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SBCC Instructor Explores Academic Institutions’ Role in #MeToo Movement
Nicholas Arnold
Dr. Nicholas Arnold, Professor of Engineering, Santa Barbara City College

Santa Barbara City College Engineering Professor Dr. Nicholas Arnold participated in a national committee that produced a ground-breaking report titled “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering and Medicine,” to be released this month. The report, sponsored by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS), will be shared with the U.S. Congress and college and university administrators.

Arnold is the only community college professor on the NAS committee, which is also comprised of college presidents and research professors in engineering, earth sciences, psychology, political science, anthropology and women’s studies. Representatives from industry (including Intel corporation), the first female Secretary of the Air Force, and a former congresswoman round out the study group.

Arnold and the NAS committee began their work two years ago, before the subject received international attention. The study focuses on how sexual harassment affects the career advancement of women on college and university campuses, in research labs and field sites, hospitals and medical centers, and other academic environments. It also reviews the research on how such harassment negatively impacts the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in these areas, and identifies successful strategies and practices to prevent it.

The committee met with many expert speakers on the topic of sexual harassment, including Anita Hill, who became a national figure in 1991 when she accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, her boss at the United States Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of sexual harassment. Hill is currently a U.S. Attorney, a University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies at Brandeis University and a faculty member of Brandeis' Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

Arnold’s interest in defeating sexism and discrimination of women evolved from moments of inspiration that began when he was a college student. Arnold double-majored in Physics and Applied Mathematics at UC San Diego, and decided to minor in “Sociology of Gender Studies” — a subject that became somewhat of a calling for him. “All of the roles and stereotypes that women (and men) are required to fit within — how restricting!” he says. From then on he was an advocate for gender issues, from his active role at the UCSB Women’s Center during his graduate work there, to working with educationally disadvantaged students in MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) programs at Allan Hancock College and SBCC.

A few years ago at SBCC, Arnold served on a committee to help increase the number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). “After serving on that committee, I turned my attention toward the historically low numbers of women in engineering, both in college and in the profession,” Arnold says. He notes that the numbers for women in the engineering workforce have been low for a long time, with current estimates at about 12 percent, according to a 2016 study by the Society of Women Engineers. Arnold also serves as advisor of the SWE@SBCC Club on the SBCC campus — a support network for Women in Engineering at the college.

The NAS “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering and Medicine” report was officially presented in Washington, D.C. on June 12; and a discussion and responses to the report will be held in Irvine, CA, on June 26.

Find additional information about the NAS report click here.  

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