Gratitude for Joanna Ong’s bravery

Once more, philosophy has made the national news with a sexual harassment case, this time against John Searle.

Despite being a reasonably well plugged-in person, I did not know about allegations of this particular sort of behaviour from Searle until the story broke.  Now, I’m learning that others had been hearing about it for a long time.   (This kind of information does not always circulate in the way that people expect it to.)  Over and over again.  This is why it’s so incredibly important when victims are willing to come forward as Joanna Ong has done.  Our entire profession owes an enormous debt to brave people like her.

Comments will be heavily moderated.  We welcome further expressions of support for Ong. We don’t welcome questioning of her integrity.  You may not agree with this policy.  That’s OK– there will be other places you can say the things we don’t want here.

24 thoughts on “Gratitude for Joanna Ong’s bravery

  1. Hear, hear. Our entire profession owes Joanna Ong an enormous debt of gratitude for her courage. If you see this, Joanna, I’m deeply sorry that we didn’t act earlier, when we could have prevented the harm you’ve suffered. I hope we learn from your example and do everything we can to prevent other students from being preyed upon as you have.

  2. The most promising student I ever had is one of the many, and is no longer in philosophy unfortunately

  3. Joanna–from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Having endured something similiar under a different professor with a school cover-up, I read, and then cried.
    My first tears were pain. But they quickly became tears of gratitude.
    I imagine this may be tough for you, as I’m sure you’re under attack. That’s what they always do–circle their wagons.

    But PLEASE know I believe you. I believe you. I believe you.

    I will support you and defend you in any way I can. I don’t know you, but I’ve lived part of this story.

    WE all deserve better, and you are helping us get there.

  4. If I could get a message to Joanna, or anyone in a similar situation, I’d want to say: I believe you; I’m so sorry this happened to you; thank-you for taking action; I’ll do whatever I can to support you.

    We had a discipline need to take more and better action to make sure that abusers and harassers are not tolerated, protected or enabled.

  5. I would like to encourage anyone who has had similar experiences with Searle to contact Ong’s lawyers. I was not at all shocked when I heard the allegations; rather I was surprised that he was still at it. A friend of mine in graduate school was propositioned by Searle when she was as a visitor at Berkeley more than a dozen years ago. He later pursued her by email. I commend Ong’s bravery in filing the lawsuit.

  6. The kind of work Joanna is doing is HARD — it takes a shocking amount of time and emotional and physical energy. Thank you Joanna, and everyone else who has spoken out or worked against this kind of abuse in the profession.

    *If you’re tempted to blame yourself, know that this wasn’t your fault.
    *If people speak out against you, know that we believe you.
    *If you’re feeling burnt out, know that we appreciate everything you’re doing.
    *If you’re exhausted and need a break, know that we’re here for you.
    *If you’re wondering if speaking out was worth it, know that you are an inspiration and a leader in making things better.

  7. Thank you for your bravery. It helps many of us appreciate the depth of problems we need to face, and it inspires us to do what we can to move philosophy in the right direction.

  8. Joanna, we are all admiring of your courage, and you must know that you are doing something very important. Be strong. We are sorry—very sorry—for some of the forms of life that remain in our profession. But it can change. Thanks to you for your honesty and tenacity.

  9. There surely must be an open and independent inquiry into such cases, if there is a pattern, then power and status need to be deconstructed, changed. It is astounding that there is still a generation that believe they are so special they can get away with it, cannot be touched. (Now that I say it, I think of the Australian entertainer Rolf Harris who traded on his status, and of course the US president Trump). It still amazes me that we have to even debate this stuff, it shouldn’t be happening – there is no excuse.

  10. Joanna, you are not alone, and your moral courage now will be a comfort to you in years to come. I wish you strength. You know what happened. If you keep that in sight, it will be easier to stay strong and focused. Many others will be kind and helpful, and please ignore the detractors. Sharing the burden does lighten the load.

  11. When people come forward to name those who have sexually assaulted or harassed them, they tend to pay a high price. I hope that Joanna Ong knows that there are plenty of us who recognize that we owe her a great debt of gratitude. I am grateful to her, and to everyone who refuses to remain silent when confronted with the abuse of power.

  12. Please allow me also to express great admiration for your brave actions Joanna. The courage it attests to is so admirable! and so important for other women, all of us, to attempt to emulate – and for men to learn to understand, at a deep level!

  13. Thank you, Joanna. I hope the support and gratitude help carry you through on the brave course you have embarked on.

  14. Wow, this sicko could not have continued this ugliness for *generations* without possibly a double digit number of office administrators like Ms. Hudin (given that he’s been there since the Fifties probably all were women) mouthing inanities like, “out of respect and loyalty to Professor Searle…[Hudin] needed to ‘protect him’” as he was doing things that Clarence Thomas might have balked at during the Eighties when he was mentally torturing Anita Hill:

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/famous-philosophy-professor-accused-sexual-harassment

    Incidentally, Searle is despised in East Bay area by literally thousands (of mostly non-white people) for being the slumlord who jacked up their rents to obscene levels:

    Said John Searle at a public hearing of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board on Sept. 10, 1991: “The treatment of landlords in Berkeley is comparable to the treatment of blacks in the South…our rights have been massively violated and we are here to correct that injustice.”

    Considering that it is largely the black population of Berkeley that has been protected by rent control and badly hurt by its recent undermining, I think the more apt analogy would be that Mr. Searle’s objections are like objecting to the tight government regulation of the activities of the Ku Klux Klan.

    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2004-12-14/article/20296?headline=Letters-to-the-Editor

  15. Even with truth on your side, the road ahead is likely long and hard. Please know you have many, many grateful fans who are cheering for you. Thank you for your courageous act. Wishing you strength of body and mind.

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