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Saeko Nagashima

Saeko Nagashima [Profile]

Raising Awareness to Prevent Harassment at Chuo University

Saeko Nagashima
Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: British Literature, Gender/Sexuality Studies

Introduction

I work as a member of the Chuo University Harassment Prevention Committee to reduce harassment within our university. The committee does not just deal with actual cases of harassment, but also offers training sessions and lectures to raise awareness about campus harassment. As part of these activities, the committee holds a Harassment Prevention Campaign every autumn. Our campaign at Tama campus this year was held from October 10th to the 14th.

The Harassment Prevention Campaign

The aim of our campaign is to help faculty, university staff and, most of all, students become more aware of harassment as an issue relevant to them, and as a result give more thought to its prevention. In order to deliver our message directly to students, we have a student volunteer group called the Non Harassment Project (NHP), which has been involved in the management of the campaign from the initial stage. The week-long campaign consists of three parts: an exhibition at the gallery under the library, daily performances by student groups at the Central Stage, and the Forum Theatre. The Forum Theatre is an interactive theatrical project, in which some members of NHP perform short sketches about harassment to create an opportunity where the audience can communicate with the NHP members as well as with one another to discuss and think about harassment issues. The main topics of our campaign this year were dating violence (physical and mental abuse within an unmarried couple) and sexual minorities (discrimination based on prejudice and/or lack of understanding about sexual minorities). We provided general information about these themes in our exhibition, and raised more specific issues about them in the Forum Theatre.

The Significance of Our Activities at Chuo University

In general, the effect of such a campaign cannot be measured immediately. However, this year we found in the questionnaire sheets returned from the audience of the Forum Theatre that, by watching the students' performances, quite a few people understood harassment as a relevant issue to them for the first time in their life. This probably means that, even today, a large number of people rarely have any opportunity to think about harassment as their own issue, even though the word harassment has become a familiar term and people generally have a certain level of understanding about the concept. At the same time, this may also mean that, given an opportunity like this, they can realize easily that it is relevant to them-in various situations there is a possibility for them to be involved in harassment. We hope this recognition will enable them to take a step forward to preventing harassment around them. (I must add that this positive outcome of the campaign this year owes much to the NHP members, who gave a very realistic performance in the theatre and made their audience 'feel' the nature of campus harassment.)

A university is a place where students, faculty and university staff members, all with various backgrounds and sense of values, gather in the same space to engage in various activities. The wide range of its members and their diversity make it an extremely complex organization. Therefore, there is always a possibility of friction due to a conflict of interest or a clash of values. When friction comes to the surface in the form of a harassment complaint, it does not solve the problem if we simply try to judge whether it actually constitutes harassment or not. The question is not as to who is right and who is wrong. Even if everyone involved is partly right and partly wrong, as long as there is some friction and someone has got hurt, some sort of countermeasure is required. We need to rethink the mindset that one often comes across in discussion about harassment: 'up to this stage this behavior is OK, but from here onwards it becomes harassment'. In other words, instead of thinking, "how far can a risky behavior be considered acceptable?" we must face and take seriously the risk itself. I hope that our campaign and other events will provide opportunities for the members of Chuo University to think about how each and every one of us can act to create an environment with less harassment incidents.

For a Better Future

As explained above, our campaign has been received quite positively. However, there are still some problems to be solved. Firstly, it is not sufficiently advertised within university. The current situation is that people who already have a certain level of interest in and understanding about harassment come to the exhibition and the Forum Theatre, but other people are often not even aware that the campaign is taking place. How to get more people to come to the events, especially those who are not interested in the problem of harassment, is a key issue. Another is how to keep people aware and involved after the campaign. Sometimes those who come to our campaign and start thinking about harassment simply return to their ordinary, everyday life and stop giving any more thoughts. We hope we will find some way to keep those people involved even after the campaign is over.

Students, faculty members and other university staff at a university have a shared goal: to create an environment where students can learn comfortably and fully develop their potential. In this sense, we are all part of the same team, working together to reach the goal. When the flow within the team is slowed down because of conflict, the Harassment Prevention Committee can come between to offer an objective perspective, so that the pressure may be eased, and the flow may become smooth again. We hope that students and all the university staff know they have a place to turn to for help if a problem arises, and we want to ensure that all students can make the most of their learning opportunities at Chuo University. I strongly hope that readers of this article will come and visit our campaign next year and onward, and share their views with us.

Saeko Nagashima
Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: British Literature, Gender/Sexuality Studies
Saeko Nagashima was born in Tokyo.
She graduated from the Faculty of Letters, the University of Tokyo, in 1994, and completed a Master's degree at the Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, the University of Tokyo, in 1997.
She further obtained a Master's degree from the University of York (UK) in 2000.
After being appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Chuo University Faculty of Law, she was appointed to her current position in 2008.
Her current research focuses on the representations of domestic space and women in British novels in the first half of the twentieth century.
Her areas of specialization are British literature and gender/sexuality studies.