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How the #MeToo movement is changing university curricula

Women's March protest at San Franciso, California. Source: Shutterstock

The world is no longer the same after the #MeToo movement exposed the sexual misconducts of powerful men, leading to their reckoning.

Universities are leading the charge.

In a new sociology course at the University of Toronto, Associate Professor Jooyoung Lee often sees discussion veering towards the to the Time’s Up movement and the sexual assault and harassment allegations popping up all over. When an allegation against comedian Aziz Ansari drew controversy, Lee addressed it in class, getting students to share their thoughts on the Babe.net story.

“There are many cases where people are guilty of harassment and assault because they didn’t respect a person’s wishes,” says Lee, who also teaches courses on gun violence, serial killers and hip-hop culture.

“But there are also cases where it’s more ambiguous. That’s where the really interesting conversation happens, where students are forced to go beyond the kinds of things they’re hearing in the media.”

From middle school to graduate school, teachers are discussing with students the Kavanaugh hearing in the context of the #MeToo moment. Source: AFP/Scott Olson

These issues and more are popping up in classrooms the world over. And not just within the confines of the humanities building.

Business schools, more popularly known for teaching management and accounting, are now teaching “bro culture” in companies like Uber (Vanderbilt University), sexism and free speech (Harvard) and sexual harassment in the workplace (Stanford).

“There’s a turning point in what’s expected from business leaders,” said Leanne Meyer, co-director of a new leadership department at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business.

“Up until now, business leaders were largely responsible for delivering products. Now, shareholders are looking to corporate leaders to make statements on what would traditionally have been social justice or moral issues.”

In this file photo taken on September 18, 2018 McDonald’s employees and other fast food chain workers protest against sexual harassment in the workplace, in Chicago, Illinois. Source: AFP/Joshua Lott

Ethics and values are now de rigueur as millennial students are demanding more social and environmental responsibility from employers, businesses and schools. A survey of business school students worldwide conducted by a United Nations group and Macquarie University in Australia found that students are saying ethics are business’s most important responsibility, not finances.

“Ethics and values have taken on more significance,” Ed Soule, Professor at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business said to The New York Times.

“It has to do with all of the things going on in this administration, often things that challenge our understanding of ethics and leadership.”

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