image title

Weinstein scandal creates dialogue on workplace harassment

October 17, 2017

ASU gender studies professor on whether this is a tipping point, and what individuals and companies need to do

As the Harvey Weinstein scandal continues to dominate national headlines and new survivors come forward on a near daily basis, some believe the media attention on this case is a tipping point.

No doubt the scandal has caused many CEOs, supervisors and human-resources personnel throughout the country to review their policies and talk with employees about sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace. So are the times changing?

ASU Now recently spoke with Alesha Durfee, an associate professor of women and gender studies in Arizona State University’s SchoolDurfee is also a faculty affiliate in justice studies and the School of Social Work. of Social Transformation, to get her take.

Woman smiling
ASU Professor Alesha Durfee

Question: The Weinstein scandal has led many to believe this will not only have a domino effect in Hollywood regarding reporting sexual harassment, but the American workplace in general. Do you believe that to be the case?

Answer: I absolutely agree that there will be a domino effect on the workplace in general. So many people are coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault under the hashtag #metoo started by Alyssa Milano on Sunday. There has been such a cascade of stories that I think the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault is going to be too large for most workplaces to ignore.

Q: To give some context, what’s the distinction between sexual harassment, assault and predatory behavior, which has often been attributed to Weinstein?

A: While there are substantial differences between these three forms of violence, I think it’s important to first recognize the common thread between them. Sexual harassment, sexual assault and predatory behavior are all on a spectrum of behavior where one person (in these cases, usually a man) attempts to gain power and control over another person (in these cases, usually a woman). Most people believe that these are motivated by sexual desire, and often people excuse these behaviors in ways that frame them as sexually motivated. However, these are all motivated by a desire to have power and control over another person.

Legally, sexual assault in Arizona is either sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact without consent. However, many advocates would include a wider range of coerced behaviors, including attempted rape, attempted penetration, and unwanted sexual contact such as grabbing or fondling.

Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual comments or behaviors — these can either be specific to the person (i.e., about them) or they can be gender-based (i.e., remarks about women or men in general). When repeated over time by one or more individuals, they can create a hostile work or school environment that can adversely impact the survivor’s ability to work or go to school. Sexual harassment, when perpetuated by individuals in power, can often be linked to job offers, the continuation of employment or promotions. There are two types of sexual harassment — “hostile work environment”, where the sexual harassment makes it extremely difficult for the survivor to go to work or school, and “quid pro quo”, where one’s continued employment or possibilities of promotion are linked to submitting to the sexual demands of the harasser.

Predatory behavior refers to the systemic invocation of power by a “predator” over others to get them to comply with the predator’s demands. While predatory behavior may be sexual, it may also involve physical, financial, verbal, psychological or emotional abuse, as well as stalking in person or via technology.

Q: Weinstein’s behavior continued for decades because of his ability to convince others it would advance their careers if they complied, and damage their careers if they didn’t. Is there a parallel here in regards to common workplaces?

A: Yes, there definitely is a parallel to more common workplaces — when any institution or organization has supervisors or bosses who are not accountable to others for their behavior, that institution has created an environment where a sexual predator could operate without constraint. It is unhealthy to have a workplace where supervisors and bosses are not held accountable for their behaviors and are not routinely evaluated by those that they are in charge of (or by external evaluations or reviews).

Weinstein also had power in a wide range of realms — not only could he threaten women who did not comply with his inappropriate and predatory sexual requests, he could actually follow through with those consequences without having to explain his decisions to anyone. I would strongly argue that companies review their policies and hierarchies to make sure that there is greater accountability of supervisors, bosses, etc. for their decisions and actions.

Q: At ASU, there are policies in place for reporting this type of behavior. What advice would you give to companies that don’t have policies, and what should they do?

A: I applaud all that ASU has done to combat sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. I know a lot of faculty, staff, and administrators have worked very hard to create structures of accountability where people can report violations, and resources for survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. 

For survivors and witnesses whose workplaces do not have these structures or provide these resources, I would highly recommend (1) advocating for the adoption of these types of structures and resources in their workplace and/or (2) compiling a list of both legal and community-based resources that survivors and witnesses can utilize if needed. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ( is a good place to start to learn about your employment rights. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network,, 1-800-656-4673) is an excellent organization that provides information and resources to survivors of sexual violence.

Top photo: Branches of the U.S. military, as well as many private companies, have instituted training on workplace harassment and assault. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

image title

ASU students discover passion for holistic health care in Mayo Clinic Global Medical Brigade

October 17, 2017

When Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, readied a group of volunteers for its summer Medical Brigades Volunteer Program to Nicaragua, three Arizona State University students seized the chance to join them for a life-changing medical outreach.

Selected by ASU’s Pre-Health Internship Program in the Office of Clinical Partnerships through a rigorous application and interview process, the students traveled to rural areas of Nicaragua with Mayo Clinic physicians and medical students to provide much-needed medical support. All three ASU members knew the Spanish language, a requirement for their selection.

The three students chosen — Roseanne Nguyen (nutrition, College of Health Solutions), Cristina Musch (biochemistry, College of Liberals Arts and Sciences), and Chance Marostica (biological sciences, College of Liberals Arts and Sciences, and Barrett honors student) — translated for the Mayo team. They also learned how to administer primary care in a holistic manner, delving into all aspects of a patient’s mental, physical and psychological health.

“This trip redefined how I would like to practice medicine,” said Marostica. “If you want to heal someone, you can’t first look at their symptoms. You have to look at the person as a person. Medicine without a human connection is hollow.”

During the 10-day trip, the Mayo Clinic team offered medical services to 2,200 residents of underserved and impoverished rural areas. In addition to physical and dental exams, psychological counseling, medications and a health fair, they also journeyed down muddy backroads to treat patients unable to travel. Long lines of hopeful people formed as soon as each day’s clinic opened. The ASU students helped perform triage, conducting initial interviews with the patients and taking vital signs, and they packaged medications for patients and local clinics, in tandem with translating for the Mayo Clinic physicians, staff and students.

Students traversed muddy trails with the Mayo Clinic Global Medical Brigade
Volunteers traversed muddy paths to make house calls when vehicles couldn’t traverse the roads.

“Our roles changed every day,” said Nguyen. “We rotated between being a dental assistant, taking patient history, packaging medications. We also played with the kids for a few hours. So it gave us a good feel ofwhat can happen in a clinic.”

Mayo Clinic’s global medical brigades visit Nicaragua four times a year. Along with full medical evaluations, they teach preventative methods and the basics of living a healthy life to the community.

Although the diagnoses of patients differed, there were two primary causes of ill health that the students found. Due to the lack of access to pure water, many needed a prescription for parasites, which resulted in chronic headaches, fever and gastrointestinal disorders.

What Musch found most striking was the amount of stress that affected many people, particularly women.

“Many people just needed someone to talk to and get some advice on how to handle their situations,” Musch said. “They didn’t want to talk to others in their small town for fear of gossip.”

A lot of mothers were afraid of being alone during the long months that their husbands had to be away for work, said Musch.

“Some of the women were in an abusive relationship, but were afraid to leave because they had children and no place else to go,” she said. “When they came in, they had these troubled eyes, then gave us a hug and thanked us for listening to them. They told me they prayed to God to have someone listen to them.

“Some of the psychiatrists gave them exercises to relieve the headaches and stress. Some cases were so extreme that they could only give them medication to help them sleep at night so they didn’t lay awake thinking about their fears and problems.”

Volunteers play games with kids at a Mayo Clinic Global Medical Brigade clinic
Volunteers took turns playing games with children while parents waited for clinic visits.

All the ASU students spoke of how kind and welcoming and palpably grateful the villagers were to see the brigade. They were particularly struck by the peoples’ strength and determination to create a better life, despite the poverty and difficulty in their lives.

Marostica remembered one woman he met who “came in distressed and extremely concerned for her health, and she walked out with tears of joy. She works so hard and really just wanted someone to talk to. We spent over an hour talking about the hardships of life, but more importantly, how to still find joy. I can't believe the power that resides in empathy and compassion for others.”

The community was hungry for all of the information shared in the health clinics, particularly on women’s health, he says: “I am confident that they will continue to share it. Education is empowerment.”

“The most important thing I learned from this trip is the power of empathy,” Nguyen said. “The compassion that came from everyone on this team was unbelievable. On our last clinic day we were planning on leaving at noon. When we arrived at the town, hundreds were waiting outside the clinic. Everyone worked extra hard that day until 3 p.m., so we could see every single patient.”

After powering through lunch break and forgoing their afternoon plans, the team broke a record, seeing 300 patients on what was intended to be a half-day.

The ASU students received advice, encouragement and knowledge from the trip’s Mayo Clinic students and physicians, which has already shaped their thinking about their career paths and interests.

Chance Marostica and other Mayo Clinic Global Medical Brigade volunteers
ASU student Chance Marostica (center) translated for medical students and doctors in San Jose de Pire.

“The consulting doctors taught me how important it is to learn about someone's past, their family, interests and passions before you dive into their health problems,” Marostica said. “It gives insight into some of the underlying causes of an ailment, but more importantly, it forms a clinician-patient bond of trust and empathy.”

Nguyen said that talking to Mayo medical students inspired her and increased her confidence in choosing a medical career.

“Keep an open mind and heart,” she advised other students. “Perspective gained from medical outreach activities will ignite your passion for health care.”

Musch said she could relate to the Nicaraguan villagers, as she grew up in a rural area in Mexico with a lack of access to water.

“Like these people, my parents had to search for water. However, what I took away from this was that I wasn’t the one being helped this time; I was the one helping. I’m not just some girl from a poor country, but I’m actually doing something for someone else’s life.”

Top photo: ASU students Roseanne Nguyen (left) and Cristina Musch help set up clinic in La Laguna, Estelí, as patients began to form lines to see the Mayo Clinic team.

Editor Associate , University Provost