Sara Ahmed resigns from Goldsmiths, University of London in protest of the institution’s failure to address sexual harassment of students

The feminist academic Sara Ahmed has resigned from her post as a Professor of Race and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, in protest of the institution’s failure to address the sexual harassment of students. She has written an open letter about her resignation that deserves to be read widely: Sara Ahmed Speaking Out

In case you somehow missed it, please read:
Sara Ahmed Speaking Out

Monica Morrison: hero

Monica Morrison has now let herself be named in her lawsuit against the University of Miami for its mishandling of Colin McGinn’s harassment. Those of us who have written on the internet know the horrific campaigns directed against women who step out of line and complain against misogynistic behaviour. This is true generally, and it is true specifically in philosophy. She has survived one horrible ordeal– harassment, made worse by being so poorly handled, and now the trolls can easily find her. And she knows all this. I am blown away by the immense bravery shown by her filing this suit.

Our field, and academia in general, have the potential to be vastly improved by Miami being held to account. They were given copious records of exchanges like this:

McGinn: I love your essence
McGinn: Plus it gives me a slight erection
Morrison: Can I borrow your philosophy of physics book…the one by lange [sic].

And this:

McGinn: So I expect a hand job when I next see you.
McGinn: Yes.
McGinn: I like to amuse you.
McGinn: Now I’ve got a slight erection.
McGinn: I’m imagining you.
Morrison did not reply to the texts.

Later that month, McGinn pressed her for a response, and she eventually texted, “Yeah, I was a bit surprised” and said “I won’t really know how to respond [sic]…I suppose I should be flattered?”

They knew that:

He emailed her at least once a day between Dec. 19 and Dec. 27, with little response from her. In a Dec. 27 email, he wrote, “I think you owe me unlimited hand strokes and full body grips for abandoning me over Christmas.” Over winter break, which lasted about a month, McGinn emailed her more than 30 times and spoke with her just once, according to his own count in an email he sent her Jan. 15, 2012.

It was clear that he was pressuring her quite explicitly:

McGinn wrote that he missed Morrison and wasn’t able to see her as much as he wanted. He complained about their working relationship, stating in an email he is not “getting much in return” and said “I need you to make a big gesture in my direction–anything would do.”

She resigned her position as his research assistant on Sept. 11, 2012. Two days later, McGinn emailed her, stating “you are much better off with my support than without it. So please think carefully about your actions.”

And yet they treated the case as one of consensual relationship. And as McGinn retaliated in his public statements, including an interview in which he publicly shared information that allowed her to be identified, the university did nothing. They claimed there was nothing that he could do, but he was on their payroll.

The University of Miami maintains that “they chose to pursue this informal route to achieve an immediate resolution.” Importantly, they do NOT claim that they actually believed the relationship to be consensual.

This sort of sweeping-under-the-rug behaviour is shockingly common. But it is what allows perpetrators to continue to flourish in our discipline. Usually it all remains private, and they move quietly from institution to institution, ruining victims’ lives in one place after another.

Monica Morrison is doing an immense service to academia with her towering bravery in refusing to accept the way that Miami dealt with the case. We all owe her a tremendous debt.

“This isn’t even a slap on the wrist”

What happens if someone is found responsible for multiple violations of a university’s harassment policies after multiple individuals allege they have “repeatedly engaged in inappropriate physical behavior with students, including unwanted massages, kisses, and groping”? In one case, it turns out, basically nothing. Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at University of California Berkeley, was found to have violated Berkeley’s policies, and according to BuzzFeed: “As a result of the findings, the women were informed, Marcy has been given ‘clear expectations concerning his future interactions with students,’ which he must follow or risk ‘sanctions that could include suspension or dismissal.'”

David Charbonneau, a professor of astronomy at Harvard University, said the matter has broad implications.

“Geoff Marcy is undeniably the most prominent exoplanet researcher in the U.S.,” he said, referring to the study of planets beyond our solar system. “The stakes here couldn’t be higher. We are working so hard to have gender parity in this field, and when the most prominent person is a routine harasser, it threatens a major objective nationally.”

. . .“After all of this effort and trying to go through the proper channels, Berkeley has ultimately come up with no response,” said Joan Schmelz, who until recently led the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. (Schmelz was not a complainant in Berkeley’s investigation.) “I’ve seen sexual harassers get slaps on the wrist before. This isn’t even a slap on the wrist.”

Northwestern and Title IX

Justin has a very thorough post up covering recent developments at Northwestern.  I urge you to read it!

Kipnis has turned her story about her refusal to correct her confused and possibly misleading account of a Title IX complaint allegedly involving rape into a sweeping epic about her time on the front lines of the heroic battle defending academic freedom. Now that more facts are out there, I leave it to the reader to decide whether that is where her story really belongs. She claims that “What’s being lost, along with job security, is the liberty to publish ideas that might go against the grain or to take on risky subjects in the first place.” That she says these words in academia’s most widely read news publication is an irony she neglects to remark upon.

Ann Olivarius on Miami, McGinn and Shalala

Some of our readers may have come across this article, which includes criticism by Ann Olivarius of Donna Shalala’s handling of Colin McGinn. Feminist Philosophers has obtained permission from Olivarius to publish the whole of the editorial which is quoted from in the Miami New Times Article. She has also given us some vital background to the editorial.

First, the background:

I am the lawyer representing the victim of Colin McGinn’s sexual harassment at the University of Miami. In an op-ed below, I set out my views about a recent statement by UM President Donna Shalala praising herself in her conduct of this case. But from speaking with Jenny Saul and others, I believe that many philosophers are under some misapprehension about key facts in this case, which as a preliminary matter I seek to clear up here.

Read More »

Katie Roiphe Still Doesn’t Understand Sexual Harassment

The title of this post is lifted directly from this article, in which we learn that Katie Roiphe has reaffirmed her position on the list of otherwise intelligent, accomplished people who just don’t get the notion of sexual harassment.  Her NYT article which prompted the Salon post is here. The real problem with sexual harassment, according to her, is “the creativity and resourcefulness of the definitions” dreamed up by “feminists and liberals”, under which all sorts of innocent behaviour count as harassment. Sigh.

Sexual harassment: without which the species would die out

Wow. H/T Hilde Lindemann on the FEAST mailing list.

“He always demanded that female workers signalled to him with their eyes that they desperately wanted to be laid on the boardroom table as soon as he gave the word,” she earlier told the court. “I didn’t realise at first that he wasn’t speaking metaphorically.”
The judge said he threw out the case not through lack of evidence but because the employer had acted gallantly rather than criminally.
“If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children,” the judge ruled.

Since Soviet times, sexual harassment in Russia has become an accepted part of life in the office, work place and university lecture room.
According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.
Eighty per cent of those who participated in the survey said they did not believe it possible to win promotion without engaging in sexual relations with their male superiors.

To hold the judge’s view, you’d have to think (among other things) that no woman would willingly have sex with a man. One can only surmise that, rather unsurprisingly, this has been his experience.