The allegations that anthropologist John Comaroff is a serial sexual harasser, and that two universities have covered it up, should push you to a zero tolerance policy for these destructive creeps
Brilliant advice! And it's sooo nice to have a response that doesn't try to be 'balanced'. An appaling situation, all too familiar.
Beautifully written, Claire. Of course, sexual harrassment and rape culture is big on the campuses of fancy prep schools, too. And there also schools cover up, disbelieve students, and even make threats and place obstacles between students and reporting actual crimes to the police. Last year, as you know because I communicated with you about it privately, I found myself supporting a student I was tutoring who was weeping, sleepless, and unable to prepare for her Spanish class with me because she'd spent the night awake with her friend who had just been raped by a Varsity lacrosse athlete. Not only did the school throw up road blocks to keep the victim from reporting and seeking even psychological help to overcome her trauma and physical distress, but my student's parents also told her not to get involved out of fear that her academic career would be prejudiced simply for being an ally to her friend! What the hell culture are we living in that getting A's or going to a fancy college are more important than the health and human rights of our children? Perhaps we need to start workshops to teach students how to "unfreeze" and do exactly what you suggest: punch these creeps in the nose. Because until you're in that situation and you know what it feels like to have Professor Handsy's face t buried in your decolletage, you don't know how you're going to react. Great essay.
Shocked not shocked at how many people closed ranks around him, including many whom I've known for years. They are embarrassed now but should be ashamed.
I've been riveted by this, of course, and totally horrified.
I've also been thinking a lot about the one time I was ever warned that a faculty member was a harasser. It was at the beginning of grad school -- I think word trickled from an advanced grad student to a woman in my cohort, who passed it along with a description of sort of indiscriminately inappropriate behavior. And ... I never saw him behave in a sketchy way, despite TAing for him. So that remains a mystery in my mind.
I note that one of the 73 signers of the second, good letter was someone you advised me to take a class with.
All this. We faculty members have responsibilities to our students, our advisees. Grim to read the list of teaching scholars who put their names on the initial open letter. I wish I could say I was shocked at the speed at which many of these scholars retracted their signatures & shocked at the specious excuses made for having signed it to begin with. This kind of sexual harassment, retaliation, & rank-closing takes place at many universities. May more of us embrace the model you enact & describe here.
A little off thread but a tenured and well loved Reed prof recently went on a racist rant at a McDonalds drive through window which was caught on film Hard core racist. The faculty chose to allow him to stay. The president and legal counsel then met in private and he chose to resign. It starts at the top.
Superb post. Your reasoning and conclusions here are logical in a way that I wish larger society's were. My initial reaction to learning of the "38 Harvard faculty and 50 at other institutions" was one of shock and surprise, even horror. But then I realized that, actually, the most horrifying aspect of this situation is that in our society/culture situations like this (while certainly wrong/unethical/terrible) are so common that they are anything but surprising. (I tried to be careful with my words in phrasing the previous sentence, but I just want to clarify that my labeling of sexual harassment as "unsurprising" is a comment on the widespread nature of the problem—not an endorsement or resigned acceptance of it.)
The letter of the 48: When do these types of letters ever work out well for the signatories? Looking back at other instances of sexual harassment and misconduct, off the top of my head I can’t think of a single time there has been a public letter of support for the accused that the signatories haven’t had to eat their words after having egg on their faces. Am I wrong? It seems it would be a good rule of thumb to never sign one of these letters of support or work behind the scenes for an accused *especially* when you don’t have all the facts. But what do I know… I’ve only been on the receiving end of not only the harassment but the cover up by his colleagues.
It is so true that students need to hear what sexual harassment is, and be told how to deal with it. And that professors are encouraged to believe it is something very complex buried deep in a handbook they will never read or part of a training they forget to attend/sleep through.
Here is a very simple friendly Youtube Educational Cat Video that explains it in less than one minute:
How Not To Harass Your Students Educational Cat Video
Here is the totally safe, non-spam link https://youtu.be/K6NL7TnApkI or just google it.
I agree these guys deserve to be punched, and that you should warn your students about them. But it seems there is no serious chance of firing them (let alone arresting them.) It's utterly despicable that they get away with this for decades, when it's so commonly known.