Female students at Christian colleges more likely to experience gender discrimination

Students at Christian universities and colleges are more likely to experience gender-based discrimination than students attending private or public institutions, though less likely to experience sexual assault, according to new research.

Some 79 per cent of students at Christian institutions in the US reported having experienced gender-based discrimination from staff, compared to 72 and 75 per cent of students at public and private institutions respectively, according to findings from Neil Best, a PhD candidate at Geneva College in Pennsylvania who surveyed 6,643 students at 38 schools across the United States.

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On the other hand, 15 per cent of students at Christian institutions, 21 per cent of students at public institutions and 27 per cent of students at private institutions reported having experienced sexual assault.

Best said that after noticing that Christian universities are often unrepresented in statistics that highlight similar issues on college campuses, he wanted to do study that compared Christian schools to private and public schools, adding that his daughters were also influential in the idea to conduct the research.

'I have three daughters and I want college to be safer for them and I thought this could be one way that I might be able to make college safer for them, if we better understand how this plays out and better prevent sexual assault and gender-based discrimination,' he said, according to Baylor Lariat, a paper at the Christian institution Baylor University in Texas.

Best also found that students who reported experiencing gender-based discrimination were twice as likely to also report being a victim of sexual assault. But he noted that these results do not necessarily imply that gender-based discrimination leads to higher rates of sexual assault. Instead, the data merely shows that there is some sort of – unclear – link between the two.

Best suggested that 'ambivalent sexism' might be a cause for higher rates of gender-based discrimination on Christian campuses.

He explained: 'It's the idea that women are in need of being protected. It says men exist to protect women and women should be protected. It sounds really positive and it's got this chivalrous attitude and aspect to it but at it's core, you're talking about a gender imbalance between men and women.'

He went on: 'That's the type of attitude that you may see on faith-based campuses and you may experience as a student. If your theological perspective implies differences, it can lead to a perspective of inequality.'

Baylor University/ FacebookBaylor University in Texas which reported the findings

In November last year, Baylor released its 2017 Social Climate Survey, which was focused on harassment, stalking, dating and sexual violence.

In it, 76 per cent of respondents, all Baylor students, agreed that they feel safe from sexual harassment on campus and 77 per cent reported feeling safe from sexual violence. Meanwhile, 31 per cent reported having experienced sexist or gender-based harassment from faculty members.