percent of our respondents were white. The majority of our respondents, 50 percent, had taught composition for less than six years, and 25 percent had taught for 6 to 10 years. Overall, teaching experience of the respondents ranged from less than one year to 40 years with only 1.3 percent of our respondents having taught for more than thirty years. Over fifty percent were graduate teaching assistants, while the other half were nearly equally distributed between part-time instructors, full-time instructors, nontenured faculty, and tenured faculty.

Of those 137 (60 percent) said they had experienced gender-specific problems in the classroom; 132 (56 percent) replied "yes" when asked if they thought "many" women in their program face these same problems; and 146 (62 percent) said their awareness of gender-specific problems affected how they teach.

Statistical analyses performed on the data indicate that it is not what a teacher does that is related to gender-specific problems, but rather what a teacher is. The statistical relationships indicate that neither a teacher's training nor her primary method of teaching are statistically related to whether or not she reported having experienced gender-specific problems. But those categories that reflect what a teacher is, age and position, are statistically related to her report of experiencing these problems (See Ferganchick-Neufang, Women Teaching Writing for a full explanation of the statistical analyses) .

To gain a better understanding of these conflicts, however, we must examine the stories reported to us by our respondents.

Introduction | Overview of Study | Examples of Student-to-Teacher Harassment in the Traditional Classroom | Issues of Definition | Problems with Virtual Space | What Can We Do? | Works Cited