Now the famous philosopher John Searle stands accused of harassment.
The lawsuit, which lists Searle and the Regents of the University of California as defendants, claims Searle groped Ong in his office after he told her “they were going to be lovers.” He also said he had an “emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual,” the complaint states, and that he was “going to love her for a long time.” Ong turned Searle down and reported him to other UC Berkeley employees, but they did nothing, the complaint states. Instead, Searle cut Ong’s salary and she was eventually fired, according to the complaint, which also claims Searle watched pornography at work and made sexist comments.
He’s one of many: 113 sexual harassment cases have been reported in the UC system in just 3 years. Personally, I find it incredible: I can’t imagine myself even wanting to treat students or colleagues that way, but the evidence is clear…there are a lot of rotten apples in the barrel.
I don’t think California is particularly terrible in this regard, either. It seems to be an issue all over the place. Part of the problem has to be a system that treats some individuals as “superstars”, giving them a bloated sense of entitlement, while simultaneously treating others as peons and dismissing their concerns. It’s everywhere. Hierarchies of privilege always seem to lead to evil.
If you’re somewhere low in one of those hierarchies, I recommend this checklist of warning signs of abuse — none of the behaviors listed there are at all appropriate. If you’re higher up in the hierarchy, you should check it too and make sure you’re not doing any of them. They’re behaviors that ought not to be hard to avoid, but it’s surprising how many prominent academics can’t.