Sexual Harassment in Academia – Not Just Words

I have been compiling documented cases of sexual harassment in academia. So far, I’ve unearthed 160 cases, including 3 departments and 19 administrators. Earlier, I wrote a post about a few things I learned while compiling this list. I have a few things to add:

1. SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT UNIVERSITIES IS OFTEN PHYSICAL. While some of the documented cases involve inappropriate language, the vast majority involve a university employee engaging in inappropriate physical behaviors – from kissing to groping, to assault, to rape, and even to murder. Read through the list – a number of faculty accused of sexual harassment committed criminal acts. Sexual harassment is not a technicality – it’s often a real, physical violation.

2. MANY INVESTIGATIONS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT END WHEN THE ACCUSED RESIGNS. Of the 160 cases I have identified, a whopping 58 of the accused sexual harassers resigned from their faculty or administrative positions. That’s over 36%!  These resignations often occurred just before the institution concluded a sexual harassment investigation, meaning that many of these cases were simply closed WITHOUT ANY RECORD OF THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT HAVING OCCURRED! This allows faculty to get jobs elsewhere, such as this guy who resigned twice from two different jobs.

3. SOME UNIVERSITIES REASSIGN OR EVEN RE-HIRE SEXUAL HARASSERS. Several universities have re-hired faculty who resigned previously because of sexual harassment, or simply reassign them to new positions or find other ways to continue to pay them. How serious are these schools at combating sexual harassment in academia if known harassers are allowed to continue working? Not surprisingly, there are multiple cases of known harassers doing it again at the same place, such as this physics professor or this music professor.

4. UNIVERSITIES NEED TO BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT COMMITTED BY EMPLOYEES. Compiling this list of 160 cases of sexual harassment committed by departments, administrators, and faculty was hard work. I had to be creative in order to find many of these cases – simply searching for sexual harassment at universities yielded only the most high profile cases. I had to dig around by discipline or geographic location. Even then, many cases only cropped up when I found a cryptic reference and then tracked down specifics of each case. Universities don’t want us to know what is happening on their campuses- sexual harassment is embarrassing and potentially expensive (an example). Hiding sexual harassment is a societal problem, however, since sexual harassers can simply move on to other schools (such as this biology professor or this anthropology professor). Being transparent about sexual harassment – from the initial stages of an investigation to its final conclusion – would help everyone.

I am still a little shocked that I found so many documented cases of faculty/administrator sexual harassment. We know that this is just the tip of the iceberg, since most sexual harassment goes unreported. I also suspect many sexual harassment investigations are hidden behind confidentiality and privacy concerns. It doesn’t have to be this way. Universities can and should do better.