A good pledge

We shouldn’t need to ‘pledge’ to do this, but it seems decency is not all that common.

If you know someone in academics who hurts other people because they think (or more likely, know) they can get away with it, I'll use whatever voice I have to call them out. I will believe you. I will support you. I'm not afraid of what these guys will do to me -- I'm afraid of what they're doing to all the women and underrepresented minorities and members of LGBTQ communities who deserve to belong and are made to feel less than human by people who are protected by those more concerned with status and grants than decency. I have no idea who will listen to me, but I will not be quiet.

If you know someone in academics who hurts other people because they think (or more likely, know) they can get away with it, I’ll use whatever voice I have to call them out. I will believe you. I will support you. I’m not afraid of what these guys will do to me — I’m afraid of what they’re doing to all the women and underrepresented minorities and members of LGBTQ communities who deserve to belong and are made to feel less than human by people who are protected by those more concerned with status and grants than decency. I have no idea who will listen to me, but I will not be quiet.

(via Nicole)

I have to add a comment, though. This looks easy, but it’s not. Here’s what will happen to you if you follow through on that commitment:

  • You will be immediately vilified by a substantial contingent of people who do not want this behavior suppressed. It persists because it’s popular.

  • There will a rapid backlash. You will be accused of everything the perpetrator did; there are people who will make up and distort stories about your past to claim that you do it, too.

  • You will be blacklisted by various groups. How dare you criticize Mr Big?

  • Your email and Twitter accounts will become very interesting, in a hostile sort of way. You don’t mind being photoshopped into various compromising situations, do you? Do death threats bother you?

  • It will never end. Never. The people who will declare themselves your nemeses are obsessed.

Don’t let that stop you from taking the pledge, though. I just believe in the principle of informed consent, so before you jump in, it’s good to know what to expect. The first time the issue seriously comes up, I guarantee there will be cold sweats and despair and you will feel like you’re committing a kind of suicide. But be strong.

Just tell yourself that the victims of that asshole experienced much worse, so you need to do the right thing.


  1. says

    I have to disagree that it’s mostly guys who act racist. It was the white saleswomen who made my mother, sister and I wait until every other white person in the store had been waited on, even those who entered the store after we did.

  2. Pteryxx says

    PZ’s on the right track. From a guest post at Tenure She Wrote: Title IX – A Step By Step Guide

    Participating in a Title IX case is nothing short of soul crushing. Your university will not support you, you will be the subject of gossip and, perhaps most distressingly, you will be intimidated and retaliated against for your honesty. Retaliation is illegal under Title IX, but not only does it occur, it is cornerstone of the process by which academics are silenced and, I suspect, the reason I could find so few first hand accounts of participating in a case.

    I offer this advice based on my experience.

    1- Get a lawyer. Immediately. Even if you are a witness. Your participation in a Title IX action, or even your failure to participate, could cost you your job. Spend $1500 to keep your job. You will want a lawyer specializing in employment law. Look for things like ‘Best of the Bar’ in your local business journal. You should not tell your university you have a lawyer. It just makes them anxious. I don’t know or care why, but it does.
    2- Find a killer posse. Your already stressful academic life is about to get intolerable. Your posse should have 1000% (not a type-o) allegiance to you alone and your sanity. They will probably be academics who understand crappy academic behavior. Do not engage work colleagues. Your posse will be people who will never talk about you or your case. These people will be your lifesavers. Cherish them.
    3- Get a restraining order or other police protection if needed. I put this as the third point, because your killer posse is now the best judge of what is scary. You may be have been exposed repeatedly to a culture that allows people to behave in threatening ways as ‘a joke’. Take your safety seriously.


    8- Ask if you can have your chairman/vice chairman/mentor/anyone who can back up what you are saying to your investigator. This person does NOT need to be involved in the case. You will need this person to verify that you told the investigator information they will deny, lose or not include in their report. You read that correctly. The system you are relying upon to report misconduct is about to rock your world in the worst way.
    9- The Title IX office will come after you. Their whole goal, in my experience, is to try to make any complaint go away. The easiest way to do this is to destroy witnesses. The easiest witnesses to destroy those who are tied to their university because they are afraid they will lose their jobs/academic standing/colleagues/students. Outside witnesses not affiliated with the university have little at stake. You, however, have a lot to lose.
    10- Do the interview as soon as you can. The investigator will want to come to you. This will be an effort to put you at ease and have you say too much. They will be a lawyer but will not identify themselves this way.
    11- When they get there, tell (don’t ask) them you are going to record the interview for both of you. This can be easily done with free phone apps. If they protest, say your dad/husband/brother/shaman/internet guru has been thru this or is a lawyer and insisted you do this. I’m insisting you do this. Offer to share the recording right away and send it to them by email before they leave your office. They will not like this and will be anxious. This recording can save your career.

    Much more at the link.

    In the context of the ongoing issues in the media, I have two comments I hope the Tenure She Wrote readers find helpful.

    The first is that I have seen nothing good come from the spurt of awareness of Title IX protections which occurred following the Department of Education’s investigation of 100+ schools*. Right now, I see university administration so worried about being Title IX complaint that they are mindlessly throwing money at administrators and middle managers who are ‘Trained in Title IX’ or can serve as ‘Title IX Compliance Officers’. In my experience, this has been just a box to check in the hopes the University will fall off the radar of the Department of Education. There is a strong sense that people who are good at paperwork and willing to harangue complainants, rather than those who are concerned with equity, safety, and honesty, are being placed in these positions. The culture I have seen is one of warnings, reprimands and fear which only increases the backlash against ‘political correctness’. I see faculty who are genuinely concerned with the issues of Title IX protections shuffled off to mindless, powerless and unfunded committees to discuss matters amongst themselves. I have come to the sad conclusion that many administrators seem to hope that any real issues will simply dissipate by the overwhelming work-load most academics face.

    Second, I would implore readers to know that every time see a colleague, student or employee act in a way that demeans women, minorities or other groups afforded equal (not special) rights under Title IX, you must address it. There is no good time in your career to do this. You will never have enough job security. You will never have enough friends in power and you will never have time for this. There are many, many people who did nothing in the case I wrote about, and I persist in my belief that they are good. They just made the wrong choice. And they saw others do the same and it seemed okay. When you do nothing, it gets easier for that person to hurt the careers and lives of the most vulnerable people in the system. The act you see or distressing thing you hear them say is never (ever) done in isolation.

  3. says

    Yes, all those things will happen. Even so, change has to start somewhere, and if people keep playing the game, and refusing to speak up, nothing will ever change, and yet more power is handed to the bad guys.

  4. cedrus says

    I worked with someone like that and didn’t call them out. I still regret it. If I’d known that was a thing you could do, I probably would have.

    I was in college, working at a science camp for high school students. There were professors as well, who designed the activities. One instantly earned the nickname “Dr. Pedophile” – it was bad enough that the female students threatened a boycott. As the scariest adult female on hand, I was dispatched to follow Dr. Pedophile around to make sure he was never alone with the students.

    We college kids hated the guy. The others were doing my work too, and I was doing Dr. Pedophile’s work, because he was too busy leading a master class in squick. But it really didn’t occur to us to complain. It’s simply how things are. There was a scumbag like this in my middle school, another in my high school, and at least one (that I knew of, almost certainly more) at my college. You make accommodations – travel in packs, keep tabs on the small cute ones – and move on.

    I spent two summers babysitting Dr. Pedophile myself before passing the baton. He gave up a few years later, thank FSM. The people running the camp learned about it years after that, from old-timers telling stories at a reunion. They were pissed; we should have said something. We should have.

  5. gijoel says

    There’s so much in this world (or rather America) that’s making me angry today. I’m off to watch puppy videos.

  6. Derek Vandivere says

    #7 wcorvi – probably the same place where in the above article it accuses Marcy specfiically of being a racist homophobe. In other words, nowhere.

    Was it really not completely obvious that this article wasn’t about the specific case, but rather how a guy in academia plans to behave in the future?

  7. Dark Jaguar says

    Yeah, these people aren’t needed. If they have good ideas, they can develop them in isolation but a university doesn’t need to give them free access to their victims.

    I do feel for those who’s biggest problem is being generally unpleasant to talk to in a non-specific way. I’m pretty sure I’m one of those. I work on it, but it’s weird how often I think “okay the nicest thing I can say is this” and it turns out to be the rudest possible thing I could have said, all because I get all my social rules of behavior from movie confrontations and sitcoms apparently. In fact, all too often I fulfill my own prophecy of failure, standing off and keeping quiet so as to avoid saying anything that could hurt someone, then finding out THAT also hurt someone because they think you hate them and… dang it why do social rules have to be so complicated?! So, yeah, this paragraph is selfishly motivated. It would suck to find out the entire world has said “I don’t care if you can help it, we reject you forever”. There’s got to be room at least for people who just plain suck at social interaction.

  8. says

    great points, but, why would you say so generaly that we should believe them, and that you will believe them?

    i also tend to take a woman’s word in such matters above that of a men when he is the accused. (yes i know that is sexist and not very rational, working on it)
    but there are cases where false accusation were made, and i think one should not just claim to believe someone without even knowing the case or any details. you said it so generaly.

    be carefull that this blind trust in someone you don’t know yet, is not abused. this could hurt your reputation aswell as the legit problem there is with such behavior from some people in “powerfull / protected” positions.

    Just look what A. Sarkeesian / Z. Quinn has done to feminism ;(

  9. Intaglio says

    I looked at the original Buzzfeed article and saw that the prominent astronomer had issued a classic non-pology

    “While I do not agree with each complaint that was made, it is clear that my behavior was unwelcomed by some women,” (name eradicated – Intaglio) wrote. “It is difficult to express how painful it is for me to realize that I was a source of distress for any of my women colleagues, however unintentional.”

    classy, and the Nobel prize for passive voiced denial of responsibility goes to …