In the expected counterattack from sexists defending Ben Radford’s obtuse sexism, there are now demented dingbats accusing me of being a
veritable MRA and implying that I’m some kind of hypocrite, because I have in the past been subject to an abortive false accusation. I mentioned this in a comment four years ago (some people are obsessive in following my every word, and I should be flattered, I suppose — I must be very interesting). Here’s the dry account of the event that I gave then:
I won’t meet privately with students either — I always keep my office door wide open, and when I’m working with students in the lab, I find excuses to move out and let them work on their own if it turns into a one-on-one event. I just can’t afford the risk.
I was also subject to accusations of harassment, once upon a time. A female student came into my lab when I was alone, unhappy about an exam grade, and openly threatened me — by going public with a story about a completely nonexistent sexual encounter right there.
Zoom, I was right out the door at that instant; asked a female grad student in the lab next door to sit with the student for a bit, and went straight to the chair of the department to explain the situation. I had to work fast, because I knew that if it turned into a he-said-she-said story, it wouldn’t matter that she was lying, it could get dragged out into an investigation that would easily destroy my career, no matter that I was innocent.
I was in a total panic, knowing full well how damaging that kind of accusation can be. Fortunately, I’d done the right thing by blowing it all wide open at the first hint of a threat, and getting witnesses on the spot.
There is nothing inconsistent about this. False accusations do happen, and they can have extremely damaging consequences (which I said previously: “Yes, they happen…rarely. They’re important to detect.”) Obviously, I had just explained that I certainly do know of at least one case in which a desperate student tried to cheat her way to a better grade with an accusation. It happens.
How I responded to that instance is just part of a protocol for how people should work together. Here’s what I do:
I don’t harass women, or anyone for that matter.
I maintain complete transparency. Not only do I not harass women, but any accusation that I do founders on the implausibility of the circumstance.
I deal with any potential situation by defusing it immediately. Not arguing, not protesting my innocence, not begging the person to refrain from hurting my reputation, but going straight to departmental authorities and explaining the situation. Again, transparency: the slander isn’t going to stick.
I bring in witnesses, preferably women too, who can testify to my innocence. And I don’t just mean people who will say I’m a nice guy, but witnesses to the incident who can describe all the details of the event.
I keep myself protected against false claims, which also means that I’m keeping my students protected from any harm. We all work just fine together, with nothing to hide.
I don’t sexually harass my students or colleagues. Period.
Not only is my reputation spotless, and honestly so, but there’s no way to even realistically bring such a charge against me. And of course the great majority of my interactions with students bear no risk of any such problems — we can trust each other.
But then, there are always people like those slimy ones, that minority of nasty untrustworthy liars commenting on Radford’s thread, who are happy to distort and make false accusations, and I deal with them in the same way that I did that earlier incident: with transparency and honesty and frank admission of what actually happened. I don’t deny that such unpleasant people exist, especially when so many of them are already populating that thread and the existence of contemptible liars is so apparent. But when one has no interest in harassing people, it turns out to be relatively easy to maintain one’s integrity — I don’t have years of stalkerish behavior and complaints and administrative disciplinary actions to make excuses for, unlike some people.