Jessica Harris, an assistant professor in the division of higher education and organizational change, has been selected as one of five recipients of the 2017–19 Emerging Scholar Award from the American College Personnel Association — College Educators International. The two-year award will support her research on campus sexual violence from the perspective of women of color.
Harris, in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, recently published “Intersections of Identity and Sexual Violence on Campus: Centering Minoritized Students’ Experiences,” co-edited with Chris Linder (Stylus Publishing, 2017). In the book, she and her contributors explore how the violent history of U.S. colonization continues to influence the campus lives of women of color.
“Sexual violence impacts women of color at disproportionate rates, qualitatively and quantitatively,” says Harris. “I found it intriguing that the only people we see in the narrative of sexual violence on campus is white women. There’s this rape myth of women of color [who are stereotyped as] hypersexualized already and that they are ‘asking for it.’ The systems of patriarchy and white supremacy are influencing why women of color may not come forward, or aren’t seen.”
This summer, Harris will begin her qualitative study on women of color who are victims/survivors of campus sexual violence. She plans for some of the research to also focus on multiraciality.
“We don’t talk about sexual violence for people of color in general, and we don’t talk about mixed-race identity,” she notes. “Mixed-race women and mixed-race men are [often] sexually assaulted at rates higher then any other racial group. These educational environments don’t understand race, let alone the complexity of being multiracial,” Harris said.
At UCLA, Harris has taught courses on research in higher education and student development theory. She looks forward to teaching a new course on race and racism on the college campus this spring.
“I try to infuse equity and thinking about the [students] and the structures we don’t usually think about in these courses,” she says. “I teach student development theory which is the foundation of the student affairs field. That helps someone be a better professional because they understand how students develop. But I challenge students to critique the theories that we’re using – how might this help you understand how students develop but how might it also marginalize the same students? I hope it helps people think about some of the things we don’t think through.”
Reed the complete story in Ampersand, the online magazine of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.