Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Communication Studies and Theatre


The purpose of this study was to investigate three research questions: 1) Is there a communication paradox between sexual harassment guidelines and using touch as an instructional tool? 2) What are the definitions of this conflict and its potential subconflicts? and 3) What are the means of coping with the defined conflict and subconflicts? The subjects were eight fine arts instructors at a mid western university who all teach in a studio setting. Subjects participated in a pre-interview, self-report, and exit interview. Results yielded evidence that a communication paradox exists in that educators value touch as an instructional tool, yet have limited their use of it for fear of being unjustly accused of sexual harassment. Subconflicts emerging from this finding included: an apparent hesitation to touch from teacher to student, the instigation of personal definitions of sexual harassment of teachers which are more severe than university policy, and a possible fear of showing empathy through touch in cross-gender relationships. The means in which educators are coping with these conflicts are threefold. Subjects reported that a concentrated attention is paid to student nonverbal behavior as to cue instructors as to their use of touch. Also subjects use permission- seeking strategies prior to touch and limiting touch as means of coping with the conflict. The primary suggestion for further research in this area was an analysis of the role that gender plays in this communication paradox.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Touch Sexual harassment in education Studio theater Teacher-student relationships College teachers -- Attitudes



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University